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Reviews: Grace Dent experiences "ridiculous things" at Hide while Jay Rayner finds an amazingly varied menu at No 1

14 May 2018 by
Reviews: Grace Dent experiences "ridiculous things" at Hide while Jay Rayner finds an amazingly varied menu at No 1

Grace Dent experiences ridiculousness at Piccadilly's Hide, thankfully she likes "ridiculous things" she says in The Evening Standard.

"Hide is what occurs when umpteen billion Russian mobile-phone shop roubles collide with a talented, albeit baldly whimsical wunderkind chef: 400 covers, all-day dining, 200 staff; a place where the sommelier hands you an iPad that boasts 4,000 wines, the most expensive being the 2004 Penfolds Block 42 at £120,000.

""Bring me something that costs around £50 a bottle and is drinkable," I said, passing the sommelier back his iPad. His face struggled to suppress a whimper.

"Still, even by batting away cheese fees and coffees like a fine-dining ninja, and ordering a humble bottle of Portuguese Parcela Unica, we still whipped through £420 on two £95 tasting menus. The vegetarian option swaps turbot and Herdwick lamb for pulverised beetroot, celeriac origami, rose petals and an abundance of asparagus wearing different hats and glasses.

"I'm still not entirely certain if Hide was a good time, but I feel relieved that I've witnessed it. In reality, it's far less Las Vegas and far more "just a big restaurant" than the screaming hype suggested. No presidents or rap gods were eating upstairs, and the downstairs crowd was wildly normal. Well, you can't serve that many covers and keep out drab-faced office crowds."

Giles Coren of The Times leaves his review of Beck at Brown's, London W1 to his guest.

"We looked over the menu. Russell [Chambers] told me that we ought to order the red mullet "sandwich" and the fagotelli carbonara, because they were Heinz Beck signature dishes. So we did. Along with the sautéed veal sweetbreads because I love a sweetbread, and the burrata (which Russell thought was a waste of an order as we wouldn't be able to inspect the chef's work in it so much) and the vitello tonnato (in which he thought we would) and the ibérico pork tenderloin, because cooked fresh ibérico is still a novelty with me.

"Russell spends a lot of time backing restaurants and chefs (financially, morally, spiritually) and in fact it all makes me feel so pathetically inadequate that I think I will let him tell you what the restaurant was like instead of me, because frankly his 250-word thank-you note was as good as anything I'm likely to cobble together in my actual job. So:

""The signature pasta was the standout dish - but only because the others shuffled backwards. The mullet was a pale replica of the photos on the website and your pork had no chance at all after being smothered in a floury school gravy."

"Tough but entirely fair. To search for positives: the dining room has been lightened up since its Mark Hix days with some floral wallpaper and brighter lighting; the feeling is still plush and comfortable, soft seating for old bottoms and muted acoustics for elderly ears, which I know is important to a lot of you."

The Observer's Jay Rayner says few restaurants can pull off a menu as varied as Upstairs at No 1 in Cromer, Norfolk.

"But it's in the brightly lit, pastel-coloured dining room upstairs, under head chef Jimmy Preston, that things get interesting. For the bargains, look to the worryingly named "light bites" menu. Each dish is £6.50 or you can order three for £18, which would be more than enough for one. A generous bowl of battered "popcorn" cockles are served with a spiced salt and a sprightly chilli vinegar. It is food for meditatively picking at, which leaves you licking your finger tips. There's a polenta-crusted fritto misto of prawns, squid and whitebait dusted with paprika. Alongside is a forceful aÁ¯oli the yellow of a seaside sun, which will give you a garlic breath capable of scaring the neighbours.

"After that, things get ambitious. Fancy a "Baja fish taco", with pea mole, pickled chilli and lime mayonnaise? The coarse-ground blue-corn tortillas are as good as any I've had in this country. They are nutty and insistent. (There's a joke here about the Norfolk branch of UKIP but I can't be bothered to make it.) The perfectly fried fish comes topped with those pickled chillies. The dish isn't an existential threat to the kitchens of Mexico, but it's a damn fine mouthful or six. From Greece there is bubbled and blistered flat bread, dressed with feta, mint and strands of lamb shawarma. Spain gives us a sensitively cooked piece of hake with romesco, that one-size-fits-all Iberian condiment of almonds, garlic, paprika and oil, alongside chorizo. Somebody has been on their holidays and taken a lot of notes."


The Evening Standard's Richard Godwin fails to find any artistic merit at the Serpentine's Chucs.

"As you cross the Serpentine from Kensington Gardens into Hyde Park - that lawless, Diana-themed borderland of bored nannies and bewildered expatriates - a strange creature looms into view.

"It's white, it's wibbly and it appears to be feasting upon the Sackler extension of the Serpentine Gallery. The Magazine is a piece of starchitecture by the late Zaha Hadid. For the past half decade, its roof sheltered artsy diners at the Magazine restaurant, while its fallopian struts gave guests something to talk about should the art-chat dry up.

"Chucs - I'm assuming you pronounce as if in a Lancastrian tea room ('Ey up, chooks!') as opposed to a New Jersey diner ('Would you like to see our Chuck's specials?') - is a much safer proposition (pizzas, steak, croissants) than the Magazine but avant-garde in its own way.

"[I] ordered the super green salad. A will-this-do bowl of Tesco Metro-grade cos and irregularly chopped avocado arrived; the sort of thing you offer a rabbit that unexpectedly turns up for dinner. Yellowfin tartare tasted like someone had raided an all-you-can-eat poké bar - last week. We then waited for 40 minutes for dishes that take five minutes to cook. Flash-fried sea bream with broad bean purée was 'outstandingly mediocre', said my companion; the lack of clam shells on my tagliatelle vongole suggested frozen. Chucs tiramisu, it turns out, is like normal tiramisu but meh."

Michael Deacon reviews Abd el Wahab, London: ‘Bring a van for your leftovers' he writes in The Telegraph.

"I went to Abd el Wahab twice. The first time was with two friends, but we'd just come from a funeral, and had had ever so slightly too much to drink at the wake. So I went back again for lunch, this time alone. Only when the waiter started bringing out the food did I realise that I'd made an obvious mistake.

"Don't eat out alone if the restaurant is Lebanese. This is because Lebanese food is not intended for one. It's intended for groups. You order a range of dishes between you, and all dig in together. The food is social. The layout of tables at Abd el Wahab reflects this. There are very few tables for two. Mostly they're for four or more.

"From the list of cold mezze, I had the tabbouleh, a traditional herby salad. It was enormous, and tasted like a bowl of hedge clippings drenched in lemon juice. I also had the shanklish, which was billed as 'aged pungent goats' cheese'. From the hot starters list I had the makanek, which turned out to be around 20 stubby little brown sausages bobbing in a pan of murky liquid. They tasted like lemon-flavoured Pepperami.

"It's simple, modest, low-key; brought out at speed, and then sitting there throughout while you all dip periodically into it, almost without thinking, because your attention is entirely on your friends, and your conversation. As I said at the start: food for groups.


The Lodge
The Lodge

The Evening Standard's Laura Hampson discovers the Lodge at Ashford Castle, where rolling hills meet the banks of a Lough creating the perfect Irish setting.

"Driving along Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way, it seems as if there are castles and ruins around every corner, yet perhaps none so spectacular as Ashford Castle.

"Located on the banks of Lough Corrib, Ashford Castle - which recently featured on BBC2's Most Amazing Hotels - - has boasted a number of celebrity guests over the years. From Julia Roberts to Brad Pitt - Pierce Brosnan and his wife Keely even got married there in 2001.

"The Lodge has a country house vibe, but with a more relaxed feel. In the lobby there are a number of sitting areas with ornate chairs, overflowing bookshelves and quirky artwork where guests can relax and unwind while sipping on a tea or a cheeky Irish coffee from the bar.

"Each room of the Lodge has been individually designed so no two stays will be the same. Expect rich deep pile carpets, super king beds with goose down duvets and pillows, a TV and chic, modern furniture - plus all your creature comforts."

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