Not to Eggslut-shame, but with a name like that it was always going to be an uphill battle for the boisterous egg-in-a-bap-slinger of Los Angeles to, ahem, crack the slightly more reserved British market. While the name packs in more than its fair share of eyerolls, Jimi Famurewa’s lukewarm review is notable because it’s not just the branding that sticks in his throat: it’s the food itself.
Things start promisingly enough: the signature dish, a coddled egg topped with mashed potato and chives, served with toasted baguette, and called the Slut — FFS — actually benefits from “a beige trio of crunching savoury contrasts.” It may be “properly strange,” but it’s also “properly good.”
Then things fall apart. A “sad tray” of rocket and manchego salad functions as effective “stealth propaganda from the anti-salad league”; the sheer egginess of everything else on offer eventually comes across as “a bit much.” The Fairfax — a “slurried, warm cargo” of “what feels like about eight” scrambled eggs and cheese in “textureless” brioche — is “a literal study in over-egging”, evidence of a concept “founded on a fundamental miscalculation around proportion and human willingness to eat lots of the same thing”. Eggs seem to pervade the very air, with a “thick, sulphurous fug” emanating from the shopfront “like a Nineties joke shop stink bomb”; the general effect is simply “a bit gross.” With its “wearisome, rib-nudging name,” Eggslut wants to be thought of as “playful” or “brash”; sadly, in Famurewa’s eyes, it’s “more than a little off-putting.”
From Eggslut, to somewhere serving a lot of aubergine that somehow resisted the temptation to call itself Eggplantslut.
Grace Dent finds khoresht bademjan, baba ganoush, and much more besides at newly opened Iranian restaurant Nutshell in Covent Garden, and even if she does wonder whether opening somewhere this “classy” and “innovative” slap-bang in the middle of the West End scans as “very, very clever” or actively “insane,” she contends that this newcomer is “definitely worth a gander.”
The room is “elegant, brightly lit and colourful”; chef Jeremy Borrow’s cooking is much the same. From a short menu, bazaar bread is an early “high point,” a perfect companion to a “prettily bejewelled” mast-o khiar and “sublime,” “unmissable” smoky aubergine mezze with feta. Standards drop slightly across the main courses — lamb chops are “quite muted flavourwise”; baby cauliflower atop a “nutty puddle” isn’t “anything really to shout about” — but come storming back with the puddings, which are a real “joy,” in particular a “very elegant” version of zulbia: “a sort of doughnutty, churros-like, carbohydrate-heavy safe space.” Add in “sweet and bright” service and some “heartstoppingly good, thigh-expandingly evil” fig cream and there’s plenty to bring the Guardian critic back: however underwhelming the occasional dish might be, there’s still “a lot to love in here.”
The cuisines may be thousands of miles apart, but Fay Maschler discovers a similar warmth of welcome at the next destination on this week’s tour: Clifford’s, a basement and wine bar just off Chancery Lane.
Front of house Myles Davis — “no trumpet, different spelling” — generates a considerable “spirit of conviviality” in already “mellow” surrounds; the cooking is just as enjoyably unfussy, capitalising as it does on “not too much intervention into well-sourced ingredients.”
Crispy egg with cod’s roe may be a “cheffy in-joke” nod to Midsummer House chef patron Daniel Clifford’s version of the preparation, but it undeniably works, as the “the crunchy coating and molten centre works its magic on pungent fish roe softly let down by mashed potato.” Less successful, perhaps, are violet artichokes with red onion and hazelnut — “an assembly that lacks any lusciousness” — and a version of the classic lamb breast St Menehoud that “should not have been fried for so long.”
Fortunately, redemption arrives with the mains and the puddings: roast and confit chicken with new potatoes is “a clever conceit”; duck fat potato cake makes for a “proud accompaniment” to sole and samphire; croissant bread and butter pudding is “outrageously rich.” Not all of the pleasures at Clifford’s are quite so extra, but even in its more “sensible” and “efficient” moments, it doesn’t lose sight of what really matters from a restaurant-going experience. From the initial welcome to the “guess the mystery wine” game that guests can play in the hope of winning a free glass, this is first and foremost somewhere Londoners can come to “have fun.”
Wun’s Tea Room
Jay Rayner wraps things up this week with another low-key, high-enjoyment central London offering — Wun’s Tea Room, the newest restaurant from bao specialists Bun House.
There’s less of a focus on dough this time round, instead emphasising “boisterous” Cantonese fare matched by a “frankly baffling” cocktail list. On the “relatively short” paper menu, it’s fair to say that “not everything delights”: skewers — especially some “weirdly unfatty” lamb belly ones — “feel like an afterthought and are not particularly good value”; prawn spring rolls are “a little greasy”; brussels sprouts in a “bland” sauce “are a reminder of the days when this vegetable was a cruel and unusual punishment meted out to kids.”
Counterbalancing this are highlights including “heavily sauced” barbecue beef spare ribs, “all dark sweet soy stickiness, with huge bone-nibblage potential”; sour plum braised duck, “a big steaming bowl of soft meat and crumbling potatoes in a savoury gravy that you’ll want to dab behind your ears”; and a new lardo fried rice contender for the capital, “served in a claypot so hot the rice is starting to crisp at the bottom.” And then there is the sugar skin Iberico pork char siu — “so well rested, it seems to dissolve obligingly on the tongue, leaving just a gust of savoury piggyness and sweet shop sugar.” Dinner here may be a “mixed experience,” but “the highs are very high indeed.”