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Reviews: The Pig at Bridge Place, Orasay and more

07 May 2019 by
Reviews: The Pig at Bridge Place, Orasay and more

Tom Parker Bowles describes Orasay in London's Notting Hill as a restaurant that's "made to last" in the Mail on Sunday

Three cool, clean-tasting Teign River oysters are anointed with the most delicate of Champagne and elderflower jellies, the gently floral flavours flattering, rather than flattening, the shellfish's briny charm.

Puffy fried bread comes with a fried egg and immaculate, dark, chewy anchovies draped lasciviously across its face. Chewy grilled potato bread is smeared with smoked cod's roe of the finest grade.

The first of the English asparagus arrives with a sous vide egg yolk, and deep-fried smoked anchovies, intensely rich and chewy. More egg and bread and cured fish. But just like the rest, a dish of balance and comfort and charm.

At Orasay, they do the small things so well. Every detail matters, and while the cooking is assuredly bold and modern, it's never dull or fussy. Excellent produce meets excellent kitchen.

About £35 per head. Rating: 4/5


The Sparrows
The Sparrows

Patience is rewarded at the carb-fest that is the Spärrows in Manchester, writes Jay Rayner in The Observer

If you come here for lunch, dispense with breakfast. The menu starts with a list of sauces to go with their spätzle and gnocchi, though if you choose anything other than the braised onion and cheese to go with the spätzle, Hitchcock will politely suggest you are out of your tiny mind. We do indeed have the spätzle with a mess of long-braised onions, cooked down to that point where they are trying to decide whether their future lies in being a purée, under an armed assault from gruyère and emmental. The noodles look pleasingly like white worms, in their thick glossy overcoat. For £6 you get a generous plateful. I challenge you not to finish every last strand. Any leftover sauce can be mopped up with pieces of their airy-crumbed focaccia, just freed from the oven.

As well as ravioli, the fillings for which change weekly, there are both Russian and Polish dumplings. The latter, the pierogi, are sizable items, heartily stuffed with minced wild mushrooms and sauerkraut. I am even more taken by the pelmeni: small, dense dumplings filled with minced veal, and then covered with breadcrumbs fried in garlic butter. Here, there is a little international cooperation. As they're working alongside colleagues from the Japanese restaurant across the road, the breadcrumbs are panko and all the better for it. I begin to understand why large Polish men can be moved to tears by a plate of dinner.

Most dishes £5.50-£8; dessert £3; and wines from £22


Llewelyn's in London's Herne Hill is "a really good local restaurant", according to Giles Coren of The Times

I ordered a plate of wonderfully tender bresaola, mild, nutty coppa and good salami with sharp little gherkins and slices of pickled red pepper and the first nettle soup of the season, which is always so surprisingly mild and vegetably for such an angry little weed, laced with crème fraîche, olive oil and roasted hazelnuts.

The list of mains was full of joyful things as well, such as "Nettle, potato and pine nut pithivier" (doesn't that sound like a random line out of Manley Hopkins?), "Hereford beef lasagne and green salad for two" and "Steak pie for two". But we went instead for the grilled plaice, served whole and slathered with brown shrimp, monk's beard and buttered almonds. The fish was beautifully accoutred but a couple of minutes overdone, so tending to squish.

But the tagliatelle with rabbit ragu, wild garlic and parmesan was just wonderful, the pasta fresh and firm and long and deeply yellow, the rabbit mild and pink, the garlic pungent and grassy, the parmesan rich and salty, the whole thing slick and meaty, fresh and zippy, all you could want on a suburban south London afternoon with a cool glass of friulano.

Cooking: 7; happiness: 8; location: 8; score: 7.67. Price £30 a head


144 on the Hill
144 on the Hill

The Evening Standard's Jimi Famurewa describes 144 On The Hill in London's Richmond as "a pretty stage set for cooking as high slapstick"

Unprepared is the word. This wasn't a meal ruined by arrogance or even lack of well-meaning effort. It was a menu of voguish odds and ends (open rabbit lasagne, Roscoff onion slaw, a jackfruit 'dirty burger'), very probably conceived by an absentee executive chef and then thrust in the care of people who hadn't been sufficiently briefed or trained. Perhaps they will swiftly bring someone in to get a handle on a set of dishes that could still offer a hit of pubby, gently nostalgic comfort. Perhaps. But for now, this is a pretty stage set for cooking as high slapstick.

Ambience: 3/5; food: 1/5. Total £85.80


Bilash
Bilash

While other restaurants have come and gone, while many struggle to get the basics right, the Bilash in Wolverhampton offers consistently high standards, writes Andy Richardson in the Express and Star

My shaslik starter featured deliciously tender chicken, beautifully blistered onion and capsicum with a swish of sauce and a delicate side salad topped with pomegranate seeds. My partner's king prawn starter was enveloped with a delicious bread and gently warming sauce. It was high quality cooking from an experienced team.

My main, a korma with a really posh name, was equally enjoyable while my partner's tandoori fish was delicious.

Desserts were okay, though the real action was in the starters and mains. A small, moussey white chocolate and berry number was like a mini fool while the gulab jamun was decent; sticky, sweet and utterly indulgent.


Augustus in Taunton turns out to be a glorious refuge - just don't go on a Sunday, writes William Sitwell in The Telegraph

My dish of braised shoulder of lamb was three piles of splodge. The splodge of lamb had breadcrumbs thrown on top, and I searched in vain for deep, soft, unctuous flavour. There was a splodge of potato gratin and another one of chewy greens, all swimming in gravy.

And then it struck me that this place was catering for family groups on a Sunday afternoon, and that's what it felt like: catering. 'We need to come back on an evening,' I thought. This war zone needed a second chance.

So we returned on a Saturday night. Now there was a board with specials: soup, terrine, tarts and faggots. It was a more novel and intriguing offering. Things were looking up, very up.

I had confit duck tagliatelle - warm, inviting, delicately gamey, al dente pasta, sprinkles of Parmesan and a crisp sage leaf.

Then came rabbit faggots, a glistening threesome of joyous richness. I can't think of a time I've more enjoyed and felt more enthused by rabbit. Then once again we indulged in the board of English cheeses, this time the icing on the cake rather than the rescue boat.

Rating 3/5. Price: Three-course menu: £70 for two, without service and drinks


The Evening Standard's Fay Maschler reviews Casa FofÁ³ in London's Hackney, and describes it as respectful cooking from a serious kitchen

Along comes the bread, rectangles of focaccia, the only obvious pointer to the head chef being Italian. By the way, the restaurant is named in honour of his grandfather. The accompanying pale green (seaweed?) whipped butter topped with crunch is obligingly piquant.

Almond, crab, monk's beard is item number three on both occasions, with the dark green strands of the vegetable winning out over the foam the second time. Crab being a fugitive presence is true of both assemblies. Oyster mushrooms are a favoured starting point for a creation. I read afterwards that they were first cultivated in Germany as a subsistence measure during the First World War. Something of that history seems attached to their meeting with turnip ribbons and mandarin orange. The variation with lapsang souchong and apple is better but still a bit spooky.

A meal like this doesn't have a main course but if it did it would be the Middle White pork loin with Tokyo turnip and purple wave mustard greens the first time, and Black Galloway beef with Jerusalem artichoke and dwarf pak choi the second. Both meats are impeccably bought and respectfully cooked.But fermenting Jerusalem artichokes and then whirling them into a non-specific brown sauce points to maybe chefs with too much time on their hands and not enough comprehension of the potential for fun in eating out.

Rating: 3/5


No one will go hungry at Bross Bagels in Edinburgh's Leith, writes Grace Dent in The Guardian

Larah Bross's take on what is permissible as bagel filling will, of course, cause further brouhaha. Indeed, there's salt beef, pastrami and lox, naturally, with all manner of recognisable bedfellows: dill pickles, red onion, sauerkraut, Russian dressing and crisp capers. But the true beauty of Bross Bagels is how it dances a dainty line between timeworn kosher flavours and tangents of brash, delicious modernity. No one will go hungry here.

The Bross Bagels parm contains schnitzel, melted mozzarella, jalapeÁ±os, and Larah's Uncle Jimmy's special meshugga marinara sauce: "famous three-day-hangover cure," it claims on the menu. The parm is a sloppy yet crisp, sweet but slightly hot, honking slab of premium-grade junk food. The "Leither", meanwhile, is filled with chilli-wafted salmon and jalapeÁ±o cream cheese, a scattering of bread-and-butter pickles and a lot of cracked black pepper. The gang down at Beigel Shop in Brick Lane have been serving some of Britain's greatest bagels since 1855. They didn't see Larah Bross coming.

About £9 a head, plus drinks and service. Food: 8/10; atmosphere: 8/10; service: 8/10


Daaku
Daaku

Two and a half cheers are in order for Daaku in Cornwall, according to The Telegraph's Keith Miller

The menu changes regularly, with a few constants: chicken kebabs, samosa chaat, taking their place alongside "guest" dishes that might come from Rajasthan, Bengal or elsewhere. The "Cornish fusion" element wasn't much in evidence on the night we visited, apart from a delicately spiced sausage roll and a strong clotted-cream game in the puddings.

The kebabs were done on the grill, though they're hoping to get a tandoor when they open an outdoor seating area in the summer, and were juicy and lightly spiced (though their little crowning zigzag of mayo didn't seem particularly Indian). Pickles were great, especially a ferocious roasted chilli paste. Black dal was excellent. Kulambu - a slow-cooked Tamil-style shin of beef - struck a fine balance between comforting coconut smoothness and zingy acidity. Parathas were just the right amount of flaky. Puddings - two different halvas; a spectacular rose laddoo and a fragrant fig barfi; ice cream - were all hoovered up by our party with enthusiasm.

If it was me, I think I'd ramp up the Cornish fusion element - camp it up, even. Punjabi pasties, Sylheti stargazy pie, masala cream tea - why not? At the moment, there's a slight fussiness about the enterprise: on the one hand, a friendly welcome in a dining room that's made for fun; on the other, food that's big on flavour, but maybe configured a shade more elaborately than it needs to be.

Rating: 3.5/5. Dinner for two £80


HOTELS

The Pig, Bridge Place, Canterbury, Kent, hotel, boutique hotel, gardens, restaurant, bar
The Pig, Bridge Place, Canterbury, Kent, hotel, boutique hotel, gardens, restaurant, bar

Fiona Duncan of The Sunday Telegraph is bowled over by the cleverness, attention to detail and hotel experience at the newly opened Pig at Bridge Place, near Canterbury, Kent

The first step, when creating a new Pig, is to find a country house with quirkiness and character. Bridge Place, set in the lush water meadows of the Nailbourne valley, is a historic Grade II* listed house whose weathered brickwork is wonderfully detailed. Its doll's house shape and impressive, if slightly spooky, central elm staircase, plus panelling, an ornate ceiling in the bar and a series of velvety den-like sitting rooms arranged on different levels lend it a nicely decadent, slightly mysterious air.

As a Pig, though, it wasn't perfect. Clever things have happened to turn it into a habitable sty, with seven rooms in the main house, 12 more in a highly sympathetic new Coach House wing plus seven Hot Pickers Huts bordering the Nailbourne. Traditional hop pickers' huts in Kent featured weatherboard walls, tin roofs and chimneys - and so do these, each with a wood burner, a roll-top bath and separate monsoon showers. They are cosy and beautifully finished, with Bakelite light switches and ceiling lights that look like chicken feeders. The Main House and Coach House rooms are similarly appealing, thought more in keeping with the vintage rock 'n' roll vibe.

The familiar shabby chic restaurant (not a conservatory this time) is a real triumph. Its open kitchen is decorated with vintage pendant lamps that remind us that we are east of London with their words "Pie, Mash and Liquor", "Live Eels", "Brisket and Brawn", and so on. Along one wall, shelves groan with big colourful jars of preserved fruits; and the lights are from wartime trenches and Battersea Power Station.

The food, on my visit, was at the very top of the Pig game. A dish of smoke house carrots was utterly sublime, as were the quail Scotch eggs and the local English wines.

Rating: 9/10. Price: Double rooms cost from £145 per night, breakfast from £8 per person


32 by the Hollies
32 by the Hollies

Sarah Baxter of The Times says the food is the star of the show at 32 by the Hollies in Tarporley, Cheshire

The Hollies is best known for running the "Harrods of farm shops". But last year this third-generation family business added a restaurant-with-rooms to its empire, having overhauled the 19th-century bank building in Tarporley. The private dining area is in the old manager's office; the open kitchen occupies the former vault; five guest rooms sit upstairs.

[The bedrooms are] plush and comfy. Super-king-size beds with oversized headboards, white cotton bedding, bathrobes and velveteen chaises longues convey softness. The dominant tone is warm grey, but each room has its accent - teal, navy, mulberry - in the cushions and bespoke wallpaper. Mod cons include Bluetooth speakers and smart TVs; the aromatic Arran toiletries can also be bought in the farm shops.

[The food is] jolly good. No 32 uses the Hollies' nearby Little Budworth store as its larder. Thus ingredients are excellent, from the full English (£10.50) to the tender fillet steak (£27). The scallop starter (£12) varies daily - for instance, served with black pudding and crispy kale. Bakewell tart (£6.50) melts in the mouth.

Rating: 8/10. Doubles from £125

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