Gary Usher’s Kala in Manchester “serves the kind of food people like to eat”, writes Jay Rayner in the Observer
A ridged and rugged leg of crisp-skinned duck confit… comes with a mound of a neon orange sweet potato purée. It is soft and velvety. It is a root vegetable transformed into an act of kindness and care. There is a meaty puddle of what I should probably call gravy, this being Manchester, and leaves of baby endive, each one filled with a pokey vinaigrette and sprinkled with chopped chives. It’s a plateful which both makes sense, and is achingly pretty.
The nearest to modishness are torched meaty fillets of plaice from the main menu. They come with samphire, brisk cubes of pickled cucumber, deep-fried vinegared anchovies and a chervil sauce, the deep green of a field in winter. Because a positive review is always made by the one, pointed niggle, I shall mention the heavy hand with the salt on the fish, which almost overwhelmed it. I know, Gary, I know; bloody restaurant critics. But take comfort from my deep, intense love for a side dish of charred little gem, sprinkled with deep-fried capers, alongside a big spoonful of a truffled egg yolk emulsion and a serious grating of salty Berkswell cheese across the top. Oh, and the sizeable chips which are really just superb roasties, cut to look like something else.
Price: starters £5.50-£14, mains £16-£30, desserts £6-£10, three courses at lunch £23, wines from £22
The Telegraph’s William Sitwell discovers “DIY heaven” in the bouillabaisse at Anthony Demetre’s Wild Honey St James in London
I had seen the words ‘cacio e pepe’ so went for that. The peppery concept flavoured the most extraordinarily, bravely almost uncooked but just perfect macaroni with a few bits of crisp and boneless chicken wing. This was a moreish dream. I could have eaten six times the amount on the plate.
But thank God for the chef’s restraint. Because next up was bouillabaisse. I didn’t realise it was possible to make fish soup this rich. It came in pieces: a frying pan with fish, leeks and potato, a plate of large croutons, a dish of rouille, and a burning-hot dish of soup.
This was DIY heaven. I spooned bits from each pan or plate into my bowl; the sum of the parts just gloriously epic. It was like my own private buffet. I kept going back for more bits and it seemed to go on for ever. The stock must have been heroic and no fish could ever imagine that they could be transformed by man into this feast.
Rating: 4/5. Price: Dinner for two: £85 without drinks, service or dessert
Flor in London’s Borough is “a class act from start to end. Sensibly priced too”, according to the Mail on Sunday’s Tom Parker Bowles
Anchovies, deep brown and deeply flavoured, on toast, draped with an alabaster handkerchief of lardo. Phroahh. Surf, turf, crunch, punch, munch. An inspired pairing, richly seductive, with the merest wink of filth. Rather more classic, but no less wonderful, is a tomato tart, the pastry as delicate as it is brittle, the tomatoes half dried, for added intensity, all sitting on a silken aubergine mess. It’s finished with cool crumbles of fresh feta. Summer loving in a crust. There’s true art in this kitchen.
Fluffy, blistered flatbread is topped with juicy clams, garlic butter, a blizzard of cow’s cheese and a big slug of umami. While lamb ribs see soft nuggets of serious meat nestled among a charred mass of exceptional fat. We gnaw the bone clean. Even pudding, a sort of Mr Whippy made from ricotta, is smooth and exquisitely salty, with a sharp sorrel granita and a pool of verdantly hued but lightly flavoured fig leaf oil. Oh, and a hunk of beautifully kept Comte too. I drink a glass of Augalevada Eiravedra, a Biodynamic Galician white that is clean, brisk and ever so slightly saline.
Rating: 4/5. About £30 per head
The Guardian’s Grace Dent checks out Arcade Food Theatre near Tottenham Court Road in London, where she discovers it’s £14 for a ham sandwich
The concept, as far as I see it – and it’s heavily open for debate – is that one orders food at the individual counters, and they make it from scratch, in anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes. There is seating near the counters. No signage anywhere informs the newbie where or how one should sit, pay, or collect food. There is nothing as gauche or functional as a buzzer to inform you the food is ready. There are no drinks available at many of the food stands. One is required to queue again at the cocktail bar area, where a small glass of Coca-Cola is £2.50 plus an immediate hustle for a tip.
On my second jaunt to Arcade Food Theatre, I whipped through around £33 in about half an hour. London’s best almond croissant, from Pophams, costs £3.80 and a latte another £3. At Oklava, I chose a freshly baked, cheese and butter, Black Sea pide, which makes Turkish people sigh when it is compared to pizza, but alas, it’s hard to avoid. At about six inches, with egg yolk, black garlic and za’atar, it was delightful, definitely decadent and punchily priced at £12. Returning to Tou, I chose the tofu sando: chopped boiled egg laced with wasabi mayonnaise, spring onion and fresh coriander with two pockets of breaded, deep-fried silken tofu between brioche-like Japanese milk bread, for £10.50. This feisty blend is clearly someone, somewhere’s idea of a delicious sandwich, and I thoroughly respect that.
Rating: food: 5/10; service: 0/10; ambience: 0/10
Jimi Famurewa sums up Nandine in London’s Camberwell as “fun, culturally meaningful and generous” in the Evening Standard
First came a trio of vibrant introductory dips — cooling tzatziki with the blunt edge of bitter capers; lime hummus beneath oiled sumac and sesame seeds; a pomegranate-laced red pepper ‘muhammara’ bursting with acidic sweetness. These offered a rollicking primer on the ways Kurdish food pulls from neighbouring regions (Iran, Turkey, Syria) while honouring its own traditions of sour, multilayered flavour.
A prolonged blur of torn bread hunks, messy forkfuls and indecent groans of pleasure followed. Tapsi was a puck of roasted aubergine, golden shreds of onion and tomato and pepper stew, dissolving into a glorious, piquant mush over plump rice. Flame-crackled chicken wings were most notable for a wholly outrageous yogurt dip, topped with pink pickled vegetables, while the kifta dish was rare-cooked beef stuffed with sultanas and almonds, served in a herbed, yogurt-rich chickpea broth. And then there were the baharat fries; a hot, hectic nest of potato, chilli spice, tamarind glaze, yogurt, mint and pomegranate that it is physically impossible to not eat by the fistful. Storming.
Rating: ambience: 5/5; food: 4/5. Price: £63 for two
Sophy Roberts of the Financial Times describes the Newt near Bruton, Somerset as “a pastoral idyll” in which to escape from the current political crisis
My husband and I ate for two hours, the food arriving on mottled grey stone plates in explosions of colour like a painter’s palette: a whole roasted cumin-scented cauliflower steeped in saffron yellow (£12.50); blue-red beetroot served with dollops of buffalo milk curds (£7); and a large bowl of glistening greens with pickled mushrooms, their woodiness cut through with the tang of fresh tarragon (£3.50). This was colour plucked straight from the garden: yellow marigolds, orange nasturtiums, blood-red radishes, young pink radicchio.
It wasn’t just the refreshing, gently modern interiors I liked — classic Georgian tones shot through with contemporary acid greens, oversized Tom Dixon chandeliers, and bar chairs by Sebastian Herkner for Ames — but the sense of abundance tumbling over the breakfast buffet table like a modern take on a Dutch Old Master. The overnight-soaked oats, the sourdoughs, the buffalo milk custard tarts and potted eggs were so delicious that it was easy to forgive any hiccups in the easy-going service. At every turn, it felt good to be here, that in spite of all the misery around our current political crisis, England remains a beautiful, ever-renewing landscape.
Price: Rooms cost from £320 a night, including breakfast
Ellie Ross of the Times enjoys wonderful food in the newly refurbished Stargazy Inn in Port Isaac Inn, Cornwall, but finds the bedrooms to be on the small side
With superb sea views towards Tintagel, the former Bay Hotel has been revamped and has the Great British Menu’s Andrew Sheridan at the helm in the kitchen. The result is a spruced-up Victorian villa with nine cosy rooms and a restaurant serving excellent food to rival Nathan Outlaw’s establishment opposite. The dining room features a lovely bay window and has a chic, vintage feel. The outdoor terrace is ideal for a sundowner after exploring Port Isaac harbour, at the bottom of the hill.
Sheridan has raised the game with his creative menu, which uses local ingredients with a seafood slant. Choose from à la carte (mains from £17) or the tasting menus, with five or seven courses (£55/£80). Chicken skin topped with parfait and elderflower jelly was a highlight. At breakfast, small plates of salmon sashimi, fruit and yoghurt are brought to your table before a cooked option.
Price: B&B doubles cost from £125 a night. Rating: 8.5/10