Matthew Norman feels his age at trendy Refuel in London’s Soho
The name is horribly naff, suggesting a provincial burger bar styled after a petrol station, but Refuel at the new Soho hotel is so macro-glaciated that those of us over 32 should on no account enter it without our metaphorical thermals. The rest of us can take comfort from the fact that the food offered on a faintly overpriced menu is pretty good.
My starter, seven steamed dumplings, suggested that the challenging world of dim sum is best left to the specialists. Happily, my main course more than atoned. What was listed as braised neck of lamb with tomato, flageolet and basil was a rich and herby pseudo-cassoulet. (Dinner for one, £41.45 with half-a-bottle of house wine)
Jay Rayner was determined to be fair about Paternoster Chop House, London EC4
The Paternoster Chop House is meant to be Conran’s take on the great British culinary traditions and the menu reads well; there’s a whole list of shellfish; there’s wood pigeon with pickled walnuts or fish cakes to start; well-hung steaks, Dover sole and haggis and neeps for mains; followed by sticky toffee pudding and Bakewell tart. It’s big and robust. It’s boy’s food. Was everything we ate awful? Was it a disaster? No, it was worse than that; it was completely inconsistent.
It’s exactly this sort of high-gloss, high concept outfit, which, by failing to deliver, makes people suspicious of top-end restaurants in general. And that’s why I don’t like Terence Conran’s restaurants. (Meal for two, £110)
AA Gill enjoyed the English food at Conran’s Bluebird Dining Room in Chelsea, London
The Bluebird Dining Room is part of the old ambulance depot that Terence Conran turned into a shop, café, club and restaurant. I shared an aged shorthorn rib of beef with chips and horseradish. The meat was chewy, with a round, deep flavour. The horseradish was a bit polite, a bit smooth, a bit second-hand car dealer. Personally, I think horseradish should blow your sinuses like a £10 hooker.
I liked Bluebird as much for what it wasn’t as what it was. It was English, but it wasn’t Dickens pastiche. It didn’t feel like a retirement canteen for the House of Lords. (Starters about £10, mains about £20)
Tracey MacLeod predicts that the Chinese Experience in London W1 will be a long-running hit
I realise it’s been too long since I reviewed anywhere in London’s Chinatown. Strange, considering how often I eat there. The Chinese Experience is just what Chinatown needs. Modern, user-friendly and just designer enough. When I arrived, the chap who whisked open the door was smiling. And when I confessed that I was 45 minutes early (I don’t get out much), he ushered me not to some benighted corner by the lavs, but to a pride-of-place table. So far, so very un-Chinatown. The Chinese Experience probably isn’t a restaurant you’ll want to spend the whole night in – it’s a pre-cinema, post-theatre kind of place or somewhere to grab a quick lunch. (About £30 a head)
Gillian Glover revels in securing a table at the Wolseley in London’s Piccadilly
Last December grown men were pacing Piccadilly sobbing into their cashmere scarves over the sheer hopelessness of being admitted entry to the newly-opened Wolseley café and restaurant. This year strange out-of-towners like myself simply pick up the telephone and ask if there’s any availability for Sunday lunch. And there is. The restaurant’s name is a whimsical reference to the fact that these lavish premises once served as a car showroom.
I ordered fish – grilled cod served with gently spiced aubergines, which was perfectly cooked, but just not big enough. The bill came to just over £60. To say it was worth every penny is the understatement of the year.