Get the latest hospitality news and inspiration straight to your inbox. Subscribe to our newsletter.

Reviews: Marina O’Loughlin isn’t wowed by Jodie Kidd’s Half Moon pub; while Jay Rayner urges diners to order Calum Franklin’s pies at the Holborn Dining Room

Written by:
Written by:
Reviews: Marina O’Loughlin isn’t wowed by Jodie Kidd’s Half Moon pub; while Jay Rayner urges diners to order Calum Franklin’s pies at the Holborn Dining Room

The Times’s Marina O’Loughlin is not wowed by model Jodie Kidd’s Half Moon pub in Kirdford, West Sussex

I’m not sure if [chef Johnny] Stanford has lost his mojo in the move from Brighton, or whether he’s been told to cool it with the more newfangled stuff… but I’m considerably less wowed than I expect to be.

In fact, there are so many hiccups, it’s hard to believe it’s the same guy: the panna cotta that comes with lovely, almost caramelised little fluffy lamb’s sweetbreads is stiff and oversweetened; too much sugar also in its sorrel sorbet – a couple of cloth-eared notes that set an otherwise clever dish way off-key. Salmon and langoustine ravioli are catering-competition professional, but I’d have liked the filling to be less processed, more textural, and without a nosegay of pansy petals on the pasta’s halo of beans, peas and tomato. I’m a bit over my dinner being bedizened like the Queen of the May. (Some produce comes from the garden’s potager, which is a nice touch.)

My duck breast – “We serve it pink” – is verging on raw, its flabby layer of skin and fat unrendered, its block of confit leg dry. There’s a curiously purple sauce of black pudding and a scattering of foetal carrots. A shame, as the quality of ingredients is truly fine – lamb chump has a deliciously barnyard depth of flavour – but one skin-on boiled potato halved on the plate and a thatch of samphire are odd barnfellows.

Price: £114 for two, including 12.5% service charge


pate-en-croute

“If you came here and didn’t order a pie, you would be a complete idiot,” says The Observer’s Jay Rayner reviewing the Holborn Dining Room at Rosewood London

I must give thanks for chef Calum Franklin and his pie-fetishising menu at the Holborn Dining Room, the restaurant of London’s Rosewood hotel. His hand-raised pork pie, the lid twisted into pleats at the corners, is served hot from the oven, with a light gravy that speaks loudly of reduction, calves’ feet and care. The compressed filling is made with smoked bacon and is a bold expression of pig. The case is perhaps a little dark in places, but as a man who burns his toast on purpose, I’m not going to complain. It snaps and crunches.

The day we are there the pie list includes a chicken, girolles and tarragon number; a potato, Comté and caramelised onion option; a steak and kidney suet pudding; and a curried mutton pie.

I also order the latter. It comes in a flaky pastry case and is a wonder of soft, yielding meat and potatoes in a robustly spiced gravy. There is more of the same in a jug on the side. It’s surrounded by mango salsa. If it had been winter, we would have thrown on chips, because carbohydrate squared is always the way to go; but it’s summer so we eat our glossy spring greens and a salad of the sweetest tomatoes with shallots and basil, and still crave a lie down later.

Price: £60-£130 for a meal for two, including drinks and service


Joris Minne reviews 44 Hill Street for the Belfast Telegraph, an “authentic French restaurant” producing “beautiful and unusual dishes”

There are tapas of crispy and moist French black pudding discs topped with a tangy apple puree, accompanied by some rocket leaves. Geoff and I squabble over them as there are five between the two of us. Another of crispy lamb belly is outstanding, all little salty bites and flakes of meat on a bed of lettuce.

A charred pork chop is heavenly, tender, full of breathy, piggy flavours, but a bit mean and skinny for the £20 asking price. Geoff’s steak bruschetta is impressively generous, although the visuals may have been slightly contorted by the giant slab of toasted sourdough underpinning everything.

The room is atmospheric, the food is top class. Once the service is slicked up and  Monsieur [Guillaume, owner] Rabillat relaxes a bit, this will be a top choice for many repeat visitors. I know I’ll be back soon.

Price: £89 for a meal for two with a bottle of wine


“Ideas are unfamiliar, challenging – and beautifully executed.” The Guardian’s Grace Dent reviews Bright in London’s Hackney

Courgette with basil and burrata curds turns out to be a breathtaking, pond-like puddle of cold courgette soup with balm-like milky swirlings. Kermit-coloured gazpacho, if you will. Delicious, and I’m generally strictly against the concept of cold soup and have doubled down on this ever since Sid Owen from EastEnders served a gazpacho on Celebrity MasterChef that was cold plum tomatoes with chopped red onion served at the temperature of street vomit. At Bright, I found a new way of looking at things.

The same went for the trenette with pesto Genovese. Pesto is the last refuge of the scoundrel, and this country’s palate has been stained by tiny supermarket jars of Satan’s snot. Bright’s pesto, however, is a sensuous body rub. The red scarlet prawns are presented so beautifully that it’s almost a pity to dismantle and eat them. Like almost all prawns ever, though, they offer little bang for your buck once all the faffing and shelling is done. Oddly, one of the most wondrous things I ate at Bright was a self-effacing pizza fritta: a tiny but mighty mass of plump, fried dough with a simple hat of fresh, sweet tomato, oregano and an abstemious smattering of mozzarella. So simple, but remarkable.

Price: around £30-£35 a head, plus drinks and service.
Score: food 9/10; atmosphere 9/10; service 9/10


bucket

When the seaside isn’t within reach, Bucket in London’s Notting Hill will do, writes Michael Deacon in The Telegraph

The snack I really loved was the cockles. Squirmy little gobbets of cockle combining beautifully with angry little chunks of chorizo and red pepper, so juicy and punchy. Delicious. A lot of menus these days feature snacks before their starters, and often they aren’t remotely memorable. This, though, was one of the best I’ve tasted.

Next I tried two of the mains. First, a bucket of mussels, which were flavoured with coconut and chilli. Weird, but it worked. Then a second bucket, this one of fritto misto: fried whitebait, calamari and prawns, plus big hunks of courgette, all nestling on brown paper inside a metal bucket. They came with two fine dips: sriracha mayo, pinky-orange and fiercely spiced, plus a seaweed mayo that tasted like a kind of vinegary sour cream.

However relaxing the atmosphere, there was just a slight sense of chaos about the service. Then again, hiccups like these aren’t unusual at new openings. I wasn’t annoyed. At another restaurant, I might have been, but not here.

Price: £50 for three courses for two without alcohol. Score: 3.5/5


Bagatelle in Mayfair has “destination pricing but the food is nothing to swerve for”, writes Ed Smith in the London Evening Standard

My pal dined on a trio of massive, meaty prawns a la plancha, which sat atop charred radicchio and Thai aubergine, a none too sweet mango salsa and a jet black smudge of burnt aubergine purée. Intense, flavourful and finger-licking, this was grand. I’d chosen an Ibérico pork chop with saffron rice. My first bite, from the fatty edge, burst with succulence, but the remainder was grey and tense, when it should have been blushing and yielding. The accompanying silken rice involved lardo, chicharrones and Padrón peppers, too. Comforting. Moreish. Oversalted.

Actually, the pork dish was nearly delicious. But I’m judging strictly because the delayed but unavoidable kicker on this ‘better than expected but ultimately forgettable’ meal is that the prices were staggering: the prawns were £48 and the scallop carpaccio starter with its unexpected caviar garnish a gullet-tensing £30.

It is destination pricing but the food is nothing to swerve for and this Bagatelle will not become the place to be seen – a dark room on Dover Street doesn’t have the appeal of an Ibiza beachfront or St Barts harbour.

Price: £191.
Score: ambience 2/5; food 3/5. 


cafe-wolseley

Kathryn Flett from The Telegraph checks out the Café Wolseley in Bicester Village, Oxfordshire, and enjoys a ‘retro comfort-lunch’

To start, I had a lovely, thick pea soup with crème fraîche followed by the (small) Wiener schnitzel with lingonberry compote, plus frites and a green salad.

However, I didn’t remotely object when the order manifested in front of me as a Wiener Holstein (fried egg, anchovy and capers) on the grounds that my server, Lukasz, whose marvellous accent bestrode Poland, Sweden and Estuarial England, was charm personified. The schnitzel was very decent, too.

I was enjoying my retro comfort-lunch so much (and the roomful of Chinese diners appeared to be enjoying theirs, too) that I ordered a banana split.

Price: £100 for dinner for two
Score: 3/5. 


Giles Coren of The Times reviews two restaurants in London this week in search of the perfect laksa: Old Chang Kee in Covent Garden and Sambal Shiok in north London

I ordered a signature curry puff [at Old Chang Kee] and a Singapore laksa and took one of the twelve or so sitting spots in the tiny room. Within seconds, I had my curry puff in a brown paper bag and it was every bit as historic as I remembered. The pastry was just so golden and short, so flaky, the filling rich and salty with a little bit of chicken meat and cubes of potato – the way that a Cornish pasty could be if it ever got up off its fat Cornish arse and travelled a bit. If it only dared to dream. And at £2.80, it was great value, too.

And then along came the laksa. It was fine. And glory be that it’s here and only £8.50. But the soup was a little thin, the fire was muted, the noodles too thick (for me), too many bean sprouts, the prawns small, white and lacking flavour, and a stupid bloody half egg sitting there, looking up at me, going, “Hello, I’m an egg!” I dunno, maybe it is the best laksa I’ve ever eaten and I just don’t know laksa. But it wasn’t a patch.

Sambal Shiok is an even more exciting arrival, a permanent spot for one of the most popular London-wide pop-ups of recent years… Service was bright and jolly, achar pickles were perfect, gado-gado salad was cool and refreshing and a stack of deep-fried chicken (£8) with peanut sauce was off-the-clock fantastic. The flesh was so tender (is that from brining? It must be) while the crumb was crisp without being KFC-crunchy. Utterly wonderful.

The laksa (£12) was very, very good. Very pretty. Not as pretty as the mother laksa, because erring on the brown side as opposed to the pink – but it was not touted as a Singapore laksa (merely as “prawn laksa”) and was entitled to set its own standards. The bean curd was there, the prawns had bounce, but there was no fishcake. Fine. Some laksas don’t have it. Most, even. And then, although all the distinct flavours were on point, it was just not salty enough for me. Spicy, yes, and wonderfully so, but underseasoned otherwise, so that the sweetness of the coconut predominated, where I’m personally looking for the fat, umami tongue-wipe of the fermented shrimp.

Old Chang Kee score: 7. Sambal Shiok score: 8


HOTELS

cow-hollow-bedroom

Manchester’s recently opened Cow Hollow hotel evokes the creative spirit and reflects the industrial heritage of the Northern Quarter in which it is located, says Tony Naylor of The Guardian

Thankfully, this new 16-bed conversion of an old Northern Quarter textile warehouse is more individual and less flashy than it first appears. It is certainly chic but also easygoing and no-nonsense, in an identifiably Mancunian way.

Three years in the making, owners Muj and Amelia Rana’s labour-of-love makes fantastic use of the building’s industrial heritage. My room, Afra, has huge mechanical winding gear in one corner. The weatherbeaten door to the handsome stone-clad bathroom (downer: the shower takes an age to heat up) is original to the building.

Bedrooms come with luxurious touches: REN toiletries, fast broadband, high-quality but idiot-proof Bluetooth speakers, free Netflix. The intention is to provide an experience which, in its detail, removes common hotel grievances while fostering a sense of hospitality. Subject to availability, you can check in early or check out late at no extra cost. Guests are served free Prosecco and nibbles each evening and complimentary milk and cookies before bed. There is no annoying key-card for the electricity, nor do you have to contort yourself to turn off the bedside lights.

Price: from £99 for a double room with bed and breakfast


dorsett-city

The rooms at the Dorsett City hotel – from the Hong Long-based group Dorsett Hospitality – in London EC3 will not win any design awards, but it offers a cheap but chic place to stay in the capital, advises Jane Knight of The Times

Rooms are comfortable but on the corporate side, but at the weekend you can get B&B doubles from as little as £159 a night. There is also an ubercool rooftop bar and a 24-hour eatery as well as the main Chinese restaurant. [Bedrooms are] ever so slightly like a posh Travelodge, albeit with a few Chinese details, such as patterned counterpanes. That said, the 267 rooms have blackout curtains for the floor-to-ceiling windows, a mobile phone with free calls to 20 countries and Netflix on the TV.

Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, it’s definitely worth going for an Asian-inspired cocktail at the Jin Bo Law Skybar, before heading downstairs for an excellent Chinese meal at Shikumen. The dim sum and Peking duck are particularly good here, as is the innovative take on sesame prawn toast (à la carte, or set menus from £28pp).

Price: from £159 for a double with bed and breakfast.
Score: 7.5/10

Get The Caterer every week on your smartphone, tablet, or even in good old-fashioned hard copy (or all three!). Subscribe today and save 51%

Start the discussion

Sign in to comment or register new account

Start the working day with

The Caterer’s free breakfast briefing email

Sign up now for:

  • The latest exclusives from across the industry
  • Innovations, new openings, business news and practical advice
  • The latest product innovations and supplier offers
Sign up for free