Upwardly mobile 20 September 2019 The founders of coffee and brunch chain Caravan are on the move, taking their business model to new Chelsea restaurant Vardo
In this week's issue... Upwardly mobile The founders of coffee and brunch chain Caravan are on the move, taking their business model to new Chelsea restaurant Vardo
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Reviews: Siren at the Goring, Grantley Hall in North Yorkshire and more

29 July 2019 by
Reviews: Siren at the Goring, Grantley Hall in North Yorkshire and more

The Mail on Sunday's Tom Parker Bowles can't resist the call of Siren, Nathan Outlaw's new restaurant at the Goring in London's Belgravia

Cuttlefish black pudding is gentle, soft and subtle, an actual crumbly blood sausage, the tiny chunks of cephalopod adding discreet chew and the mildest tang of the sea. An apple catsup is sharp and tart, adding much-needed bite, while a small pile of chopped kohlrabi remoulade adds welcome crunch. There's a Cornish crab risotto that oozes, all'onda, like the waves.

There are Doncaster oysters, and baked scallops, and whole grilled lobster with garlic and herbs, but it has to be turbot. So damned fresh I swear I saw it wink. It's cooked beautifully, as you'd expect. A little under, so the middle is still a touch opaque. But that freshness sings, like the eponymous beasts, through the pert tautness of the flesh, flesh with that elusive ozone whisper. There's a crab sauce too, so deep and richly flavoured that it has a caramel burr. But not so strident that it dares dim the brilliance of the main event.

Rating: 4/5. About £50 per head


Standards are higher than you would expect them to be at Big Mamma's latest restaurant Circolo Popolare in London's Fitzrovia, writes Jimi Faruwema in the Evening Standard

Standards are generally higher than you would expect them to be at a place with a giant, wipe-clean menu laden with eyebrow-waggling puns (a pizza called I Wanna Nduja is roughly the level we're working with here). Sipping, respectively, a beer and a rum-spiked Look Me in the Eyes cocktail offering faint hints of passion fruit and an encroaching headache, my wife and I were presented rapidly with rotolo: a belting heat-bubbled truncheon of dough, rolled with cheese, punchy herbs and the sweet surprise of softened walnuts. Then came two fantastically sloppy Sardinian empanadas: weighty, puffed parcels bursting with a gooey pork ragu and the perky hum of fennel.

Total: £85.50. Ambience: 5/5; food: 4/5


The Guardian's Grace Dent says service is chaotic at Gordon Ramsay's Lucky Cat in London's Mayfair

[The] duck leg - albeit delicious, sticky, crunchy, fatty and served with cucumber and a half-decent pillowy bao - is £27.

At these prices, everything should be exquisite, which it very much is not. Service is chaotic. There are more staff on the floor, swaying and mouthing nonsense, than at the closing number of Live Aid in 1985.

Four slices of bland, flabby "smoked shortrib" turn up with some daikon, yuzu pickle and chilli oil for £17. "Um, excuse me. We can't work out what this is," I say. "It's the pastrami … I think," says a waiter, walking away. Monkfish cheek katsu with a dipping bowl of wasabi and seaweed "emulsion" is fiercely fishy and semi-inedible, like overcooked pub scampi, and a long plate of tuna tataki comes swimming in wakame oil and house soy.

From about £60 a head Á la carte, set lunch £36 for three courses, chef's menu £65 or £80; all plus drinks and service. Food: 3/10; atmosphere: 6/10; service: 1/10


The Telegraph's William Sitwell reviews Robata in London's Soho: "plate after plate of food I defy anyone not to love"

Everything was for sharing (it was brought to the table as it was ready), and every dish had the allure of glinting, gleaming sauce and the char of the grill.

There was rich, miso-infused aubergine, and pork pluma (Iberico pig, spiced with black pepper and gloriously merged with a sweet, pickled pear). There were mouthfuls of peppery, spicy, soft and crunchy squid that we dipped into a perky coriander sauce. Then came substantial skewers of pork belly. The soft, fatty, sweet skin was glazed in apple sauce.

We had yellowtail sashimi, pinkish in colour; a morsel of mackerel; and a soft-shell crab roll - the crab tempura sticking out teasingly from the sliced roll of sushi and flavoured with yamagobo, which is pickled burdock root, apparently.

Rating: 4/5. Price: Dinner for two: £65 without service or alcohol


Half an hour at Nanika in Glasgow is quite enough for the Herald's Joanna Blythman

Sichuan noodles, which initially look promising- athletic noodles, loads of roasted-looking cashews, a handful of some spiced minced meat- deliver the jolt that triggers the warning sensors aligned to my tastebuds.

Sichuan pepper is a spice that must be used with particular restraint, if not, you get this sensation in the mouth that's somewhat akin to licking metal, chewing bicarbonate of soda, or mild anaesthesia. Tastebuds nuked, only the soy-drenched, therefore ludicrously salty Togarashi Brussels sprouts, hard-fried to amber and black tones, can really hold their own in taste terms.

What might have been more cooling, palate-soothing propositions - salads of seaweed and green papaya - don't do the trick. The former looks like cold green worms with a low-level oyster taste; the latter works that refreshingly sour Thai formula: fresh mint, roasted peanuts, heaps of lime. But both are belligerent with excessive raw chilli.

Food: 4/10; atmosphere: 5/10; value for money: 6/10; service: 6/10


Lucky Cat is "mad, frantic, very expensive, rootless, brilliant, awful, showy, totally lacking in confidence, not very well thought out and really, when you think about it, terribly, terribly funny," writes Giles Coren in the Times

We started with edamame beans both spicy and plain and shichimi cucumbers that were a notch or two down in quality from those two places, but a shade better than other high street chains. Little round prawn toasts were absolutely brilliant, though, and went well with barrel-aged old-fashioneds and saké martinis.

After that, there was some perfectly good but ridiculously overpresented sashimi and sushi. I mean, it wouldn't have been overpresented if it had been intended as a hat for Ascot, but as food, it was risible. There was a Nobu miso black cod knock-off that was on the dry side of utterly pointless, some terrific bao buns with rich, funky smoked short rib that I absolutely loved, some sloppy, unloved, vegetable dishes, a bowl of overpeppered lamb ribs, some very good grilled scallops, a superb crispy soft-shelled crab masala and roti, some overwrought tuna tataki … In all, it was rather like having a kitchenful of sub-Roka specials fired at you from one of those Bugsy Malone splat guns - a little bit wonderful, a little bit disgusting.

Cooking: 6; service: 8; vibes: 4; score: 6. Price £125/head


The food isn't as good as at Gloria, but it's just as fun, writes Marina O'Loughlin in the Sunday Times, reviewing Circolo Popolare

Witness the hilarious likes of "Sardinian [eh?] empanada"; or their trademark carbonara for two, served out of a drum of pecorino cheese (cloying and suffocating, like being face-planted in the insides of a Greggs cheese and ham pasty); or sausages made from Tuscan cinta senese pork and burnt to a frazzle; or pizza served, Roman-style, by the metre. The Palermitani aren't about to be looking to their laurels: there's a scotch egg, FFS.

It's also entirely beside the point. I could tell you that the courgette flowers' batter isn't light and fragile, but as greasy and brittle as scraps from the bottom of the chippy fryer, and wonder why the hell you'd serve these with a soapy saffron dip. Or that the crudo croccante - lettuce cups piled up with heavily acidulated sea bass and a number of other aromatic bits and bobs - is fresh and zingy and really rather better than it needs to be. Or that they've inauthentically fried the pane carasau (Sardinian) that comes with a fat ball of burrata (Puglian) injected with pesto (Ligurian). But I find that I don't really care and probably neither will you.

Total: For three, including 12.5% service charge £172


The Observer's Jay Rayner is left with a bad taste by the prices at Heritage in London's Soho

We get a proper slab of rosti, the crust of golden fried potato giving way to something softer in the middle. The cheese is rolling away in all directions. The bits of smoked bacon are salty and sweet. It is a nutritional outrage and therefore completely marvellous, as it should be for £14.

The fondue arrives and it is just plain odd. There are many regional variations. The one you favour depends on your back story. This time generalisations really are risky. My wife's family cleaves to a mixture of relatively bland Emmental for bulk because it melts efficiently into the white wine to form a coating emulsion, with handfuls of Gruyère for flavour. The fondue at Heritage is a mixture of Gruyère and elastic Raclette. The result is one of the most irritating fondues I have ever attempted to eat. It forms endless ribbons and strings, like Spider-Man is trying to get the hang of his kit, and failing. Alongside the bread there are drop-dead gorgeous plates of lovingly roasted carrots, courgettes and new potatoes. The fondue struggles to cling to the bread and fails completely with the vegetables, which want nothing to do with it. It is a food-engineering experiment gone wrong. The problem lies with both the choice of cheeses and the burner, which is a tea light. You can barely warm your hand on a tea light, let alone a startlingly small mug of melted cheese. It sets as we work. We clear it but are exhausted by the struggle. It's a lot of effort for £16 a head. Oh, the humanity.

Starters £9-£21; mains £23-£50; desserts £8-£14; wines from £30


The Evening Standard's Fay Maschler discovers an "extremely good value dinner" at Wander in London's Stoke Newington

A flat-topped hill of homemade ricotta is topped with chopped fresh figs and bathed in honey and fig leaf oil. Its pre-eminence is challenged by truffle burrata with gooseberry and Thai basil, a slightly reckless global tour that turns out triumphant. The star dish is based on an ingredient I am not normally wild about. Razor clams have been poached in cider and garnished with nduja, crushed new potatoes and coriander. It is a brilliant melding of flavours and textures, the apple-y alcohol balancing the spice of the sausage and the soft potato knuckling under to the muscle of the shellfish. The resulting sauce calls for the last of the sourdough.

Accompaniments of aloe vera, guava and lemon basil granita turn the ceviche of scallop served in its shell into something faintly medicinal or maybe cosmetic. Pea and feta ravioli with rocket pesto and hazelnut has scant feta presence or flavour from the sauce and the peas are like little bullets. On another evening's menu the pasta dish of gnocchi with chilli-spiked octopus ragu is impressive - gnocchi, of course, is more cuddly than ravioli - and the plate of sweet and sour fried chicken with pickled mustard greens and sesame another flourish of understanding what flatters what.

Rating: 4/5


HOTELS

Stephen McClarence of the Times finds "a winning combination of the old and the new with delightful staff" at the recently launched Grantley Hall, near Ripon, North Yorkshire

Grantley Hall, a country house dating from the 17th century, has opened as an eye-poppingly luxurious hotel after an ambitious four-year restoration project costing £70m. In a 38-acre park with a riverside setting, lake and beautiful gardens - including a listed Japanese garden - its elegant public rooms offer an opulent contemporary take on classic country-house style. New extensions feature an impressively equipped gym and spa that includes an 18m pool, an underwater treadmill, a "snow room" and a cryotherapy chamber.

The 47 rooms and suites have original Georgian fireplaces, pale and pastel colour schemes and a restful atmosphere. Even the smallest have king-size beds and armchairs. Bathrooms offer Italian marble, cascade showers and Lalique toiletries, and there are pillow menus and (for the ultra-fastidious) robe menus.

Rating: 9.5/10. Price: B&B doubles from £270 a night


Elizabeth Day of the Telegraph says checking into one of the new Piglet huts at Soho Farmhouse in Great Tew, Oxfordshire, is like wandering into "an abandoned Second World War airfield"

My room was small but well-furnished. There are plenty of nice touches - full-sized bottles of shampoo and shower gel in the bathroom; pre-mixed cocktails in the bar - and a few things that I found irritating. The lighting was so low I might as well have been in a cave. It was very hot. The whole room was heated to such a sluggish temperature that I immediately wanted to crawl into bed and languish there like a hibernating tortoise.

There was no free bottled water until bedtime, when a measly can of the stuff appeared at my bedside (this is how trendy places serve their water nowadays, no doubt out of respect for the oceans and David Attenborough). The result was that I felt almost permanently dehydrated. Also the washbasin was tiny and splashed everywhere.

The good things are the same good things that exist in every Soho House I've ever been to: the food is a solid eight out of 10 and there's lots of it on offer (six separate places to eat, including Pen Yen, the beautifully appointed Japanese fusion restaurant in what is humble-braggingly called the Boathouse); the staff are uniformly helpful and efficient, and the soft furnishings are all nicely done in muted velvety shades of green and purple and mustard.

Price: Piglet rooms from £265; studio cabins from £380

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