Welcome to the weekly round-up of national restaurant critics by Oliver Thring
Another rave review for Zucca, this time from Andy Lynes. ‘Nearly everything we eat is faultless’: mozzarella with grilled fennel was ‘about as good as the cheese gets’, and a piece of halibut was ‘carefully judged’. Lynes echoes a couple of other critics in finding the pasta dishes ‘underwhelming’, but Zucca has that ‘all-too-rare commodity: genuine hospitality’.
Toby Young reviews a Farm Café near Woodbridge in Suffolk. It’s ‘utilitarian and friendly … and very child-friendly’. Young has a full English: its bacon is ‘not too salty, not too bland’, and his wife ‘wolfs down her Portobello mushroom and Quorn sausages’. Must I go on?
A touching review by AA Gill of The Halibut: ‘a good restaurant, an exceptional one in Buckingham’. It has a fishy bent: a chippie downstairs, a restaurant above, and it’s run by a Nigerian family. Chicken jollof had ‘a vibrant authenticity [and] bright flavours’, and fish and chips were reportedly ‘very, very nice’. Gill comments beautifully on the interplay between food and immigration.
Fay Maschler is at Amico Bio, ‘effectively a lacto-vegetarian restaurant’ in Cloth Fair by the Barbican. Chargrilled asparagus with rocket and grana padano was ‘fine … with no huge margin for error’ and artichoke frittata was ‘a sort of beige envelope’. To me, the whole hobbled veggie enterprise sounds grim.
Time Out visit Pescheria Mattiucci: ‘if you’re a fan of good southern Italian food, it’s a find’. The place sells fresh fish to take home, and some hot, small dishes like prawns stuffed with ricotta (bleurgh), and pumpkin purée with artichoke (yum). ‘The dishes are well done’ and, astonishingly, ‘taste even better when enjoyed with a glass or two of Italian wine’.
Well, blow me. A goodish review for Pétrus by Tracey Macleod, who reckons Ramsay’s much-panned latest is the ‘ideal venue for a special occasion’. Like everyone else, she admires the ‘the shellac-haired smoothie’ Jean-Philippe Susilovic, maitre d’. ‘The food didn’t set our pulses racing’, though: langoustine with watercress soup might have been ‘stunningly visual’ but duck with beetroot was merely ‘fine’. They had a good time thanks to ‘the staff, the Patagonian Malbec and … the company’.
Jay Rayner: the Bristol Lido’s menu is a ‘corker’. ‘Flavours are big’: there’s long-braised venison ravioli, and pumpkin with goat’s cheese was a ‘very simple, very effective plateful’. Lamb shoulder with bulgur wheat was ‘paunchy [and] self-assured’: ‘the quality of the food here … is unexpected’.
Pascal Wyse is at Forbury’s in Reading, in a building that apparently used to be a conference venue. Wood pigeon salad was ‘beaten back by the pungency’ of its blackberry and pomegranate accompaniments, and coconut crème brûlée with passion fruit ‘felt a bit bipolar’, lacking ‘the right balance between sweet and sour’.
Giles Coren is at Fig, ‘a tiny local restaurant in Islington’ serving ‘molecular gastronomy gone cosy and local’. It sounds extraordinary, with dishes like ‘veal sweetbread and milk skin’ or ‘black bream with cabbage in textures’. Of roast wood pigeon with smoked foie gras, wild garlic and morels: ‘the accoutrements were wild and crazy and fun, but the flesh was grim’. Cheeses came with ‘quince aioli’ – how is this place not better-known?
And it’s not technically a restaurant review, but for this week’s blog post I’d like to point you towards the fantastic Spice Spoon, a stellar recentish arrival on the blogging scene. Shayma’s latest post is a recipe for a gorgeous-looking ‘Kati Roll Kolkata Style’, but as ever her piece weaves itself round history, culture, travel and family. It’s a joy to read.