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What's on the Menu? – A round-up of the latest restaurant reviews

14 February 2011 by
What's on the Menu? – A round-up of the latest restaurant reviews

The Times
12 February
After drinking too much to remember eating at Hawksmoor Seven Dials, London WC2, Giles Coren goes back and discovers he loves the food
The food was terrific. Flawless of its kind. To start we had brilliant prawn cocktail and two great canoes of split front cow leg full of marrow, roasted in the "shell" with onions, and just as sweet and rich and fatty as, I don't know, as slow-poached toddlers and shallots in ghee. And then great, great steak. Best you'll find anywhere. In this case, a porterhouse for two, which is more or less what Americans call a T-bone but is usually cut further back on the animal, nearer the arse, so that there is more fillet. It was cooked medium rare at Hawksmoor's suggestion and had deep black charry cooking flavours and sweet pink fruity juices. The fillet was uncommonly flavourful, the sirloin unusually tender. There was no texture-taste compromise to consider, it was all good. All, all good. This is absolutely top-quality meat, expertly kept and dealt with. There'll be a whole histoire about the animals and their feed, the nature of their lives and death and how their body parts were dealt with post mortem, which you can dig out online or from the back of the menu or the staff if you want, but when a steak tastes like this (and like my rump and rib-eye must have done, too), all of that is present in the very mouthful, and needs no written apology.
Score: 7.33
Price: £50 per head
Hawksmoor Seven Dials review in full >>

The Sunday Times
13 February
AA Gill says Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is a sure thing, the go-to dining room offering sheer edible enjoyment
On the back of the menu there are explanations of the origins of all these dishes, from medieval for the meat fruit, to the 19th century for Camilla's pork chop. The explanations are interesting and surprising if you're a food wonk, but they're not the point. This isn't food nostalgia or National Trust lunch. It isn't patriotism on a plate. The point is that this is an exemplary menu of perfect balance and brilliance. The preparation and the concept manage to be a very British contrariness, both comforting and surprising, inventive but familiar. This food is unthreatening but commands attention and there isn't a mouthful that doesn't insist on the next mouthful. And another after that, which in the end is the aim of all cooking. The smartness and the obsession never get in the way of the of the plate in front of you. But if you are interested in the mechanics and the craft, then the brilliance is all below the waterline, prestidigitated before the audience arrive. To present all this on time with Alice's clockwork consistency is the real trick. There are, in fact, three kitchens: the prep work is prodigious and much of the food is cooked sous-vide - essentially poached in a bag at low temperature.
Rating: 5/5
Price: £90 for two plus drinks
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal review in full >>

The Independent
12 February
Tracey Macleod says Dinner is the missing link between the labour-intensive complexity of contemporary haute, and the produce-led simplicity of modern British cuisine

Rating: Food 5/5; Ambience 4/5; Service 5/5
Price: £60 per head for three courses
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal review in full >>

The Guardian
12 February
John Lanchester says Non Solo Vino, Chesterfield, is a pioneering wine shop that doubles up as a restaurant - and a really good Italian restaurant at that
The premises are modern, light and bright, glass and steel. We went on a weekday lunch and were the only people in the place, yet it didn't feel sepulchral. Lunches are apparently quiet, evenings busier - so much so that the restaurant is expanding upstairs (a revelation confirmed by intermittent building sounds. Builders who work during lunchtime? Right, I'm moving to Chesterfield). The food, according to the owner, is a little more complicated in the evening; I can report that it's very good at lunchtime, too. Two dishes stood out. The first was a seafood fritto misto that was wonderfully, ethereally light. It's odd that fried food, done brilliantly, tastes and seems so light; something to do with the correct proportion of air in the batter and the accurate management of temperature during the frying. The squid, prawn and other seafood were just right, and came with a lightly garlicky mayo that it was hard to stop eating. Just as good was an outstanding grilled lamb rump. My first thought on seeing it was that it was overcooked (I like lamb rare, and had forgotten to say), but the flavour was all there and it was very good meat. It came with an almost cheesily rich but airy potato dish, which I assumed was some fancy kind of potato fondant. Not so: it was just very, very good mash. Sea bass, crushed potato and caponata was good but less interesting.
Non Solo review in full >>

The Sunday Telegraph
13 February
With romance in mind, Zoe Williams heads to date central and finds herself utterly seduced by the food at Hakkasan Mayfair, London W1
My dim-sum platter was two prawn, two scallop, two mushroom and two Chinese chive dumplings, trussed up in that stretchy, shiny wheat-starch skin that I don't think I will ever get enough of, and no more or less delicious than these things ever are. It was an unfair choice of mine; these are the salt-beef sandwich of the Far East. Unless you are born eating them, it's hard to get past the wall of deliciousness and differentiate between one restaurant's and another's. And then, in a second menu outrage, I effectively chose the same thing twice: scallop and prawn-cake claypot (£26.50). In my defence, I didn't know what the dim sum were going to be until they'd arrived. This was fascinating - the seafood had all been drenched in seasoned flour, then fried, so that there actually was something cakey about them, a moreish, squidgy exterior, underpinned by very fresh, distinctive flavours. I also had the garlic shoots. I don't want to call them eye-wateringly expensive lest I ruin the magical atmosphere, but a tenner for a side dish is something you don't come across very often.
Rating: 4/5
Price: Three courses £52.25
Hakkasan Mayfair review in full >>

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