Reviews: Brat is "the culinary equivalent of an Anthony Hopkins performance"; Michael Deacon isn't entirely won over by Scully

23 April 2018 by
Reviews: Brat is "the culinary equivalent of an Anthony Hopkins performance"; Michael Deacon isn't entirely won over by Scully

The food at Brat in London's Shoreditch is "the culinary equivalent of an Anthony Hopkins performance," writes Jay Rayner in The Observer

Tomos Parry's cooking at Brat is the culinary equivalent of a Hopkins performance. For the most part it is simplicity itself. Some of it seems to be less cooking than assemblage. And then you eat.

Take a dish entitled "chopped egg salad with bottarga". It's a thick slice of still-warm toast topped with a crushed mess of an egg, also just still warm, the yolk languidly fixed between solid and soft, overlaid with shavings of cured and dried grey mullet roe. The cosy nursery softness of the egg is punctuated by the salty, grown-up hit of the bottarga. I found myself wondering drowsily about going home and smearing toast with the anchovy-boosted fireworks of Gentleman's Relish, then pelting it with soft boiled eggs. What larks. Which is how this kind of cooking deceives you. It looks so simple. Surely, it's more an idea than a recipe.

But I suspect that if you went home and tried it yourself, it would be a massive disappointment and the evening would end badly. Parry knows exactly what he's doing. You're paying him just £5 to do it. That's a good deal. Don't complain. Let him.

The smaller turbot costs a gulp-inducing £55. Then you start working your way through its flesh and realise there is enough here for three (£65 gets you a bigger fish; find some friends). It is slow-cooked over indirect heat for half an hour and spritzed with vinegar from time to time. The result is a soft, lightly sticky skin that seems to melt on the tongue, and pearly flesh. Alongside is a simply dressed salad of sweet, taut-skinned tomatoes, plus buttery "smoked" new potatoes which have been allowed to slump in on themselves over the fire.

Meal for two, including drinks and service, £80-£120


Michael Deacon isn't entirely won over by Scully in London's St James's, but you can't doubt its creativity and imagination, he writes in The Telegraph

Take, for example, the ‘forbidden rice': black rice, topped with little slices of turnip that have been dehydrated, then rehydrated. The rice was beautiful: so soft and delicately seasoned, with the faintest possible tickling of spice. Not so sure about the slices of turnip, though. Tasted like wet crisps.

Then there was the arepa with eggplant sambal and bergamot labneh. Imagine a slice of polenta, fried, and then dipped in a bowl of creamy aubergine. Next we had the salad: big, bulky chunks of tomato, slices of green strawberry and slivers of coconut. Strange, but nice.

The octopus was good (squashy, chompy tentacles served on salt-baked avocado), but my favourite dish by miles was the beef short-rib pastrami with horseradish and pistachio. Meltingly beautiful, with a rich peppery zing. So recommended.

On the other hand: the Italian spring greens with red miso and sunflower seeds. This I couldn't stand. It was weird enough to look at: a hulking great heap of vegetables, the size of a bonfire, coated in some mysterious-looking yellowy moon-dust. But the taste was even weirder. So wincingly, wrigglingly citrusy. So sharp, so tart, so acid. It made me pull a face like Pearl from Last of the Summer Wine spotting Howard and Marina behind a dry-stone dyke.

I wasn't too keen on my pudding, either. Caramelised white chocolate, grapefruit and pink peppercorn. The chocolate was weird, muddy and gloweringly intense.

Also, I didn't know what was going on with the layout: all the food huddled together in little blobs at the same end of the plate, the rest of it empty, and a lone additional blob perched uncertainly on top of a long flat biscuit, as if it were some kind of edible surfboard.

Rating: 3/5. Price: Dinner for two: about £80 without alcohol


Belzan in Liverpool is "a rare feat", writes Grace Dent in The Guardian, "relaxed as hell, but a bit challenging, too"

I can't say that everything I ate at Belzan was perfect, or daintily plated or life-changing, but I certainly left fed and happy. In a busy room with bright service, we picked at slightly flabby gnocchi with wild mushrooms strewn with pumpkin seed. A whole Cornish squid, in all its cephalopodic majesty, arrived barbecued on a plate dotted with nursery-painting smears of gordal olive, lemon and thyme. Buttermilk-drenched rabbit came in a confident, crisp breadcrumb and piled prettily with fresh apple and pickled fennel. I adored those shamelessly al dente butter beans with parsley and a few charred savoy leaves.

There's a lot here for vegetarians and, if you ask nicely, and with a few tweaks, for vegans, too. The truffled celeriac turned out to be a pile of thick, rather clumsy, but satisfying chips embossed with melted Tunworth (aka British camembert), while roast broccoli with garlic and lemon continues to win my heart as a meat-free option. Sometimes people really do just want beautifully cooked, non-fussed-with veg.

About £25-30 a head, plus drinks and service. Food: 8/10; atmosphere: 8/10; service: 8/10

Giles Coren reviews the Bike Shed Motorcycle Club, London EC1, in The Times

From the main courses we had "steak tagliata" (£9.75), which Erin asked for "medium" because despite being what all London doctors routinely describe as "a donor", she doesn't like too much blood, a lentil and goat's cheese salad (£10.25) and the mac and cheese (£5). Erin thought it was all delicious but then I guess, as a biker, one has to treat every meal as if it is one's last, because it really might be.

But to one who went home on the bus and plans to be around for many more lunches to come, I'd say the steak was too chewy for the relative lack of flavour it delivered, the mac and cheese was floury and underseasoned (I'd have thought bikers would be quite free with the salt and pepper) and the lentil and goat's cheese salad with its unripe figs and walnuts was, meh, fine. But we didn't finish it.

Thing is, I like this place. The food is not terrible. And surely not all bikers want to drink flat beer in a farty shed with cold gristle and white bread sandwiches. If everyone else can have slightly better food - as we all do now, generally - then why not bikers?

Food: 5; helmets: 9; haircuts: 5; score: 6.33


Susan d'Arcy of The Sunday Times says the new White City House is slick and supremely comfortable and the nostalgia never veers into naff

The 45 bedrooms are in the converted offices of the listed Helios building. They have sleek, appropriately 1960s furniture and abstract fabrics, and are great value - particularly when you consider you're getting all the perks of a £1,650-a-year members' club thrown in: "Tinys" start at £120 a night, "Bigs" (though not big enough for baths) at £230. I liked "Cosys" Nos 29 and 44 (from £140), overlooking the courtyard where Roy Castle and 500 others tap-danced their way to a Guinness world record in 1977.

White City House makes plenty of pleasing nods to its building's heritage: BBC test-card artwork in the lobby, make-up artists' mirrors, and Peter Blake prints of Beeb stars, meaning it is still possible to wake up to Wogan. Subtler references include lift interiors that mimic (in look rather than scale) the Tardis, and, on the ninth-floor terrace, a homage to the Blue Peter garden, which, if I'm honest, looks like a homage to pretty much anyone's garden.

Starting room rate: £120


Tony Naylor of The Guardian checks into the 1823 Spinning Block hotel, which forms part of the recent regeneration of a former Grade II-listed textile factory in Clitheroe, Lancashire

Its bedrooms are handsome, luxurious spaces, with crisp linens, heavy duvets and spacious bathrooms with walk-in showers and granite walls. Minor idiosyncrasies such as retro Oat Flips biscuits from nearby Nelson are welcome. Less so the (too early) 10.30am check-out and predictable L'Occitane toiletries.

In the Spinning Block's grill restaurant, Holmes Mill's industrial aesthetic is given a glamorous spin. Beautifully lit, the lounge - its centrepiece a curvy bar constructed from glowing vintage glass blocks - leads into a restaurant flecked with designer touches and centred around a grand piano. Had Mad Men been set in Mitton not Manhattan, Don Draper would have loved this place.

Doubles from £85 room only

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