A quartet of regionally-inspired destinations kicks off at Emilia, as in Romagna — the auction-house trattoria previously reviewed in glowing terms by Fay Maschler. Giles Coren is similarly effusive, as he enjoys “a really quite unfeasibly delicious dinner”: the room may be “only average in the visuals department”; the kitchen, helmed by Stuart Andrew, formerly of sister restaurant Clipstone, “is on absolute fire”.
Antipasti comprise “curls of delicious (and deliciously bland) mortadella”; a plate of “delicious (and deliciously strong and complex) prosciutto di Parma”; “wonderfully cakey” focaccia with “an oily-crunchy and quite rudely salty crust”; various seasonal vegetables and a “really extraordinary” dish of lardo and watermelon. Things are better still going into the primi: Belted Galloway tonnato is “marvellously ferrous and dense”; white asparagus heads come alongside “ridiculously moreish” fried gnocchi; eel tortellini swim amidst “an angelically clear and slippery brodo”; tagliatelle are garnished with a “sticky and sexy” ragù of “rich meaty rabbit” and roasted garlic. There’s also “stupendous” lobster spaghetti, and “top-quality” puddings — exactly the sort of “serious modern cooking” that co-owners Lander and Morgenthau have made their signature at places like The Quality Chop House and Portland. When Fay Maschler gave her verdict a few weeks ago, there were a couple of caveats attached to the general positivity, but here the praise is unqualified: “what a restaurant”.
Jimi Famurewa meanwhile, is getting all up in the Harts Group’s grill at Coal Drops Yard newcomer Parrillan — an Ibizencan-inspired, extremely hot, cook-it-yourself concept which is, on paper, “fairly brazen” but which offers plenty of “alluring, char-edged fun” all the same.
At least some of the enjoyment comes courtesy of the setting — a “hi-def riot of potted greenery, marble-topped tables, high-grade garden chairs and crowds of attractive people clinking enormous G&Ts”, it’s “like stumbling into the idealised vision of a particularly deep-pocketed Spanish tourist board.” But the food is far from an afterthought: among the ‘para picar’ snacks, there is “brightly vinegary, gazpacho-like salmorejo,” “sweet-salty” presa Iberica de Bellota charcuterie, and a “gently world-rocking” pan con tomate. Among the “idiot-proofed” grill selections, skewers of butifarra sausage are especially “fantastic”; there’s also a “terrific” mojo verde alongside. Really, though, it’s “the vividness of the experience” that really stands out — the “deeply desirable gusts of sizzling prawn fat”, the joy of “giddily flinging bits on” without a second thought. Until, perhaps, the bill arrives — “enough to register” on even a restaurant critic’s “personal Richter scale of surprise expensiveness”. But this is a minor complaint, really: the whole experience here “feels like something only the most determined curmudgeon could resist.” Parrillan may be “audacious,” but it’s also “exceptionally enjoyable.”
There’s even tighter regional specificity on offer at the other end of the Victoria line, where Brixton’s Maremma celebrates an overlooked coastal area of Tuscany. Covering for Fay Maschler, David Sexton takes a look, and finds the region’s beloved vegetable soup, acquacotta, “as simple as it is meant to be” — “perfectly nice and sustaining,” but “hardly a big hit of flavour”. Better, perhaps, is chargrilled octopus with fava bean puree — “definitely yum,” with “just the right mix of textures and tastes.” Among primi, pappardelle with wild boar ragu — “wide ribbons of great eggy pasta with a richly savoury long-simmered sauce, rendered tender without turning dry or stringy” — is another winner, as are the two secondi sampled: an “excellent” and “appealingly different” vegetarian option of torta di ceci, and “a sumptuous piece of wood-baked hake, dressed with really good clams in their shells.” Puddings and cheese maintain the all-round “happy” mood; natural wines no longer deter the once reticent Evening Standard man. All in all: “lucky Brixton.”
“Lucky Mayfair” may not be quite where Jay Rayner’s review of Lucknow 49 ends up, but Dhruv Mittal’s Awadhi-inspired follow up to DUM Biryani still has plenty to recommend it.
For starters, some of the cooking is genuinely “impressive.” Lamb chops are “big, meaty beasts, with a fine char, hot, crisped fat, and the rising scent of newly roasted spices”; chicken thighs with saffron cream are “buttery and rich in all the right places” — “proof, if needed, that thigh wins out over breast every time.” The “true star”, though, is the raan masala, a truly “boisterous bit of overtly butch cookery” — “come here for this.”
But maybe don’t stay for the “sturdy rather than impressive” potato and green chilli patties, or for flatbreads which “make up the numbers rather than thrill.” Rayner also raises concerns about a “dry and meagre” goat biryani — symptomatic, in his eyes, of an occasional sense that things aren’t quite as “generous” here as they might be. A cauliflower dish adorned with silver leaf — in a neighbourhood not short on “pointless gilding” as it is — epitomises Rayner’s frustrations in miniature. Despite its “silliness,” its cooking has actually been “timed perfectly” — under the garnish, it packs real “heft.” The room is “a self-conscious take on the domestic, the sort of relaxed style that costs proper money”; this being Mayfair, dinner for two tops £130. At these prices, it’s the inconsistency that is troubling — the food “needs to be worth it,” and at Lucknow 49, “some of it pretty much is and some of it really isn’t.”