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Reviews: Giles Coren loves beef tartare at Sollip, while Grace Dent enjoys the ‘modern spin' at Chuku's

21 September 2020
Reviews: Giles Coren loves beef tartare at Sollip, while Grace Dent enjoys the ‘modern spin' at Chuku's

The Times' Giles Coren loves the spicy beef tartare at Sollip in Southwark, London

The light at Sollip is very, very bright and bounces off the undecorated magnolia walls, uncovered pale wooden tables and sharp, angular surfaces (there is no soft furnishing at all).

There were fermented soy bean gougères with aged Cheddar, dusted with cayenne pepper, and top-flight sourdough made with nurungji, which is scorched rice that lends a new nuttiness. We had a daikon tarte tatin with chilli chive potato cream which erred, for me, on the side of the Instagrammable rather than tasty, with its visual approximation to the French dessert classic somewhat strangely bent to the bland earthiness of radish. But I loved the spicy beef tartare, made punchy by their homemade gochujang and seasoned daikon, with a glistening, stiff egg yolk sabayon.

Fish of the day was a lovely bit of bass served with a pale beef broth, leek jangajji, timiz pepper and samphire, which had aspects of sharpness and pickle but didn't seem to coalesce into anything new, which was equally true of the Sollip cassoulet, which was a light, refreshing pork broth with shards of hammed pork belly and firm, crisp cannellini beans. In avoiding the traditional heft and stickiness of a cassoulet, however, they had made something that was definitely not a cassoulet (I mean, obviously, for it contained also 10-month-fermented kimchi) but seemed, again, like something that might have been served in a post-Covid world that had forgotten what cassoulet was.

The braised short rib of beef was a good, neat version of the dish, prettily mounted on its plate with a scoop of soft, warm rice, made comforting and puddingy by black truffle butter. We didn't stay for dessert because the bright lights and general sharpness – the sense of eating in a department store loading bay while waiting for your ironing board to come down from domestic appliances – was making me a little bit headachy.

Sollip is clearly at the beginning of a journey towards full function, like all of us, and must, like all of us, be given time to adjust.

Price: £140 for two, with four glasses of wine

Sollip
Sollip

Grace Dent of The Guardian enjoys the ‘modern spin' on Nigerian tapas at Chuku's in London's Tottenham

Fried plantain dodo is soft, crisp-skinned and tossed in cinnamon, sugar and coconut, while the rich adalu – honey beans and sweetcorn slow-stewed in fresh red pepper and tomato – is the perfect foil to a bowl of cassava fries topped with ata dindin, a gloriously fiery, hot pepper dressing.

Since I went to Chuku's, I've thought many times about their chicken ata dindin – the bird shredded in an even spicier version of that sauce – which I could not finish because the capsaicin levels were quietly, determinedly assassinating me, but which was also far too delicious to stop picking at.

For lovers of more mellow propositions, the folk at Chuku's take plump king prawns and pan-fry them in a sweet, honey-based sauce, and they gloss chicken wings in a caramel and crushed peanut kuli-kuli-style marinade.

Begin at the top of the list with the fresh, crunchy okra in a sharp, sweet, honey vinaigrette, nibble your way through fat, crisp ojojo (yam and mackerel croquettes), and definitely order the beef ayamase, which isn't remotely pretty, because it's just stewed beef in dark, fermented locust beans, but which packs a warm, enveloping punch. This is certainly a modern spin on Nigerian tastes and traditions, and there will no doubt be some customers looking for a taste of home comfort who will find Chuku's loud, tangential and puzzling.

Price: about £20 a head, plus drinks and service

![Egusi at Chuku's(https://media.graphcms.com/jS8dVJGfTNyNKuGaKA4j)

Mark O'Flaherty of The Telegraph celebrates the return of Raymond Blanc's Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire

Dinner is hit after hit, ferried from the kitchen under Covid-era transparent domes for fear of anyone breathing near the artfully arranged ingredients. A scallop dish comes with iced dashi and yuzu – citrus of the gods. A risotto of garden vegetables is elevated, cooked in tomato essence, and finished with mascarpone, which improves everything it touches. (Pro tip: add it to porridge in winter.)

The flora, fragrances and luxury of Le Manoir create a flawless bubble of ease and escapism. But there's a tingle to the balm: there are branded gift sets in the bedrooms with hand sanitiser and rubber gloves, and the waiters' visors are slightly nightmarish. Less Kylie's ‘Can't Get You Out of My Head' video, more a Terry Gilliam-esque dystopian dining room – as if they might be splattered with blood at any second. Such is 2020. Anxiety hangs in the air like the lingering aroma of ethanol when you're hungover.

Each bedroom has a different theme inspired by Raymond's travels. All are lavish. I stayed in L'Orangerie (from £1,330 B&B), which is perpetually infused with neroli, has a rural French and boudoir style with upholstered wrought-iron garden furniture, faux patina mirroring and miniature potted orange trees. The bed is on wheels, creating sporadic unwanted mobility. The bath oil left me so lubricated that I skidded across the room and sent the bed off towards the terrace.

Price: from £695 for a double room

Raymond Blanc at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
Raymond Blanc at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

The hotel inspector found ‘charming rooms' and ‘posh burgers' at the New Inn in Coln St Aldwyns, Gloucestershire

The New Inn has been around since the 16th century – but the sign is new, following a revamp by two bright young things who are trying to grow a brand called Baz & Fred. That's Harry ‘Baz' Henriques and Fred Hicks, school friends from the Cotswolds, and the idea, according to the general manager, is to ‘bring a bit of London to the countryside'.

In its previous incarnation it was more formal, more ‘fine dining', more expensive. Stylish, too, after receiving the full Farrow & Ball treatment, plus lots of new wood in the bar area, giving off a beach shack vibe.

It helps that all this is housed in an exquisite, honey-coloured building in Coln St Aldwyns, one of the most beautiful honey-coloured villages in a part of Gloucestershire that has not yet fallen victim to its elegance.

There are 14 rooms. Ours is charming, with a few black-and-white, framed photographs of the Cotswolds, traditional Burlington basin and taps, and a comfortable, well-dressed bed.

The menu is mainly posh burgers, but we start with a superb burrata and tomato salad and a fabulous bruschetta with anchovies. We order mustard, nothing arrives; nor do two dips for our chips – and I have to ask three times for my glass of red. Worse, my burger turns up as I'm halfway through my starter. Then I hear that Baz & Fred aren't around this evening to sort out some of the rough edges, which, so soon after launching, seems a little careless.

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