Hospitality sweethearts 14 February 2020 The couples who make working together and living together a love story
In this week's issue...Hospitality sweethearts The couples who make working together and living together a love story
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What the Critics Say – Giles Coren is flummoxed by complicated dishes at Allium Brasserie

What the Critics Say – Giles Coren is flummoxed by complicated dishes at Allium Brasserie

RESTAURANTS

The Times
![Allium Brasserie](http://blogs.catererandhotelkeeper.co.uk/blogs/guide-girl/2013/06/08/Allium%20Brasserie.jpg)
The glazed pork ribs with garlic, chili and sesame were terrifying, for the three ribs came still stuck together, like a small rack. How were dainty Bath ladies to nibble on these with a glass of sherry? I had to carve it down to its constituent parts with an eating knife and then portion out the flayed bones, running with hot sticky juices…A quail glazed in chilli caramel was another piece of meat blasted with fire and sugar, as I suppose its name suggested. Not bad, just mouth- assaulting and unsubtle. Chinese cabbage, hearts of palm, lychee, peanuts and coriander also jostled for attention and the poor wee bird was rather forgotten at the centre. Nic's bream was a nice fillet of wild fish, thoroughly baffled by the violet artichokes, chopped octopus tentacles and salsa verde that flocked after it like Mumbai orphans round a tourist. And the pat of lemon curd beneath it was horrifying. Lemon curd has no place outside a meringue pie. To lob it on a plate of bream and octopus was just so random - like putting Marmite in a syllabub, or ketchup in milk.
Rating: 5.5 (cooking 5, room 5, sustainability 6.5)
Price: £45/head sans grog
Evening Standard
[David Sexton finds pretty much the same St John food and drink as before at One Leicester Street, London WC2H, but served in a slightly more cosseting environment, which he says doesn't really work](http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/restaurants/one-leicester-street--restaurant-review-8645103.html)
Crab, fennel and monk's beard (£9) was a smallish serving of unremarkable crab mayonnaise, spiked with a lot of lemon, on toast, with blanched fennel, draped with shoots of this trendy veg that, for all its novelty value, isn't quite the equal of our own dear samphire in season. "Cuttlefish, peas and mint" (£9.50) was also satisfactory rather than thrilling — chunky pieces in a bowl with surprisingly large and mealy peas that had however been stewed into softness and a good flavour, with quite a lot of oil and again a strong citrus component. Smoked cod's roe and devilled pig's skin (£7) is a hell of a thing, though. A pool of intensely flavoured taramasalata is topped with a great heap of pig skin expertly turned into giant crisps — light, crunchy, dry to the touch and surprisingly insubstantial — to dip into the fishy paste, in place of bread. These porky poppadoms are an entertainment -though maybe not one to repeat too often. Aylesbury duck (£18) was served sliced, very rare and bloody in a way that firmly emphasised that it was quite a baby bird you were eating, with some soft and delicious little braised turnips: simple, good.
Rating: 3/5
Price: £120 for two
The Guardian
[Marina O'Loughlin says that Rainer Becker's Oblix on the 32nd floor of the Shard at London Bridge has no sense of place: "you could be eating in any expensive tall building, anywhere in the world"](http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jun/08/restaurants-food-and-drink)
![Oblix](http://blogs.catererandhotelkeeper.co.uk/blogs/guide-girl/2013/06/01/Oblix.jpg)
We're told, "Everything is for sharing." What tripe. There's no way I'm divvying up my starter: excellent crab cakes, costing £19 for two and the size of washing powder tablets. Add service and that's more than a tenner each. It's not the view that's making me light-headed. We have a few slivers of beef on a large plate. The beef might be fabulous, but there's no way of knowing: its gingery-soy-garlicky dressing has sent all other flavour packing. Our mains are entirely forgettable: upscale ingredients served with fruity sidekicks: rotisseried duck with mango; halibut with "Meyer lemon jam" - an ingredient I get excited about but that turns out to be lemon curd. The duck's laquered-looking skin is the biggest disappointment - flabby and loose, not treacly and crisp. Actively duff is a vast slab of "roasted" cauliflower, cut on the cross-section - it's virtually raw and, bar the lemon jam, anointed with exactly the same toppings as the fish: weeny croutons, caperberries, almonds. There's a splendid fudgey brownie dessert that comically seems to be shaped like a child's drawing of the Shard itself.
Rating: food 6/10, atmosphere 7/10 (for the view), value for money 4/10
Price: about £80 a head with drinks and service
Evening Standard
[The dishes at Fifteen, London N1, are muscular and elegant, says Richard Godwin, but served willy-nilly](http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/restaurants/fifteen--restaurant-review-8647004.html)
It is just as well that [head chef Jon] Rotheram is an outstanding cook; despite their erratic sequencing, his dishes proved both muscular and elegant. Braised peas came with a feathery grating of Berkswell cheese (£9). Bocca di lupo, a species of ravioli, came stuffed with goats' curd in a nettle slick that tasted like the smell of a freshly mown cricket pitch (£10). Two toothsome duck chipolatas arrived with a punchy slaw (£9); artichokes swam in a rich allium broth (£10); a spring salad was decorated with nasturtiums and contained the buried treasure of some lightly pickled carrots (£6). Still, this was a lot of plates for one small table, and by the time our Dover sole with almonds, cucumber and brown shrimp arrived (£18) it was overflowing. I don't know if you have ever tried to fillet a Dover sole with a knife and fork and very little elbow room but it is hard. Must I do this myself, I thought? I was reminded of the Starbucks clean-up-your-own-mess principle — efficiency savings that require you to make up the labour.
Rating: 3/5
Price: £120 for two with wine
The Metro
[Andy Lynes can't fault the cooking at Chabrot Bistrot Des Halles, London EC1, but says the restaurant lacks allure](http://metro.co.uk/2013/06/06/fine-french-cooking-is-spoilt-by-a-lack-of-allure-at-chabrot-bistrot-des-halles-3829433/)
![Chabrot Bistrot Des Halles](http://blogs.catererandhotelkeeper.co.uk/blogs/guide-girl/2013/06/08/Chabrot%20Bistrot%20Des%20Halles.jpg)
A pot of delicious warm duck liver is served with a comté cheese-flavoured choux pastry that looks like an overdone Yorkshire pud. A doorstop-thick fillet of cod with a simple accompaniment of beans both French and broad is roasted to juicy perfection. A richly comforting crème brulee is textbook stuff. Chocolate mousse topped with Armagnac-soaked prune is as fluffy and appealing as a Labrador puppy. Prices are reasonable, service is on its toes and the room, with its plush red velvet banquettes, is comfortable and inviting. Yet the experience fails to thrill. A near-empty room and predictable menu (main courses including steak and Dover sole are mostly minimally garnished grills) make for a less than memorable time.
Price: £115 for meal for two with wine, water and service
The Metro
[Joe Warwick suggests Jamie Oliver is jumping on the ‘dude food' bandwagon with his three-year "pop-up" Jamie Oliver's Diner, London W1](http://metro.co.uk/2013/06/06/jamie-olivers-diner-provides-dude-food-with-added-dinosaurs-and-shows-promise-3829417/)
Sticky chilli chicken wings are indeed sticky but arguably too sweet and definitely shy on the chilli, while Cajun grilled squid with not a trace of spice in its seasoning is not obviously Cajun. Perhaps that's because it's one of the dishes on the menu marked with a halo (as opposed to devil's horns) to tell you that, in terms of calories, saturated fat and salt, you've made the healthy choice. The other we try is a grilled chicken Caesar salad, sparsely dressed with what tastes mostly of yoghurt. ‘Dirty' barbecue ribs might come from a free-range pig but are smothered in a sauce that, as with the wings, tries to make up for what it lacks in kick with too much sweetness. A burger, which I'm promised will appear with a ‘lipstick pink' centre, is cooked all the way through (the twitchy health inspectors of Westminster will be pleased) but, despite that, is still a juicy patty in good glazed bun, its quality beefiness not overwhelmed by my pungent chosen toppings of smoked streaky bacon and blue cheese.
Rating: 2/5
Price:£70 for meal for two with drinks, water and service
The Telegraph
[Matthew Norman wonders whether Master & Servant in trendy Hoxton, London N1, will have the staying power of the Depeche Mode song it's named for](http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/restaurants/10089655/Restaurant-review-Master-and-Servant-London.html)
![Master & Servant](http://blogs.catererandhotelkeeper.co.uk/blogs/guide-girl/2013/06/08/Master%20Servant.jpg)
Smoked olives and almonds gave way to two starters that were longer on ambition than precision. "Back fat & radishes", one dish among several with a deafeningly St John ring, was a road to nowhere. The almost translucent fat was oddly tasteless, with none of the savour of the Tuscan pig fat classic lardo, while wrapped as it was around large radishes it hinted more at a smutty condom gag than a serious piece of cooking. A fish soup was rich and intense, and grew on my friend spoon by spoon, but a combo of too-al-dente asparagus, an undersalted and slightly greasy sheet of chicken skin and a soft-boiled hen's egg would not have worked even had the execution been flawless. "This strikes me as the invention of someone who is not naturally inventive," was the verdict. "It reminds me of when I taught English, and tried to explain to my students the difference between originality and novelty."
Rating: 2.5/5
Price: £50 a head for three courses with wine and coffee
The Independent
[Tracey MacLeod finds inefficient service and mediocre food at the recently relaunched Christopher's in London's Covent Garden](http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/reviews/christophers-18-wellington-street-london-wc2-8646186.html)
Has Christopher's upped its game to respond to the steak and burger-peddling newbies parking their tanks on its lawn? Well, in short, no. The American classics we tried were mediocre - a £32 surf'n'turf combo of under-seasoned burger and overcooked lobster; a tender but more or less tasteless New York strip steak; forgettable fries, tobacco onions with a weird peppery aftertaste. An otherwise well-made crab and lobster salad was ruined by bad preparation, every mouthful offering a crunch of shell or cartilage. It was the only starter I've ever ordered that required its own spittoon. Malfatti, airy, gnocchi-like pillows of kale and buffalo ricotta, showed that the kitchen is capable of delicacy. And the chocolate, peanut butter and jelly sandwich with banana ice-cream we shared for dessert (absolutely gorgeous, if you like a huge slab of carbs drowned in glossy chocolate sauce) showed it's also capable of utter indulgent wrongness. But nothing was outstanding.
Rating: food 3/5, ambience 2/5, service 2/5
HOTELS
The Times
[Tom Chesshyre finds great value and a quirky history at Danesfield House in Marlow-on-Thames, Buckinghamshire](http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/travel/wheretostay/article3783285.ece)
![Danesfield House](http://blogs.catererandhotelkeeper.co.uk/blogs/guide-girl/2013/06/08/Danesfield%20House.jpg)
It's a traditional hotel with flashy touches, including a Michelin-starred restaurant run by Adam Simmonds, a stylish spa and a cocktail bar. The setting is wonderful: on a hill with sweeping views of a bend of the Thames beyond the gardens. Reached along creaking hallways and stairs, the 62 rooms are in a classic English country-house style with oil paintings, chandeliers, four posters and antiques. The colour scheme is muted with the occasional splash of colour in burgundy or pink armchairs and sofas. Bathrooms are slick and contemporary, with L'Occitane products. Bedside tables also have iPod docks and big satellite TV. There are two restaurants: the less-formal Orangery, and Adam Simmonds at Danesfield House…The eight-course tasting menu is a roll-out of exquisite dishes: pheasant egg with white asparagus and truffles; frogs' legs with garlic and horseradish; and scallops with leeks and mozzarella…The high score is for the great value, the quirky history, the 20m pool, excellent restaurant and view. The decor is a bit tired around the edges though.
Rating: 9/10
Price: B&B doubles from £154; eight-course tasting menu £65, three courses in the Orangery from £19
The Daily Telegraph
[Oliver Smith says the excellent food and service compensate the small bedrooms at One Leicester Street, London WC2](http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/hotel/109177/One-Leicester-Street-hotel-London-review.html)
Billed as a sanctuary from the hurly-burly of Soho, the subtle minimalism is certainly at odds with the neon-lit surroundings. A nautical theme pervades, from the sleek grey stairwell that is reminiscent of a cruise liner to the white and light blue colour scheme and tongue-and-groove wooden panelling in the room, that suggest a beach front house in Cornwall or Cape Cod. …Service was efficient at reception - my tardy request for breakfast was granted without fuss - and utterly charming in the restaurant and bar… The restaurant is the big draw here, and the compact bedrooms play second fiddle - a fact accepted by the owners, who list the most simple as "Post-supper rooms". All 14 (including one top floor suite) are spotless, bright and cheery (there's plenty of natural light - too much, in fact, for late sleepers), with comfy beds dressed in Egyptian cotton linen, television, a reasonably priced mini-bar, and smart bathrooms decked out in iridescent turquoise tiles. But rooms are small, and you won't find a desk, armchair, radio or iPod dock, or even tea and coffee making facilities.
Rating: 8/10
Price: from £195
The Guardian
[Sally Shalam enjoys gentile country house hospitality without the price tag at The Old Parsonage in Boscastle, Cornwall](http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2013/jun/07/old-parsonage-boscastle-cornwall-bandb-review)
![Old Parsonage
Geraniums and wellies in the porch look very country-house five-star, only this is the real thing. A long hall, windows of elegant proportions. DVDs, books and small fridge with jugs and mini-flasks for milk at the foot of the stairs. Passing a ground-floor bedroom, we ascend to the other four. Mine, overlooking the garden, has everything. Light through tall sash windows. Space. Enough for a pristine bed with satin throw, armchairs flanking a fireplace, antique French wardrobe, chest of drawers and a tray loaded with Fairtrade teas, good crockery, cafetière and Morag's mini Cornish fairing biscuits, which I cannot stop eating. The bathroom is almost as large, with a roll-top artfully placed for a view of steeply rising fields…From my heavenly vantage point, I gaze at vivid green as the sun climbs. But breakfast finishes at 9.30am, so I cut the reverie short. There are other imperfections: not much power about the shower - a damp squib in such a bathroom. Dining room and conservatory both have a breakfast table and chairs as well as sofas, and both suffer ergonomically.
Price: doubles from £92 a night, two-night minimum stay
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