Monthly Round-up of National Critics’ Restaurant Reviews by Oliver Thring (February 2013)

Shaka Zulu

Shaka Zulu

‘Whether authentic or not, it is a memorable space,’ says Matthew Norman at Shaka Zulu on the Chalk Farm Road. But ‘the cynicism is astounding’: a ‘mean’ serving of biltongs was £7.50, the pâté was ‘vile’, the manager ‘swaggeringly cocky’. [link]

Norman had much better luck at 10 Greek Street: girolles on sourdough toast were ‘lovely’ and iberico pork fillet ‘sensationally sweet and deep-flavoured’. The place is ‘right up there with Polpo and Polpetto among the most impressive of Soho’s ageist new wave.’ [link]

‘Over-emphatic seasoning is a recurrent note,’ says Fay Maschler at A.Wong in Victoria. But she liked peanuts in black vinegar with pickled cucumber and sweet and sour rib (just £1.50), while snowball meringue with lychee granita and lime sorbet was a ‘showstopper’. [link]

Maschler also enjoyed the Islington gastropub John Salt. A Korean-influenced dish of chopped raw beef with nashi pear was ‘sweet and savage and at the same time light’, while burnt leeks with parmesan, egg yolks and truffle vinaigrette was ‘a subtle assembly’. [link]

Lisa Markwell went to the Gilpin Lodge Country House Hotel in the Lake District. Spider crab with crushed peas, roasted shell oil and pea mayonnaise was ‘a thing of beauty’, salt cod fritters ‘greaseless and fluffy’. [link]

‘The menu radiates richness,’ says John Walsh at Manuka Kitchen in Fulham. Crispy squid came with ‘delicious’ nam jim sauce, while passion fruit pavlova ‘bore the tastebuds off in triumph’. ‘It just needs a small injection of money to make it bonzer.’ [link]

‘Basically a posh workers’ cafe that serves British wine,’ says Amol Rajan at GrEAT British (yeech). Salmon with pearl barley and oxtail was ‘magisterial’, apple crumble with custard ‘sensational’. [link]

Andy Lynes found the same place a ‘nightmare’. Kedgeree was a ‘tragedy’, bakewell tart ‘soggy-bottomed’. ‘British food is still seen as something of a joke because places such as The Great British keep supplying the profoundly unfunny punchline.’ [link]

AA Gill went to Shoryu on Regent Street: ‘my noodles were chilli hot and fantastic, big flavours that were quite complicated, with large lumps of pork, interesting bits and pieces’. [link]

Jay Rayner visited The Gurnard’s Head in Cornwall: ‘a low-slung, brooding place’. Much of the food was ‘curiously dry’: lamb shoulder missed ‘a lake of jus’ and ‘there’s not enough shellfish sauce to lend interest to a startlingly dull piece of steamed skate’. ‘It feels like an opportunity missed.’ [link]

‘This is a seafood restaurant for people who don’t like seafood,’ says Rayner at Outlaw’s Seafood & Grill in The Capital Hotel, Knightsbridge. Skin-on mackerel with smoked mackerel pâté was ‘exacting’ but ‘one long sigh’. [link]

‘I genuinely believe [Alan] Yau is some kind of genius,’ says Marina O’Loughlin at Namyaa Café, on St John Street. ‘The laksa is so ruthlessly fiery, it makes my ears rattle’, ‘service is enchanting’ and the room is ‘beautiful in a brilliantly modern, sui generis way’. [link]

She did not enjoy Alvin Leung’s Bo London, in Mayfair, though ‘much of the food is mesmerising’. This included oyster in seaweed jelly with Shaoxing wine, lime, ginger and onion. ‘The bill makes me swoon like a Regency heroine … As it stands, he may be a brilliant chef, but this is not a brilliant restaurant.’ [link]

Joe Warwick went to MASH, the vast Danish steak place off Piccadilly Circus. Snails in red wine and garlic were ‘silky and sweet’ and the Scandinavian steak was better than the American one. ‘London probably doesn’t need MASH but if quality steak is your thing, you do.’ [link]

‘The duck was unbelievable,’ says Giles Coren at HKK. ‘Every dish followed effortlessly from the last; each was precise, distinct, sharply defined and, where relevant, piping hot … This place is amazing.’ [link]

Coren also went to Tramontana Brindisa on Curtain Road, EC2. He loved a miniature burger made of morcilla and white butifarra sausage, as well as ‘terrific’ roast jerusalem artichokes with jamón. [link]

‘They’ve kept adornment to a minimum’ at West Hampstead Persian, Hana, says Robert Lupu. Mirza ghasemi (grilled aubergines with tomatoes and garlic) were ‘pleasingly smoky’, fesenjan ‘rich and sweet with a hint of bitterness’. [link]

Zoe Williams liked The Green Man & French Horn at Covent Garden. Blade of beef stew was ‘gorgeous and rich’ and slip soles in seaweed butter ‘delicious’. ‘Go for the pork products and the welcome, stay for the beef and the smell of mustard.’ [link]

Nicholas Lander visited the Newman Street Tavern, off the Tottenham Court Road. ‘Cod on a warm salad of kohlrabi and a gratin of Dublin Bay prawns and Helford river fish showed a deftness of touch.’ [link]

‘I have been coming to Santini [on Ebury Street] in the course of my not specially onerous duties as a political reporter for a number of years,’ says Peter Oborne. Pasta e fagioli is ‘an unbeatable starter’ there, and the taglioni are ‘superb’. [link]

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