The Telegraph’s Michael Deacon reviews Osh, London: “I felt as if I were eating in Del Boy’s bedroom,” he says.
“This week’s restaurant, Osh in Knightsbridge, does food from Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries. That, however, is not how its website puts it. It prefers to describe the menu as ‘a gastronomic intersection’. Sounds painful. (‘Yeah, writing a restaurant column has been terrible for my weight. The surgeons had to perform a gastronomic intersection.’)
“So what’s it like, this culinary T-junction? Well, for one thing it’s pretty loud – in more senses than one. The wall behind me was done out in zebra-style stripes, except with red instead of black. I felt as if I were eating in Del Boy’s bedroom. The music, meanwhile, was a strange blend: at times noisy and pumping, at others meandering and ambient. Imagine a rave inside a womb.
“The menu was large and varied. My friend and I started with a little bowl of tiger prawns in a deliciously crunchy coating. Then we had chebureki, a bit like a pasty, filled with spiced mince. Actually, ‘filled’ isn’t the right word, because the contents mostly seemed to be air. Lamb shashlik was two skewers of slightly spongy lamb presented on a flatbread that looked like a chamois leather, and tasted tough and dry. One dish we really liked, though, was the warm aubergine salad with chunks of soft cheese and a coriander dressing.
Osh is all right. Lots of different dishes to choose from. Nice use of spices: subtle, aromatic, gently teasing. Friendly staff. Neither my friend nor I could say we were entirely blown away, though. Still, you do get quite a few Russians in Knightsbridge, so perhaps Osh will appeal more to them. And, with their money, £6 for a serving of grapes is probably a snip.
The Evening Standard’s Grace Dent reviews the “veg-centric” Fellpack in Keswick, Cumbria which “skips between hearty northern fuel and London dippiness”.
She writes: “Fellpack, in the north Lakes, which opened in June 2017, feels gloriously fresh. Almost as if they’re happy to have you. Janglingly unjaded, in fact. I’ve added this to my `
lovely Lakes` list, alongside The Chalet in Portinscale and The Lingholm Kitchen close to the foot of Catbells.
“Here is a menu that skips cheerily between hearty, northern, fell-running fuel – chilli beef, pork belly – and Londoner-appeasing, quinoa-munching dippiness without breaking a sweat. Classic `fellpots of pretty local pottery arrive filled with smoky cheddar mac’n’cheese, crisp edamame beans and red chard. If you’re taking grandad, and he’s not down with oven-baked camembert` or lentil chilli, there’s a mixed local charcuterie platter with cornichons, chutney and warm bread.
“We shared a gooey camembert and some puddles of rich tahini and feisty chipotle hummus with warm flatbreads. A cumin-and-paprika-enlivened fellpot of lentil and mixed bean chilli with jalapeño and chives was no drab vegetarian affair. That slow-cooked Texan beef appeared with more mac’n’cheese, a rough stew of spiced mixed pulses and some charred corn. An acceptably wobbly chunk of pork belly came atop a deftly seasoned, Spanish-influenced butter bean and chorizo braise with saffron-wafted fregula pasta. Fellpack is not afraid of heat, spice, bold combinations and allowing a quiet majority of its menu to be veg-centric. I love that. In trying to please everyone, you can often please no one at all.
Giles Coren visits his could-have-been home Hampstead in London to review Café Hampstead in the Times.
“Oh Hampstead, land of my fathers … Well, it would have been. If we had been a slightly different sort of immigrant Jewish family. Poets, say, or literary critics. But, we weren’t. We were fishmongers and plumbers for the most part, small local engineers, hairdressers and cuddly housewives.
“The other day I got a call from an old (well, my age) local celebrity saying that something called Café Hampstead had opened and since Hampstead has never had a decent restaurant, maybe this was it. Should we go? I said we should.
“Café Hampstead is on the site of a number of previous things including, for many years, the unsayable Bar Room Bar. Such an annoying name that I never once went in. I went into Café Hampstead though. It looked rather welcoming.
“It’s supposedly inspired by Tel Aviv, which is funny because Hampstead has never been very Israeli. It was always Zion-neutral, literate Ashkenazim from central and eastern Europe.
“To eat, there was `Burnt aubergine` (£8) with tahini and chopped fresh tomato and parsley that was nicely done, the young fruit yielding sweet smoky, spreadable flesh. Also excellent labneh with zaatar (£4), the creamy cheese to be spread on warm, soft, homemade puffy Israeli pitta (£1 each). An Israeli salad (£4) of cherry tomatoes, cucumber and onion in a bronze glass saucer (very 1970s), a big bowl of fried calamari, crisp and hot but the batter a little heavy and bearing unwelcome (to me) hints of curry powder, with excellent aïoli.”
The newly opened Moorcock Inn in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire is “head-spinningly good”, writes Jay Rayner in the Observer.
“I first heard about it a few weeks back via a greedy friend on my personal Facebook page who lives nearby. Frankly, it was a revelation. I thought Facebook was now only good for personal data capture, the dissemination of fake news and edging us towards World War Three – not great restaurant recommendations. The pub had reopened with little fanfare, my friend said. The changing bar menu included things like trotters on toast, horseradish fritters with rose pickles, and platters of their own charcuterie. At weekends they were roasting whole pigs for Sunday lunch. What’s more, it was all as lip-smackingly, head-spinningly, `spank-me-twice-and-call-me-Alice` good as it sounds.
“There is the revelation of raw mackerel that has been `aged, like beef, for three weeks, to become deep, dense and intense, served with the bitter hit of brassicas. Stumps of young leek have been braised in butter, then dressed with new-season garlic, pickled plum and the intense savouriness of miso. White and brown crab meat from Whitby is bound in the crisp green of fresh spinach and ground elder leaves. A dish called dock pudding`, made with the soft bite of braised pearl barley, uses young dock leaves and then lifts them with the addition of an oyster cream. There is nothing overwrought about any of this. Each is just a couple of thoughtful ideas working together.
Chef Gina Hopskins’s cooking is at Nonya in Glasgow is “sexy stuff”, says Marina O’Loughlin, writing in the Sunday Times.
“Hopkins’s cooking is sexy stuff — assured, exuberant, uncompromising. It takes balls to put ox-heart laab on a menu in a city where the local critic is happy to admit he’s never heard of it, and offal is mostly delivered via the medium of haggis supper. Me, I crave the stuff. I never don’t order this northern Thai-style meat “salad” (aka larb or laap) when I see it, hooked on its powerful punch of heat and aromatics, the crunch of toasted ground rice, the fragrance of mint, little pink shallots and Thai basil. The use of ox heart is a stroke of genius; the deeply mineral meat adding an extra, resonant base note — a bassoon playing exquisite havoc with your palate. Fine sticky rice to chill it the hell out and the dish is a complete blast.
“We order a series of small dishes, each a mini adventure: chicken rendang, its sauce thick with coconut and slow cooking (no crispy skin either, MasterChef eejits); duck leg with tamarind and soy, a little dry and wizened-looking, but cut open to reveal sultry, tender meat; wrinkly little wontons, swollen with tender pork in a sauce crunchy with chilli oil. There’s something described as a dip of prawn, ginger and chilli — never was something so undersold: it’s a riotous arpeggio of assertive citrus sourness, perfume (lemon grass and the ginger) and the sweetness of the prawns. Crunchy little rice cakes, crisp cabbage and the whisper-sweetness of mandolined raw kohlrabi for scooping it up: dear Lord, yes.
Fiona Duncan of the Sunday Telegraph checks into White City House located in the former BBC Television Centre, the latest venture from Soho House which is expected to do for west London what Shoreditch House did for east London.
“As ever, service is excellent from seasoned Soho House staff who head departments but patchier from waiters and bar staff who may be still be finding their feet. The rather dull blue shirts worn by the staff give an unexpectedly business feel. The facilities, for a mid-price hotel, are second to none and rival those of Shoreditch House with two huge pools – one heated on the rooftop and one in the massive gym – which also has a sauna and hammam and its own café.
“Hotel guests who are not members have access to all the facilities, including any events such as talks or live music that happen to take place during their stay.
“The 48 bedrooms, fashioned from former offices, are harder to love than the public areas, though as ever, superbly equipped. Their Sixties styling makes them feel more practical and sober than luxurious and enveloping; there are no baths, only showers. Most rooms are small, although not impossibly so. Each has one of four wonderful collages by Peter Blake depicting famous BBC personalities crowded together outside the iconic building.”
“This is no ordinary country pub with rooms. First, it has its own brewery producing popular (and tasty) ales. Then there’s the “spa barn” that opened late last year, with three smart treatment rooms, a swanky relaxation lounge and Neal’s Yard products. Beyond the croquet lawn there’s the outdoor hot tub and sauna. Add to all this a farm shop/café selling bread, jams and pickled eggs, a pizza hut with a wood-burning oven, and a “beer bus” (a lovely shiny grey 1960s Citroën from which beers are sold).It also has a regular bar and restaurant too. The owner, Chad Pike, an American property millionaire, has gone to town with the Three Daggers.
“Rooms are extremely comfortable and decorated in muted colours, with a slick look accompanied by the occasional antique and old pictures depicting West Country scenes. Three rooms are in the pub’s main building and a further six in Hillside Cottage, next to the spa, which opened in the autumn. These come with a stylish lounge with a smart kitchen, comfy armchairs and a secluded patio. Double rooms are from £85 B&B.”