29 JanuaryJohn Lanchester is distinctly underwhelmed by Barbecoa, London EC4, the latest restaurant by Jamie Oliver, which is a co-venture with US chef Adam Perry Lang
Price: Meal with drinks and service, about £65 a head.Barbecoa review in full >>
30 JanuaryJay Rayner pays tribute to Elena Salvoni, one of Soho's living legends, who at 90 still works the floor of Little Italy, London W1, every second Wednesday of the month
Main-course pasta dishes are huge bowls of carbs, cooked so they still have some bite and give, dressed with lots of the advertised ingredients, be it a dense, gamey ragu of wild boar, hunks of lobster or a scarlet sauce of tomatoes cooked down to their essence. An escalope of veal came breaded and served on the bone, with a half of muslin-dressed lemon. None of this is likely to rock you back in your seat. But it will feed you very well indeed. If you have room and commitment, order their innocent-sounding apple tart, a depraved confection of crunchy amaretti-based crumb, caramel sauce and, for appearance's sake, a little apple, surrounded by crème anglais. It is one of the last indecent experiences in a much-less-filthy Soho. Most of all, bask in genuinely old-fashioned service and the attentions of Elena, who will always make you feel she is pleased to see you. Because she is.
Price: Meal for two, every second Wednesday of the month, £120Little Italy review in full >>
29 JanuaryTracey Macleod finds innovative food and great value but disjointed service at Van Zeller in Harrogate, North Yorkshire
The surprises are saved for the menu, or rather menus; as well as the Á la carte, there's a good-value set menu and a six-course tasting menu. All of them are more than usually interesting; Tom van Zeller's style is innovative without being radical or gimmicky, built around superb, often local, ingredients. It's not often you see Yorkshire cobble on the same menu as lapsang souchong espuma. Proprietorial shyness apart, service was generally friendly, but disjointed, led by a waiter who told us he'd been there two days and would soon be moving on. Twice we asked for the wine list, and both times we had to call someone over to take our order. And twice we sent the bill back for unordered items to be removed. Otherwise, Van Zeller is certainly working hard to pull in punters of every pay-grade, notably by offering a steal of a January sale menu at £12.50 for three courses. With cooking of this quality, this cracking little restaurant deserves to be packed with customers. All that's missing is the TLC. Just a smile and a greeting, Tom, and you would have had us at "hello".
Rating: Food 4/5; Ambience 3/5; Service 3/5
Price: A la carte about £40 a head before wine and serviceVan Zeller review in full >>
The Independent on Sunday
30 JanuaryAmol Rajan reviews French restaurant Brasserie Toulouse-Lautrec in London SE11
Myself and three friends all try the £25 three-course menu. The rocket salad with warm chorizo and sun-blushed tomatoes and a balsamic dressing is very plain. The chorizo chunks are too small to reward mastication, and lack flavour; the rocket is, well, rocket. Tommy calls the dish "unremarkable". The home-made soup is a well-seasoned, creamy cauliflower, and the truffle oil is a good touch. My six snails from Burgundy come without shells in dimpled earthenware, but a wonderfully salty garlic butter makes it worth abandoning that New Year's resolve to build a beach body. Especially once I've had a glass of the Muscadet, reasonable value at £19.90 a bottle. Tommy's Welsh shank of lamb really has been slow-cooked for 24 hours, judging by the ease with which it comes off the bone. The sweet redcurrant sauce in which it sits is an able companion, but the absurdly unadventurous sautéd vegetables on his plate are an affront to the French imagination.
Price: About £160 for dinner for four, including two bottles of wine and serviceBrasserie Toulouse-Lautrec review in full >>
29 JanuaryGiles Coren says the Highgate branch of Côte, London N6, the French brasserie concept backed by Richard Caring, is not good at all Despite there being 50-odd things on the menu, the waitress, a nice Eastern European girl with a terrible haircut and no reason to lie, assured us the food was prepared on site, including the cassoulet, which was the special of the day. It was terrible. They had used giant butter beans, almost certainly tinned, for no reason known to man. Dried haricots are the cheapest and easiest thing in the world to buy and cook. You can get them three doors up at Europa. My mistake, it's a Tesco now, and sells only immense Coke zeppelins and 100-bag multipacks of Walkers crisps. The sausage in the cassoulet was dull, the pork meat flavourless and stringy, and the taste of dried herbs was overpowering. I'll be honest, the one we used to serve when I worked at the Dome (now Café Rouge) in Hampstead, which came in frozen to be microwaved on demand, was about 100 times better. I had a sirloin. Terrible. Ordered it rare, it came medium to well. The meat was flabby, grey, wan. On the menu they had put "aged on the bone" with inverted commas around it, which allows it the second possible meaning of "not aged on the bone" - a more likely scenario. With that I had some French beans from Egypt or Kenya.
Price: Two main courses, one side and a Coke £39.60Côte review in full >>
The Sunday Times
30 JanuaryAA Gill returns to Les Deux Salons, London WC2, and says the French bistro is still a good restaurant but adds that it needs to take the kitchen in hand as it's slipping away The first time I came here, I had a crème brÁ»lée that was exemplary. This time, it missed a little finesse, didn't have that sulphury hot hit of bourbon vanilla. A Paris-Brest is a circle of puff pastry stuffed with praline cream that sounds like something from the Folies Bergère, but is, in fact, supposed to be a bicycle wheel commemorating a race from the capital to the coast. If I'd written this review immediately after my first dinner, it would probably have got one star more than it'll get today. The service is friendly and fast, the cost of £260 for five people perfectly good value, but the food was just off the mark, cooked slightly too long, carelessly, seasoning and saucing imprecise. Plates a bit smeary. It felt both rushed and successful, which is the most common affliction for good restaurants. Too many covers and, if it's working, why bother fixing it? Well, Les Deux Salons is still a good restaurant; I'll happily go back. But it needs to take the kitchen in hand: it's slipping away. In a year, this could easily be just another chain café. And that would be a shame, and a waste. Because, while the city is rotten with Michelin stars, we're very short of decent bistros.
Price: Average price for two £55 plus drinksLes Deux Salons review in full >>
The Daily Telegraph
29 JanuaryMatthew Norman says the Henry Root, London SW10, is the most engagingly named restaurant he has ever been to Then came a gluttonous array of dishes worthy of the joint's Gavroche-trained chef. Short rib of beef in a carrot and celery broth was slow-cooked to a properly melty finish, and those pork cheeks in a sauce vierge (olive oil, tomato, lemon juice, basil) were enticingly russet in colour, and packed with rich, savoury flavour. Best of the small plates was soused mackerel with pickled root vegetables, the fish's sweetness perfectly balanced by the vinegary sharpness of the veg. "Now that fish is fantastic," observed McShane, who seems quite the Rootian expert on piscine life forms since prancing as Blackbeard opposite Johnny Depp in the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film (out in May). The big plates were all winners, too. A surprisingly meaty, tarragon-infused stew of halibut, crab and haricot beans looked gorgeous in its pot, and tasted as good as it looked. Hanger steak - also known as skirt, and far more flavoursome than the pricier cuts of beef - was unusually tender, and came with a bone marrow fritter, great triple-cooked chips and a fine Béarnaise.
Henry Root review in full >>
The Sunday Telegraph
30 JanuaryNordic restaurant North Road, London EC1, certainly looks the part, says Zoe Williams, but the kitchen seems to have lost its bearings I cannot put my finger on what constitutes nice lighting; all I can tell you is that North Road has it. Is it because of the Nordic lamps over the bar? Is it down to the tear-drop dining-room lights, which look gorgeous until a tall person stands up and hits themselves in the face, whereupon they look both gorgeous and comic? I cannot say, but it certainly defines the atmosphere: serene, sophisticated, certainly not debauched, but in no way ascetic. This could be the very definition of the Scandinavian food experience. D had the cured lobster and buttermilk with horseradish, coastal herbs and vinaigrette (£15). It all started rather well. He found the colour palette quite modern, ranging from a milky sauce to the blueish pink of the lobster; I think overall you'd call it ghostly. And fashionably so - it didn't look like an accident. However, in places it did taste like an accident. The lobster wasn't cooked, but nor was it served raw with any flourish, as a ceviche; it was simply translucent, at blood temperature, as though recently slain in a warm sea.
Price: £34 for three coursesNorth Road review in full >>