The Guardian’s Grace Dent has one of her loveliest lunches of the year at Tommy Banks’ newest York restaurant Roots
Crisp seed crackers – feats of art – and fresh sourdough arrive with Lincolnshire poacher custard. Yes: bread with custard. It is a carb combination your body didn’t know it needed. We eat heartily, noting many more hits than near misses. Smoked eel piped into tiny doughnuts sitting on a blob of apple were interesting rather than delicious, but fresh, pink cured trout on a vibrant fennel kimchi was delightful. A bowl of turbot in cream with chopped strawberry may sound nightmarish but, as fans of the Black Swan will know, it is so very wrong that it tricks the tastebuds into it being 100% right again. Fresh kale – crunchy and bitter – dressed in a tart-ish sheep’s yoghurt with hazelnut may not be to everyone’s taste, but it would be a hard heart that would not love the buttery skate wing with a souped-up tartare sauce and a scoop of Lilliputian shoestring potatoes.
For me, Roots was one of the loveliest lunches of 2018, with interesting wines by the glass, including a pear ice wine from Herefordshire, and a list prettily and cleverly illustrated to show grape varieties and flavours. The devil, as in all the best restaurants, is in these precious details.
Price: about £40 a head à la carte, plus drinks and service. Score: food 9/10; atmosphere 9/10; service 9/10
Ibrahim Salha of The Independent says Peter Joseph’s Kahani in London’s Chelsea is on its way to being seen as an exceptional restaurant
In all honesty I haven’t ever met a murgh makhani I didn’t like, from microwave ready meals to my local takeaway, but this is clearly a step above.
The chicken sits in the silkiest, creamiest sauce which you’ll swear is so delicious it makes 20 pounds sterling seem like a relative bargain.
“And you can’t have butter chicken without rice,” they say. Probably. I’m not sure who “they” are in this instance but it should be a common phrase, especially when you’ve tasted the rice here.
It would be all too easy to wax lyrical about the rice, some of the finest I can remember eating, but all you really need to know is it’s an exceptional accompaniment to an exceptional butter chicken.
Score: food 4/5; service 3/5; value 3/5
The Observer’s Jay Rayner describes James Cochran’s cooking at 1251 in London’s Islington as “bold, imaginative and fun”; the restaurant just needs a little focus…
There is a moreish buttermilk rabbit with the aniseed waft of tarragon and the punch of horseradish. I could eat bowls of it. Only professionalism stops me doing so. Jerk spiced hake is a brave and brilliant dish. All the spicing is there but it doesn’t brutalise the delicacy of the fish. Small cubes of watermelon sweeten it all up.
Potato “spaghetti” doesn’t quite explain its own name – there are three cylinders of potato on the plate – but they come draped in a creamy overcoat of truffle, egg and burnt butter. It’s like a carbonara without the bacon. But the star dish is an umami bomb of pork fillet, topped with battered and deep-fried smoked eel, like the best bacon, with an eel sauce, miso and turnip kimchi.
Price: snacks £3-£7.50, plates £9-£16, desserts £8-£10, wines from £17.95
…however, The Telegraph’s Kathryn Flett isn’t sure where 1251 fits in
I loved my posh Toast Topper, even if the potato spaghetti – spiralised then re-clumped – seemed like a lot of effort (not to mention £s, at £15) for what is effectively a reconfigured spud. The Kent pork dish was spectacular, however: diverse yet entirely complementary flavours – the blood pudding happy eelside – jostling with a properly gorgeous kimchi flourish. With its rich autumnal colour palette, it’s a nom-nom Insta-stunner on the plate, too.
Neither entirely Fine nor convincingly Casual – and despite flavours zinging and colours popping on plates that surprised in (mostly) all the right ways – given that Supper Street already heaves with restaurant choices, I still can’t quite see where 1251 fits in. The fact is, really interesting and successful contemporary restaurants need to be about so much more than simply the food; I wish the talented James Cochran the best of British in rising to that challenge.
The Telegraph’s Keith Miller doesn’t experience a single bum note at the Flitch of Bacon in Little Dunmow, Essex
Allen has reinstated, or I guess “instated”, the titular dish in the form of an excellent starter: a Jenga brick of bacon, maple-cured and slow-cooked, dark and sticky on the outside, paired with a crisp-edged, tender-hearted scallop and served with some cauliflower, a few squeezelets of gooseberry, a little cylinder of charred cabbage wrapped in super-thin prosciutto crudo and several cigarette papers of blade-sharp apple. It’s all arranged across the plate in a straight line, a style I noted was still being observed at the Wild Rabbit when I ate there last year, some months after Allen’s departure.
Veal rump came with more cauliflower – the occasional overlap of ingredients between dishes didn’t seem lazy, but rather gave a nice sense of structure – and a few bonbon-like agnolotti full of a creamy truffle liquid which could be slurped directly from one nibbled end of the pasta pouch for an undiluted hit, or allowed to mingle with the meat reduction already on the plate.
The Newport in Fife does not allow its “small-pool location” to hamper “big-fish ambitions”, writes Marina O’Loughlin in The Sunday Times
Beetroot, a beautiful abstract painting of a plateful: the emerald of herb oil, inkiness of linseed crackers, and every possible hue of the root – purple, golden, scarlet. Puffed grains and a malty emulsion add texture and interest. It’s a dish that makes plodding old beetroot seem new and exciting again. Produce frequently comes from their “secret garden”; you can almost taste the dew. Or hake from Scrabster, with an almost-foam of wilja potatoes – a variety avoided by supermarkets for tasting too much of actual potato – on which a golden egg yolk is presented, like a jewel on a velvet cushion.
But it’s not all delicacy and lightness: butch pig’s head, luxuriously fatty meat teased into a golden barrel with a lick of curried sauce, plumped sultanas and charred young shallot, roots and all. Or Gloucester Old Spot belly, its layers of fat and meat like some kind of porcine geology. Chunks of those foraged mushrooms soak up the roasting juices and a puddle of peppered sort-of-duxelles like bosky little sponges. Or duck: the bias-cut breast of a Gartmorn bird in stickiest, glossiest reduced duck essences with the liquorice warmth of star anise, crunch of toasted pumpkin seed and crystals of sea salt. Plate-lickingly lovely. Scott clearly likes playing with textural contrast: the effect is playful, intriguing, like listening to the not-annoying kind of jazz.
Price: £35 per person for four-course set menu and a glass of “Champagne”
The Evening Standard’s Fay Maschler revisits Kaki in London’s King’s Cross three times
Highlights from the various meals, which, with one exception, I seem to like more than those I drag along, include tofu with preserved egg and scallion, where the beancurd is creamily, soothingly pristine and the chilli oil surrounding it throbbing with ma la (meaning numbing and spicy-hot) impact. We spoon the oil on to the vegetable dish of stir-fried sweetcorn with pine nuts, where it dents the sweetness of what seems like the upending of a large tin of corn. I look up, expecting the Jolly Green Giant to lumber into view.
That respite dish of many Sichuan meals, dry-fried French beans with minced pork, is elegantly and copiously prepared. Braised trotters in brown sauce with its atavistic tug for the British weaned on HP, proves that the innate flavours creatively rather than punishingly combined can captivate. Bones, sinews, gristle, shreds of meat and the flaccid skin of trotters to nibble on and in part spit out are an experience you might abhor or enjoy. I enjoy.
There are rewards when you look for them, especially that sea bass bobbing beneath a carpet of facing-heaven red chillies.
Giles Coren of The Times has a good time at Ed Schoenfeld’s RedFarm in London’s Covent Garden
They brought two cheeseburger spring rolls, beautifully made, pretty as hell, with a little dipping sauce, and as I lifted one to bite in, Ed, still standing at our table, told me that he was not about authenticity, he was about “tasty”. And in fact these spring rolls were not even available in New York, they were completely new!
And they were delicious. Very American – sweet and fatty – but, yep, that thing you just ate was a cheeseburger in a spring roll, just like in your naughtiest dreams.
Little Kowloon filet mignon tarts with a tangle of fried scallion on top were sweet, again, but, yes, “tasty”, and then came the Pac-Man dumplings: four har gau in white, blue, yellow and pink, each with two little black eyes like the ghosts in the 1980s video game, about to be “eaten” by a deep-fried disc of sweet potato croquette, stood on its edge, mouth open, like Pac-Man himself. Strictly for the kids. But they were well made and a pleasure to eat, with a thin dough that seemed stickier than usual, perhaps due to some cunning recipe change that allowed them to stretch out so thin.
Price: £150 for nine starters, three cocktails and a beer. Score: cooking 7/10: vibes: 7/10; Ed Schoenfeld 10/10; total 8/10
The Evening Standard’s Jimi Famurewa reviews Rochelle ICA in London St James’s
The menu, devised by head chef Ben Coombs with Henderson’s guiding hand in evidence, still doesn’t deviate from Rochelle’s formula of focused, seasonal British food that generally avoids some impressively fiddly extra component when two or three appealing things on a plate will do. St John (the temple to piggy delight founded by Henderson’s husband, Fergus) also has its trotter prints all over the menu and, after attacking terrific bread and a thick puck of butter, I accepted the specials board dare of chicken hearts on toast. In art terms, it was an almost hilariously grim-looking Guernica of a dish. But each forked hunk – trippily intense poultry flavour aboard bread dripping piquant, butter-rich juices – was unbelievably good. Tenne’s main of shiitake-ish wild mushrooms, borlotti beans, wilted greens and roasted pieces of butternut squash dissolving into an autumnal mulch of a sauce, scored highly for the offal-averse.
I then went for a special of brill steak cut with a central bone, coming away in buttery flakes, served with pan-fried tomatoes and bolstered by a side of new potatoes. The dollop of potent aioli that accompanied it, carrying the unappetising, vampire hunter burn of raw, unsoftened garlic, may have been the first real bum note of the meal. Crumbly plum and almond tart, with sour fruit not bullied by sweetness, got us back on track.
Price: £64.70. Score: ambience 4/5; food 4/5
Joris Minne of The Belfast Telegraph finds the best patatas bravas “this side of Madrid” at Edo
There are small dishes para picar (tapas to pick at), which feature a range of low-cost to expensive mouthfuls, including sternly rustic oven-baked padrón peppers and juicy, salty manzanilla olives, jamón Ibérico, the crowning achievement of Spanish curing skills, and various frituras such as ham croquetas, soft-shell crab and monkfish scampi. There is even an ample tortilla with proper morcilla (black pudding) and red pepper.
From the Bertha oven (they use turf as well as pear and apple wood) are various rustic favourites, including chicken thighs (with romesco), barbecue ribs with sweet potato and roasted corn, roast salmon and crushed herb potatoes, beef cheeks, ham hock and lamb kebabs. The last are outstanding, kofte-like shish, better than any we had in some very fancy places in Istanbul earlier this summer.
There is a choice of sides, including must-have patatas bravas, the best this side of Madrid, and quality skinny fries.
My perfect meal in Edo on a diet day would feature the Ibérico ham, the glass of tinto and then a second glass of tinto to accompany the polenta cake. This crumbling yellow edifice has an orange kick and is joined by a thyme cream, which is frankly astonishing.
Jane Knight of The Times says Heckfield Place in Hampshire “takes understated country-house cool to new levels”, but is outraged by the “discretionary” 10% service charge taken when you book
Six years later than planned, Heckfield has finally opened its Georgian manor doors on a 400-acre Hampshire estate near Winchfield. It’s been worth the wait: original fireplaces and chandeliers are mixed in with sheepskin-draped chairs and modern art. Skye Gyngell oversees the menu, with food that comes straight from the biodynamic estate farm, and there is a swish cinema and a boutique spa; next year a larger affair with a 17m indoor pool will open.
Muted walls are offset with dried flowers, log-filled trugs lie on the wooden floors and bathrooms hold slipper baths and old milking stools used as loo-roll stands. There are mod cons – a tablet, wireless speakers and underfloor bathroom heating – but one niggle is that the temperature dial can’t be set to an exact figure. Of the 45 rooms and suites, only 12 are in the main house – the rest are in a slightly sterile wing.
Price: from £350 for a B&B doubles a night. Score: 8.5/10