‘Great restaurants can’t thrive in Hampstead’: Ottolenghi reviewed

Ottolenghi is an Israeli deli co-owned by Yotam Ottolenghi, an Israeli Jew, and Sami Tamimi, a Palestinian Muslim. They met in Baker & Spice in London, where they bonded over the dream of persuading more British people to eat salad. This is an ideal story of co-existence (I have met a group of Israeli Jews and Arabs dieting for peace) and I thought the new Ottolenghi in Hampstead might be picketed by idiots shouting for peace but meaning war. (Martha Gellhorn was right about slogans. Never shout them: even ones you agree with.) It is fine in that I wish I were in the Middle East to eat the original

‘Vital but fraying’: Five Guys reviewed

Five Guys is a burger house from Arlington, Virginia, based on the premise that if you can serve a drink, cut a fringe, or make a hamburger, you will always make money in America. Thirty years and 1,700 restaurants later, it sits on Coventry Street off Piccadilly, soaking up the alcohol of a thousand British stomachs. If central London is a strip-lit bin alley between palaces, this is its restaurant: vital but fraying. I am here because I will not eat at McDonald’s, even when I am sad. I do not think my McDonald’s burger is all from the same cow, and this disturbs me: I can eat one cow happily,

‘Five stars, no notes’: Arlington reviewed

Arlington is named for the 1st Earl of Arlington and his street behind the Ritz Hotel. It used to be Le Caprice, which was opened in 1947 by the Italian Mario Gellati, who would not, by the new rules, get into Britain now, but this is not a column about pain. In 1981 Le Caprice was taken over by Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, and it became the most fashionable restaurant in London. Princess Diana dined here and when Jeffrey Archer was released from prison, he ate here. None ofthese dishes could be improved. Five stars, no notes After an interregnum from Richard Caring, under which Le Caprice closed in 2020

Stop worrying if your child is a picky eater

One parent in our class WhatsApp chat raised a pressing concern: her daughter was coming home every day with a full water bottle. Were other parents faced with the same unsettling discovery? There followed a lengthy discussion of how much water was left in each child’s bottle. Some children, when confronted, testified that they had drunk water during the day and then filled up the bottle at school. Anyone who expects children to enjoy cooked courgette has forgotten what it was like to be a child This was not good enough for the concerned parent. She took the matter to the teacher. ‘I am concerned my daughter is not given

Tanya Gold

‘Can’t help but exude warmth’: Paper Moon at the OWO, reviewed

Paper Moon is the Italian restaurant inside the Old War Office on Whitehall, now a hotel called Raffles London at the OWO. It has nine restaurants and bars, because it is a Disneyland for the 1 per cent in the fraying centre of the British state, which is enraging and hilarious. I reviewed Saison in November and found it as chilly and finessed as the British state pre-crisis. OWO reminds me of a theme park I visited in Georgia, Russia, two decades ago in winter. It was a fine endeavour but pointless, the happy children had fled. You can’t have a grand hotel inside a post-Imperial bin fire. It makes

‘The interiors are happily insane’: Dear Jackie, reviewed

Dear Jackie is the restaurant in the new hotel Broadwick Soho on Broadwick Street in Soho, which is most famous, if you are an infectious diseases nerd, for being the site of the 1854 cholera outbreak and its cure. Dr John Snow isolated it to the street’s water pump, noted local brewers were immune, and proved cholera is not airborne. When children stopped dying, Soho eased into its time of moral rot. This is as spirited an attempt to re­animate the 1970s as I have found beyond musical theatre This is a changeable thing. Drama fled Soho in the 1970s, and Broadwick Soho is an attempt to put it back.

‘As good as you will find in London’: Noble Rot Mayfair, reviewed

Noble Rot, which is named for a sickness that afflicts grapes, a self-aware name for a restaurant in London, is becoming a chain. Don’t get me wrong. The Rots in Lamb’s Conduit Street and Greek Street (which replaced the Gay Hussar that died in sympathy with the intelligent left) are two of the best restaurants we have. My only complaint is that, like the Plastics in Mean Girls, they know how lovely they are and have their own promotional magazine. This food has a loving intensity to it, and it is as good as you will find in London Now they have expanded into Mayfair – but the least horrifying part,

‘You can stare at a cow you will soon eat’: The Newt, Hadspen, reviewed

The Newt is an idealised country house in Somerset which won the World’s Best Boutique Hotel award last year. It is small, beautiful and mind-meltingly expensive, even for the Bruton Triangle and its mooing art galleries. Poor Somerset! It never wanted to be monied enough to have a triangle, but the rich make their own mythology. Since they paint every-thing grey – and now green, I learn at the Newt – they need it. A triangle fills the day. The Newt is for people who think that Babington House is stupid (it is) and though the Newt has its own issues – like the King, its taste is almost too

Sensuous, languorous, soothing and rich: The Taste of Things reviewed

The Taste of Things, which is this year’s French entry for best international film at the Oscars, is a gastro-film but it is not of the ‘Angry Male Chef’ genre. It’s not Boiling Point or The Menu or The Bear. It is not stressful or adrenaline-filled. No one swears or screams ‘Yes, chef!’ Instead, it is sensuous, languorous, soothing and as rich and deep as (I now know) a consommé should be. It will also force you to reappraise vol-au-vents which, in the right, tenderly loving hands, need not be the mean little bullety things that were served here in the seventies. (My mother, I remember, bought them frozen from

‘Is it France? I don’t know’: Hôtel de Crillon, Paris, reviewed

Hôtel de Crillon sits on the Place de la Concorde, a vast square renamed for bloodshed, then the lack of it – it was the Place de la Révolution, with knitting and bouncing heads. Now it is placid, and the Crillon is the most placid thing in it. No one does grand hotels like the French, except perhaps the Swiss, who have nothing better to do. Hôtel de Crillon was one of twin palaces commissioned by Louis XV before the French butchered his grandson and his wife outside them: it looks like Buckingham Palace but prettier and with possible PTSD. It has been a hotel for 115 years and next

‘I pity MPs more than ever’: the Cinnamon Club, reviewed

The Cinnamon Club appears on lists of MPs favourite restaurants: if they can still eat this late into a parliament. It lives in the old Westminster Library on Great Smith Street, a curiously bloodless part of London, and an irresistible metaphor wherever you are. When once you ate knowledge, you now eat flesh, but only if you can afford it. Now there is the Charing Cross Library, which lives next to the Garrick Theatre, and looks curiously oppressed. Perhaps soon it will be a falafel shack and knows it. There is also the Central Reference Library, which could be a KFC, and soon will be. Public spaces are shrinking. They

‘The lasagne is perfect’: Hotel La Calcina, Venice, reviewed

Pensione La Calcina is one of John Ruskin’s houses in Venice. He stayed here in 1877, after completing The Stones of Venice and going mad, and there is a plaque for him on the wall: a stone of his own. It is next to the Swiss consulate on the Zattere, but never mind them. I think the Zattere is for people who have tired of Venice. It has a view to the Giudeccacanal, and the waterbus to the airport: to the exit. You can breathe here. I am staying in San Marco, where I can’t. My son falls from a water gate into a canal, and Italian grandmothers tut at

‘The chocolate soufflé is too good for people’: Pavyllon at the Four Seasons Hotel, reviewed

One in, one out, as Rick says in Casablanca. Le Gavroche, which was the first restaurant in Britain to win three Michelin stars – and this was before Michelin stars indicated poor mental health in gifted chefs – closes in January, which is serious news in the land of London restaurants: a kind of Congress of Vienna with Michel Roux bowing out with the blood of infinite chickens on his knife. I don’t love Le Gavroche the way other critics do but I admire it, even if it means ‘urchin’, which is not witty when you consider its prices. There was a scandal involving staff’s tips going to management –

‘The potential for jeopardy’: Pullman Dining on the Great Western Railway, reviewed

I am lazy and nosy, and so I spend a lot of time on the GWR service from Penzance to London Paddington. Each journey is a play with a unique atmosphere. Some are seething, particularly in summer when an eight-carriage train cannot fit everyone who wants to swim in the ocean but dine in west London that same night. Some are non-committal; some restful. I rage at usual things: luggage in the disabled space, which is almost always occupied by the non-disabled, though they may be fat; videos played without headphones; young people swearing at older people because they grapple with a rage they cannot understand. You can measure the

‘The food is as good as you will find in London’: Saison at Raffles London, reviewed

The Old War Office (bad acronym OWO) on Whitehall is now a Raffles hotel: you can stay in Winston Churchill’s office if that helps you sleep at night. I’m not sure I could, but this is the rational endgame of privatisation: you can sleep inside British history, which is quite close to sleeping through it. War isn’t the jolly marketing riff it was five weeks ago, and the atmosphere in the OWO reflects this. Even so, you need the money of a (fleeing) Tory donor to stay here, and perhaps they won’t notice that pre-war is outside their door in the form of children setting off fireworks and picking fights

Rethinking Chinese food with Fuchsia Dunlop

50 min listen

All cultures care about their cuisine, but the Chinese must have one of the most food-obsessed cultures in the world. It may be because we have the best food… Those listeners of Chinese Whispers who’ve been to China will know exactly what I’m talking about. For those of you who haven’t, you may have come across the classic Chinese takeaway with dishes like sweet and sour pork, or you may like Cantonese dim sum, and some of you may be big fans of Sichuanese cooking. But China has so much more to offer than what has made across into the West’s Chinese restaurants. Thankfully, that’s changing and quite fast. Part

‘They do better spaghetti bolognese in Hampstead for a tenner’: The Lobby at The Peninsula, reviewed

The Peninsula is a new hotel at Hyde Park Corner. It is part of the trend for absurd expense: rooms start at £1,400 a night and express the kind of preening mono-chrome blandness that will be the London of the future. It is a building of great ugliness – I would type the names of planners who allowed it, but on these pages it is incitement to violence. It sits on its six-lane round-about between the Lanesborough hotel and a long peeling red-brick late Victorian terrace that once appeared in a Stephen Poliakoff film about how things always fall apart. This food knows nothing of beauty, delicacy or comfort: it’s

‘Well-priced and skilful’: Masala Zone, reviewed

There are cursed restaurants and cursed women, and this makes them no less interesting. One is Maxim’s in Paris, which knows it – it gaily sells ties in a charnel house decorated for the Masque of the Red Death – and another is the Criterion at Piccadilly Circus, which doesn’t. One day it might meet its destiny, which is to be an Angus Steakhouse (this might lift the curse, the Angus Steakhouse has its own magic) but it isn’t there yet. Restaurant after restaurant favours hope over experience here: Marco Pierre White (Mark White) passed through, spilling acronyms about. I suppose it serves it right for being in the neo-Byzantine

With Ewan Venters

37 min listen

Ewan Venters is the former chief executive of Fortnum & Mason and is now the CEO of Artfarm and Hauser & Wirth. Ewan is launching Artfarm’s first London venture combining food, drink and art which will also mark the revival of the historic Mayfair landmark, The Audley. Presented by Olivia Potts.Produced by Linden Kemkaran.

Back-room boys: Family Meal, by Bryan Washington, reviewed

There are meals galore in Bryan Washington’s latest novel: those that Cam and his lover Kai cook for one another; those that Cam’s childhood friend TJ cooks for his Thai boyfriend’s cousins; those that TJ’s Vietnamese father Jin cooked for his neighbours every weekend; and those that the now bulimic Cam vomits up after Kai’s murder. There is also sex galore. Each of the novel’s three narrators – Cam, Kai and TJ – engages in ‘random hook-ups’, with Cam in particular using them to dull his pain. Working in a Houston gay bar, he takes customers to a back-room every few hours. His partners include ‘delivery guys and lawyers and