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Reviews: Kathryn Flett finds Tommy Heaney is serving up ‘something memorable', while Jay Rayner celebrates ‘terrific pie' at the Windmill

13 October 2020
Reviews: Kathryn Flett finds Tommy Heaney is serving up ‘something memorable', while Jay Rayner celebrates ‘terrific pie' at the Windmill

Kathryn Flett of The Telegraph finds Tommy Heaney is serving up ‘something memorable' at Heaney's, his Cardiff restaurant

Our first course was a bowlful of broth with a side of super-thin slivers of duck – a quackscuttio, if you will. "There's no right or wrong way to eat this," said our waiter, which was good to know, especially as we'd not been given any cutlery.

Dumping the duck in the broth and downing in one seemed to be the sensible approach, and it was good and meaty. As was its follow-up, the oxtail and anchovy chunklets: all gone ­without hitting the sides.

A sea trout and baked potato course arrived as a wafer-thin tartlet topped with a froth of, conceivably, spume. It was light and "er, interesting," said my son, "but not for me".

We were collectively all over the next course, however – slices of cured monkfish nestled at the bottom of a bowl of yet more clear broth, with a dollop of wasabi and (we agreed) entirely unnecessary artisanal tomato.

There was, happily, rare family consensus on the little slab of pinkly barbecued lamb with blueberry, yeast cauliflower and blob of black garlic: "perfect". Dessert was a mini-Magnum style chocolate, coffee miso and hazelnut ice-cream, followed by excellent "treats" in the form of beetroot and goats' cheese macarons.

Confident, packed with flavours both comfortingly predictable and pleasingly unexpected, executed with style and delivered with a light professional touch (the minimum of "let me explain…") plus, intriguingly, cutlery only provided for the lamb course, even if every plate didn't wow all of us (and how likely was that?) it's fair to say that Heaneys delivered something memorable.

Price: £150 for lunch for two. Score: 4/5

Heaney's
Heaney's

The Observer's Jay Rayner celebrates ‘terrific pie' at the Windmill pub in London's Mayfair

There are certain food items that make everything better. A well-made pie is one of them. The Windmill, a pub in London's Mayfair, now serves very well-made pies.

The Windmill, in a narrow lane just off Regent Street in London, is a 19th-century pub that has recently been colonised. It has been taken over by the team who run the Guinea Grill, four minutes' walk away on Bruton Place.

Downstairs is the pub bar with its own menu of devilled kidneys on toast, sausage rolls and fish fingers. The upstairs dining room, with its green-blue walls and thick tablecloths, has a fancier menu, but you can order from both.

Up here it starts with snacks for between £2.25 and £4.50: bouncy roasted chicken hearts with a sticky glaze on wooden skewers; straws of still-warm baked pastry brushed with a meaty reduction with a hilariously rich bone marrow mayo to help them along; a bowl of white crab meat with diced egg and toasted brioche; squares of cured lamb topped with a silvery curl of vinegared anchovy.

From the menu downstairs we have pert devilled kidneys served in a kicking sauce with a slow-release cayenne punch that soaks magnificently into the toast; from the menu upstairs comes a warm fillet of soused mackerel with a dollop of sour cream, and discs of crunchy carrot, all of it with a pickle that remains the right side of teeth-baring.

And then that pie, with a pastry shell that cracks to reveal that it has been properly filled with solid lumps of braised beef and kidney in a gravy as deep as any James Joyce novel. I have the beef fore rib, which arrives carnation-bloom pink and neatly sliced, with a brioche crumb and more of that bone marrow mayo. It's a grand piece of meat treated with care.

If you feel comfortable with a night out, show the Windmill some love. You'll be rewarded with terrific pie.

Price: snacks and starters, £2.25-£9; mains, £12-£24 (all pies, £14); desserts £6-£9.50; wines from £22.50

The Windmill
The Windmill

Jimi Famurewa of the London Evening Standard finds plate-licking childish abandon in a surprising environment at the Dairy Bermondsey in London

The food on the concise menu here is hard to pin down. One way to understand it is through the filter of chef Robin Gill's Irish instinct to satisfy, his youthful wanderings around South East Asia, Italy and Scandinavia, and a kind of Instagram age kitchen-sink maximalism. So a hidden dome of ricotta and toasted seeds came elegantly garnished with slender, green coins of courgette, both raw and roasted in something with the salty thwack of soy. Broad bean purée with grilled radicchio was lifted by vigorous seasoning and an electric layer of pickled onions. And ‘Willie's mackerel' – a smoky, bubbled and blackened piece of fish adrift in a pond of dashi broth – kept up the theme of punch and prettiness.

Not everything clicked. Pulled, wood-roasted lamb with sweetcorn polenta felt a little wet and characterless; fennel-rammed house pickles gave me unwelcome sambuca flashbacks; and potatoes in ‘sexy fat' were decidedly softcore. But as an unbeatable counterpoint, I give you the chocolate salted caramel pudding: a spurting choux bun set in biscuity chocolate soil that hit the precise sweet spot between sophisticated pâtisserie and plate-licking childish abandon.

Price: £70.50

The Dairy Bermondsey
The Dairy Bermondsey

The Times' Giles Coren discovers Shu La La in Islington, London, is the stuff dreams are made of

Tuesdays, being the day that Shu La La is closed, have become my least favourite day of the week.

I went mostly with the barbecued stuff and was amply rewarded for that decision. The standout for me were the lamb's kidneys (£3.50), which were still well-wrapped in some of their visceral fat when they hit the grill, so were moist and rich and full of deep flavour (lean, entirely fatless kidneys can taste a little pissy, even to the ardent offal lover). Offsetting the sweet, juicy meat was the dry aromatic heat of copious chilli and cumin. Perfect with an ice-cold beer.

But then thinly sliced pork belly (£8.80) was nearly as good: sleek and tender and tangy, almost lamb-like, ruched up on the skewer, dripping with juice and spice and served with a stack of round lettuce leaves (not Iceberg, thank god) to wrap them in. And also half a pig's foot (£5.50) which had, obviously, been boiled for a long time first, to soften, and then given the same treatment.

After the charcoal-grilled dishes, I had a delicious bowl of fish-fragrant aubergine (£8.80) and a tureen of Old Town Beijing Won Ton soup ( £8.50), the chef himself being from Beijing. It wasn't bad at all, though the dumplings were bought in, as they so often are. Even in Beijing.

All night I dreamt of the dishes I had missed and the next day I went back.

Score: cooking: 8/10; art: 9/10; value: 7/10; overall: 8/10

It's not just the views that leave The Daily Mail's Ted Thornhill giddy at the Hotel Café Royal in London's Piccadilly

I tried to maintain an air of nonchalance, but within seconds, as my butler at London's Hotel Café Royal on Regent Street guided me through my ‘Regent' suite, I was as giddy as a schoolboy and emitting decidedly un-nonchalant gasps and sighs.

It wasn't just the views and hushed ambience that impressed, though. Everything did. The dimensions were jaw-dropping. The suite, one of 49 in the 160-bedroom hotel, covers 90 square metres (968 square feet), which is around the size of my two-bedroom south London flat.

I was also bowled over by the beautiful wooden floor, stunning Carrara marble bathroom with Diptyque toiletries, twin sinks and rain shower (though this needed a bit of descaler – powerful but slightly wonky jets of water), gigantic Bang & Olufsen TVs in the living room and bedroom and last, but not least, a bed so wide that crawling from side to the other felt like crossing time zones.

In the evening my partner and I descended to Hotel Café Royal's ‘commitment to culinary excellence' – Cakes & Bubbles, a Regent Street-facing concept by the ‘World's Best Pastry Chef', Albert Adrià, he of three-Michelin-starred El Bulli fame.

We discovered that it was indeed culinarily excellent.

Afterwards, we repaired to the uber-cool Green Bar for a brace of beautiful Bordeaux reds, which we quaffed to the accompaniment of some very accomplished live jazz from a piano/sax duo.

Hotel Café Royal
Hotel Café Royal

The Guardian's Grace Dent finds lovely things chucked at very good bread at Big Jo in Hornsey, north London

**It's not just a pizza parlour. It's a pizza-selling, croissant-flogging all-day bakery with its own flour mill and grain silo, plus your own personal Jesus on every table. Every table – and the loo – is lit ethereally by a kitsch prayer candle featuring Christ's beatific face.

It's a new venture by David Gingell and Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim, who already run Westerns Laundry in Highbury and Primeur and Jolene in Stoke Newington, and this time they're serving deep-fried calzone that's heaving with melted cheese, comes with a blisteringly hot chilli dipping sauce and is literally an extra pant size on a plate.

I'm not sure that I'd describe what Big Jo is doing with bread and toppings strictly as pizza, however. Servings are smaller, richer and much more bespoke and luxurious than you'd find at PizzaExpress, say. Around £7, for example, will get you a slice of, cough, regeneratively farmed local grain, economy-supporting, sustainable food-system-enhancing sourdough topped with top-notch organic smoked schiena (AKA back fat), new potato and fresh rosemary.

This slice will be oily, buttery, herby and satisfying. It is neither a crisp, meagre pizza or a Chicago Town pizza or that Italian pizza that's swept into trendy London in recent years. This is a Gingell spin on pizza, where the loveliest things imaginable are chucked at very good bread.

Price: about £25 a head, plus drinks and service

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