From age-old institutions to new kids on the block, this week saw both rollicking successes and not so lovingly-embraced plates served to the nation’s favourite critics.
Zoe Williams headed north, to Almeida, just off Upper Street. It’s certainly easy on the eye: ‘Hollywood lighting’ makes ‘everybody [look] beautiful; the furniture… is extremely high spec’. Mackerel was ‘faultless’, gnocchi ‘hopelessly moreish’ and a pistachio soufflé that was ‘comically easy to eat’.
Fay Maschler spots the new trend for ‘restaurants inspired by nursery rhymes’ in The Tommy Tucker: a brand-new pub renovation in Fulham. Fay et al try ‘beautifully cooked’ rabbit leg and champion a ‘bold’ mackerel, while her second visit sees a squash and goats’ cheese salad served ‘gastropub’ style, but ‘ratcheted up a few notches’, and a ‘finesse’-flaunting apple and quince pie.
According to Marina O’Loughlin, Mowgli in Liverpool didn’t have the spark of ‘vibrancy and just-made freshness’ that Indian street food should. Poor seasoning lets down a lamb curry that could be ‘a thing of beauty’, though there is a ‘pleasing… temple dahl’ and maa’s lamb chops with a ‘good crust’. O’Loughlin heads to ‘little cracker’ tapas joint Roja Pinchos instead.
Giles Coren headed to the sort of place ‘only a 24-year-old hipster would know about’ this week: Peruvian Pachamama in Marylebone. Though Coren heralds it as some of ‘London’s best food’ (and scores the cooking an impressive 9/10), the setting and service require fine tuning. Highlights include ‘sea bass… shimmering fresh, perfectly seasoned, dazzlingly spiced.’
The sheer beauty of the location of Harry’s Shack means all it would need to do to thrive is ‘not [screw] up’, says Jay Rayner, and thankfully it ‘does an awful lot more than not screw up’. The main plates are ‘[underpinned by] serious knowledge’: he enjoyed ‘pitch perfect’ spiced whitebait, ‘expertly cooked’ gurnard and a crème caramel that made him (pleasurably) ‘sigh’.