Keith Miller from The Telegraph checks out Tomos Parry's long-awaited new restaurant Brat in London's Shoreditch, some dishes "would warrant a place on anyone's playlist"…
"Baby peas with Carmarthen ham" was a micro-bowlful of the tiniest, poppiest new peas in broth - a sort of deconstructed, or reconstructed, potage St Germain. Rabbit came as twin discs of a loose, cotechino-like sausage, orbiting a third one of blood pudding (it looked like Mars and her two moons) with a dollop of white bean stew and a dribble of punchy salsa verde.
Spider crab, one of many Basque touches on the menu, was tossed with cabbage - perfect with its slightly funky flavour - and fennel. Soused red mullet had been finished on the grill somehow, so its lovely skin was crispified and its flesh flakified, to use a couple of technical terms.
But mostly, I'd say that Parry's heart is true - that he's doing it for the kids. Certainly some of these dishes (the rabbit, the spider crab, the grills) would warrant a place on anyone's playlist.
â¦as does The Evening Standard's Fay Maschler, who describes Brat as having the feeling of a family affair
The turbot is cooked placidly, the way it is done in, say, Getaria, the coastal village where chefs from San Sebastian are said to choose to eat. The skin turns gold, the flesh becomes toothpaste white, collagen and gelatine are slowly released to be whisked into a subtle sauce which, I say to my friend pretty Penny Watson, is probably worth patting on our faces. Everything and especially the cheeks can be eaten.
Roasted duck and Herdwyck lamb, also eminently shareable, emerge equally triumphantly from the coals but the housewife in me and the honorary housewife in my gang tut-tut about the lack of foresight shown in unheated plates. That wouldn't be hard to achieve given all the warmth billowing.
Chopped egg with bottarga is a sophisticate's egg and onion; grilled bread and anchovy a foil for the admirable list of sherries, annoyingly none of them served by the glass; langoustines are where sweetness meets and greets char. Nothing on the menu that I try jars except I do take issue with the idea of mixing spider crab with cabbage - one of those blind dates that don't lead to wedded bliss, or even a second dateâ¦Lemon tart is praised by Reg's daughter Amy as being genuinely, happily lemony and I appreciate the homey quality of burnt cheesecake with rhubarb.
"This will doubtless be one of my favourite dinners of 2018," says The Guardian's Grace Dent of 20 Stories in Manchester
Byrne's cooking treads a fine line between hearty and dainty. There are grand, punchy flavours - dishes strewn with blackberries, morels and port sauces - and side offers of excellent beef-dripping chips and butter-heavy mash, but you could still spend £200 with wine here and leave hungry. However, service was so lovely, prompt and non-intrusive, and the dishes so relentlessly excellent, that it's hard to quibble.
The poached john dory comes on a velouté of langoustine with an abstemious portion of white asparagus. That Herdwick lamb arrives three ways, with fat potato gnocchi, pine and chanterelles. I adore my butter-poached salsify with burnt leeks on a sticky parsnip puree, but then, it's hard not to be won over by thoughtful plates of non-cynical loveliness. Also, the atmosphere is chatty and tipsy, and the music is at a level that allows you to talk openly without anyone overhearing a word. And lord did I try to, because the man at the next table was in a bow-tie and I'm sure he was trying to propose.
Food: 9/10; atmosphere: 9/10; service: 9/10
"Not cheap but shockingly good," says *The Observer's* Jay Rayner of Beaverbrook in Surrey We begin with what they call Japanese "tacos": folds of toasted nori, filled with a tartare of tuna or salmon topped with a tiny bright green spherification of wasabi, to resemble fish roe. They come perched amid spindly twigs. We're not sure whether to eat them or enter them for the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition. They set the standard. Extremely good ingredients have been treated here with extreme care. The raw fish is oily and rich. The wasabi pops. The nori crunches. Two words never to get excited by are "cheap" and "sushi". They're like "amateur" and "brain surgeon". Or "Michael" and "Gove". All are terrible ideas. The Beaverbrook sushi is not cheap, but it is shockingly good. We share a selection of eight pieces for £30. We are in teeny, weeny, jewel box preciseness territory. You just know that everything has been tweezered and stroked and frowned over. The highlights are a sweet, raw blue prawn, subject to detailed, key-hole surgery knife work, turbot with crisp, citrussy ants - yes, really - salmon dolloped with black pungent garlic purée and yellow tail with crunchy toasted quinoa. Sadly, grilled eel comes with foie gras mousse. Really, just stop it. They also make their own brisk, pickled ginger. We are offered extra and we accept. At the end, we are charged £2 for it, which is a cheap trick, albeit an expensive cheap trick. Meal for two, including drinks and service: £90-£150
*The Sunday Times's* Marina O'Loughlin finds an odd menu of clean eating and things you'd only eat when paralytic at Rascals in London's Shoreditch Rascals, despite an epidemic of migraine-inducing wallpaper, cage lampshades - that's them comprehensively over now, folks - bamboo room-dividers and candyfloss-pink neon, looks like a bastion of sanity by comparison. Staff are comprehensively sweet, unflappable, charming - I guess they'd have to be, like the steely- but-lovely people in charge of the difficult classes in primary school. And the menu is the oddest thing, an unholy collision of #eatclean tokenism - hake ceviche, reeking of fish sauce; sprouts and romanesco with baked kale and pickled blueberries, a plate of variously soggy and dehydrated weirdness - and things you'd only eat when paralytic. What arrives with improbable speed ranges from edible to post-comedown nightmare. I don't mind their lobster mac 'n' cheese, even if the sauce tastes a little evaporated-milky and the lobster frozen; "tempura" squid, with a suspiciously DayGlo green jalapeÁ±o ketchup, is the sort of thing you'd find on a Wetherspoon's good day. But otherwise … flabby, loose-grained steak, tasting more like skirt or flank than the promised rib-eye, and as though it had been sitting around too long in its own blood; pork belly in a barbecue glaze with a pile of watery fennel, a dead ringer for a slab of sticky toffee pudding and every bit as sweet; crispy cod with cauliflower, almond and hazelnut that's a study in slimy beige blandness, "crispy" a heroic overstatement. A cheeseboard looks recently liberated from the discounted shelves at Morrisons. And I'm not sure I'll ever be able to do justice to the unspeakable horror of their hamburger spring rolls, the meat grey, the grease leaching down chins and wrists while hardening into the kind of tallow secreted by the worst kind of Scotch pie. But after a dozen or so of their cactus margaritas - not bad! - sure, bring 'em on. Total: For five, including 12.5% service charge £270
HOTELS !seven-hotel2 Tom Chesshyre of *The Times* suggests that the Seven hotel provides a "glam new reason" to visit Southend, Essex, so long as you are not put off by an overload of gold Jawed Rashid, a local businessman, has refashioned a former care home into a glitzy place to stay with a cocktail bar and a high-class restaurant run by Simon Webb, formerly of the Langham hotel in London. Seven's super-modern faÁ§ade rather stands out amid the seaside town's terraces of traditional B&Bs (some pretty rundown). Expect a lot of gold: golden bedcovers, headboards with golden adornments, golden bath taps and even golden toilet-paper holders. Although this may sound OTT, the look somehow comes off, with a smart design that includes marble bathrooms and great views through ceiling-to-floor windows. The cheapest rooms cost from £99 and are a tad poky. It's far better to book a room facing the Thames estuary (from £130, room-only). Get The Caterer every week on your smartphone, tablet, or even in good old-fashioned hard copy (or all three!).