The Guardian, 15 May
Matthew Norman suggests the Crab House Café in Wyke Regis, Dorset, is as artless and engaging a restaurant as you will find
“Blimey, these oysters are wonderful,” I enthused of my startlingly meaty “country-style” Portland Royals with bacon and cream. “How can they possibly taste so blisteringly fresh?” My wife and a pubescent boy of our acquaintance pointed through the window in world-weary unison. “Yes?” I inquired. “And?” “And,” said one of them, “that there is the oyster farm owned by the restaurant.” If eating food that travelled 30 feet from birth to table added an almost visceral layer of pleasure, the boy’s scallops in a delicate, garlicky sauce were also “incredibly sweet and fresh”. Offered a lavish choice of aquatic life forms, meanwhile, my wife couldn’t resist the handmade pork pie with piccalilli. “Delicious. Not enough jelly, but great flavour.” She was less thrilled with her main course, herrings with roasted garlic and rosemary being overcooked to a spongy, watery finish. But the boy’s mussels in a lemon and thyme sauce were as plump and juicy as the oysters, and my whole lemon sole was a princely fish perfectly cooked and enlivened by a Mediterranean medley of peppers and other veg. Three courses, drinks and service, £40-50 a head.
The Daily Telegraph, 15 May
Jasper Gerard enjoys the highest-quality cooking at the Wild Garlic in Beaminster, Dorset, owned by former MasterChef winner Mat Follas
I order a starter of spelt and nettle risotto with confit rabbit, and I’m tempted to do bunny hops of joy. Spelt grain makes this sturdier than conventional risotto, while pine nuts add crunchiness and nettle pesto round the edge lends intrigue. It’s perfectly seasoned, but it’s the strong flavour of rabbit that wows. Faultless. Diana tries crab pâté with cucumber and pickled dill, stunningly presented with nasturtiums and resting on chicory leaves which somehow escape bitterness and are instead young and juicy. Unusually an amuse bouche arrives after the first course by which time our mouths are already laughing merrily. And rather than some frothy nonsense this is proper grub: smoked venison, so tender I long for it all over again. And so to brill, arriving not so much on a plate as a giant flying saucer. There are no tricks, just consummate cooking of fine fresh fish, lifted powerfully by lemon and caper butter. Fillet of beef with – another seasonal touch – asparagus is another simple perfectly cooked winner, the only twist coming in wonderfully smoked mash. (Dinner for two, £84.50. Rating: 8/10)
The Independent, 15 May
Tracey MacLeod describes both the decor and menu at Baumann’s Brasserie, Coggeshall, Essex, as “characterful”
The hunk of antelope steak, dense and chewy in texture, was reminiscent of venison, but overwhelmed by a strident goats’ cheese and bacon sauce; herbed spaetzle, nubby little dumplings, completed this pointless Cook’s Tour of a dish. The simpler main courses were better, though skimpily sauced; pan-fried brill with sautéd mushrooms and spring greens, and a perfectly cooked slab of braised pork belly, served with slices of herbed dumpling. The kitchen’s predisposition towards novelty went into overdrive for the puddings. Warm marmalade bread and butter pudding came with a shot of chocolate martini, whose Kahlua-like sweetness didn’t harmonise naturally with the tang of the marmalade. More successful was the marriage of chocolate mousse with warm baby doughnuts dusted in sugar and cinnamon. “I love everything about this pudding,” announced David, who, at eight, was very much in its target market. (Around £35 for three courses, before wine and service. Rating: food 3/5, ambience 3/5, service 4/5).
The Observer, 16 May
Jay Rayner says Inamo in London W1 is fun, but is irked by the high prices and the occasional ill-conceived dish
You run your finger around a laptop-like mouse pad, which brings up a cursor and a bunch of icons. Click on them and pictures of menu items are projected on to the table in front of you. You order your food. It arrives. What larks. With all these bells and whistles, most of the food is about as good as it needs to be. It succeeds best with the smaller dishes and when it sticks to the Japanese end of the Asian repertoire, the one exception being long-braised honey-roasted spare ribs in XO sauce, which yielded up their meat quicker than a male stripper at an Essex hen night. We liked slices of seared wild boar rolled around asparagus and enoki mushrooms. Nigiri sushi of unagi (Japanese eel) were in no way a disgrace, the fish still a little warm, as it should be. Salad of sea bass sashimi was fine and the ponzu and wasabi dressing on single oysters had an eye-widening freshness. (Meal for two, with wine and service, £50-£80)