The Sunday Times’ critic Marina O’Loughlin reckons Tom Olroyd’s Duke of Richmond pub in London’s Hackney is a solid three out of five…
The blackboard offers a lamb bun as one of the daily specials. I mistake this for a starter, perhaps something along the lines of the beef almost-bao with horseradish cream done with such joyous aplomb by the nearby Marksman pub.
Instead, it’s more le burger: a large, glossy and excellent home-baked roll, laden with pleasingly muttony slices of roast Hebridean lamb, more tapenade, artichokes and a ripe tomato salsa – it’s like a Provençal lunch rammed into bread. I’m not sure at first whether Cornish crab soufflé, served with two dense little Comté brioche buns – little cheesy rock cakes – into which an oddly fridge-cold crab bisque is poured until the soufflé collapses like a punctured balloon, is quite the dish they set out to achieve. After slurping it like a smoothie, I come down on the side of so wrong it’s weirdly, compulsively right.
The Duke of Richmond is a handsome place, half restaurant, half good old boozer full of good-looking, cool young thangs avoiding the oppressive heat by getting cheerfully plastered. Is it going to rock your world? To leave you squealing – banging, killer, smashed it, to die for, all with the full rash of exclamation marks? To have you raving that it’s the best lamb bun or curiously rum-free rum baba ever? Friends, it is not. But is it a fun place to be, to eat interesting food and drink decent wine with a pal? Absolutely. And that’s just fine by me.
Price: £100 for two, including 12.5% service charge
…while The Observer’s Jay Rayner is more enthused by the Duke of Richmond and describes it as “an awful lot more than just reliable”
You have to admire the luscious, greedy, thigh-rubbing instincts of a kitchen that puts a crab chip butty on the menu: a palm-sized, golden-glazed bun, filled with mayonnaise-bound white crabmeat, the crunch of lightly pickled samphire and, finally, a fistful of still hot, still crisp chips.
Aside from the crab chip butty – did I mention the crab chip butty? – we have a flaky vol-au-vent filled with meaty sautéed girolles, the freshest of English peas and grated summer truffle bound in a luscious jus. A bubbled and buckled tart fine is loaded with sweet sour confit tomatoes, a quenelle of black olive tapenade and another of herbed crème fraîche. The puff pastry – and the sourdough and butter – are all made on site. It’s both a small thing and a big one. They don’t need to do that. Many serious kitchens don’t bother to make their own puff. Here, they do.
There are thick slices of lamb from the Hebrides, unashamed of their well-earned ballast of fat, grilled over wood and served with dauphinoise potatoes, courgettes and enough light gravy to swim in. These are British ingredients cooked with an utterly convincing French country accent. There is nothing prissy or mannered here. It’s dinner, made by people who like to feed people who want to be fed.
t including drinks and service
Sambal Shiok on London’s Holloway Road has a “small, powerful, all-hits menu”, writes Grace Dent in The Guardian
Sambal Shiok feels as if it’s spinning a lot of plates and pleasing a wide array of palates, both newbies and aficionados. This is a small, powerful, all-hits menu: a signature Kuala Lumpur laksa with a Peranakan underbelly; a hot, sunset-coloured, shrimpy, umami, soupy face-slap of a bowl rife with fat noodles, green beans and bean sprouts. You can add poached chicken. You can add king prawns. You can add charred aubergine. Or you can have the whole thing vegan, if you wish, because Yin has developed her own shrimp-free secret vegan laksa paste for non-things-with-faces eaters, and it is quite unfathomably good. I’ve mulled over it for six solid days now, and I’m still no closer to working out how you get that depth of umami without charring prawn shells. I give up. I added extra tofu puffs to my laksa, because I can’t get enough of those cloud-like flavour magnets.
We also ordered an excellent, fiery Assam fish curry served with sweet cucumber and red onion pickles, plus a plate of outstanding crunchy fenugreek crackers with a pungent tomato salsa and that are gloriously freshly made, wonky-looking and brimming with earthy charm. The gado gado salad – julienned veg in a sticky, peanutty sauce – is a plate of pure joy, and not remotely the salad to order if you’re looking for something to induce “shredded abs”. My dining companion put away a plate of Malaysian fried chicken with peanut sauce in the manner of a 30-litre Brabantia pedal bin.
Price: about £20 a head, plus drinks and service.
Score: food 9/10; atmosphere 9/10; service 8/10
Brigadiers in the City of London is “a whopping great, beautifully turned out, superflash temple to the religion of ‘curry night’”, writes Giles Coren in The Times
Everything these guys do is poetry. It’s always top-quality proteins cooked perfectly with sauces of such depth and complexity, brightness and colour. Crispy oxtail samosas, rich and aromatic, in a shimmering brass bowl; feather-light patties of minced guinea fowl and puff pastry; a tangy red skewer of chicken tikka and hearts, so sexy to look at and to swallow; five strong, muscular arms of barbecued butter chicken, robust char flavours tussling with the buttery, ghee-thick sauce…
We had the most amazing wagyu seekh kebab rolled in flaky roti; beef chuck bone-marrow keema, with the bone half-submerged in a rich sauce with crispy onions, a soft egg and yards of buttery bread in a golden dish; jheenga puri, which was four huge puffy puri, two green, two gold, with firm, jabbering prawns; lamb belly ribs bhutwa with all the pungency of a late-night doner and then a grandstanding dish of Sikandari kid shoulder, slathered in onions and collapsing over dense, chewy lacha parathas; an incredible crispy potato dish, insane when broken down into a “sapper’s egg”, a bowl of greens shiny like emeralds, a couple of bottles of the absurdly named but deliciously refreshing Eva Fricke Mellifluous Elements riesling, a couple of Saumur-Champignys, very efficiently iced down for us (because cold cabernet franc is the only thing to drink with this hot, rich, spicy stuff) and coffee.
Price: £70 a head
Score: food 10/10; service 10/10; score 8/10
The Evening Standard’s Ben Machell says there’s “something just a little too precious, just a little bit bloodless” about the food at Rüya in London’s Mayfair
I appreciate that I’ve had my conception of Turkish food hijacked by the kebab joints of Dalston, all meaty, charcoal-grilled juiciness, huge warm flatbreads chewy as dog toys, remorseless chilli spice and cool fresh vegetable crunch – yum, yum, yum. I knew Rüya was not going to be that. I mean, not at these prices. But still, there was something just a little too precious, just a little bit bloodless, about much of what we ate. We opened with çitir kalamar – crispy coated curls of squid with an avocado and yogurt dip – and isli patlican, which was great big aubergine chips with aubergine purée. They were bar snacks by any other name, tasty and seasoned enough to help us quickly murder our first bottles of Efes. No complaints.
We were recommended the levrek by the relentlessly attentive staff. It is, apparently, chef patron Colin Clague’s favourite: sashimi sea bass with an apple and mustard dressing. This makes it sound all fresh and breezy, but really, it was a busy little thing, with radish, yogurt, vinegar, honey, cress and simit crisps all piled on top. You felt for the poor sea bass, buried beneath this gloopy royal rumble of ingredients. The kaz ciğeri — seared spiced duck livers — were hard going, flabby and dull. They came with pickled cherries, and the waiter explained to us that the trick was to eat the liver and the cherries at the same time. ‘But isn’t that just… eating?’ asked Richard, quietly, once he’d gone. It was. He had just described eating. Neither of us fancied finishing the plate. Nothing tastes more like an internal organ than an internal organ you don’t want to swallow.
Score: ambience 3/5; food 3/5
The Telegraph’s Keith Miller finds “a lot of originality and judgement” at Bright in London’s Hackney
At Bright we made sure to try the agnolotti with chicken liver and girolles, served in a fresh, peppery, summery broth, and quite excellent. As, indeed, was pretty much everything else.
They are serving grilled turbot, in compliance with the latest Hot New London Restaurants Directive; but they also do the heads separately, slathered in a fragrant rose harissa, as a “snack”. It’s a messy, slurpy dish (“Very… gelatinous,” said our server, somehow uninspiringly) but there’s a fair amount of white meat to be winkled out of the cheeks and from behind the skull; and once you’ve found that, you’re emboldened to taste parts you might overlook if there were more – the eyes, the tongue.
Dexter sirloin was dry-aged and amazingly full-flavoured – a little rank for some tastes, maybe – with a Trumpian comb-over of golden fat. It came with grated horseradish sprinkled across the top, and sharp pickled blackcurrants. Puddings were outstanding, especially an ice-cream flavoured with sweet sake and cut with sour cherries.
Price: around £150 for dinner for two
Crouch End is cool again deems The Evening Standard’s Fay Maschler, who checks out Florians 2, which has reopened after 10 years
The experience picks up with the arrival of food, especially the three pasta dishes ordered, of which the star is a daily special of lobster tagliatelle, with silken, almost see-through strands of dough and a rich sonorous sauce. The permanent fixture of tagliatelle con fave, guanciale e pecorino fresco (broad beans, cured pork cheek and pecorino cheese) is one to have when no lobster is available.
For the main course, I order fegato di vitello alla griglia con fagiolini e pomodorini saltati because calves’ liver is a dish of the period and I believe it is good for you. The grilling has been a bit over-fierce, but a strong squeeze of lemon juice helps put that right and the beans that nestle at the centre are perky. In paillard di pollo ripiena con spinaci, taleggio, burro e Parmigiano the austerity of paillard – beaten out chicken breast meat – is nicely undermined by the rich filling which also contributes juiciness. We girls then share a strawberry mille foglie (millefeuille – we Brits don’t have a word for it).
Things have changed at the Westwood in Beverley for the better, discovers Dave Lee, writing in The Yorkshire Post
For our starters, we tried aromatic crispy Leven duck salad… I don’t know how I’ve never had this before as it’s apparently become the closest thing the Westwood has to a signature dish. It’s absolutely superb. There is, on the face of it, very little to it. There is a salad of carrot and lettuce, cashews and white radish, coriander and chilli and a hint of dressing; all simple enough. It’s the duck, though. I’ve no idea what they do to the duck but it is seriously amazing. It’s obviously got something to do with the soy dressing and the way it’s cooked but how they get it so crispy and juicy and tasty and completely divine is beyond me.
Mains featured pan-roasted new season Yorkshire lamb, which was perfectly pink and served with goats’ curd, mint oil, a fricassee of peas and broad beans, a deep and shiny gravy and something called a lamb’s neck pommes Anna. This was described to me twice but I still can’t remember precisely what it is. My mind wandered as soon as they mentioned that it is cooked for ages with loads of butter and potatoes and neck. I don’t need to know any more. Needless to say, it’s a fabulous plateful.
Score: food 5/5; drinks selection 5/5; atmosphere 5/5; prices 4/5
Stephen McClarence of The Times loves the “uncluttered calm” and “friendly, informal welcome” at Brownber Hall in Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria
Fed up of driving between London, where they worked, and the Lake District, where they regularly hiked, climbed and cycled, Peter Jaques and Amanda Walker decided to cut out the motorway marathons and bought Brownber Hall. They renovated the sturdy mid-Victorian country house in a scenically lovely part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, on the edge of the Lake District, and opened two years ago as a “boutique guest house with a chic young twist”.
The eight bedrooms blend hipster and homely with reconditioned family furniture, contemporary art, an eclectic choice of antiques (a 50s-style cocktail bar has pride of place in the lounge) and designer wrought ironwork by the local blacksmith Roland Wolf. It could have ended up as a dog’s dinner of design, but it works.
Price: from £90 for a B&B double; £20 single-occupancy discount.