The Sunday Times' Marina O'Loughlin is appalled by the lack of Covid safety measures at the Nordic-inspired Eldr in the new Pantechnicon development in London's Belgravia
Make no mistake: there's some sublime food coming out of the open kitchen of today's restaurant. Highlights include a dessert of stiff meringue with a satiny, purple quenelle of blackberries and a scattering of the fat, glossy fruit.
But I'm not going to bother to painstakingly deconstruct and issue judgment on every dish at Eldr. Because the place itself gives me the absolute pip.
At the entrance stands a woman at a podium. "Greeter" seems like a misnomer for a frosty number who manages to ooze snootiness from behind a mask; quite the achievement, really. Behind me a customer is agitating at having to wait, her antsy caramel-coloured dog matching her cashmere clothing and inflated caramel-coloured lips.
We're directed to share a table for four with another two people. Eh?
There's a hand-sanitiser station at street level with a sign reading "Smile with your eyes while your beauty has to be kept undercover", making my own eyes roll like a fruit machine. After that, nada. The place is bursting at the seams and we're directed to share a table for four with another two people. Eh? Social distancing is clearly for plebs. No sanitiser on the tables. Staff lean in to point out every constituent of each complex plate, breathing on us as loose masks slip right down, fingers nearly touching the food as they intone "reindeer", "caviar" (really?), "dill oil". We're sharing everything, but have to ask for sharing cutlery. It makes me rage for the places following all the rules only to still wind up staring down the barrel of bankruptcy. In no way do I blame the patient and friendly staff for this. I blame management: it's a training matter.
Price: meal for two, including 12.5% service charge, £183
Jay Rayner of The Observer forgets all that is bad with the world in celebrating the pleasure of dining at Townsend, a restaurant inside the Whitechapel Gallery in London's East End
It's not the sort of restaurant to make you swoon at inventiveness, or dazzle you with shiny ideas. It's a place where you go with a friend so as to get lost in the chatter, only then to clock just how well you are being fed.
It's all there in the restaurant's DNA. The head chef is Joe Fox, who used to run the kitchen at Petersham Nurseries. He was recruited by Nick Gilkinson, who has previously worked at the bistro Anglo and, more significantly, the delightful café at the Garden Museum by Lambeth Bridge. Like the latter, this feels like a dining room designed to keep the world at bay.
There are four starters and four mains, some of which read as little more than assemblies of great ingredients. Take quail's eggs, treacle-cured trout and purple sprouting broccoli. Go on. Take them. You know you want to. The eggs are soft boiled so the doll's house yolks lubricate the plate. The folds of lightly cured trout have been brought to room temperature. There is a dribble of vinaigrette across the broccoli. You fork it away as you talk and soon realise, looking down at the very last scraps, that you'll miss it when it's gone. The same is true of a salad of soft-roasted, spiced aubergine, which has been removed from its skin and cubed, with roasted peppers and a snowfall of rowdy Ticklemore cheese.
Prices: snacks/starters: £4-£9; mains: £16-£21; desserts: £6-£7; set menu: £20; wines: from £24
Keith Miller of The Telegraph enjoys "thoughtfully conceived and skilfully cooked" food "served with grace and assurance" at Fourth and Church, a restaurant-come-wine shop in Hove, East Sussex
It's a welcoming, contemporary space, if not a wildly characterful one, with a bar along one side and reefs of wine bottles covering the other. The menu is eclectic but essentially quite tapas-y, though chef goes up a gear (grills, a tasting menu) in the evening.
We had some 'nduja croquetas (excellent, with a slightly rough, crumbly texture); a gem salad with "maple miso"; fried chicken with gochujang and "kimchi remoulade"; blue corn tacos with mackerel, pickled jalapeño and apple and "marjoram slaw"; some fantastic cured trout, of that almost wine-gum-like firmness and translucency one longs to encounter, on crispbreads; a dessert of frozen lime curd with Zeitgeist-approved pink peppercorns; some cheese, almonds and lovely pickled veg. Unsurprisingly, their wine game is strong.
I've been racking my brains trying to put my finger on why Fourth and Church, for all its many evident strengths, didn't quite make my soul sing. I suppose in a strange way it's something to do with that assurance – and the palpable reassurance that this cohort of Hovians was drawing from it. I found myself wondering whether it might be possible for a neighbourhood restaurant to anticipate the tastes of its neighbourhood a little too frictionlessly.
Rating: 4/5. Price: lunch for two, £130