The Telegraph’s Michael Deacon reviews Harry and Meghan’s first date venue, Dean Street Townhouse, London.
“Tell you the thing that really gets me about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. They met on a blind date. An actual blind date. Think about that. Imagine the conversation beforehand between Meghan and the mate who arranged it.
“Anyway, however unusual the circumstances of their first date, it clearly went very well. The venue was Dean Street Townhouse, an upmarket restaurant and hotel in Soho. I went along to find out what it was like. The answer: busy. Busy, and noisy. Not in an unpleasant or aggressive way; it was just stuffed to the gunwales with people yakking and braying and hooting, at the top of their posh, confident voices. The music was fairly loud too, and blandly upbeat. The atmosphere was less restaurant, more drinks party.
“The food is British. My starter was the twice-baked smoked haddock soufflé, which was very good, plump and fluffy with a mustardy bite. My friend had the house-cured salmon, served with super-tangy pickled cucumber.
“My main was the Herdwick rack of lamb, with confit potatoes and peas. The lamb had a delicious, gritty little coating of parsley, mint and flour, which added texture and zing. My friend had the halibut with asparagus, morels and razor-clam vinaigrette. Light and velvety, with a good balance of greenery.
“Overall, the food was good, but not spectacular. Also, my friend felt it wasn’t ‘very Meghan’. She imagined that Meghan would have preferred somewhere trendier, a bit more left field, a bit more ‘artisan bistro’ or ‘Hackney microbrewery’: before meeting Harry, after all, Meghan used to write a food blog, where she shared her recipes for such hipster-friendly fancies as Aegean-inspired kale salad, baked eggs in avocado and coconut chai smoothie. Dean Street Townhouse, in comparison, is pretty mainstream.”
“Everything about Heinz Beck at Brown’s is over-engineered,” writes Jay Rayner in The Observer, reviewing the restaurant in London’s Mayfair.
“The place is summed up by my £24 starter of spaghetti cacio e pepe, that ultimate crowd-pleaser in which a cheesy, peppery emulsion clings to strands of thick pasta. The price tag is courtesy of three lime-marinated langoustine tails, still translucent, that have been plonked on top. They are the definition of unnecessary adornment, their brisk freshness adding absolutely nothing to what should be the warm, even hot, piquant embrace of the pasta. Except this version seems terrified of piquant. When you start grinding extra black pepper on to your cacio e pepe you know something is up.
“The perfectly enjoyable red mullet sandwich – two fillets, with black olive mush between them, then wrapped in thin dough and fried – comes sliced in half then plonked on salty mashed potato. It is high-end processed food. You’re paying £21 for someone else’s hard labour. Chicken breasts with baby gem lettuce and cardoncelli mushrooms looks like a roast chicken dinner reimagined for MasterChef. John Torode would nod approvingly at it, mostly because he’s a nice chap.
“But it’s odd. The breast is skinless, and therefore a big lump of springy indeterminate protein. On the side is a golden crisp. We both nibble at it, my companion and I, and eventually conclude it may well be the skin after a traumatic experience. It crunches pleasingly, but tastes very little of chicken. The mushrooms turn up in myriad textures. My companion points at the dish and quotes the candelabra’s line from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: ‘Try the grey stuff, it’s delicious.’ Never trust a candelabra. This grey stuff is soft and lightly acidic. It tastes like it once shook hands with a mushroom.”
The Sunday Times’s Marina O’Loughlin is unmoved by Hide in London’s Piccadilly.
“They are serving a lot of people here – the place is slammed – and while dishes verge on flawless, there’s a production-line quality, a robotic perfection. How irresistible does house-cured charcuterie of goose with sage and fenugreek, or Cornish salt-marsh lamb with lesser calamint sound? Or tiny parcels of Simmental beef wrapped in nasturtium leaves and edible flowers served on a bed of ice, the fine meat scented with the liquoricey notes of tobacco? But it’s all a little polite, a touch twee. Starters proper are exquisite: dumplings filled with almost liquid chestnut cream in a deep, dark duck broth; perfect – that word again – chilly, shelled langoustines on a rosemary branch, powdered ‘sea truffle’ (pepper dulse) adding bracing salty bitterness.
“The pal has ordered the lamb; dish after dish of it is ferried to surrounding tables, each one identical: elongated rectangle of improbably perfect (sorry), violet mustard-crusted, uniformly pink meat; single fibrous leaf scattered with garlic blossom; blackened wedge of aubergine; dollop of dried kelp-dusted labneh (I think); and little pot of green herb salsa – as though each serving has been arranged via template.
“I don’t want any of the above to detract from Dabbous’s talent. He is a truly gifted chef and one day I hope he gets the restaurant he deserves, neither the gloomy post-industrial grunge of his last gaff or the filthy-lucred, noisy blandness of this one. Hide will be a roaring success, branded onto the speed dial of every executive concierge service on the planet. Everyone else will love it; you might love it: it’s slick and smooth and polished, with a confidence hurtling towards arrogance. If it were a man, it’d try to pick you up in its classic Jensen Interceptor as you exited school after double maths. (True story.) But I wasn’t impressed then and I’m afraid I’m not impressed now.”
Jonny Woo visits the Queen’s favourite restaurant, Bellamy’s off Berkeley Square, London, for The Evening Standard.
“The stand-out dish of the meal was the iced lobster soufflé entrée. It was both light and creamy with an intense, rich flavour, which melted away and then, as Tom poetically put it, ‘lingered like a memory’. Tom’s avocado and prawns were as perfect and simple as avocado and prawns could be. Both the filet of Dover sole and the entrecôte were cooked to perfection; served simply without fuss, the sides of spinach and broad beans were wonderfully buttery and looked as satisfying as spinach and broad beans should. No smashing or smearing across the plate, thank you very much.
“Being a French restaurant I assumed a crème brûlée would finish off my meal nicely, but not being on the menu, I was advised to try the crème caramel. Tom opted for the rhubarb crumble with ice-cream (not custard, fool). Needless to say neither tried the other’s, this time both lost in our own childhood memories of each dessert, mine decadently sweet and bursting with vanilla. All I got from Tom was a drawn out ‘Amazing!’ The cappuccino, unfortunately, was gut-wrenchingly disappointing, but on ordering I had thought, ‘Never order an Italian-style coffee in a French restaurant.’ ‘Un café’ would have probably got a better result. A surprise glass of what seemed to be chocolate ‘Minstrels’ was a jolly finish to the meal and left me wondering if the Queen was particularly fond of these and would ‘pop them in one’s handbag’ for the grandkids.”
‘The cooking at Cornerstone [in London’s Hackney Wick] is out of this world – confident, brilliant and beautiful’, writes Giles Coren in The Times.
“The cooking was out of this world. Oysters pickled for two hours in gherkin vinegar, on the shell with a very gentle horseradish cream, were sensational. Three raw hand-dived scallops were expensive at £18 but so sweet and fresh, almost alive, with a pesto-y green sauce and crunchy hazelnuts. Monkfish slices cured with an element of lime pickle and served with blobs of coconut yogurt and specks of coriander were not the car crash they sound but sparkling, heavenly manifestations of a fish with which I had grown bored. These all served in old-fashioned, cheap-arse terracotta tapas dishes.
“Potted shrimps on a warm crumpet, shrimp butter melting down into the holes, were a thing of dreams, shredded kohlrabi over the top bringing bright colour but little else. And indeed while warm asparagus spears looked intoxicating piled next to a pat of smoked cod’s roe (scattered with irresistible paprika’d breadcrumbs), I’ve never been one for tarama on veg. So I smeared it on their otherworldly sourdough toast with dripping and my eyes just rolled back in my head.
“Cider-braised cuttlefish on lentils was the best dish though; fresh, meaty and sweet under cubes of sharp apple and slices of scallion. Dishes of plaice, cod and bass were all perfectly made and then the confit pork belly was a wonderfully dense but tender piece of meat, rendered almost chocolatey by the presence of pistachios, lightened with blades of chicory and cubes of orange.”
The Guardian’s Grace Dent is disappointed by ‘slapdash hospitality’ at Bodean’s, London.
“Back in 2003, Bodean’s was one of the only places in the UK serving pseudo-authentic American “barbecue”: pulled pork, babyback ribs, burnt ends. These days, though, weddings, small festivals and your child’s school fête may well feature a street-food truck flogging marinated, faux-Tennessee piggy bits. And that street food will be brined, marinated, smoked, shredded and seasoned with a hell of a lot more love and attention than Bodean’s, which transpires to be some of the worst slap-dash nonsense masquerading as hospitality I’ve ever endured. And I’ve eaten fajitas that tasted like Clarks Polyveldts while sat in a big, stationary, fake New York taxi at a shopping-mall TGI Fridays.
“My labrador would not have eaten Bodean’s cremated babyback ribs, and that stupid hound will wolf down fox poo with vivid glee. Does Bodean’s care about this? Or will it rumble on until it’s turfed out of the market, when it will be everyone else’s fault, including you and naughty me?
“My ‘Cajun swordfish’ emerges in such a blackened state that I could have used it to bang out a rudimentary Afro Left by Leftfield.
“The Bodean’s menu offers no vegetarian option save for the ubiquitous mac’n’cheese. It’s 2018. Go mad, guys. Stick a box of beanburgers in your trolley. You can’t mess them up more than your burnt ends that taste of jam and have the consistency and vibe of something a kidnapper might begin posting back to your parents.”
The Times’ Tom Chesshyre visits the Tannery, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, Ireland.
“The talented chef Paul Flynn opened the Tannery restaurant in a 19th-century leather factory in 1997, adding 14 rooms in a nearby townhouse in 2005 and a cookery school in 2008. The Tannery offers fine dining with a friendly, unpretentious atmosphere. You enter a cosy room with a flagstone floor, bar stools and colourful shelves of cookery books (some by Paul).
“[Rooms] are neat and simply decorated with battleship-grey wood panels in some and splashes of colour such as ruby headboards and pink-patterned wallpaper. All have Venetian shutters and little shower rooms.
“Paul used to be a cookery writer for The Irish Times and is one of Ireland’s best chefs. Food is served in an elegant dining room with exposed metal beams. There’s an à la carte menu with dishes such as fillet of whiskey-smoked salmon and cured venison haunch (three courses from €45), but it’s best to go for the full seven-course tasting menu (€65). What a treat: delicately flavoured roast vegetable and cumin soup; succulent crab on toast; quail and wild mushroom ravioli (the pasta absolutely perfect); beetroot-cured cod (my favourite dish); tender beef ribs with cauliflower cheese, grapes and salted almonds; a marvellous, creamy chocolate mousse; and delicious Irish cheeses. Breakfasts are also first-rate, with spiced steamed apples, berry compotes, sizzling bacon, sausages and tasty banana bread.
“Paul’s food is worth making the trip to Ireland for, but book well in advance.”