After years working for Marcus Wareing, Alyn Williams has finally got his own name above the door. And it was well worth the wait, says John Lanchester
The cooking has subtlety as well as power. Cauliflower panna cotta is light and fresh and delicate, and comes with crisp wafers of cream cheese, for texture and sharpness, and with slivers of acorn. I’m not sure the acorn added much, but it was fun to try. A single fat scallop comes with a Mersea oyster on top and is dressed with a beautifully light apple and cucumber broth. When people say something “tastes of the sea”, I tend to think, why on Earth would you want something that tastes of the sea, full as it is of diesel fuel, dead people and fish poo. This “tasted of the sea” in the sense of being delicate, faintly salty and appetite-sharpening. In a richer vein, but also very impressive, was a tiny dollop of onion soup with a miniature wafer of Gruyère and finished with the inspired addition of crabmeat. It was everything you want from an onion soup packed into one small flavour-bomb.
Price: Lunch from £24 for three courses, dinner from £45 for three; tasting menus from £55.
Alyn Williams review in full >>
Giles Coren has a lovely meal at Kitchen Joël Antunès, London W1, except for a slow-roast shoulder of lamb that suffers from being fast cooked
The meal I had at Antunès’s other place was built around a shoulder of milk-fed lamb, slow-roasted in a wood oven with garlic, thyme, chickpeas and tomatoes, and served on the bone, weeping its pale juices over sizzling vegetables in a big enamelled ironware pot, filling the dismal space with the roasty odours of early Mediterranean summer. But what arrived this time was a tight little knuckle of hot, new meat. “Are you sure this is shoulder?” I asked. And he was. But it looked to me more like the bottom of the shank, a tight nubbin of gristle and flesh compacted around a long bone. It was tough to cut and dark red inside, blood seeping on to the plate. The young lamb was tight and chewy, still traumatised from a fast, hot cook, and not even rested. I reminded the waiter of what he had described to me, and he went to get a nice lady who said she was sorry that it was too rare for me, to which I gently explained that it wasn’t too rare for me, it just wasn’t a piece of slow-cooked lamb shoulder. But I said it didn’t matter, the starters were lovely, and we’d had so many that I was full anyway.
Price: £50/head without booze.
Kitchen Joël Antunès review in full >>
Even the scary dishes entrance Zoe Williams at Chinese restaurant My Sichuan Restaurant in Oxford
I started with the shredded hot and spicy tripe (£6.80), while G, my companion, had the much less imaginative prawn toast (£6.80), but give her a break, she’s an archaeology student; they don’t like change. The tripe looked frankly scary on the menu, with its wiggly bisected valves. In the flesh it was just wonderful, with a texture a bit like squid, or, as G suggested, the way you wish squid tasted: distinctively firm, even resistant, but not chewy, and – its trump card – like meat rather than faint fish. The “hot and spicy’ sauce had achieved a balance so perfect between the heat and the sesame and the unnumbered other spices that you could easily imagine drinking it from a glass. Take a moment to consider how much I’d have to pay you to drink straight sesame oil from a glass. G’s prawn toasts turned out to be quite a good call, because they were so superior to your regular-issue, fried-bread-with-a-hint-of-the-sea affair. They were like prawn puffs, impossibly light, dusted with sesame seeds, brought back to earth with the thinnest mooring of toast. I don’t know how they did it but it was magical, and the dipping sauce was nice, too.
Price: Two courses: £20.31
My Sichuan review in full >>
Tracey MacLeod says the menu at Fitzbillies could be subtitled “things you really want to eat” and finding a restaurant like it in Cambridge is inspirational
The bread oven is at the heart of the kitchen, and several of the main courses are slow-cooked in its residual heat. Shoulder of kid had been pot-roasted in wine, and came with “baker’s oven potatoes”, cooked, Lyonnaise-style, in a sweet mulch of shallots. At the other end of the ascetic spectrum from my Desperate Dan-scaled hunk of meat was Ireena’s spiced rice and chickpea pilaff. So perfectly did it recall her mother’s home-made kitcheree, it reduced her to a state of Proustian confusion, though a raita-like fresh cheese scented with coriander and chicory and red onion relish took the plateful to another level. The fine balance of delicacy and generosity continued with our puddings, rhubarb tart with a Seville orange and caramel ice-cream, and spiced chocolate cake studded with caramelised almonds, like a cakely incarnation of panforte. The generosity of the portions and relatively low prices reflect the Haywards’ desire to reinstate Fitzbillies at the heart of the community.
Rating: Food ****; Ambience ****; Service ****
Around £30 a head for three courses, before wine and service
Fitzbillies review in full >>
Mayfair’s Burger and Lobster, London W1, is a delicious example of a restaurant that succeeds by keeping things simple, says Marina O’Loughlin
When you’re dealing with ostensible simplicity, details count more than ever. Here, bread – including the fluffy, almost-brioche burger buns – is freshly baked every morning. Chips have the crunch of the double-fried and come ready-salted. Even the colourful side salad that comes as part of the package is more than an afterthought. It’s not a place for a romantic linger – hotness tends to be severely compromised by the wearing of plastic bibs. Or the grimacing necessitated by ramming vast chunks of burger or dripping crustacean into your gob (one reason why nobody sane could ever fancy a MasterChef presenter). It doesn’t take bookings – it’s not that kind of place – but the scrum at the bar is rather fun, or if you’re a control freak or the queue is too long, you can give your number to the greeter, who’ll call when a table becomes free. Despite the leather banquettes and well-stocked bar, it’s not pretending to be anything other than fast food; posh fast food, sure, but fast food nonetheless.
Price: A meal for two with cocktails, water and tip costs about £80.
Burger and Lobster review in full >>