Since my recent blog post on my go to Asian food spots in London, last week’s restaurant reviews have broadened my horizons to new Chinese ventures in London such as The Bamboo Flute and Shanshuijian, the menu-secretive Hunan by Mr Peng and the now permanent Japanese Kurobuta. However last week’s selection of restaurant reviews do not end there, having taken to include Borough’s Middle-Eastern Arabica Bar & Kitchen and Soho’s own modern day Jerusalum, The Palomar, and tapas-inspired French cuisine, Blanchette. Stepping away from Soho on the other hand is the couple behind The Giacondo Dining Room, who have instead opened the modest Shoe Shop in Kentish Town. Outside of London is 64 Degrees in Brighton, The Old Spot in Wells, Andre Garrett at the historical Cliveden and Dave Penfold’s elusive two-day tasting menu at the Womad Festival. If these reviews are anything to go by, it would appear that there are plenty of interesting places to check out.
By I Yune Hoe
ES Magazine (Grace Dent) – Arabica Bar & Kitchen
“Borough: the foodie mecca that I never quite feel I am using to its full delicious capacity.”
ES Magazine’s Grace Dent returns to her 2001 postcode in Borough for Arabica Bar & Kitchen. Pro-Armenian cuisine due to her “deep love of the Kardashian clan”, she may have found some dishes slightly underwhelming but she enjoyed the cocktails and noted that there were “some hard-hitters on the menu”, such as the fought over “Lebanese seven spiced chicken wings” and “beautiful, satisfying stew of lamb sausages in an unctuous caramelised onion sauce”. “As the kitchen works quickly”, a word of advice is that dinner should be ordered in staggered sections if you have the time. The place is modern and nods to the Arabian-Nights-theme are “sparse”, but a table outside is “a good spot for people-gawping”. For the full review, click here.
Arabica Bar & Kitchen: 3 Rochester Walk, Borough Market, SE1
Telephone: 020 3011 5151
The Evening Standard (Fay Maschler) – The Bamboo Flute 3 out of 5
“…a low-key neighbourhood restaurant recently opened by Guo Yue, an internationally renowned Chinese musician who has a passion for food and cooking”
Music meets food at this Chinese restaurant Fay Maschler frequents in her neighbourhood that was recently opened by Guo Yue, whose memoir “Music, Food and Love (Piatkus)” contains recipes of some of Fay’s appreciated dishes. Recommending “Chilled silk noodles (Guangdong lapi)” served with “hot glossy fried peanuts” and “Aubergine Box, slices of the vegetable stuffed with spiced pork, fried and steamed”, “Chinese chives with eggs”, “steamed sea bass with ginger and spring onions”, “we know now what we like”, she wrote in The Evening Standard, “- though there is much still to try- and are slightly wary of the kitchen’s tendency to equate sweetness with likeability”. For her full review and further recommendations, click here.
The Bamboo Flute: 145 Cleveland Street, W1
Telephone: 020 7387 2738
The Evening Standard (Fay Maschler) – Shanshuijian 3 out of 5
“I find out about the restaurant from a friend who is an indefatigable eater-out. He lures me with the idea that it is still under the radar…”
A Limehouse Chinese restaurant leaning towards “Northeastern and Sichuan styles”, from the sounds of it, Shanshuijian has left quite an impression on Fay, as she wrote, “when I move to Limehouse … Shanshuijian will be my regular haunt”. The “new branch of a thriving business established in mainland China”, servings are “generous”. “Tender and sweet, extraordinarily good and well set off by tiger vegetables, shredded cucumber dressed with coriander and chilli”, “Lamb hotpot” is served as “a soy-dark lagoon in which pieces of the meat on the bone shyly emerge like Loch Ness monsters”. For the full mouth-watering review, click here.
Shanshuijian: 562 Commercial Road, E14
Telephone:020 7790 3427
The Saturday Telegraph (Zoe Williams) – The Palomar 2 out of 5
“It looks a bit Posh Spice, which is to say: this is all incredibly expensive. So why does it look so cheap?”
It would seem as though unlike those before her (Time Out’s Guy Dimond, The Independent’s Lisa Markwell, ES’s Grace Dent), Zoe Williams was disappointed by small portions at The Palomar, as she finds that even “the kitchen crowds the space, hot and noisy”. Deeming the asparagus “indiscernible” and the tahini sauce “bitter and harsh”, unfortunately most dishes and their portions did not manage to pull through. Nevertheless she did have a few good things to say, namely about the Polpo à la Papi, “wonderful” octopus paired with not strong enough chilli, and the Malabi dessert, a delicate, panna-cotta-like pudding scented with rosewater, with powerful little raspberries on top and diddy coconut meringues dotted about”. For the full review, click here.
The Palomar: 34 Rupert Street, London W1D 6DN
Telephone: 020 7439 8777
The Independent on Saturday (John Walsh) – Andre Garrett at Cliveden
“The chef, Andre Garrett, is clearly enthralled by the classic and traditional milieu in which he operates. His menu is full of rock-solid European dishes from Ye Olden Dayes… …”
The basil-infused bisque of Angie’s ravioli of native lobster left a slightly “soapy aftertaste” but judging from John Walsh‘s approving review in The Independent, everything went uphill from there at the former home to “posh scandal”. Pondering whether “the addition of snail persillade” was “an adornment too far” to the slow-roasted beef fillet, John Walsh “concluded that one should really admire Mr Garrett’s crazily generous way of piling things on”. For the full review, click here.
Cliveden: Taplow, Berkshire
Telephone: 01628 607 100
The Independent on Sunday (Lisa Markwell) – Womad Festival 7 out of 10
“What follows is terrific fun, but the flavours feel neutered, as if either Penfold’s palate is more mannered than his relatives’, or he’s toned down the spices and seasonings for this audience”
Acknowledging that “festival food has changed beyond all recognition and the chefs who cook in tents wearing wellies deserve some props”, Lisa Markwell takes the “sugar route around the Carribean and America’s southern states” in reviewing former MasterChef contestant, Dave Penfold’s second tasting menu. The “14-dish” extravaganze kicks off with “fun” but “neutered” flavours, and the rest of the meal goes back and forth between likeable “tastebud-assaulting kick of saltiness from the fishballs” and “seriously underpowered” Guyanan pepper-pot stew. Awarding a 7 out of 10, it would perhaps be safe to say that Lisa enjoyed it on the whole. For the full review, click here.
Taste the World: Womad Festival, Wiltshire
The Guardian (Marina O’Loughlin) – Hunan
“There’s wave after wave of tiny dishes, about 15 or so in all, with just a mouthful or two in each. Bite, bite, and they’re gone, leaving us beaming”
“Nudged by publication of the Pengs’ first cookbook”, The Guardian’s Marina O’Loughlin returns to Hunan “less easily bedazzled” but still marvelling at the food. “One big change: there’s a menu,” she wrote. Warning control freaks to look away, “leave it to us”, it still says, “but (this time) it does tell you how much it’s going to be”, “their only concession to giving even the vaguest impression that you’re in charged”. For the full review of click here.
Value for money 7/10
Hunan: 51 Pimlico Road, London, SW1W 8NE
Telephone: 020-7730 5712
The Observer (Jay Rayner) – Kurobuta
“Kurobuta serves insanely delicious Japanese delicacies at prices that make you want to sit down and cry”
The restaurant’s atmosphere comprising of “dangling bare bulbs, lightly throbbing music and Antipodean briskness”, Jay Rayner raved about the food at Kurobuta in The Observer. The izakaya-inspired menu consisting of “huge flavours and grilling and stickiness and miso”, the food “compelling” and “addictive”… “It’s a face-down, smear-my-cheeks-and-call-me-Doris, smack-about-the-chops experience”, but he warns that to match the “cooking with a capital C” is its “ridiculously expensive” price. For the full review, click here.
Kurobuta: 17-20 Kendal Street, London W2
Telephone: 020 3475 4158
The Financial Times (Tim Hayward) – 64 Degrees, Brighton
“The menu is experimental and molecular in influence.”
“If I’m truly honest, I wanted to dislike 64 Degrees from the moment I walked in … … but “instead the place seduced me totally”, wrote Tim Hayward. Despite two or three courses that “lacked structure, poetry, sense or reason”, he dubbed the “pickled watermelon with smoked-hay crème fraîche” – “the holy grail for all young chefs” and was gleefully tickled by the “rum bear” dessert that made him “laugh with total, happy abandon”. Overall, it was evidently a one up for molecular dining in Tim’s books. For the full review on the place that contested Tim’s impression of modernist cuisine, click here.
64 Degrees: 53 Meeting House Lane, Brighton BN1 1HB
Telephone: +01273 770115
The Times (Giles Coren) – Shoe Shop
“This was the sort of meal I yearn for but do not find more than once in half a decade”.
“Once upon a time the space was a shoe shop,” but today it is a restaurant run by the former owners of the The Giacondo Dining in Soho, “the most celebrated opening of 2008” and “the very first recessionista restaurant”, which the owners Tracey and Paul closed in favour of “a quiet life”. It clearly charmed Giles Goren from The Times who praised supper as “momentus” and the place a “mirage” in the neighbourhood. “It’s like Japanese gastroporn: food that is life-affirming in its simplicity and perfection”. For the full review, click here and take heed that it is temporarily closed until August 24.
Shoe Shop: 122a Fortess Road, London NW5
The Sunday Times (AA Gill) – Blanchette
“Blanchette is that most depressing of restaurants – it’s not just that it does what it does badly, or clumsily, or dumbly, it’s that it has low expectations of itself, and fails to meet them but forgives itself for trying.”
Finding the tapas-influenced Blanchette an unnecessary new concept to French gastronomy, AA Gill from The Sunday Times is merciless in his review of the Soho restaurant, likening the “duck rilette” to “the contents of a hoover bag”, and finding fault in the unrecognisable bony frog legs. For the full review, click here.
Atmosphere: * (out of 5)
Food: * (out of 5)
Blanchette: 9 D’Arblay St London, W1F 8DR
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7439 8100
Cheese & Biscuits (Chris Pople) – The Old Spot, Wells 8 out of 10
“… nice fresh food, cooked well, served with the minimum of fuss by people who knew what they were doing. And sometimes, that’s more than enough.”
“No element overpowering, and not an ingredient too far or too few,” Chris Popple of Cheese & Biscuits was proven wrong about what he had initially presumed to be “a mediocre tourist trap”. “Charming” and “sharply efficient”, he was won over by the restaurant’s level of precision and attention to detail, such as “the house bread” having been sourced from “master boulanger Bertinet in Bath”. For the full review, click here.
The Old Spot: 12 Sadler Street, Wells BA5 2SE
Telephone: (0)44 1749 689 099
If you would like to take a look at earlier restaurant reviews, click here.