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Reviews: Marina O'Loughlin says the Greenhouse is "less and less relevant"; while Fay Maschler finds "skill, wit and inventiveness" at Kym's

15 October 2018 by

Marina O'Loughlin of The Sunday Times says the Greenhouse in London's Mayfair is looking "less and less relevant"

But, whatever. It's not the food that's the problem. It's the service. Old-school in the worst possible way: patronising, absent one minute, too present the next, robotic. On booking, we're instructed, "Sportswear will not be allowed", as if we're heading for the fanciest nightclub in 1987. At this level and these prices, service should be immaculate, but it frequently descends into an idiotic pantomime of whispering and glaring at us from behind pillars, and musical chairs of stools for handbags. There's a lot of brushing of crumbs from starched linen, but when that entails leaning right across one pal several times so that arms come perilously close to bosoms, it's less nettoyage and more something approaching frottage.

Price: £110 per person for four courses


kyms-23
kyms-23

The Evening Standard's Fay Maschler finds "skill, wit, inventiveness, subversion and astonishment" at Kym's in the City of London

Some of our best are wild mushroom steamed buns, where the filling is a robustly savoury seam inside a spongy bun with a dusting of cocoa fashioning them into chestnut mushrooms with a veil of fugitive sweetness. Sichuanese spiced aubergine likened in look by one of my chums, a chap who judges Great British Menu, to a Van Dyck painting is the apotheosis of smooth savouriness.

From "Share" two most definitely not to miss are Xian City lamb burger, a saucepan of minced devilment served with suitably flubby bao and a relish of pomegranate, sesame and peanuts and pork and shrimp bao bao with fried egg, Pat Chun (sweetened rice vinegar) and crispy chilli. This last could become the oriental shakshouka, and would be perfect for breakfast or brunch.

Uyghur fries are potato straws with Thai shallots dusted with mango powder, a tribute to the Xinjiang region. Monsieur Koffmann's recommendation, French bean - it would have to be French - fritters are wreathed in smiles of the lightest batter piqued by chillies and black pepper.

Score: 5/5


A beautifully restored country pub is spoiled by underwhelming service and food to forget at the Pointer in Brill, Buckinghamshire writes Grace Dent in The Guardian

Confit salmon arrives with a pleasant, albeit sweet horseradish sorbet. The grouse is clearly an excellent piece of game, but is rather overdone. My hake, decently judged in its cooking, arrives on dry, unseasoned "fricasseé of potatoes". An extra side of "farmhouse potatoes" turns out to be a bowl of apparently semi-raw new potatoes. To serve them in this state seems almost surreal. "These aren't cooked," I say, pointing at spuds so raw, you could dislodge an enemy's wig with one. "Oh," the server says before whisking them back to the chef. No further comment is made and they appear on the bill for £4.

Pudding is a deconstructed bakewell tart, which adds up to less than the sum of its parts.

Price: about £42 a head Á la carte; set weekday lunch £18 for two courses, £22.50 for three, all plus drinks and service. Score: food 5/10; atmosphere 2/10; service 3/10


lina-stores
lina-stores

Tim Hayward of the Financial Times wants to love Lina Stores in London's Soho but finds it "too considered, too arch, too designed"

Lina makes all its own pasta. Back in the days before pasta fresca was a whole section of bland machine-made pods in your local supermarket, we larval "foodies" had to trek to Lina to gaze at the glass cases full of pumpkin ravioli and mushroom tortelloni. On the menu today is spaghetti alla chitarra, laced with Dorset crab, lemon and chilli. The pasta is excellent but its dressing is underwhelming, more aromatic than crustacean. The ricotta and herb gnudi are well flavoured but semi-liquid in texture and they lose their identities in the sauce.

I want, with all my heart, to say I love this restaurant but I can't. It's too considered, too arch, too designed. The food is competent, on-brand but soulless. The service is efficient without being warm. Lina Stores lacks the heart of an authentic "trat" (there are few left but if you care about them, go to Ciao Bella in Lamb's Conduit Street). If anything, it reflects the input of consultants, a "brand extension" into a "modern fast casual concept". That in itself is no bad thing but, sadly, Lina hasn't reached deep enough into its family history to do it as well as Padella, Pastaio or Polpo, newcomers with less enviable pedigrees.

Price: starters £3-£6.50; mains £6.50-£13


Jay Rayner in The Observer describes the Parsonage Grill in Oxford as having a "lazy" approach to cooking

I scan the list of starters again. Gravadlax or steak tartare, crab with avocado or a salad of kohlrabi, celery and sheep's cheese. My plate of burrata. A parsley and ham hock soup. Finally, it dawns on me: what I think all these dishes have in common is minimum effort considering the prices involved. They are an edible time and motion study. They are an efficient system for the extraction of profit. There's not even any cooking if you don't count the soup, which I really don't (simmer, blitz, pass; yours for £8, and think moistly of the gross profit). The rest is nothing more than shopping and assembly.

On the plate it all looks nice enough. Ooh, the carnal pink innards of a fresh fig; ah, the toddler bum-cheek curve of burrata. Chuck on some nuts so the punters have something to pick out of their expensively crowned molars for the rest of the afternoon, dribble over the honey and send the sucker out. Double the portion and you could call it a main course for £15. Perfect for those people who don't really do food.

The main courses are dominated by a bunch of grills for the best part of £30. I ignore those and have the relatively cheap chicken wellington, which matches the model of the starters in that it is prepared before service and then flashed through the oven. It's a huge torpedo of a thing, with a massive plug of white breast meat, wrapped in ham to give it some flavour, and a nappy smear of diced mushrooms. It's relentless and, being so, extremely dull. It costs £24.

Price: starters £8-£13, mains £17-£33, desserts £6.50-£8.50, wines from £24


kerridge-bar-and-grill-1
kerridge-bar-and-grill-1

The Evening Standard's Jimi Famurewa describes Kerridge's Bar & Grill in London's Westminster as "a gastronomic assault on your brain's pleasure centre"

My Claude's mushroom 'risotto' with Daniel's crispy egg - dainty strands of golden potato encasing a spurting yellow yolk along with chopped mushrooms in heady, aged Parmesan and little leaves of lightly scorched pickled onion - was a masterful, head-spinning balance of delicacy and gluttonous excess. Ray's abominably creamy butternut squash soup packed curry-scented richness and set off contrasting fireworks (salty! sweet! fragrant!) with every spoonful. We did not order the omelette lobster thermidor that briefly annexed a certain segment of food Instagram last month, but we admired it from afar.

Deep-fried brill - a blonde-battered piece of fish alongside crunchy, hefty chips cooked with Hadron Collider precision - was all about its trio of condiments; a vinegar-rich tartare, an elegant pease pudding and the sublime chip shop curry-style Matson spiced sauce that really should be put on one of the cask pumps behind the bar. And Ray's cut of rotisserie-cooked rib of beef - dotted by teensy chorizo-ish lardons and served with a paint-thick pot of gherkin ketchup - disappeared so quickly I barely got a chance to try it. Ray declined afters, muttering something about gout, but I got a slice of salt-dusted brown butter tart beside buttermilk ice-cream that hummed a remix of the same sour-sweet tune. The bill shunts all this into Special Meal Territory, but there's an appealing-sounding three-course set lunch for £29.50 a head.

Price: £134. Score: ambience 4/5; food 5/5


coal-office-restaurant
coal-office-restaurant

"Everything… is unquestionably delicious and of very high quality but sometimes there is too much of it on each plate," writes Giles Coren in The Times, reviewing Coal Office in London's King's Cross

Tuna kubbehnyeah is a tartare with bulgur wheat bound in and curls of crisped tomato skin. Josperised aubergine is a dense, sweet dish of aubergines grilled to a heavenly squish; shikshukit was a good kebab of ground lamb and beef wriggled off a skewer onto pitta bread with various pickles and chickpeas and onions and mint and yogurt; and chicken livers came nicely done but underseasoned in a pot of buttery mash with chilli and raw scallions, and some sort of marmalade that was too sweet for me, and then shards of some sort of sugary meringue on top which I didn't really understand at all. Machneyuda's polenta ("iconic" on account of its presence at Granit's Tel Aviv restaurant, I gather) was a pot of polenta with asparagus and parmesan and mushroom and truffle and cars and bicycles and little pink rollerskates and …

Everything at this place is unquestionably delicious and of very high quality but sometimes there is too much of it on each plate. I didn't need boiled eggs in the whole octopus tentacle sandwich called the "Borektopus" for example - although I'd love to see it fight the Predator. And there was a dish on another visit with so many blackberries and pomegranate seeds and blobs of this and that on it that I just couldn't marry it up with any dish on the menu.

Price £40/head. Score: cooking 7/10; service 7/10; space 7/10; overall 7/10


the-duke-of-richmond
the-duke-of-richmond

The Telegraph's Michael Deacon reviews the Duke of Richmond in London, Hackney, and decides it's fun eating in a pub "with a bit of ambition"

I went with my wife and son. It's a good place to go in a group, because as an offer you can get all five of the starters for £30. Salmon rillettes: cool, squishily soft, with toast and squirmingly sour slices of pickled cucumber. Ham-hock terrine: light, wobbly, goes well with the cute little cornichons and celeriac. Herb fine green salad, topped with an ectoplasmic splat of baked cheese (Tunworth, good and strong).

Wasn't too sure about the cold roast English squash with onions, hazelnuts and goats' curd. Might have felt refreshing on a hot summer's day, but in autumn it seemed a bit glum and cheerless. Healthy, but not much fun or flavour. Best starter by far, though, was the vol-au-vent: a chubby, puffy little turret of pastry crammed with girolle mushrooms and baby leeks. Delicious.

Price:around £60 for three courses for two without alcohol. Score: 2.5/5


Hotels

gara-rock-hotel
gara-rock-hotel

Sherelle Jacobs of The Sunday Telegraph says the Gara Rock hotel in Salcombe in Devon is "like walking through the pictures of an Instagram profile"

The colours in the lobby - seaweed and bottle greens, glowering silvers and powdery blues - bring the outside in.

And from the shaggy faux sheepskin throws on the sofas to the scratchy sisal carpets and unpolished wooden bannisters, it is comfortably rough around the edges.

That makes it all the more easy to feel at home, particularly when sprawled on one of the sofas in the open-plan lobby. Millennials on girlie spa breaks play Trivial Pursuit, while huddled around the wood-burning fire. Recovering hikers sip Salcombe Gin cocktails garnished with gooseberries foraged from the garden. Couples flick through the hotel's intriguing collection of books (Yoga For Men, anyone?)

Price: double rooms from £200, including breakfast


Jane Knight of The Times describes Soho House's newly opened Redchurch Townhouse, London E1, as "a great foodie hangout" with "quiet, characterful rooms"

The rooms come with parquet floors, wooden cabinets and retro chandeliers, with low-slung velvet sofas or leather armchairs in the bigger rooms. The details are spot-on: Bakelite phones, user-friendly light switches, phone chargers in a drawer and a huge range of Cowshed bathroom products.

[The food is] impossible to fault. From a menu of Italian favourites, the outstanding dish is the rightly famous spaghetti lobster (£28), but be sure to start with the truffle arancini (£5), which explodes with flavour from the first mouthful. The backdrop is pretty special too, with lots of mirrors and modern art, an inviting wooden bar and a dramatic black-and-white floor.

Price: rooms only doubles from £230 for members/£295 for non-members. Score: 9/10


east london hotel
east london hotel

Liz Boulter of The Guardian is impressed how the developers of the new 161-bedroom East London hotel in Bethnal Green have created quality as well as quantity

It's far too cool a place to have a reception desk: guests check themselves in online and activate their own key card, though there are smart, friendly young people hanging about to help or offer recommendations.

Rooms at this price (from £85) a short walk from the tube (City five minutes, West End 15) are never going to be spacious. Half the floor space in our standard double is taken up by the (super-comfy) bed but there's also fast WiFi, a Krups coffee machine, a big TV on the wall and Rituals toiletries in a sleek shower room that's bigger than in many a budget hotel.

We have a leafy view of Museum Gardens from our east-facing room but not everyone gets to enjoy a view: around a quarter of the rooms are windowless - on two basement floors or in the interior of the upper storeys. But rather than expecting guests to lump it for the price, they use an ingenious lightbox to give a surprisingly credible illusion of outside.

Price: doubles from £85 room-only

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