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Reviews: Vermuteria is held back by practical limitations; while Tatha "could easily improve"

05 November 2018 by
Reviews: Vermuteria is held back by practical limitations; while Tatha "could easily improve"

It'll be a pity if the practical limitations of Vermuteria prevent it from offering more of the food that has won Anthony Demetre such a following, writes David Sexton in the Evening Standard, reviewing the restaurant at London's new Coal Drops Yard development at King's Cross

But they took about two hours to come, after many supplications. It was Vermuteria's first day, so no complaint can be made. Yet it was quite strange that there were plenty of staff but nothing ordered ever arrived (some people were getting cross).

On Monday evening they were offering a few more dishes. Grilled quail (£6.50) came spatchcocked, cooked just enough, on a loose bed of parsley-flecked fresh white beans and little girolles, reminiscent of the food at one of those many happy lunchtimes at Arbutus. It'll be a pity if the practical limitations of the site do prevent Vermuteria offering more of the food that's won Demetre such a following.

Score: 3/5


Tatha at the V&A in Dundee is better than most gallery cafés, writes Joanna Blythman in The Herald, but it could easily improve by stripping out its fashion victim pretension

As a main course at £11.50, I can't lie, the Arbroath smokie tart disappoints. Pastry, fine, but I'm hunting the fish in the filling, which is firm to a fault. I search for the much anticipated smoked Anster cheese and don't find it. The salad that flanks the tart has been plated up dutifully, without any love or flair for the category. Fudgy tomato, dull boiled beetroot, cucumber, radish, the inescapable floppy rocket, all nude and undressed. Tatha makes a bit of a thing about its suppliers, and I'm enjoying the deep-flavoured chargrilled buffalo steak, well seasoned with Tellicherry peppercorns, from the well-respected Puddledub farm in Fife. The mash that comes with it has been enriched with the addition of bone marrow, and there's another heap of, for me, redundant rocket. Racking up the greens, we've ordered broccoli dressed with garlic, sherry vinegar, and toasted hazelnuts, but unfortunately, every second nut is rancid.

Visually, the chocolate avocado cake is disturbing, black, shiny, sinister, like a dominatrix clad in PVC. Avocado is always a wimpy ingredient, so perhaps it's holed up in the cake topping which has the consistency of mayonnaise. It might as have well have scarpered, so little impression has it made amidst this pile-up of contemporary dessert clichés: salty popcorn, shards of thick pistachio caramel with what looks to be sesame seeds, or quinoa again, that don't merit the description 'brittle' - "I worry for my teeth" says my dining partner - berries that are barely in season, and anonymous white ice cream.

Price:£13.50-£45 for lunch; £24-£45 for dinner. Score: 7/10


The Telegraph's Kathryn Flett finds Cin Cin in Brighton to be unfussy and non-suffocatingly hipster

Starters: a plateful of four artisan salumi (including a quite gloriously fennelly sausage) and a smoked haddock arancino with saffron aioli and pickled sultanas (texturally and taste-wise easily the best arancino I've had this decade)… my stupendously delicious main course: reginelle (slightly frilled pasta ribbons) with a one-two porcine jab of less-is-more Tuscan sausage and pork ragÁ¹.

Over my cheeseboard (a very fine taleggio, in particular) and his tremulous panna cotta with blackberry and apple - as pleasingly crumble-y as it was wobbly - I decided that I really love Cin Cin; the food is cooked right there next to you quietly and unfussily in a non-suffocatingly-hipster manner that demonstrates only passion and professionalism; the service is impeccable, the room is cool and relaxed - and relaxing (and I say this as someone very much stool-averse).

Price: around £90 for lunch for two with wine. Score: 4/5


The Times's Marina O'Loughlin finds "cooking designed to make you happy, not adhere to rules or stick to agendas" at Pasta Ripiena in Bristol

The pasta itself is… surprising. Rather than taut, uniform little parcels, a lot of it comes as folds of dough: edible origami. Sprawling spinach ravioli are stuffed with Parmesan-rich polenta - double-carb heaven - heaped with more Parmesan, fennel-scented sausage ragÁ¹ and fronds of cavolo nero. It teeters towards overkill, but stops short just in time.

Perhaps Pasta Ripiena isn't really Italian at all. Yes, there's the name. Yes, there's obviously pasta. And yes, it's made on the classic machine, the Monferrina. But it's not like any pasta I've eaten anywhere in Italy, and I've done my fair bit of staggering about the Boot. Every dish features combinations you wouldn't find anywhere from Piedmont to Puglia; they're complex and overloaded, qualities I'd sniff at in an actual Italian restaurant. It reminds me more of cool LA joints, the likes of Bestia or Alimento or Gjusta.

When viewed through those lenses, it's entirely successful. Not delicate or refined, but messy, chaotic, sloppily delicious, with flashes of real sophistication. Bonkersness, too: walnut caramelle (sweetie-shaped pasta) served with little spring rolls stuffed with goats' cheese on top.

Price: F80 for two (no service charge)


1251 bbq-wood-pigeon-with-iceberg-lettuce-liquorice-and-fig credit-to-jessica-jill-partridge
1251 bbq-wood-pigeon-with-iceberg-lettuce-liquorice-and-fig credit-to-jessica-jill-partridge

The Evening Standard's Jimi Famurewa describes James Cochran's cooking at 1251 in London's Islington as "soulful, foot-on-the-amp cooking, touched by a sense of joyous, grinning nostalgia"

Goat kromeski (a Polish croquette, basically) brought a trio of golden-brown breaded cubes, filled with luscious pink strands of slow-cooked meat and doused in a pineapple chutney that had forceful heat to match its tropical sweetness. Pickled white crab Devon tartlet conjured the bracing essence of a wind-whipped seafood stand, while the oozy, indulgent filling of a smoked haddock and leek toastie made up for house-made brioche that lacked structure and oomph.

Buttermilk jerk chicken - gorgeously craggy bits of succulent, patiently brined bird with tongue-prickling blobs of Scotch bonnet jam - had its crunch ingeniously boosted by a scattering of crumbled corn nuts. And Tamworth pork - served with splats of subtle smoked eel cream, a brooding, spicy hunk of blood pudding and umami-fied turnip kimchi - was a Sunday roast of the gods, bearing an aerated, thick slab of crackling that shattered loudly enough to alert nearby car alarms. Potato with cured egg yolk revealed itself to be tightly wound yo-yos of tapered spud, covered in truffle and custardy burnt cream.

Price: £88.25. Score: ambienc 3/5; food: 4/5


Canto
Canto

"Muted chaos reigned" at Jay Rayner's visit to Canto in Manchester, which he reviews in The Observer

It begins with a plate of 30-month-old BÁ­saro ham which, at a tenner for a small plate, is clearly meant to be compared to the spendy Ibérico stuff from over the border. I'll happily make a comparison: it's nowhere near as good. The flavour is one note, the fat marbling distinctly lacking. What's more, it hasn't so much been hand-sliced as hacked from the bone in an act of violence, as if to vent frustration after a hard day at the office.

Far better are dark lozenges of braised pig's cheek, with chestnuts and a Jerusalem artichoke purée. It's a slab of autumn on a plate. The next two leave us muttering: "Is that it?" Clams turn up in a thick, garlicky broth. It's nicely prepared but for £11, it's on the "Are you having a laugh?" side of meagreness. Worse is the chargrilled chicken, with Savora mustard sauce. For £8.50 you get half a poussin, wrenched from the nursery. It's such a shameless punt at poor value that I'm really not minded to tell you whether it's any good or not.

If you come for anything, make it dessert. A pastry-free almond torte is a beautiful, sticky toffee-like thing. It comes with an encouraging scoop of tangy mascarpone. They also make their own rather brilliant custard tarts, which we have with a scoop of their sour cherry ice-cream. This is a weirdly welcome sour taste at the end of a meal full of unwelcome ones.


Zela London, backed by Cristiano Ronaldo, Rafael Nadal and Enrique Iglesias and located at the Strand's ME hotel, "feels exactly like the West End hell portal Rainforest Café, according to The Guardian's Grace Dent

Service begins effusively and mob-handed with at least six people serving us, slipping within 30 minutes to no one serving at all, and eventually to us cancelling pudding. We order the white fish tiradito, which is Peruvian, and served "malagueÁ±o style". It is a pretty plate of sashimi halibut rolled around a tiny, drab cube of potato. It tastes of very little. I'm expecting a hint of chilli or yuzu, perhaps. Nothing. I can't even taste the potato.

A basket of three shrimp "al ajillo" gyoza, for £14, have semi-raw skins. A roll of toro uramaki looks like a crime scene: the fatty belly tuna is roughly, unevenly hand-chopped and the outer casing of rice is falling apart - the standard of sushi rolling is sleeker at the Sushi Daily stand in Waitrose. Some fried rice arrives with a semi-cooked "onsen tamago" egg. The white is how it should be: silky and custard-like. The rice is truffle-infused, slightly bitter and certainly oily.

Price: about £60-plus a head, plus drinks and service. Score: food 1/10; atmosphere 2/10; service 1/10


Hotels

the-islay-room-1-the-machrie
the-islay-room-1-the-machrie

Mark O'Flaherty of The Sunday Telegraph is impressed that the newly launched Machrie hotel at Port Ellen on the Isle of Islay has been designed for both millionaire golfers and locals who want to take granny somewhere nice for a sandwich

The 18 Restaurant & Bar, located at the top of a staircase that has had its sides artfully tessellated to bring a nicely graphic interiors touch to the lobby, is the soul of the hotel. Its long, vaulted ceiling has been cleverly treated to make the acoustics soft, supported by what look like giant wooden knitting needles.

The interiors are comfortable and chic, with golf-themed Hermès scarves framed on the walls. It's a lovely bright space, with lots of glass and views out across the golf course to the sea beyond. Around the corner from the bar there's a screening room that is going to become the de facto sole cinema on the island.

Price: from £145 per night, year-round, including breakfast. Score: 8/10


beverley-arms
beverley-arms

Kevin Rushby of The Guardian enjoys his stay at the Beverley Arms hotel in East Yorkshire, which has recently reopened following a two-year, £6.5m renovation

The Beverley Arms is an imposing Georgian pile. The downstairs area is now a seamless flow of lounges, bar, restaurant and dining areas. Colour schemes are respectful to the heritage, but the paintings skip through a riot of colour, even spilling out of their frames. The first thing I notice is that the bar serves hand-pulled beers, including Thwaites (which owns the place) and Wainwrights.

I like the bedroom. The country inn style may not be particularly adventurous but the bed is magnetically comfortable, the soft subdued colours easy on the eye, and there are some books. I pick up a Bill Bryson and settle on the sofa with a homemade biscuit from the tray and a pot of tea. I like hotels that provide tea pots, good biscuits, books and sofas.

Price: from £105 for a double B&B


Gabriella Bennett of The Times describes Craigellachie hotel in Speyside as the most stylish lodgings in rural Scotland

A classic Highland lodge dating from Victorian times, it was revamped in 2013. The Quaich Bar is particularly impressive, with port-coloured leather seats, forest-green upholstery and just the right amount of velvet and chintz - not to mention the 900 bottles of single malt twinkling temptingly on the back wall.

[The bedrooms are] spacious, with high ceilings and windows in keeping with the architectural period, alongside modern accoutrements such as grand super-king beds with twirly sugar-cane painted posts. Retro digital radios play jazz on your arrival, and there is a Nespresso coffee machine and a crystal decanter that holds a few drams. The hotel is close to walking trails, so many guests visit with their dogs; five of the 26 bedrooms have access to the garden.

Price: from £165 a night for a B&B double. Score: 9/10

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