So very Moorish 13 September 2019 Stuart Procter and Ben Tish on the North African-inspired cuisine of Fitzrovia’s Norma, the Stafford Collection’s first standalone restaurant
In this week's issue... So very Moorish Stuart Procter and Ben Tish on the North African-inspired cuisine of Fitzrovia’s Norma, the Stafford Collection’s first standalone restaurant
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Reviews: Soutine, Monkey Island and more

13 May 2019 by
Reviews: Soutine, Monkey Island and more

Corbin & King's latest opening Soutine is already comfortably at home at St John's Wood in London, writes Kathryn Flett in The Telegraph

The menu is C&K at their most comforting: it may be predominantly French, but no horses were frightened - much less cooked - in the making of it. The fly-by nods to Mitteleuropa - an escalope de veau viennoise, a Black Forest gateau - are as pleasantly unchallenging as the smiling nods I exchanged with Jeremy King (for it was he) as he glided by, surveying his set.

So, pea and mint soup for me, onion ditto for Cazza. Then, for her, grilled fillet of salmon with green beans, sans hollandaise but avec pommes frites; while I was down for the confit de canard with braised puy lentils. Plus chips. And it was all exactly as it should be, which is to say the food satisfied perfectly (a hummingly minty puddle of great soup, a meltingly good duck, a proud cluster of perfectly stiff-upper-frites) while never interrupting the rhythm of our play as it unfolded.

Price: Lunch for two £100. Score: 4/5


No. Fifty Cheyne in London's Chelsea is "a good laugh", writes Grace Dent in The Guardian

We ordered three starters, all of them quite brilliant. A satisfying bowl of smoked Scottish salmon arrived on a soft, warm salad of new potato and muscat grape melded together with a pond-green, herby cream. That was followed by dark, squid-ink rice armed with grilled langoustine and scallop, and titivated with an archly bouji Champagne sauce that Charles decreed the best thing he'd eaten this year.

Mains continued in a largely faultless manner. A comforting plate of cob chicken - breast and a neat croquette - came with an earthy wild mushroom stew and parsley liquor. A vegan main of braised Hispi cabbage with broccolini and young leek doused in a herb-and-tomato olive-oil sauce was a bold, rural romp that I enjoyed, but that went unappreciated by Charles, who was distracted by his aged beef fillet and cheek topped with a generous amount of smoked bone marrow and creamed spinach, which was dictionary-definition largesse.

Price: from about £50-plus a head for three courses (set lunch, £28.50 for two courses, £35 for three), plus drinks and service. Score: food: 9/10; atmosphere: 8/10; service: 9/10


Din Tai Fung in London's Covent Garden "was perhaps initially miscast as a place for a world-rocking event dinner", says the Evening Standard's Jimi Famurewa

A pair of the exclusively cold starters -thick coins of cucumber swimming in lively chilli and garlic oil, plus a ruddy, rugged pile of honey and vinegar-glazed short ribs, dotted with fantastic, almost candied tomatoes - settled us in well.

And then came the main event of the XLB. After our waiter's description of how to maximise the coming flavour explosion (tease from the bamboo steamer and into a soup spoon, perforate so some broth seeps out, blot with ginger-spiked soy and rice vinegar mix, etc, etc) these were, heretical as this may sound, a little underwhelming. A mini gush of clean, richly seasoned soup followed by a mouthful of minced meat that felt cheaply sausagey whether it was chicken, pork or chilli crab.

Far punchier were the vegetarian jiao zi, all pea-green colour, immaculately crimped edges and lasting mushroomy depth. Frizzled crispy prawn and pork wontons felt - as they should - like a massive plate of high-grade prawn crackers.

Din Tai Fung was perhaps initially miscast as a place for a world-rocking event dinner rather than what it is: a quick, neurotically controlled, slightly pricey canteen where you learn what works for you and basically order variations of it forever more. That may not be particularly sexy or cause for a five-hour wait, but - in these uncertain, Brexit-infected times - I think it's something most of us can probably get behind.

Price: £98.30. Score: ambience: 3/5; food: 3/5


The Mail on Sunday's - Tom Parker Bowles discovers a little Mekong magic in the most British of Soho pubs, London's Sun and 13 Cantons' pop-up Jeow Jeow

Flavours here shout and holler, jostling boisterously around the mouth. There's a stir-fried pork and pineapple dish with just the right amount of acidity, and a discreet grumble of chilli. The jeow is made with pork floss (the buffalo skin used in jaew bong proving rather difficult to get hold of in Soho) and has all the deep, rich umami grunt you could ever crave. Hot as hell too. Edges are kept very much rough. Thank God. Scoop up sticky rice, roll, dip, eat.

There's a glorious larb with pork and brown crab meat, fistfuls of herbs and that discreet, toasted crunch of roasted rice powder. An English take on a Laotian classic. The version with Arctic char is clean, lithe and bracingly sour, the fish farmed in Dorset by a Dane. Trout is very lightly battered, fried and served with fennel and celery. There's a whisper of sweetness, and a sly chilli jab. Again, not what you'd call authentic but then that's not the point. She captures the spirit of Laotian food in every bite. With a bit of Isan in there too.

Price: about £25 per head. Score: 4/5


The Courier's Helen Brown has an "extremely satisfying" meal at Brasserie Ecosse in Dundee

There was a very interesting selection of starters and of course, I faced my usual difficulties in choosing what to have. I was seriously torn between two options - the poached hen's egg served with mushrooms, walnut and fennel (£7.95) and the Lady Mary, pomelo, tomato and beetroot (£6.95).

My name's down for that next time round as this time, I went for the egg dish. Very delicious it was, too; light, with a perfectly-poached egg and a good punch from the mushrooms, creamy walnut and aniseedy fennel.

I had pan-cooked sea trout, crushed edamame, sorrel and pea velouté (£16.95) and it was wonderful. I have loved sea trout ever since my late father used to bring it home from angling trips and this substantial square of coral-coloured fish with crisped skin was no let-down. A few days before, I had seen Scotland's national chef, Gary Maclean, giving a fish cookery demonstration at the Newport in Fife and this dish could have come straight from a masterclass. The crushed edamame (young, whole soy beans in the pod) added colour, subtle flavour and texture from the Asian tradition with the tart, almost lemony sorrel and smooth, suitably pea-green velouté a lovely accompaniment.

Some of the dishes seemed individually pricey - the scallop starter and the cheese board at £12 - but as a whole, the food and experience here were extremely satisfying.

Price: starters from £5.50; mains from £9.95; puddings £7. Score: value: 8/10; menu: 8/10; atmosphere: 8/10; service: 9/10; food: 9/10


"Vivid, inventive, idiosyncratic" cooking is front and centre at Scully in London's Mayfair, says Jay Rayner in The Observer

Aubergine is slow-roasted and spiced then served with the salty-sour punch of preserved lemons. To soften the acidity, there's a dollop of soft curd. Scattered across all this are handfuls of peppery leaves and the fresh pop and squeak of new season peas.

A dish of "forbidden rice" with a "vegetable XO" demands a lot of inverted commas. XO sauce without the quote marks gets its familiar oomph from dried seafood. I'm not sure how they're doing it here, but there is a rich and compelling nuttiness. It's topped by discs of daikon, first dehydrated and rehydrated. Is life too short to dehydrate and rehydrate a root vegetable? Apparently not at Scully, where they adore a process. It gives the daikon a pleasing crunch and bite.

The most exquisite of these dishes is a salad of yellow and red tomatoes, with green strawberries, shaved young coconut and sprigs of edible flowers, arranged in a crescent. Alongside is a jug of a vivid sweet-sour dressing in shades of red and rust and green.

Price: snacks and small plates £8-£14. Large plates £28-£36. Desserts £8-£10. Wines from £32


Lore of the Land in London's Fitzrovia has a distinct allure, writes Fay Maschler in the Evening Standard

Ricotta with (one) radish and sunflower seed pesto has been smashed about, as has pea and mint tart with burrata and black garlic. Pomegranate seeds are bound to come high-kicking in and they do, scattered on to spiced aubergine pÁ¢té - basically baba ganoush - served with charred crackers.

A poussin is a modest bird and half of one spice-rubbed, even with chicken broth, braised lettuce, a crunch of crumbs and a scoop of green purée, is only enough for a laydee of delicate constitution.

Crispy charred potatoes with the sort of wrinkles around the eyes that convey a sense of humour, served in a copper pan with truffle mayo, could and should accompany any of the wee mains. Grilled English asparagus, taut and snappy, with confit egg yolk and sourdough cream and a clever sweetcorn and harissa risotto with black garlic and crispy corn are presumably intended - and priced - as vegetarian assemblies rather than sides. We are very pleased to have them joining in.

Score: 3/5


HOTELS

Monkey Island

Monkey Island in Bray, Berkshire is "a perfect blend of luxury and informality," according to The Times' Tony Turnbull

The 30 art-deco-styled bedrooms, all with river views and aromatherapy products in the marble bathrooms, are small but luxurious. There are three cottages (and an indoor pool) on the riverbank plus three more in Bray, which include use of a Mini.

With two three-Michelin-starred restaurants in Bray, the hotel does not try to compete. The Monkey Island Brasserie is relaxed and (for a hotel of this standing) affordable. There are brasserie standards, such as fish and chips (£17) and burgers (£18), plus more refined choices from ex-Simpson's in the Strand chef William Hemming, including cauliflower with pickled walnuts and Berkswell cheese (£12) and sea bass with clams and dashi velouté (£27). At breakfast collect your own eggs from the chicken coop or have honey from the island's hives.

A perfect blend of luxury and informality, only let down by the hum of the M4.

Room-only doubles from £275, B&B from £325. Score: 9/10


Terence and Vicki Conran's Boundary in London's Shoreditch is "a design-lover's paradise" with every detail carefully thought through, writes Rachel Cranshaw in The Telegraph

The 17 rooms are suites are all individually designed after a different designer or design movement of the 20th century (from Bauhaus to Young British Designers, via Scandinavian, Le Corbusier, Eames and more), so think carefully before booking. I stayed in the David Tang suite, which brims with Seventies nostalgia; tasseled lamps, an orange dining/boardroom table, avocado-green sofa and mirrored walls complementing smooth teak.

Style doesn't come at the expense of comfort - robes, slippers, tea- and coffee-making facilities come as standard, and the design focus extends to amenities such as the Conran sound system and full set of mini Aesop toiletries in the bathroom. My dark-tiled and heavily mirrored bathroom had a huge built-in soaking tub alongside a separate open rain shower. There was some wear and tear on the carpet near the entrance of the suite, suggesting maintenance could be needed.

Price: rooms from £200

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