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Reviews: the Fordwich Arms, Akira and more

14 January 2019 by
Reviews: the Fordwich Arms, Akira and more

The Sunday Times' Marina O'Loughlin enjoys the blossoming of the Fordwich Arms in Kent

Line-caught sea bass has curious, wintry accompaniments: a quenelle of chestnut purée, semi-dried grapes, all pulled together with the richness of fino sherry hollandaise. It works. And venison from nearby Chart Farm, rich and robust fallow deer bolstered by the jolliness of pumpkin, king oyster mushroom, a sexy dollop of smoked bone marrow and gentle sweetness from mirepoix of pear.

The Fordwich started out with soaring ambition and zero pretension, the cooking a big, open-hearted grin of a thing. It has tightened into something a little more clenched, all turned vegetables and curious flatware. Not for a second am I suggesting things shouldn't change, that we should doggedly pursue a smeared rose-tinted past. And if their bulging bookings are anything to go by, the team is reaping nothing but ringing tills from the award. All I'm suggesting is they should bank their lovely star, thank the nice Michelin types politely - and then forget that they ever existed.

Price: £292 for two, including 12.5% service charge


akira
akira

William Sitwell reviews his ‘favourite' restaurant in The Telegraph, Akira in London's Kensington

We opted for the £60, three-course robata omakase (they have to off-set the cost of the plumbing infrastructure somehow). A delectable appetiser of sea bream was shovelled in rapidly, before the vast box of treats that followed. It was a tray of 15 little compartments, housing beautiful bowls of assorted sashimi, little veg dishes, tempura and a mini custard.

I made child-like whimpering noises as I looked at it, then set about emptying this sort of gastronomic advent calendar (the kind where you can open every window and eat every chocolate on day one without getting into trouble). Among the contents were two light and tender pieces of salmon seasoned with fish eggs, some chunkier tuna, a little salad of watercress spiced with miso paste, and a rather un-Japanese deep-fried cheese ball with spring onion.

Next up came one of those stones. It looked like a fake boulder from the set of an early Star Trek episode and was baking hot, but rather than a burnt Dr Spock, it bore sizzling little slivers of wagyu beef and some chicken kebabs. There were sauces to dip them in and, on the side, a deeply sating bowl of miso soup and three pieces of sushi.

Price: £128 for dinner for two, without service or alcohol. Score: 4.5/5


peking-duck-angle-view-imperial-treasure
peking-duck-angle-view-imperial-treasure

Jay Rayner describes a meal at Imperial Treasure in London's St James' as "laboured, thudding mediocrity" in The Observer

A fully toqued Chinese chef lays [the Peking duck] on a board table-side and sets to work, first taking off a thin layer of fatless skin, presented in squares with a bowl of sugar to dip it in. We pluck away daintily with our chopsticks, and ooh and sigh, because this cost £100. The least we can do is look like we are enjoying our act of conspicuous consumption. They bring bamboo steamer baskets of hand-shaped pancakes, alongside shredded spring onions, cucumber and hoisin sauce. All is good. Here are slices of the duck, and yes, it's delightful: soft meat, crisp skin, the liquorice, soy and caramel kick of the hoisin.

As I eat, I glance at the duck. Hurrah. There is so much more to go. The legs have barely been touched. There's a ballast of glistening skin and meat around the arse end, and more around its back. Suddenly the chef lays down his blade, picks up the platter, bows and walks off back to the kitchen. Hang on a second. That bird is barely half-cut. I paid a ton for it. And you're taking it away? At Min Jiang on the top floor of the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington where the dish costs £72 and is also available by the half, the meat returns in a second service, perhaps as a stir fry or in a soup. Here, we are told, it is a pancake filling and nothing else. Lord knows what happens to the rest. Fury is a £100 half-cut duck.

Price: starters £12-£36. Main courses £18-£100. Peking duck £100. Desserts £7.50. Wines from £38


lino
lino

Lino in the City of London is "well worth the detour", writes Fay Maschler in the Evening Standard

At dinner, grilled mackerel with oyster mayo and slices of pickled cucumber makes an ideal first course and at lunch another day, a buttery, cheesy, flaky, earthy, warming slice of tart makes a welcome appearance. Shiny shallots with blackened edges adorn the top and later in the meal charring is a feature of the side dish of sweetheart (aka Hispi) cabbage tossed with butter and shards of lemon zest.

Oxtail and potato hotpot - prepared Lancashire style - gets the best out of an often-neglected ingredient with plenty of swish flavours waiting to be lengthily drawn out. Tender slices of pork belly are accompanied by two kinds of brassica: cavolo nero cooked to a vivid green crisp, plus white cabbage cooked in a choucroute with celeriac. The promising sounding side dish of salt-baked celeriac with chicken sauce arrives undercooked and mealy and thus disappoints. Maybe should have given in to triple-cooked chips.

Lino also offers notably well-crafted breakfast and brunch menus. Its stated aim to re-love, re-use and re-imagine is apparent in the excellent dessert of croissant bread and butter pudding flavoured with marmalade and coffee.

Score: 4/5


beetroot-sauvage
beetroot-sauvage

In a landscape of cool wellness, Beetroot Sauvage in Edinburgh is a breath of fresh air, writes Grace Dent in The Guardian

We ordered "Dahling I'm Home", a subtly spiced bowl of green lentil mulch with tomato and chickpeas, served with white rice and flatbread drizzled with vegan garlic butter. Texture- and presentation-wise, it was glorious; seasoning-wise, it could have done with a handful more of everything. Perhaps the clientele are sensitive types who bridle at cumin and turmeric? More successful was the sweet, sticky vegan french toast, laden with chopped banana and coconut bacon, seasoned with paprika, soy and liquid smoke to form a weirdly porky rind taste. Will it ever replace bacon? I very much doubt it. Folk who love bacon are ardently committed to the cause and will not be beating a trail to GreenBay for ingredients.

A lumpy vegan scone with non-dairy butter and strawberry compote may have lacked the airy fluffiness of something eggy and buttery, but it was a pleasing enough whack of sturdy carbohydrate with a dainty ramekin of sweet berries. The cheesecake that day was a riff on Bakewell tart, a sturdy lump of set cashew cream, agave coconut, and almonds with cherries and edible petals.

Price: about £15 a head, plus drinks and service. Score: food: 7/10; atmosphere: 7/10; service: 7/10


fatto-a-mano
fatto-a-mano

The Times' Giles Coren discovers "phenomenally good" pizza at Fatto a Mano in Brighton

The staff were incredibly jolly, excellent with kids and passionate about their pizza, which is phenomenally good.

It's of the billowing, fluffy Neapolitan type, with a lovely, savoury sugo that puts the more familiar sugary Anglo versions to shame. I don't normally bother with pizza myself, just eating salads and sides and chewing the crusts my kids leave, but the first mouthful of crust of the children's (free!) ones - salty, nutty, melting into a fudge-like sweetness on the tongue - had me yodelling for a grown-up (£9) n'duja one, smudged with that spreadable, spicy pork sausage, the mozzarella good and milky in flavour and ready to stretch and dangle from the edge of the slice (which too few do in this age of industrial, not-really-mozzarella mozzarellas).

Score: food: 7/10; service: 8/10; location: 9/10; total: 8/10


Hotels

grandtully-hotel
grandtully-hotel

Gabriella Bennett of The Times enjoys the newly launched Grandtully hotel, near Pitlochry, Perthshire, for its hip design and fabulous food

The interiors of this boutique hotel, with eight bedrooms, could have been inspired by a plate of vegetables if the butternut squash-coloured sofa in the library and aubergine-hued bathtubs are anything to go by. With its chic tiles and mean Negroni, the Tully bar wouldn't be out of place in the hippest quarter of any European city. Similarly, the bistro-style restaurant feels like a little slice of Paris in Perthshire.

One of the owners was trained at Leiths Cookery School, so dining here is a standout experience. Go for the Loch Crenan oysters (£2 each) or a pork and black pudding croquette (£1 each) to nibble over cocktails. The special of Grandtully Estate deer fillet and potato and apple dauphinoise (£15) comes with delectable deep-fried sage leaves.

Price: B&B doubles from £120 a night. Score: 9/10

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