Zoe Williams is at Les Deux Salons: never let it be said that the London critics have a mob mentality. ‘Some (though not all) of the dishes are so good, in such a French way it’s almost impossible to believe you’re not in Paris … It’s more than a restaurant; it’s a minibreak.’
‘There is much to commend it’, says Matthew Norman of Saffron Gold: ‘this is an Aladdin’s cave of glitz and ambition’. A lamb kebab with eggs tasted ‘like a mildly curried scotch egg’ and crab roti was ‘lovely, gentle, comforting’. ‘A keema nan, heavy and undercooked, was the one howler.’
Kate Spicer visits Nando’s: ‘I struggled to find real chicken flavour in three visits.’ (Three!) Corn on the cob was ‘stale’, ratatouille an ‘acidic shocker’. ‘Is this food delicious? No, it isn’t. But plenty think it is.’
John Lanchester finds himself among the ‘Soho wallies’ at Polpetto. ‘I liked the food.’ Chilli and garlic prawns were ‘gloopy’, pigeon saltimbocca ‘rough’ – but ‘the value is so good, you don’t mind.’
Jay Rayner finds the ‘Gallic heft’ of Brasserie Toulouse Lautrec ‘reassuring’. It’s the grub ‘you expect from a French restaurant in Kennington run by a man in a shoestring tie called Hervé’. Quail stuffed with black pudding was OK, côte de boeuf ‘very good’. Puddings are ‘not a strong point’.
Amol Rajan glamorously savours the all-you-can-eat £3.95 buffet at Indian Veg. ‘The curries lack variation. They are not especially hot, are reliable rather than delicious, and have an intense, well-seasoned flavour.’ And, he rightly points out, the place is compelled to over-use paneer.
‘Everything about Hawksmoor [Seven Dials] has been beautifully done’, gushes Tracey MacLeod. A sirloin ‘lived up to [the] billing’ of being the best steak in London, while the signature kimchi burger was ‘a collision of colourful, brash flavours that shouldn’t have worked together but absolutely did’.
Marina O’Loughlin likes the cutely punctuated Dumplings’ Legend, a place ‘better than the Chinatown norm’. This was a ‘Bunterish lunch’ for less than 20 quid: Singapore noodles were ‘nicely done’, Cantonese shrimp dumplings ‘like delicate ravioli’. ‘Thumbs up.’
Fay Maschler appreciates the ‘neutered, purse-lipped, Nordic approach’ of North Road. Scallops with apple, cress and hazelnuts were ‘subtle and lovely’, and the recipient of ox cheek with pear, jerusalem artichoke and endive remarked, ‘What there was, was delicious’. Portions are small but ‘there is a lot to be said’ for this sort of food.
Giles Coren has been to LDS. Like everyone else, he loved it. Now can we please talk about somewhere else?