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

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

The Times
19 February
Giles Coren reviews the Grazing Goat, London W1, where he finds nice food but rather steep prices
The food is fine but pricey. I had a nice piece of grilled halibut for £19.50 that was no bigger than a packet of Swan Vestas. The £13.50 burger is a very good one. A slab of game terrine at £8.50 was pushing twice the going rate, but was firm and coarse and lively. The chilli squid was poor: crispy enough but over-battered, so tasting mostly of frying oil, and with very little spice and nip and clatter. Even E & O in Notting Hill does it better. Best value was a side of underpowered but prettily presented cauliflower cheese. Table style was the now ubiquitous rustic/diddy with food presented on an assortment of unnecessary chopping boards and Honey-I-Shrunk-the-Le-Creuset cast-iron potlets. I'd imagine that sort of thing is on the turn now, too - it's all very autumn 2008. Service was friendly but with two courses each and a dessert to share coming in at £72.56 with no drinks at all except sparkling tap (for which they charged us 50p), it is more suited to lunchers in this group's core territory around Chelsea and Belgravia than in the badlands of south Marylebone. That said, it's an hotel, too (and a very pretty one) and tourists are far less likely to care about value than old tightwads like me.
Score: 4.33
Price: £72.56 for two excluding wine
Grazing Goat review in full (Only accessible to Times subscribers) >>

The Sunday Times
20 February
AA Gill finds the Royal Academy restaurant, London W1, operated by Peyton Byrne, is far from a work of art and the menu is making promises the kitchen isn't up to keeping
And then it all went horribly wrong. My main course of lemon sole with beetroot salad and a citrus dressing was not a nice thing. The fish was little fillets rolled into earplugs and poached until they turned into wads of nose-blown tissue paper, covered in a tasteless white cream. The citrus beetroot hadn't been introduced to the fish and apparently disliked it as much as I did. Pork cheek with pommes mousseline was a plop of sticky potato slime, covered in a piggy potty goo that had all the meaty flavour cooked out of it, leaving a faint suggestion of dog breath. Nastiest of all was a slow-cooked shoulder of beef with onion jam: rounds of grey, fibrous meat that perfectly regurgitated junior-school lunch from 1960. It was a flavour that was intensely and unpleasantly nostalgic, a type of food that is now being fashionably reinterpreted by trendy cooks who are never forced to eat it. For vegetables, there were pickled wild mushrooms that were like Sunday rations in the gulag, and carrots and tarragon that tasted of tepid soft-boiled Lego. Pudding was a milk chocolate mousse that, in keeping with the austerity theme, was jellied Nesquik, and a strudel reinterpretation looked as if someone had dropped it.
Rating: 2/5
Price: £65 plus drinks
The Royal Academy review in full (Only accessible to Times subscribers) >>

The Guardian
19 February
John Lanchester says Stevie Parle's food at the Dock Kitchen, London W10, is good but inconsistent
That theme, of things being not quite right, ran through the meal. A dish of gnudi - well-herbed ricotta dumplings in a pool of olive oil, at an uncheap £8 for four - seemed OK to me, but one of my companions, the great Matthew Fort, thought they needed a better quality ricotta. Brill, cooked in and served with coconut, had negative synergy: it turns out not only that brill doesn't really go with coconut, but that both ingredients end up tasting of less than they otherwise would. Skirt steak was correctly cooked, but came barely at room temperature, with potatoes that were even cooler. My biriani wasn't too hot in at least three senses - cool in temperature, mild in spicing, faintly greasy in the mouth. It was a dish that showed up a thinness in Parle's here's-something-I-picked-up-on-my-travels eclecticism: the risk of cooking "real food" from anywhere a chef fancies is that it ends up seeming unrooted and unreal. As for puds, rhubarb and rosewater granita was nicely sharp, but flourless chocolate cake was heavy and lifeless, and olive oil cake was genuinely bizarre in that it had no taste at all.
Price: Meal for two with drinks and service, about £100Dock Kitchen review in full >>

The Observer
20 February
Jay Rayner says that it may stand in the shadow of Heston Blumenthal's new multi-million palace, but Chabrot, London SW1, holds its own with classic French cooking
The menu is big on seafood and searing things on the plancha and seasoning liberally. A bowl of crisp baby squid, from a list entitled "Small eats when ready", is greaseless and tender and salty. Better still is a warm, crumbly duck liver, more reminiscent of my Jewish great aunt's way with chopped liver. Unusually, I mean that in a good way - Jewish staples are generally so much ballast - but this was light and soft. It came with what they called a gougère and we'll call an individual Yorkshire pudding. It was still warm and flavoured with Comté cheese. A crunchy salad of red cabbage, apple and hazelnuts was one of those ideas you mentally steal from the table to replicate at home. Our main courses ranged from the simple - two large prawns seared on the plancha, dressed only with lemon, olive oil and herbs - to another of true French let's-treat-Larousse-Gastronomique-as-the-bible classicism: a Savoy cabbage leaf stuffed with veal, chestnuts, foie gras and ceps. It sounds like an aneurism on a plate, the kind of dish cardiologists queue up to endorse on account of the extra business. Instead it was thrillingly light and fresh and came with a translucent non-sticky jus that was the sum of all of its parts.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service, £110Chabrot review in full >>

The Independent on Sunday
20 February
Lisa Markwell says Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London SW1, lives up to the hype
Before the arrival of the mains, I notice something rather curious - there are salt and pepper grinders on the table. Curious, as I'd have predicted that the maestro would send dishes perfectly seasoned, and that to add anything would ruin his acutely calibrated flavours. It's an indication of where Dinner is aimed - as a restaurant rather than an experience. It's certainly joyous to eat such wonderful food, but it's quite "straight": three courses, no liquid nitrogen, bottles of wine for less than £40 (admittedly not many, but our 2008 Roger Sabon Côtes du Rhône at £35 is smooth and drinkable). My pork chop certainly doesn't need seasoning - it's quite the most tender, rich bit of pig I've eaten (as it should be for £28). As elsewhere, the excellence of the food's provenance is clear. The deeply savoury, reduced Robert sauce tinges each slice of pork beautifully but makes the more-butter-than-spud potato purée redundant. Mr M's 72-hour slow-cooked short rib of Angus with smoked anchovy-and-onion purée and little cubes of ox tongue is, for me, rather too earthy, but he likes it. Quite how something cooked for so long can be so precisely judged proves why not everyone can charge nigh-on £30 for a modest tranche of beef.
Rating: 9/10
Price: About £180 for two, including wine
Dinner review in full >>

The Daily Telegraph
19 February
Two cheers for the burgermeisters of buzz says Matthew Norman after visiting Les Deux Salons, London WC2
[The beef burger] was faultless, as was everything else that day; but the standout dish was a Herefordshire snail-and-bacon pie of such brilliance - gloriously light pastry domed above snails suffused in a creamy, garlicky sauce - that I started with it again on my second, upstairs visit. Nothing else quite lived up to its splendour. Ravioli of rose veal, fresh goats' curd and cavolo nero was almost wonderful, but undone by an overbearing balsamic tang. Pumpkin soup with chestnut mushrooms was too watery, though it was rescued by a slice of lardo di Colonnata - flaccid, white pig fat very seldom found in Britain and way more delicious than it sounds. The inconsistency in the cooking was more than made up for by the buzz in the upstairs section, where the tables and booths are arrayed around a huge gap in the ceiling partially filled by a dramatic entwinement of globe lamps. Smartly aproned waiters charged around with identifiably Parisian concentration written over their features and the service was superb by any standards, let alone for a place with 150 covers.
Rating: 8/10
Price: Three courses with wine and coffee £50-60 per head
Les Deux Salons review in full >>

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