The Independent, 19 June
John Walsh thinks Joel Atunes, the chef at Brasserie Joel Park Plaza Hotel, London SE1, suffers from flavour blindness
I ordered a Lobster Cobb Salad. The Joel’s version features lettuce, bacon and hard-boiled quail egg, with no tomato or avocado but with tiny cubes of processed cheese instead of Roquefort. Perhaps they were afraid Roquefort might overwhelm the lobster. Personally, I sat there wondering what on earth delicately flavoured lobster tails were doing among this hearty all-day-breakfast salad with its mustardy sauce, and glumly trying to digest the frisée lettuce which was like a plateful of vinegary split-ends. Angie tried the “chef’s special” roast vegetable terrine. It looked cute with its layers of red pepper and aubergine, but was fatally soft, greasy and slithery where one hoped for something more clenched. Things weren’t going well, though the charmingly attentive French waiters kept our spirits up. The main courses brought another surprise, in the shape of a Le Creuset saucepan, in which Angie’s Cornish prawns were served. I know restaurants sometimes dish up a flavoursome dish of chicken bits in a minicasserole, from which you transfer the contents to your plate. But to have the battered kitchenware plonked in front of you, for you to peer into and dig your supper out of? (About £90 for two, with wine. Rating: food 2/5, ambience 2/5, service 4/5).
Brasserie Joel – review in full >>
The Observer, 20 June
Jay Rayner says despite having one of the best locations in town, Tom’s Terrace, London WC2, deserves the title of the year’s laziest restaurant concept
And so to the main course options: a burger, a steak, a chicken salad, a salmon salad. It’s a crap wedding buffet in Basildon. What it isn’t is worth prices in the mid to high teens. The best that can be said is that those responsible have occasionally done some nice shopping. They use good caper berries. The salmon – the ubiquitous Loch Duart – isn’t bad. Served with a soft-yolked, hardboiled egg that could be passable. But not when said egg is, like the ham, stone cold, and the leaves underdressed. The chicken salad is an edible cure for insomnia. The one bright spot in an otherwise miserable meal was the lemon curd and blueberry pavlova, assembled from very good meringues. But even then the £8 price tag- roughly the same price as the desserts at Bar Boulud, a restaurant which has things that Tom’s Terrace doesn’t like walls, central heating and ambition – seems grasping. (Meal for two, including wine and service, £100).
Tom’s Terrace – review in full >>
The Sunday Telegraph, 20 June
Zoe Williams describes The Walnut Tree, Landdewi Skirrid, Abergavenny, as “a beautiful place” with a deserved reputation
M had calf’s liver with bacon and cassis sauce (£19), which was tip-top: they’d taken the precaution of dicing the liver bite-size and then cooking it. I don’t know why people don’t always do this. It is as much more delicious than a single slice as a chip is than a baked potato. Wonderful. You’d think cassis would make a very sweet sauce, but no. I had rack of lamb (£21), with a deep-fried patty (if you want to be classy, a cromesqui) made of shoulder. Totally wonderful. The lamb cutlets were pink, very small, exquisitely juicy, discreetly packed with parsley butter. A side order of artichokes, peas and runner beans (£3) was extraordinary. We’d ordered it just as a sop to health; it arrived a symphony of flavour. M loved her trifle (£7); I thought it was too boozy. She said that was the whole point. I had a hazelnut and strawberry meringue (£7), which was fine, but it didn’t blow me away (strawberries are so temperamental – sometimes tasty, other times just watery and attention-seeking). (Three courses: £34.50. Rating: 8.75/10).
The Walnut Tree – review in full >>
The Sunday Times, 20 June
Lucas Hollweg enjoys a good value lunch at The Black Rat, Winchester
My smoked ham-hock terrine with Agen prunes was an exemplary bit of pigginess: meaty, robust and shot through with grain mustard; the prunes, plump but not too sweet, a good contrast to the chunky pork. It came with nothing more than a slice of toast and a pile of leaves. The other starter on the list was buffalo mozzarella with peach and mint. I’m not entirely sure where they found a decent peach in May, but the thought, at least, was right for this scorching day. Our main courses were similarly ungimmicky: classic flavours cooked with care, but without unnecessary adornment. Lucie had a plump chargrilled leg from a farmed rabbit (wild tends to be small and sinewy), the smooth, lean muscle offset by a gentle mustard sauce, a blob of pea purée – thankfully, the only cheffy smear in the meal – spring-green hash, peas, pea shoots and a scattering of roast spring onions. My own main course was a small grilled mackerel, served on the bone, with lentils, tomato, salad leaves and a green herb sauce. (Three courses, 2 glasses of Prosecco, half bottle of Chablis and a glass of Beaujolais, about £80. Rating: food 4/5, atmosphere 3/5).
By Janet Harmer
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