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Reviews: Giles Coren checks out Inko Nito; Marina O’Loughlin discovers “a perfectly formed beauty” in Lina Stores

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Reviews: Giles Coren checks out Inko Nito; Marina O’Loughlin discovers “a perfectly formed beauty” in Lina Stores

Inko Nito in London’s Soho is aimed at “young, foreign, rich, phone-hooked, social media-obsessed neophytes”, writes Giles Coren in The Times

The Japanese/Korean wares were fine. There was a Portland crab tartare stirred up with a wasabi mayo and served with crispy chicken crackling that was a definite 9/10 beer snack, a small plate of tofu Karaage with miso mayo that was beautifully done and a baked potato with a separately super-crisped skin that they smash in front of you, which was great fun (though more buttery potato flesh would have helped – I’d have liked Robuchon-esque 50:50 proportions of butter and spud). But nothing else really sang.

They’ve made a big effort to modernise sesame prawn toast but it’s a dish that can’t be improved upon – because it is already a (wonderful) abomination that plays to our basest needs for salt, sweet and crispness – and this chewy confection does not come close. And then there is an apparent (meant to be funny?) riff on the original roasted marrowbone dish at St John, with smoked soy, shallots instead of that parsley salad, and then triangles of toasted Japanese milk bread. But Japanese milk bread is a pathetic, disgusting pastiche of the one food thing the Japanese don’t get. It doesn’t work with bone marrow (which needs a more savoury, more robust toast) and it spoils the dish. As it had done the prawn toast previously.

Score: Cooking 5/10; space 3/10; service 8/10; total 5/10.
Price: £90 for two not including booze


The Sunday Times’s Marina O’Loughlin discovers “a perfectly formed beauty” in Lina Stores in London’s Soho

Not much has been done to the original outlet: a bit of a paint job, a few lunch tables. And now, suddenly, this: a perfectly formed beauty. The family has acquired a real star in the chef Masha Rener, lately of La Chiusa in Umbria, one of Italy’s pioneering organic agriturismi. Her succinct menu here is a short hymn to the joys of Italian food – all sunshine and seductive simplicity.

Despite her Umbrian background, the dishes wander happily all over Italy’s boot: chewy worms of hand-rolled Tuscan pici dressed in a rich, gooey sauce of Italian sausage and wild mushrooms just introduced by a slick of cream; never has beige been so beautiful. Flat patties of aubergine polpette topped with a slick of intense tomato sauce are firmly rooted in Sicily. A great, oozy dollop of odoriferous gorgonzola and crisp, oily flatbread come with pear mostarda, that mustard-laced fruit relish from Cremona: gorgeous. Wide ribbons of pappardelle are almost translucent in their delicacy, the rosemary and olive-fragranced rabbit ragù a fine supporting act: another plateful to make the Tuscan émigrés weep into their Americano. In each dish, the quality of ingredients beams out – the fruitiest tomatoes, cold-pressed olive oil so grassy and intoxicating, it’s like a romp in a poppy-dappled meadow.

Total: For two, including 12.5% service charge £98


lahpet

According to Michael Deacon from The Telegraph, salad is the most interesting dish at Lahpet in London’s Shoreditch

My favourites were the tofu dishes. They didn’t look like much – limp and weedy and orange, like underfed fish fingers – but they tasted unexpectedly delicious: so soft and airy. I liked the Mandalay version, too: imagine a kind of beany flapjack. The sweetcorn ones were a bit nothingy: dull strips of lumpy batter. Not a lot going on with the bottle gourd, either. Plenty of crunch, not much flavour.

Next, though, was the dish I was excited about: the Lahpet tea-leaf salad. That’s right: a salad, made with tea leaves. Not just tea leaves, obviously – it also contained sesame seeds, tomato, broad beans and red cabbage. It was terrific. So many textures. Crunchy, soft, nutty, savoury, zingy. Every mouthful was different. My tongue hardly knew whether it was coming or going. And the fermented tea leaves added a wonderful bonus tang.

Normally I’m suspicious of people who order salad on a night out – it’s the culinary equivalent of virtue signalling – but at Lahpet, perhaps uniquely, salad is the most interesting dish you can go for. And it was certainly a lot tastier than the other fermented foods I’ve been eating.

Score: 4/5. Price: around £55 for three courses for two without alcohol


casamia-food

The Telegraph’s Keith Miller struggles to find a technical flaw aCasamia in Bristol

Happily, most of what ensued was simpler and truer to itself than I’d feared. Dishes were centred on a principal ingredient – the menu just said “beetroot”, “turbot”, etc – and what technical elaborations there were served to maximise the flavour of that ingredient. So “beetroot” was a toothsome risotto as dark as garnet, turbo-charged with some sort of hyper-reduction; “turbot” a chunk of grilled flesh perched on a sabayon and capped with paper-thin discs of grape.

“Duck” was a silky, fragrant broth with a quail’s egg lurking in its depths, followed by a perfect cherry-coloured slab of breast meat, its skin jewelled with spices (though the spices hadn’t made it through the skin to the meat, and the skin itself was a little rubbery – the only thing approaching a technical flaw I could identify all day. “Rhubarb” came prettily surrounded by shards of sugar glass flecked with rose, bay and juniper. Best of all in a way was “carabineros”: just a mouthful, but the prawniest prawn dish I think I’ve ever had – some flesh, chopped and just-cooked, suffused with a smoky stock made from roasted shells.
Presentation was meticulous, in what I’m bound to say I found a faintly passive-aggressive way. Pipettes were occasionally involved. Every dish had its own dedicated stoneware shape. The maître d’ deployed special tongs and a smokeproof mini-silo to whisk away the hot coals that smouldered, Fenella Fielding-like, on our “trout” (lightly hot-smoked, served with roe and a sail of crispy translucent skin).

Score: 4/5. Price: £300 for full tasting menu with wine for two


Thomas Carr Seafood & Grill

Thomas Carr Seafood and Grill in Ilfracombe, North Devon is “that mate of yours who could be a huge success if only they got their act together”, writes Jay Rayner in The Observer

There are some false starts. If you’re going to offer a lobster macaroni cheese, please don’t overcook the macaroni and don’t forget to be stupidly generous with the cheese. There aren’t many things to get right in mac and cheese. Those are two of them.

It’s with the mains that everything really comes into focus. A pearly piece of hake rests in a deep shellfish bisque, given go-faster stripes courtesy of handfuls of lemon grass and ginger. It’s rare that a soup mounted with ladles of cream also feels invigorating and curiously healthy. Perched on top is a quenelle of the sweetest of sweet white crab meat. It’s one of those dishes that reminds you why you made the effort to come and eat this close to the sea, where the seafood is just that little bit brighter and friskier.

Skate wing is dressed with brown butter, capers and crayfish, and is one of the best versions of this dish ever laid in front of me. I pull the strands of skate from the cartilage, enjoying the satisfying way the flesh slips from the wing, like it was waiting to be undressed. I shovel up some capers and nutty crayfish, and sigh. There are new potatoes to remind you that this is meant to be a balanced lunch, but all eyes are on that glorious skate.

Price: £60-£90 for a meal for two including drinks and service


“It’s all so bloody nice!” Grace Dent says in The Guardian of La Goccia in London’s Covent Garden

Alarm bells sounded when a plate of dry, unappetising focaccia appeared. Petersham should be churning out exemplary, warm, slightly sticky, oily, crunchy, irresistible focaccia as a calling card. This was more bank holiday Monday Tesco Metro tear-and-share. A handful of courgette fritti appeared, al dente, with the batter not quite right. The Soho House group has been nailing this dish for a decade, serving them plentiful, spindly and crisp. Service was bright, swift and charming, the sun was shining and we were dining on the outdoors terrace, so it felt churlish to quibble that the food, so rhapsodised over by the great and good for so long, was a little slapdash. But it was.

We ordered pizzetta with pistachio, and it saved the entire lunch, because here was a warm, fresh dough smeared thickly with a sea-green, garlic-honking, oily, crunchy pistachio butter. My guest and I paused from discussing all the people we don’t like for a moment: “That,” I said, eyes swivelling, “is one of the greatest things I’ve ever tasted.”

Score: food 6/10; atmosphere 7/10; service 8/10.
Price: about £30 a head, plus drinks and service. 


HOTELS

The Fish hotel bedroom
The Fish hotel bedroom

Taking a bath on the terrace of the new tree house suites at the Fish hotel on the Farncombe Estate in Broadway, Worcestershire, is not for the faint-hearted, suggests Jane Knight of The Times

Don’t think of the Fish, on Broadway’s 400-acre Francombe Estate, as a standard boutique hotel. Think of it as a collection of rooms in outlying buildings, including chic shepherds’ huts and the exclusive-use Farmhouse. A £4m revamp has upped the ante in the restaurant, scrapped the least attractive rooms, spruced up the remainder and added new ones in the Coach House, along with three uber-cool tree houses.

The new tree houses have curved wooden sides, copper trim and two wooden tubs on the generous terrace, along with a swinging sofa and tables and chairs. And very pleasant it is — until you want to get out of the bath and realise that people on the path have a perfect view of your nether regions. Within the oak interior, there’s a long, thin main room, with a super-comfy bed at one end and seating at the other; a cosy bunk room for the children; and a bathroom with another tub and shower. A free minibar includes fresh milk, munchies and a mini bottle of prosecco.

Score: 8/10.
Price: 
from £170 for a B&B doubles; from £370 for a tree house for four

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