The Kolossi/Attica, 50-60 Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4RR. Small plates, starters £3.80-£9.80, larger dishes £15.80-£21.50, desserts £7.50, wines from £27
Let’s pull back the velvet curtain on this restaurant reviewing lark. Because readers of the Observer and our daily sibling, the Guardian, would be unimpressed if both myself and the saintly Grace Dent reviewed the same restaurants, we quietly co-ordinate what we are going to write about. I let a Guardian colleague know where I’m planning to go and they return the compliment. Mostly these emails contain just the name of a restaurant from one side and a reply with the single word “yours” from the other.
When I emailed to say I was planning to review the Kolossi grill on Rosebery Avenue in London’s Clerkenwell, my famously lugubrious colleague’s response was the word “blimey” followed by a sentence questioning the sanity of everyone involved. I understood why. The Kolossi first opened in 1966, a short stumble from what in 1976 became the Guardian and later the Observer’s home, until 2008. It has a kitsch Palladian frontage, as if it were a Poundland offshoot of the Acropolis. It would be unfair to say it was actively bad. It was part of a generation of mostly Greek Cypriot restaurants scattered across the UK that offered a narrow, reliably robust version of the Greek repertoire.
For the newspapers’ staff, however, the Kolossi’s greatest virtue was simply that it was there. You went there after the pub, guided by instinct. With the searing wit of headline writers everywhere, it was nicknamed the Colossal Bill, perhaps in celebration of its cheapness. Or it was called something else, which was hilariously funny in 1992 and really isn’t now. Back then the walls were panelled in orange-varnished wood. There was plastic ivy dangling from the beamed ceiling and, on occasion, a belly dancer. A paid one, not a subeditor who had got carried away, two bottles of caustic retsina to the bad. Although that might have happened. It could all get very messy. The lovely staff were forgiving.
So no, not an obvious candidate for the once over. But then I learned that the owners these past 34 years had moved on. The lease had been taken over by a businessman named David Lonsdale, who is involved with the nearby Sekforde. He had restored that Georgian pub to its former glory. Now he was doing the same with the Kolossi. I checked out the menu, which used to be long. It is now short and to the point and rather attractive.
So here I am once more, clambering out of a cab at the scene of so many lost nights. The faux Palladian façade is still in place, but it has been repainted from a light olive green to a deep Aegean blue. And hang on. What’s this? The name seems to have changed. It is now called Attica, presumably after the Greek peninsula. Although at the time of writing it’s still called the Kolossi on its website and elsewhere online. We’re modern. We can handle this two names thing. Inside, the wood panelling has been stripped and repainted in shades of cream. The plastic ivy on the ceiling has been replaced by a fairy-lit canopy of twigs. The paper tablecloths have gone. It’s now all solid marble.
But it’s still that room. It’s still that place where I remember putting the world to rights and filling up my glass again mid-anecdote, even though I knew I’d pay for it the next morning, and then filling the glass once more. I can still hear the echoes of when it operated as an unofficial club room for a bunch of people with a shared endeavour. In those spaces the quality of the cooking matters far less than the fact that you have all chosen to sit in it together.
And then the food started to arrive and I knew we were somewhere else entirely. Once upon a time restaurants like the original Kolossi were the only place you’d find tarama and it would be bright pink and grainy and acidic. Now it’s become a part of menus in so many other ambitious restaurants, as a mark of good taste. The bar has been raised. This version, from the short list of dips with which the menu opens, is a match for any of them. It’s whipped and frothy and comes dressed with a shiny puddle of olive oil, lots of chopped dill and a single salty kalamata olive. The accompanying pitta is warm and soft and oil-slicked. There are deep-fried zucchini balls, creamy inside and crisp outside, with a coarse and garlicky tzatziki. There are three fat prawns “saganaki” – baked with olive oil, feta, oregano and the sweetest of cherry tomatoes now bursting from their skins. Hold back some of the pitta for mopping duties.
The choice of larger dishes is concise: three seafood dishes, a few souvlaki and a couple of baked things, including moussaka. A skewer of lamb souvlaki brings salty, charred meat that has clearly been grilled at speed to save it from being ruined, with a rugged salad and a dish of a lemony tahini dressing. A fat fillet of seabass, its skin crisped, slouches louchely on a bed of nutty new potatoes with its own lemon-boosted sauce. Only a Cretan salad, made with hefty chunks of barley rusk, is a little heavy-going. It may well be exactly as it’s meant to be. In which case what it’s meant to be turns out to be a little heavy-going.
This is not cooking that redefines the very notion of Greek food. It’s not revelatory. It’s so much better than that. It’s the essentials done with due care and attention. Service is run by one lovely bearded man from Athens, who doesn’t miss a beat and seems delighted to see his customers enjoying themselves. In the half-open kitchen, there’s one older chap, grilling the meats and dribbling the olive oil in all the right places. Desserts are syrup-drenched pastries with a scoop of mastic ice-cream, with that slightly bouncy, rubbery texture, familiar to anyone who has ever bought a cornet in the hottest of climes. We have a slab of soft, fragrant orange cake and another made with walnuts. The short, entirely Greek wine list, currently boasting just one retsina, helps it all on its way. The Kolossi Grill AKA Attica grill is that rare thing; a venerable restaurant that has found a way to avoid decline and start afresh. I used to know you very well, old friend. I look forward to getting to know you all over again.
Two restaurants, both very much enjoyed by this column, have announced they are closing, and both attribute the decision to rising costs and generally appalling trading conditions. In Worthing, MasterChef winner Kenny Tutt closes Bayside Social today, but will continue to focus on Pitch, his other restaurant in the town. Meanwhile in Ramsbottom, Levanter Fine Foods has now closed. However, its sister restaurant, the Basque-influenced Baratxuri, which recently relocated to Manchester city centre, is very much alive and well (baratxuri.co.uk).
There’s money in pizza. Fulham Shore, the company that operates the Franco Manca chain as well as the Real Greek group, looks set to accept a cash takeover offer from a Japanese restaurant business called Toridoll Holdings. The offer values Fulham Shore at just shy of £95m and would benefit chairman and co-founder David Page to the tune of £11m. Franco Manca, which started with one site in Brixton market in 2008, now has just over 70 outlets across the UK (francomanca.co.uk).
We started with news of closures so let’s finish with news of an opening. Josh and Victoria Overington, who closed their York restaurant Le Cochon Aveugle late last year, have announced the opening in June of Mýse, which is pronounced meez and comes from the Anglo Saxon for “eating at the table”. It’s a restaurant with rooms in the North Yorkshire village of Hovingham and as with so many ambitious new openings at the moment, will offer an evening tasting menu. It will cost £110 a head and will include a duck liver and walnut pie, baked scallop with sea urchin, and goats milk ice-cream with caramelised honey and raspberry juice.
Email Jay at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @jayrayner1
London-based fine-dining critic Andy Hayler is the first person to have been to every three Michelin-starred restaurant in the world.Which newspaper does Jay Rayner write for? ›
Rayner has also written for magazines including GQ, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, the New Statesman and Granta. His first novel, The Marble Kiss, published in 1994, was shortlisted for the Author's Club First Novel Award and his second, Day of Atonement (1998) was shortlisted for the Jewish Quarterly Prize for Fiction.Who is the most feared food critic? ›
1. In light of your blistering review of Le Cinq in Paris, you have been called the “world's most feared” restaurant critic. What do restaurateurs and chefs really have to fear about Jay Rayner?Do food critics get paid to eat? ›
Do food critics pay for their food? Yes, food critics typically pay for their own food. Some publications will reimburse the critic for their meal when the review is submitted. Restaurants do not give free food to critics.Why is Jay Rayner famous? ›
Jay Rayner is an award-winning writer, journalist and broadcaster. He was born in London in 1966 and has written extensively across the British and international media as both feature writer and columnist on everything from crime and politics, to the arts and fashion.How big is Jay Rayner? ›
I'm 6' 3''.How old is Jay Rayner? › What is the most rated food in the world? ›
- Pizza. (c) Seba Tataru / Shutterstock.
- Ramen. (c) LisaBee Imagery / Shutterstock.
- Burger. (c) FoodAndPhoto / Shutterstock.
- Paella. (c) Food Collection / Shutterstock.
- Moussaka. (c) Timolina / Shutterstock.
- Beef Bourguignon. ...
- Pierogi. ...
- Chicken Tikka Massala.
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- Red kidney beans.
Get formal training: While it's not necessary to have a formal education in food, it can help you stand out in the competitive world of food criticism. Consider taking cooking classes, attending culinary school, or getting a degree in journalism or creative writing.
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She also opened up for the first time about how she got into her current relationship which started as two years of commenting on each other's Instagram posts. She said: "With my man, Charles, I think almost every day whenever I look at him: 'How did I pull this off?Who is Leyla Kazim? ›
Leyla Kazim is a British travel and food presenter, broadcaster, host, journalist, speaker, critic and digital creator. Leyla is a critic on BBC One's MasterChef and MasterChef: The Professionals and a presenter on BBC Radio 4's award-winning weekly show The Food Programme, now in its 40th year.How old are Jay Rayners children? ›
Jay is a happily married man, and is married to Pat Gordon-Smith, an editor and jazz singer. Jay is also a jazz musician, and plays the piano. The pair share two sons, 20-year-old Eddie and 16-year-old Daniel.What instrument does Jay Rayner play? ›
Restaurant critic Jay Rayner, undoubtedly the best jazz pianist in Britain of all the judges on MasterChef, leads an ensemble of top flight musicians through a compelling and vivid performance of the very best of song-writing and jazz.Who is Claire Rayners son? ›
They had three children together: writer and food critic Jay Rayner, electronics reviewer, angling and motoring journalist Adam Rayner and events manager Amanda Rayner.Where was Jay Rayner born? ›
He was born in London where he still lives and writes for the Observer, where he is a feature writer and restaurant critic. His varied television work includes appearances as a judge in multiple series of Masterchef, and part of the expert panel on Top Chef Masters for Bravo, a spinoff from the hit TV show Top Chef.Has Jay Rayner got a sister? ›
Jay D Rayner, 1873 - 1912
Jay D Rayner was born in month 1873, at birth place, New York, to David New Year Rayner and Caroline N "Carrie" Raynor (born M). David was born on April 1 1848. Caroline was born on November 1 1846, in New York. Jay had one sister: May Ann or Marian Regan (born Rayner).
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- Ruth Reichl. ...
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- Egon Ronay.
- Jonathan Gold, Los Angeles Times 3.44 Stars.
- Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, 3.2875 Stars.
- Brett Anderson, The Times-Picayune, 3.2825 Stars.
- Michael Bauer, San Francisco Chronicle, 3.16 Stars.
- Corby Kummer, The Atlantic / Boston magazine , 3.12 Stars.
Tom Aikens (born 1970), also named Tom Aitkens, is an English Michelin-starred chef. Aikens briefly worked for chefs in London and Paris restaurants.Who is the Times of London food critic? ›
Tony Turnbull is the food editor of The Times and The Sunday Times, covering everything from news and features to restaurant reviews and recipe writing.How much does a top food critic get paid? ›
- Katie Lee, Co-Host of The Kitchen on Food Network. ...
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- Sam Fromartz, Editor-in-Chief at Food Environment Reporting Net.
1 – Gordon Ramsay @gordongram – 93 million followers
The first one on the list of 100 top food influencers in the world is Gordon Ramsay. Gordon James Ramsay is a British chef, restaurateur, writer, and television personality. His restaurants have been awarded 16 Michelin stars in total.
- #1 Dabiz Muñoz. Spain.
- #2 Rene Redzepi. Denmark.
- #3 Joan Roca. Spain.
- #4 Massimo Bottura. Italy.
- #5 Andoni Luis Aduriz. Spain.
- #6 Bjorn Frantzén. Sweden.
- #7 Disfrutar. Spain.
- #8 Alain Passard. France.
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As host of Great British Menu, Andi Oliver has become a hugely familiar face to millions of television viewers across the country.
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