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What's on the menu – the food can and will only get better at Rainer Becker's Oblix, says Fay Maschler

What's on the menu – the food can and will only get better at Rainer Becker's Oblix, says Fay Maschler

RESTAURANTS

London Evening Standard
The food can only, and under Rainer Becker surely will, get better at Oblix at the Shard. Until then, book into the more relaxed Lounge with its superior views, says Fay Maschler
Rating: 3/5
Price: A meal for two with wine, about £170 inc 12.5 per cent service (credit-card slips left open for more)

Time OutGuy Dimond finds Oblix at the Shard expensive and showy, with a Dubai-style blandness to it, and warns diners that The View from The Shard is a far better choice of lookout
The temptation, when you enter a room that's 32 floors up, is to rush to the windows, press your nose to the glass and take in the view. Most other bar-restaurants that find themselves similarly blessed (notably Sushisamba) allow you to do this freely and at leisure. In contrast the Oblix bar has bookable tables and chairs blocking this sought-after periphery, forcing you to invade someone else's space. Do it anyway. The restaurant side has the better views (including such sights as the London Eye and Houses of Parliament) as well as a tiny bar counter where you can eyeball central London; those from the bar side, of green, hilly south-east London, are also impressive.
Twenty paces back from the glass, seated at the no-bookings table, our succession of dishes almost made up for the absence of a view. The presentation was like that at Zuma, but the menu resembled a New York grill. A starter of tataki-style beef (£12) was a few tasty morsels while the main course of halibut (£28) was perfectly cooked, though rather oddly served with something resembling a dollop of lemon curd. Pork belly (£16) was perhaps the best dish - the meat pink and tender, the skin nicely crisped, served with a piquant apple chutney. Desserts consisted mainly of ice-cream combinations, though the New York cheesecake (£9) was exemplary.
Rating: 3/5
Price: ££££ (luxury)

Metro
Joe Warwick expects any early wrinkles at perfectionist Rainer Becker's latest London restaurant Oblix, on the 52nd floor of the Shard, London, SE1

We start with a rather refined but strangely celery-heavy New England clam chowder, and a plate of sliced yellow tail with citrus soy that wouldn't have looked out of place on the menu at Zuma. But it's the Borough Market Bowl that grabs our attention. It's a fantastic spring salad, assembled with vegetables gathered from the famous market we can see far below us, and made whole with a creamy concoction of herbs and soy for the dressing. The cooking of a hefty wedge of halibut is perfectly judged but its accompanying 'Meyer lemon jam' is far too sweet, even partnered with caper berries. North African-accented lamb chops with harissa and yoghurt are so good they're quickly stripped to the bone. A New York cheesecake didn't change my view of the world - but a refreshingly off-kilter basil sorbet did just a little. Oblix is not cheap, but in the context of the £25 being charged to ascend to The Shard's viewing platform, it's not that expensive either.
Score: 4/5
Price: £200, meal for two with wine, water and service

The Times
Giles Coren checks out Isola Bella in Golders Green, London NW11, a kosher restaurant with a "dauntingly eclectic" menu

Isola Bella is a big, modern sort of place, with rather quiet Eastern European service. Nobody once, in the entire meal, came to the table unbidden to offer anything or remove anything. I guess they work on the principle that a Jew will always tell you what he wants whether you ask him or not… For our mains we had a sweet potato and feta pizza with pesto, a good, earthy combination that I have not encountered before, and a very serviceable pad Thai (this was a somewhat crazily put together meal, its only gastronomic rationale being mosaic), and then one of the most extraordinary main courses I have ever had. "I usually have the sizzling tuna," Naftali had told me. "It is excellent." What he had not told me, however, was that it is served with an old-fashioned pepper sauce and chopped mushrooms. It is a steak au poivre as conceived by a restaurant that is prohibited from serving meat. And it is wonderful. We ordered the fish medium and it came pinkish with enough char on the outside to give a steaky heft to the fish, and the bland, tender flesh was unquestionably better suited to the sauce than the ferrous blood flavours of the rump steak version.
Rating: cooking 5, kosherness 10, sustainability 4, overall score 6.33
Price: pad Thai £14, sizzling tuna £20, £9

The Sunday Times
Camilla Long says the problem with Kaspar's Seafood Bar & Grill at the Savoy, London WC2 is that you have to go through what is the "naffest" hotel to get to it

The room is wide and low with bright metallic lighting, like a gynaecology unit. There is a huge seafood bar in the centre with cabinets at the side, containing large pieces of smoked flange. The bar is 90% airport hooker - a monster version of those Gatwick seafood bars where fading first class air hostesses pick at dishes of smoked salmon before they are trafficked out to Dubai to be reunited with "Prince" Umar…Two of the starters are very nice: the tuna tartare and the chicken liver parfait - a glossy little Carole Middleton Dukan poo, with toast. The lobster is truly awful, an inedible grey enteron beached on a bedpan of ice, with chilly, flobby fins that eerily finger the inside of my mouth. The mayonnaise is oily and dense. I leave it. The mains are a lobster club sandwich with hard little chips that we have to send back; the fish looks like bits of halitosis, but James says it is good. I order the smoked-salmon sausages because I am doing everything the waiter tells me - they are a Kaspar's special. They arrive on a little throne of sauerkraut: two pink, glistening condoms filled with minced fish. They are the most revolting thing I've eaten outside a nursing home - exactly what a cat would love. Even Emily can't swallow them, "and that's never happened before", she says. The casings are pork, which is simply wrong. Puddings are better - a nice apple crème brÁ»lée and a bituminous tarte tatin.
Rating: atmosphere 2/5, food 2/5
Price: £300 for three, including drinks and 12.5% service

The Independent
Amol Rajan is disappointed with the quality of the "poor" and "unforgivably expensive" food offer at Heaton, Butler and Bayne, London, WC2
I hope it is simply that the immensely talented Karlsson is on a night off, because the food this evening is poor. Not shocking, disgusting or inedible; just poor, and unforgivably expensive to boot. There are six starters, six mains, five sides, five desserts, three cheeses and 10 bar-menu options. There is also a set menu from midday to 6pm each day, which is three courses for £19.50. The starters range from £6 to £11 and at the cheaper end is a fennel soup with garlic crisps that is extremely limited in fennel and garlic flavour. Felicity, who I am with, has spent three decades as a wine merchant, and has a nose like a gastronomic Sherlock Holmes. She nails it when she says, "If you did a blind-taste test you'd think it was leek and potato soup." Exactly right: thick, hot and starchy, but not well flavoured at all. The beetroot-cured salmon with horseradish cream (£7.50) murders an already dead bit of fish, so you can't taste the salmon at all. Nor is there any heat to the horseradish. Four quail croquettes (£6) are too cold and don't have nearly enough filling. The crab croustade with avocado salad (£6), a little parcel of pastry, is forgettable. Four globules of chorizo with a bit of honey (£4) are overpriced and the meat is of poor quality.
Score: 5/10
Price: £100 for two, including one bottle of wine

The Observer
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Jay Rayner finds ambition in the menu at 9 Church Street, Stratford-upon Avon, but still can't get beyond the blunt, one-size-fits-all waffle of "fine".](http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/may/19/no-9-church-street-review?mobile-redirect=false)
No 9 Church Street is fine. Downstairs they have a tiny lounge area, for the taking of drinks and the reading of menus, just like grown-up places do. Upstairs is a small dining room where they play Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" at you. (If that never happens to me ever again, life will have taken a turn for the better.) There are good things, but they seem to happen slightly randomly. Dessert has cheering moments of whimsy: little cubes of crème pÁ¢tissière, breaded and deep fried, which lend sweet to the sour of rhubarb; there is toffee popcorn alongside a chocolate-peanut butter confection. We drink a good solid Côtes du Rhône and realise we have managed a bill just shy of the ton for two. Service is charming and unobtrusive. Dinner has been taken. Nobody has died. I would love to be more enthusiastic, really I would. But for now that's the best I can do. A veal dish has some fatless (and therefore slightly flavourless) loin alongside a few cubed bits of meat, just braised enough to break apart under a blanquette sauce in a pastry shell. Absolutely nothing is especially wrong with any of this; it all gets eaten up. But nor is anything especially right. It feels like the product of a chef who knows how to do some very smart, classical things, but who hasn't quite worked out exactly what he wants to be or do, or what the market will cope with.
Price: £100, meal for two including wine and service

The Guardian
Marina O'Loughlin finds "posho ambition and technique at London gastropub prices" at Restaurant Mark Greenaway, Edinburgh
It's the sort of place that people who adore prodding and sniffing their food, and who're happy only if meat comes in a brace of different cooking styles accessorised with dots of things and cubes and sploshes of other things, will love. They'll love it with a polite, slightly long-winded passion. Here, marvel at the Clash Farm pork belly, its top crisp, its fat melting, its meat tender. It's underseasoned and I'm devastated that its toffee apple sauce amounts to no more than a George Osborne teardrop. A hake dish, conversely, is salted almost into oblivion, wildly over-dilled, but not quite enough to disguise the fact that the fish doesn't seem in the first flush of youth. Lovely lone lobster raviolo, however. Greenaway is one of those almost-celebrity chefs, appearing on the likes of Great British Menu. He showcased that crab dish there and clearly enjoys hanging on to a well-thumbed file of favourite dishes. The result is that it all seems vaguely dated, even by the standards of the famously conservative Scottish capital. Anyone with a penchant for fayn daynin' will be familiar with the old smoke and glassware - when a piece of culinary trickery turns up on MasterChef, you know it's about as happening as nouvelle cuisine.
Score: food 6/10, atmosphere 6/10, value for money 8/10
Price: Set menu, £16.50 for two courses, £20 for three; Á la carte about £40, tasting menu £65, all plus drinks and service

HOTELS

The Times [Tom Chesshyre enjoys the excellent rooms and a slick restaurant at the newly opened Poets House in Ely, Cambridgeshire
Each of the 21 rooms is a suite with a copper bath tub, plenty of space, Hermès toiletries and complimentary miniature bottles of vodka and gin, plus snacks. The gin is from the Ely Gin Company. All the rooms are of the same standard, with thick charcoal-grey carpet, pale-grey silk headboards and good linen on the beds; though "master rooms" are slightly bigger (and £30 extra). The butler can arrange valet parking and tickets to local events…The atmosphere in the stylish dining room had a buzz on my visit, with locals and tourists enjoying the varied menu, which specialises in local produce. The food is very good. Starters included a pea velouté with crispy egg and asparagus soldiers, and pork belly with smoked eel. I enjoyed my Brixham crab cocktail, though the portion was quite small. Mains were chicken and wild garlic, ham and spring onion purée; rump of lamb; and sea trout with brown shrimp. The beef with a shallot tart and broccoli was all perfectly cooked.
Rating: 8.5/10
Price: two courses about £27; B&B doubles from £179

The Guardian
Sally Shalam feels like she's stumbled across a well-guarded secret on staying at Howard's House Hotel in Teffont Evias, Wiltshire
Manager NoÁ«le shows us to first- floor rooms. Mine, at the rear, is light, spacious and uneventful save for a Gothic window on to parking and potager, and excellent tea and coffee things in a leather box, with plenty of delicious biscuits. A shower attachment over the bath is the tricky sort, temperature-wise; a dark blind cuts out natural light…Over pre-dinner drinks in the lively sitting room, we peruse menus (table d'hôte, Á la carte, tasting, and grown-up wine list). No one rushes us. I offer only edited highlights of dinner but it deserves a page of its own. Chef Nick Wentworth gets three fat yeses. A salad of heritage tomatoes (pale, flavour-packed) and grilled Crottin de Chavignol, seared foie gras with wood pigeon breast, braised lentils and tiny roast onions; Cornish hake on a bed of crushed potatoes and spinach dressed with pesto, darkly tender venison loin with juniper and port jus; chocolate and orange marquise, Cointreau syrup, orange ice cream…Comfy night, good linen, we agree, and breakfast bowls another blinder with full table service, no lazy buffet. Staff are exceptionally nice, and even the youngest can direct to Stonehenge.
Price: three-course table d'hôte dinner £29.50; doubles from £190

The Daily Mail
The Inspector is appalled by what she finds in her room at the Corner House Hotel in Taunton, Somerset

"Can I book a table in the restaurant for 8.15pm please?" I ask a man in reception at the Corner House Hotel in Taunton. "The restaurant is closed for a special pre-booked themed evening," he tells me, unapologetically. That can't be right. Surely, on booking a room, you should be told if the restaurant on any particular night is out of bounds. He informs me that I'm in room 16. I ask if room 16 overlooks the busy mini-roundabout or the car park at the back. He has no idea. "And does the window open?" "I think so," he says. Turns out that room 16 is above the car park and the window opens wide. But it's a tiny, cell-like room. On one wall there's a framed flyer advertising breakfast, complete with a dripping fried egg. I try to convince myself that for £77 B&B you can't expect anything much better - but then I find a false nail attached to a piece of sticking plaster on the floor with a discarded sweet wrapper next to it. While running a bath, I notice there's no soap or shower gel, only a little tube of shampoo/conditioner. I ring down and the hapless fellow on reception arrives with a bar of soap.
Rating: 1/5
Price: doubles from £40

The Daily Telegraph
Fiona Duncan says Stapleford Park, near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, is over-priced for the level of service, food and quality of bedrooms she experienced

When he took over from Bob Payton, who ran Stapleford Park as a very informal place to stay, Peter de Savary sought to retain the feel of a family house by employing a team of hosts to meet guests and make them feel at home, and today five splendid ladies share the job. The rest of the service seemed, on our visit, highly disorganized. We never saw the manager. When Bob Payton first turned Stapleford Park into a hotel 25 years ago, he asked the likes of Osborne and Little, Bakers, Sanderson and Turnbull & Asser to decorate the bedrooms. They remain hardly changed and they all need refreshing, especially the bathrooms. Classic ones, such as Baker, Zoffany and Crabtree & Evelyn remain lovely. Both dinner and breakfast were disappointing. The monkfish was woefully overcooked, as was the scrambled egg the next morning. The waiters had no idea what they were serving, food wise, and it felt as if the kitchen staff didn't have much idea either.
Rating: style 8/10, service 5/10, rooms 5/10 food and drink 5/10, value for money 6/10
Price: doubles from £180, including breakfast

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