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
Read More
Search

Reviews: The Fife Arms is flawless, Shanghai Modern and more

30 April 2019 by
Reviews: The Fife Arms is flawless, Shanghai Modern and more

Gabriella Bennett says in The Times that the attention to detail at the art-inspired Fife Arms in Braemar, Aberdeenshire, is flawless, but warns that the taxidermy is extreme

The refurbished Fife Arms is one of Scotland's most eagerly awaited openings. The imposing Victorian building was stripped to its bare bones before the Russell Sage Studio turned it into something resembling a film set. It belongs to the art collectors Iwan and Manuela Wirth, whose 30ft Louise Bourgeois spider sculpture crouches in the courtyard. You can sip a martini beneath a Picasso in the drawing room, where the ceiling has been painted by the Chinese artist Zhang Enli to resemble a brightly coloured topological map.

All 46 bedrooms have themed antiques pinned to the walls. The four royal suites (from £800) come with a decanter of malt and four-poster beds. The smallest are the Croft rooms, which have enclosed box beds inspired by historic Scottish architecture. African tribal masks kept watch in our room, the Explorer (£350), which also, unfortunately, featured a glitchy TV and a shower that backed up. The Nan Shepherd (£250), named after the author and poet, goes easy on the dead animals and has a writing desk in a turret with a beautiful view over Braemar.

The Clunie dining room is stylish, with geometric-patterned walls and a stuffed stag. The almond cake with yeast ice-cream (£6) was mouthwatering, but the parsimonious portions left us unsatisfied. The Flying Stag bar provides simple fare that includes Cullen skink and game pie.

Service doesn't flow smoothly and the taxidermy is extreme, but attention to detail is flawless. The boot room with rain jackets and wellies is a great idea.

Price: B&B doubles, from £120 a night for a Croft room. Score: 8/10

The Guardian‘s Grace Dent finds a "decent, fairly priced, unsentimentally served meal" at Shanghai Modern in Chinatown London's new Central Cross development

Some will say that Shanghai Modern and its new neighbour JinLi are exactly the kind of Instagram-pretty, future-facing, 150-seat projects that Chinatown needs right now. Give the 'Grammers their soft-shell crab perched on a tropical island of mango fried rice and their signature novelty, pastel-pink-coloured pork xiao long bao with adorable ears and snout.

broths and "Chinese tapas" (their words), plus a pen. Tick your list and hand back the slip.

On our visit, dishes began arriving almost instantly, first a bowl of steamed but now cold okra with a snotty trail of fierce wasabi and soy, more cleansing and saintly than delicious, but a pleasing start. Drunken chicken wings in rice wine were pale and decidedly sober, but next came a real highlight: roasted bran dough with assorted fungus, a magical, slightly gothic-looking bowl of dank sponginess. Similar to seitan (not Satan), bran dough is the hinterland between tofu and the heel of a Warburtons thick wholemeal loaf. It is an umami Hoover. I am a convert. Next along, baskets of pan-fried beef Shanghai buns and vegetable dumplings, both neatly made, both yielding, and with bags of seasoning and colour on the correct surfaces.

I wildly misjudged how much food we needed, and by this point the staff were sighing while pulling up adjoining tables to host our dishes. I'd have been more sheepish if I could feel anything from the ears downwards. The much-talked-about soft-shell crab on top of mango fried rice is actually rather pretty. Naff, but pretty.

The bill arrived in 11 seconds. Shanghai Modern continues the rich, four-decade-long Chinatown tradition of serving decent, fairly priced, unsentimentally served meals. Some things don't go out of fashion.

Price: about £25-£30 a head. Score: food: 7/10; atmosphere: 8/10; service: 7/10

The Times‘ Giles Coren finds the world's best falafels at Balady in Temple Fortune, North London

It's small, it's cheap, it's kosher, it's mostly vegetarian and it serves the best falafels in the world. The. World.

Have the falafels to start, they come with a pot of superb tahini, and add a portion of their spectacular homemade pickled vegetables of every sort. And after that the best shakshuka in the world (at least since Joseph's Bookstore up the road closed down) with soft eggs, and a bowl of properly seasoned salad (we Jews, we put a little salt) and the best hummus ever, with a swirl of olive oil, a schmear of tahini, a sprinkle of paprika.

Ask for a can of juice or a Perrier and be told, "It's right there in the fridge - I'm making falafels!" Ah, the bantz. They're right there in the signage: "Please help yourself to some cutlery - my waitress didn't come to work today ;)".

But ask either of the boys about what to order and the passion and the laughter and the joy come rushing out over you like hot, wet love. They don't reply, "The fish is popular," like your diffident, feckless Gentile server; they moan, "Oh my God, the sabich!" and they roll their eyes back and drool.

And it is good. It's an Israeli pita (fluffy, not flat like the Cypriot Odor-Eaters you get with your mezze) filled with fried aubergine and hard-boiled egg and salad and hummus and, in Balady's case, a few chips, all for not much more than a fiver.

Price: £12 max with a can of drink. Score: food: 8/10; bantz: 9/10; falafel: 10/10; overall score: 9/10

Jimi Famuwera of the London Evening Standard asks if London really can have "too many nice Indian places" after his visit to Lucknow 49

Lucknow 49, a likeable new Northern Indian restaurant in Mayfair from Dum Biryani House founder Dhruv Mittal, deftly proves that any talk of London hitting 'peak posh curry' is premature.

Dal kachori bhalla chaat raised the curtain and brought crumbly lentil flatbread parcels served cold beneath an unruly, tongue-zapping pile of yogurt, tamarind chutney and all the other good things you'd hope for. The Awadhi sabzi biryani, adorned with a golden toupée of frizzled onions, had a lustfully steamed plumpness and a seeping, saffron-tinged oil.

Taar gosht lamb leg curry had a brown mirrored sheen, the slow-bubbled trotter stock and green chillies provided an insistent, face-dampening burn. Pale pink kammal kakdi raita replaced the usual cucumber with pieces of lotus root and the beautiful treachery of more hidden chilli. A ghee-seeping kulcha (slightly leavened flatbread) had the requisite flaking layers but, also, a hardy, audible crunch perfect for scoops of addictive green lentil moong dal makhani.

All was bookended by minor disappointments of galawat kawab (intricately spiced beef patties lacking texture) and a pot of aminabad kulfi (a fine, cardamom-laced shrug of a thing - the only pudding on the menu). There are cocktails muddled with tea and pink pepper, plus spice-friendly European wines.

Price: £67 for two, minus service charge. Score: ambience: 3/5; food: 3/5

The Observer‘s Jay Rayner discovers a glorious mess at Bristol's Pasta Ripiena

They have nailed the prime ingredient, the pasta itself. It is that virtuous combination of silkiness and tautness, a wonder of culinary engineering. Each fold holds its cargo perfectly without being heavy or deadening.

The lunch menu offers three choices at each course. The darkest of the pasta dishes is the mezzaluna, the folds filled with a mess of ricotta flavoured with black truffle, then buried under a charcoal-coloured sauce of more truffle, wild mushrooms, deep roasted tomatoes and sage butter. It looks like the mulch of a forest floor just before the frosts come, and tastes more intensely of wild mushrooms than almost any other pasta dish I have eaten.

Ravioli, filled with sultry brown crab meat, is lightened with mascarpone and chilli, and then buried under a cascade of crisped breadcrumbs, and the sweetest of mussels from Fowey. This triumvirate of dishes is completed by broad cappellacci filled with ground chicken, with a little fiery 'nduja, ground black olives and quarters of charred baby gem. It is one of those rare situations where I don't find myself mentally ranking the dishes in order of preference. Each one makes a compelling argument for itself.

Price: starters: £6-£7.50; mains: £14-£17; desserts: £5.50-£6. Three-course lunch, £17; wines from £19

The Telegraph‘s William Sitwell pays a visit to the latest opening from Edson Diaz-Fuentes - Santo Remedio on London's Tooley Street

The tacos were great - Edson's merging of British ideas and ingredients working well, before going properly bonkers at the end of lunch. Little pieces of pork with apple sauce, chopped onion and some baby coriander in a tiny wrap with a squeeze of lime: what could go wrong?

Even better, and a little more South Pacific, were tuna sashimi tostadas. These are the crispy breads that break when you bite into them sending the contents crashing to earth. Normally.

I took one bite of raw tuna with soft avocado (room temperature, not straight from the fridge), and a dollop of chipotle mayonnaise sauce giving it a gently creamy/spicy crowd-pleasing lift. And then look! The tostada has held and not broken into a thousand pieces!

At the time of my visit there was a tamale celebration going on. This is a traditional Mexican street dish, in which the husks of corn or banana are used to hold food. We tried pork tamales with mole amarillo (another thick chilli sauce). I wouldn't cross several continents for another, finding the textures a little too thick and sluggish.

But I loved the tamale fixture on the pudding menu. Wrapped in a husk is a sticky toffee cake with a fabulously sugary sauce to pour over; a perfectly naughty little Mexican/English union. Mad, delectable and a very happy ending.

Price: £55 for lunch for two, excluding drinks and service. Score: 4/5

The Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email

Start the working day with The Caterer’s free breakfast briefing email

Sign Up and manage your preferences below

Thank you

You have successfully signed up for the Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email and will hear from us soon!