Upwardly mobile 20 September 2019 The founders of coffee and brunch chain Caravan are on the move, taking their business model to new Chelsea restaurant Vardo
In this week's issue... Upwardly mobile The founders of coffee and brunch chain Caravan are on the move, taking their business model to new Chelsea restaurant Vardo
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Reviews: Liverpool is lucky to have Anton Piotrowski's Röski, says Jay Rayner; while Fay Maschler is impressed by Neil Borthwick's cooking at the French House

12 November 2018 by
Reviews: Liverpool is lucky to have Anton Piotrowski's Röski, says Jay Rayner; while Fay Maschler is impressed by Neil Borthwick's cooking at the French House

Liverpool is lucky to have Anton Piotrowski's Röski, says The Observer's Jay Rayner

There's a piece of boned-out guinea fowl with thick, crisp skin, a deep jus, slices of truffle, courgette and a courgette purée. I decide it's now the Spinal Tap of restaurants with every flavour turned up to a welcome 11. It continues with the main courses. There are two pieces of aged sirloin, laid with a couple more rosy langoustines. There are seared leeks and a garlic jus, and on the side a pot of buttery smoked mash, which is so luscious I'm minded to use it on my cheeks as an anti-ageing cream. This is serious, bourgeois cooking, with no interest in the restrained. The kitchen wants you to know you've been fed.

Likewise with the fish dish, which changes depending on what's best available. Today it is sensitively cooked lemon sole which, like me, is both meaty but, at the same time, strangely delicate. Brown shrimps are heaped on top under one of those intense rust-coloured fish sauces, that speaks of roasted shell and claw and a lost night on the Marseilles docks. Alongside is a light, fluffy and crisp salt cod croquette.

Price: £45 à la carte for three courses.£75 for the tasting menu. Wines from £23


The Evening Standard's Fay Maschler is impressed by Neil Borthwick's cooking at the French House in London's Soho

The side dish of aligot from the L'Aubrac region made with potatoes mashed with garlic and tome fraîche cheese, brought to the table by Neil where he demonstrates its intrinsic elasticity, is the icing on the cake if that description isn't saved for the thin crunch of crumble on top of stewed apple and quince served with a jug of homemade vanilla custard that is our dessert.

I love velvety baked leeks with a classic sauce gribiche, that mayonnaise founded on hard-boiled egg yolks mixed with chopped cornichons, capers and green herbs, and Paul relishes pork terrine which, as an American, he likens to head cheese. The pickled vegetables accompanying could have spent longer in brine to counteract the sweetness of the meat.

Brill with anchovy butter is a handsome sparkling tranche of fish. Vanilla and nutmeg tart is the consummate sweet triangle with which to rule off the meal.

Score: 4/5


Somerset Live's Mark Taylor says the new Koffmann & Mr White's restaurant in Bath's Abbey hotel falls short of expectations

A starter of brandade of Scottish salmon, fennel and white wine jelly (£8.95) served in a Kilner jar was fridge cold and disturbingly reminiscent of the pouches of salmon and jelly cat food we feed the family mog.

Also good was the braised lamb Á la ProvenÁ§ale (£16.50) with its tender pieces of meat immersed in a dark, tomatoey, red wine-enriched sauce with plenty of backbone, the juices soaked up by really decent, properly buttery mash at an extra £3.50.

My £32.50 fillet steak au poivre was disappointing. Despite asking for it to be the rare side of medium, it was overcooked to medium, the meat more grey than red.

The Jenga stack of fried with beef fat chips were decent enough and the sauce perfectly peppery.

As an admirer of both chefs, I wanted to enjoy Koffmann & Mr Whites much more than I did but the food simply didn't represent the culinary legacy of this formidable duo.


"Everything is done with assurance and verve, and a deep clarity of purpose" at Kym's in the City of London, writes Keith Miller in The Telegraph

There is an emphasis on simple Cantonese roasts and other meat dishes, which can be ordered singly or in a kind of mixed grill, winsomely billed as Three Treasures, and served with a trio of apposite sauces: honey mustard for the crispy pork belly, sweet soy for the char siu pork and a sort of Hainan-style ginger relish for the (celestially good) soy-poached chicken.

Other than that, we noted a succession of bright colours and contrasting textures: honey-glazed lotus root was great once you've got used to the idea of eating a loofah; gai lan or Chinese broccoli was scattered with a snowdrift of dried wasabi.

Price: £100 for lunch for two. Score: 4.5/5


Red Farm in London's Covent Garden is "a place to remember if you simply want to please people", according to Grace Dent in The Guardian

Red Farm's co-founder Ed Shoenfeld has spent 40 years in the New York Chinese food scene, and there's a rich sense of that unabashed broadness in every dish we eat. Pretty, handcrafted pork soup dumplings, served by incessantly upbeat staff, arrive with candy-coloured straws to suck up the piggy broth.

A main course of shrimp-stuffed crispy chicken turns out to be a verily peculiar hybrid of "Lucky House"-type prawn toast and Colonel Sanders' fried chicken. The skin of the chicken is peeled back, smeared with a pink, mashed-prawn, garlic and ginger gloop, replaced, then deep-fried and the whole franken-bird served with a peanut dipping sauce.

Those cheeseburger spring rolls, oozing with melted cheese, come battered, obviously, yet still moist and still delicate: a wild mix of high finesse and 3am stoner experimentation.

Crunchy vegetable peanut dumplings are delicately wrapped but stonkingly nutty. A side of Chinese broccoli with fresh shiitake was perhaps less than thrilling, but, oddly, everyone at the table remarked on the wonderful, humble, soft, crunchy vegetable fried rice.

Price: about £70 a head, plus drinks and service. Score: food 8/10; atmosphere 8/10; service 9/10


Restaurant Hé in London's Holborn is "never less than absolutely fascinating", writes Marina O'Loughlin in The Sunday Times

"Pepper sauce steamed sea bream" brings radiantly fresh fish, an incredible collision of delicacy and savour. I think it's bathed in Shaoxing wine and preserved mild green chillies. Ham, even? This is, I learn later, typical of the Jiangnan style: bold flavours married to delicacy and technique…

We try new-to-the menu pork and leek dumplings, a kind of weird hybrid between soupy xiao long bao and blousy char siu bao. Slices of Chinese yam and slippery black fungus in a light soy sauce. "Jinling signature salt-water duck", a remarkable dish of cold, salt-preserved bird, long marinated and rather grey, with a hot, gingery, anise-scented broth poured on top. This, apparently, dates back to 14th-century Nanjing and looks the part. In fact, it looks positively prehistoric. But, again, an extraordinary thing. It doesn't offer up its pleasures immediately, but grows on you with every curious bite.

Price: £86 for two, including £12.5% service charge


Hotels

Fiona Duncan of The Sunday Telegraph delights in the "gently hip, eclectic, homely and genuinely relaxed" Brownber Hall in Cumbria, created by two former city workers

The handsome house, built in 1860 for a wealthy landowning family, needed TLC and a fresh look, and Peter (Jaques) and Amanda (Walker) set about painting, wallpapering (a lovely William Morris print in the main hall) and knocking down a wall so that the ground floor has become a series of three airy, beautifully proportioned interconnected rooms.

Furniture from an assortment of sources, including eBay, features an amusing curved vintage cocktail bar bought for £30. In the dining room, there are kelim cushions, reclaimed marble table tops, an antique sideboard and, across one wall, a blackboard that lists the day's dishes, the weather and local events. The bedrooms are pretty, with new bathrooms (showers only).

Price: from £100 for a double per night


Mike Atkins at The Times enjoys the "little streak of sexiness that cuts through the cosy" at the recently renovated Globe Inn, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk

Gore-Tex, real ale and a snoozing dog are de rigueur in the welcoming front-of-house pub, while the bedrooms are all quality linen, posh tellies and funky wallpaper.

This former coach house has a real sense of character and each of the 19 rooms has its own vibe, with feature walls bringing a certain metropolitan zing. There are family-sized self-catering apartments, hip loft suites and standard doubles set around the courtyard, with classically styled rooms in the main building overlooking the Buttlands, a tree-lined green.

Price: B&B doubles from £95 a night. Score 7.5/10

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