Review of the reviews

Here’s our weekly round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about in the week up to 26th November 2023.


Tributes have poured in from all quarters since it was announced on Thursday that Russell Norman, founder of ground-breaking restaurants from Polpo to Brutto, died aged 57 after a short illness.

David Ellis in The Evening Standard called Russell “a master of details” and said that he “forever changed what it means to dine out in London”.

The Financial Times talked of a “charismatic trendsetter whose restaurants popularised small plates, negronis and no-reservations dining in London”.

Richard Vines in City AM referred to “my friend Russell” who was “one of the most creative and influential U.K. restaurateurs London has known: He could see the big picture and the tiniest detail at the same time”.

Stefan Chomka, editor of Restaurant magazine, said Russell “loved restaurants that were like him: that had lots of charm and great character… He had a real sense of hospitality, as well as joy, intelligence, generosity and an eye for detail. He had a magpie tendency: he would take inspiration from restaurants in Italy, New York and London and bring them all together”.

Former Times critic Marina O’Loughlin said: “Hospitality is in total shock. Russell was one of the rare characters in the industry who could genuinely be said to have changed the way we ate in restaurants… Travel the length of the country and in almost every town, there’s a chic little trattoria or osteria that owes a debt to Norman’s vision.”

Harden’s sends our very best wishes and condolences to Russell’s partner and three children.


The Evening Standard

“Deft, grown-up indulgence.”

Jimi Famurewa reviewed Saltine in Highbury twice before writing this week’s column.

“Did I, after one lunch, have a decent enough sense of the cooking and beguiling thrum in its crisp, partially glass-ceilinged dining room? Almost certainly. Nonetheless, I found I had to have another confirmatory hit.”

Founders Mat Appleton and Jess Blackstone are “also responsible for north London coffee shop mini-empire, Fink’s” and have created a Rochelle Canteen-esque space out of a former chicken shop that has a “knack for delivering deep, soul-cuddling joy”.

“A wonderfully-composed, sneak-attack of a neighbourhood hit.”


Also in The Standard, news that the team behind Perilla are to open a venture in Exmouth Market called Morchella, serving a “modern interpretation of classic Mediterranean dishes”.


The Guardian

Grace Dent left behind a review for us to read while she was battling less-than-gourmet challenges in the Australian jungle; this one was on Claridge’s, “the doyenne of classy, pricey metropolitan hotels”.

“Claridge’s isn’t afraid to change, particularly in its main dining room, where in recent years it’s said hello and goodbye to Simon Rogan’s esoteric food journey at Fera” and (briefly) Daniel Humm’s Davies and Brook.

This particular change was “rather revolutionary, actually: it has been reborn as a straightforward restaurant with a low-key chef and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner”.

The “new restaurant’s identity is spelled out in all the things it doesn’t do: it doesn’t have a pretentious one-word name, it doesn’t make you guess what the dishes actually are by listing only their component ingredients… nor does it keep you there for so long, while forcing you to eat 16 courses, that you feel imprisoned”.

“This is where I’d head if world war broke out.”


The Observer

“Utterly convincing.”

Jay Rayner visited Domo in Sheffield, “a very jolly Sardinian restaurant” that’s “determined to show you a very good time”. It’s occupied “the ground floor of a 19th-century redbrick former mill building” since 2019.

One of the specials is “the Peter, a pizza topped with sliced hotdogs and chips. It has a “totally bladdered on a Friday night” vibe. It sounds like the sort of food item someone might scarf while bellowing “I bloody luv you” at their best mate, with the hefty waft of WKD Blue on their breath”.

Whichever topping you choose, you’ll get “very good pizza. The rugged crust is bubbled and blistered and chewy in all the right ways.”

The “lengthy menu quietly attempts to offer most things to most people” but “fish and seafood is a strength” and the tiramisu (made in-house) is “a very good, cocoa-dusted rectangle of things done right”.


The Times & The Sunday Times

Chitra Ramaswamy reviewed the “West End stalwart” that is Number 16, Glasgow – it’s been “on form since 1999” (“as restaurants fall around it”, Number 16 “just keeps on going”), is “fun, unpretentious” and “serves one of the best plates of cured fish I’ve eaten”.


Giles Coren reviewed Acme Fire Cult in Dalston, which “looks and feels, as all post-hipster, fermenting, pickling, burning and natural wine joints in Dalston do, like a garden centre”. The pork dish he tried was “smooth and dense. Historic.”


The Scotsman

Rosalind Erskine had Sunday lunch at The Drake, “one of Glasgow’s long-standing bar restaurants”.

With a “set price of £24 for two courses and £28 for three, this is a budget-friendly, and cosy way to enjoy the end of the weekend”.

“The Drake is one of those places that’s been part of the furniture of Glasgow’s dining scene for so long that you’re in danger of forgetting it’s there.” (13.5/20)


Also in The Scotsman, Gaby Soutar reviewed the latest branch of Rosa’s Thai, freshly opened in Frederick Street, in the former premises of Cafe Rouge.

Sharing starters, a “huge squelchy pile” of pad Thai, novelty cocktails and Thai churros made “a lunch that made jostling my way into town worth the hassle”. (36/50)


And also…

The Financial Times reviewed Baudry Greene, close to the Opera House in Covent Garden. “Half cocktail joint, half European café, central London needs more places like this one” – “This is how I want to eat now.”


Exciting news in the Bristol Post – “much-loved” Little French is due to open a sister restaurant in Clifton; 1 York Place will open before Christmas.


The Independent gave us a thorough review of high street Christmas sandwiches and drinks, “from a Christmas Market in a sandwich to a panettone latte”.


Manchester Evening News reviewed Fenix, a “jaw-dropping” new “contemporary Greek-Mediterranean” restaurant from the Tattu group.


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