Reviews: Jay Rayner signs up to Acme Fire Cult and Jimi Famurewa finds Apricity

17 May 2022
Reviews: Jay Rayner signs up to Acme Fire Cult and Jimi Famurewa finds Apricity

The Observer's Jay Rayner signs up to the cult of flame-cooked vegetables at Acme Fire Cult, London

For the most part [the menu] is thrillingly, impressively vegetable led, part of a self-declared determination to get away from the whole "dude food" culture around fire and smoke. For this reason, I want it to be so much more than a cult, because cults tend to implode quickly under the weight of their own filthy impropriety. This needs to endure.

We start with their devilled eggs. Mary Berry would, I think, give these a basilisk stare. The traditional 1960s stalwart involved the boiled eggs being halved, the yolks removed, mixed with mayo and cayenne pepper and so on, whipped and returned. Here, the eggs have been cooked so the yolks have reached a perfect jellied state. They have then been drenched in a sweet-sour tamarind-like sauce and scattered with crisply fried onions.

I want it to be so much more than a cult, because cults tend to implode quickly under the weight of their own filthy impropriety

There is a certain amount of what could come across as innovation for its own sake among the small plates, except it all works.

Meat and fish do not appear on the menu until the large plates. We order the ox cheek. It's the least whelming of dishes. The mustard greens have heft and there's a powerful umami-tastic ancho chilli koji condiment. But the cheek simply hasn't spent long enough on the grill. It fights back against the knife and fork. It almost wins.

So much better is the hearth vegetable plate, a fabulous collection of beefy roasted tomatoes, courgettes and fennel, with white beans and squash purées, dressed with another big old salsa verde. This singular £14 dish makes the argument for the whole venture.

Price: snacks and small plates, £3-£9; large plates, £14-£24; wines, from £31; beers, £5-£6

Jimi Famurewa from the Evening Standard finds Apricity, London, has a thoughtful confidence and charm

Apricity which, beautifully, means "the warmth of the sun in winter", is a laudable endeavour run with thoughtful confidence and charm. Many of its heavily plant-based dishes conceived by [Chantelle] Nicholson and head chef Eve Seemann are gorgeously rendered. And yet, something about its polite seriousness and haloed sense of mission, left me feeling measured admiration rather than unbridled joy. Having plumped for the five-course taster menu (there is also à la carte and a seven-course option) we settled in the stark, hemmed in space on a Friday lunchtime. Things began with a sinful unbilled snack: a deep-fried, teak-brown gobstopper of sweetened chickpea dough with a gooey, caramelised fava bean centre and the sense-memory of West African bofrot.

Drawing out vegetable sugars through robust cooking – especially evidenced by a dish of sticky, crisp-edged little boats of Isle of Wight aubergine — quickly established itself as a recurring, highly effective theme. Happily, this deftly wielded flavour intensity, and note of surprise, applied to the omnivorous dishes too. Rosy, fleshy hunks of sugar-cured chalk stream trout stood up to a luscious dribble of sea buckthorn; slivers of braised ox tongue dissolved dreamily in a hugging broth of oceanic depth.

It was only around the meal's third act that things started to fray a little. A sliced steak of Devon pork presa, dribbled in a lurid green wild garlic sauce, was solid if unmemorable. Meanwhile, a dinky little pre-dessert of diced rhubarb and crumble topping on, I think, a vegan cashew cream struck me as a little puritanical in spirit.

There is hope though. A pair of absolutely outrageous, showstopper desserts – a moodily dark and honeycomb rubbled plant-based chocolate pudding; plus the "chouxnut", a Nicholson signature comprising a ridged, sugar-dusted ring of deep-fried choux pastry – work primarily because they feel unrestrained, distinctive and indulgent.

Price: meal for two plus drinks, about £170

Giles Coren of The Times enjoys lunch by the Thames at Sam's Riverside, London

Tom (who knows the place well) ordered the Parmesan churros, which were long, hot and crunchy-squishy in the best tradition of your 2am sugar-rush chocolate version at the feria, or frankly the middle part of any Spanish outdoor booze-up, except slathered with grated Parmesan and coming at you like fresh, hot, pencil-length Wotsits.

Then three fingers of fat toast slathered with an inch-thick layer of Devon crab (£12) on a white plate with a quarter of lime, and then a big scallop shell of scallop ceviche in pomegranate and chilli that was bright and lively but probably somewhat off-message in terms of seafoody nibbles to go with the gavi.

So, swiftly, a good stack of boiled crevettes (£12.50), cool and plump and firm, with a yallop of house mayonnaise and quarters of lemon, to put the wine back to work, and razor clams, pungent and squeaky with wild garlic, chervil root, lemon and chives (£10.50), with sticky chunks of sourdough and Keen's butter (£3.50).

Then a big chunk of hake in chorizo sauce (£27) – I love a big white fish, ever so pleased with itself, brutally assailed with spicy pork flavours – and a chicken schnitzel (£22.50) buried in rocket and Parmesan, and a lovely side order salad of cucumber, fennel and mustard (£5) that was not at all shy about the mustard and really poked you in the eye and told you to wake up.

Score: cooking, 7; space, 8; view, 9. Overall score, 8

Pierre Koffman and Richard Vines find reliable simplicity at Le Colombier, London

French restaurants come and go. Some are good. Others, less so. But Le Colombier has been absolutely consistent, with the kind of food, service and ambience that you used to be able to find in towns and cities across France and now must search out. France has changed. Le Colombier hasn't.

We went for the lunch menu, at £30 for two courses. The terrine de canard au poivre vert was well made and simply served with cornichons, while the white asparagus cream soup was smooth and rich. A main of grilled cod, lemon, olive oil was simply that, with some fresh vegetables on the side. Beef rump steak, shallots and Bordelaise red-wine sauce was served with good chips.

This kind of simplicity may not be for everyone. These days, diners often look for surprises and tweaks that reflect the personality of the chef, and for Instagram-friendly plates that are a picture of culinary innovation, for better or worse. But we don't all swoon over a swoosh.

You don't go to Le Colombier looking for novelty any more than for Prosecco. Rather, you are coming for tradition with a light touch; for seasonal ingredients of a quality that don't require too much help from the chef. And for well-made sauces that are not distilled into blobs on a plate.

We finished with a plate of French cheese and decent coffee is included in the price. It is the kind of meal you'd be happy to be served in France.

Daily Mail's Sarah Hartley enjoys a family-friendly visit to Eastbury Cottage, Sherborne in Dorset

There's something rather lovely about pottering around Sherborne, surely Dorset's prettiest market town, then passing the dinky cottages on Long Street to the Eastbury hotel and unlocking the front door to the Eastbury cottage. Finish the day with a pot of tea in your garden or sip a glass of fizz in your outdoor hot tub.

The Eastbury cottage opened its doors in 2020 with all the benefits of the Grade II-listed, 26-bedroom hotel next door but offers a secluded family bolthole which sleeps six adults and two youngsters.

Inside the layout has not been tinkered with so a dining room leads onto a bright, well-equipped kitchen and a goodie hamper. You can cook of course but it's tempting to dine at the hotel restaurant Seasons, where light lunches and dinner can be enjoyed on the terrace.

The luxe refurb by Kathleen Fraser, de Savary's American interior designer, brings verve with her palette, so pops of red and blue fabric to a headboard or paint enliven traditional brown furniture.

Family and dogs are at the heart of de Savary properties: on the lawn of the walled hotel garden a croquet match with grandparents and children is heated, alfresco lunches are served on the terrace and guests make their way past the Potting Shed Garden suites to the Woodland spa.

All ages are here so romantic couples sit near elderly couples hidden behind broadsheets, dogs at their feet.

The Guardian's Grace Dent finds Instagram fodder at Tattu, London

I came here for the food and, by golly, Tattu has got it, albeit in very small portions of wagyu fillet carpaccio at £34.90 a throw. Or, say, four pretty chicken truffle shumai dim sum at £12.90, or wok-fired "angry bird" chicken (sweet-and-sour chicken with a few floating chillies to you and me) at £24.90 and only just enough to feed one.

It is less of a restaurant and more of an Instagram content fulfilment hub with added £9 broccoli and £36.50 char siu monkfish. It is impossible to take a bad photo in here. The lighting is beautiful and several plates have pure novelty aspect, billowing smoke, cloches and/or googly eyes.

The menu is brief and sort-of Chinese by way of Great Britain with South American and pan-European flourishes; it's also littered with words and phrases such as "XO scallops", "salmon caviar" and "wagyu" that make you feel you're somewhere the Kardashians would enjoy.

The cost is vastly offputting. I could almost tolerate giving Tattu £12 for dim sum, and that shiitake bao turned out to be nicely wobbly and moist, but had largely unmemorable innards. Delicate chicken truffle shumai were prettily puckered like little cats' bums topped with a scattering of truffle. The best thing we ate was seven-spiced seared tuna from the raw small-plates section, featuring fine-quality tuna with some smoke from the grill, truffle and citrus ponzu.

Price: from about £65 a head à la carte; tasting menus £80 or £120, all plus drinks and service

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