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

07 March 2011
What's on the Menu? – A round-up of the latest restaurant reviews

The Guardian
5 March
John Lanchester says although right on the pulse as far as culinary trends go, the menu at North Road, London EC1, is hit and miss
When Hruskova is on form, you genuinely feel you're getting a glimpse of something new. There's an austerity, cleanness and clarity to this kind of cooking, and I can see why it wows foodies, because you have to concentrate on what you're eating to get the full point. The pleasures aren't obvious ones. This leaves a lot of room for underwhelmedness when it doesn't go exactly right. On my five-degree scale - in descending order, Awesome, Cool, OK, Meh, Pants - several dishes were between OK and Meh. Squid with kohlrabi had the blandish, chewy cephalopod set off by way too much green acidity. Venison from Norfolk was a mild piece of deer served with salsify and a roll of berry jelly, I think to highlight the sweetness of the meat, except it didn't have any, so it didn't work. Price: Meal for two with drinks, £100-plus; tasting menu £55 a head.North Road review in full >>

The Observer
6 March
Jay Rayner says despite being run by women, Opus, Birmingham, is a macho restaurant lacking in guiding passion or principle
Every plate looks like it's had its rims polished furiously with a tea towel by a bloke who finds order in his world by positioning overworked, underflavoured ingredients just so. Don't offer me a ballottine of chorizo with my quail breast that tastes not at all of chorizo (and while we're at it, don't misspell fancy words like ballottine on the menu). Likewise, don't call a mediocre terrine of pork a roulade just because it sounds clever. Prove to me you truly love pig in all its forms, not that you can pluck culinary terms from a big book. The best dish was a fillet of beef, served rare, with a mustardy carrot purée and a silly coffin-shaped piece of "pan-fried" dauphinoise. If it's pan fried, it ain't dauphinoise. Which this wasn't. It was a kitchen trying far too hard. Or, in the case of an underseasoned tranche of halibut with scallops and a pillow of mash, not trying hard enough. There is nothing exactly wrong with this sort of cooking, but there is also very little right with it. I'd describe every dish as unmemorable were it not that my job is to remember exactly why it was unmemorable. It was food cooked in the service of presentation, not appetite. Price: Meal for two, including wine and service, £130Opus review in full >>

The Times5 March
Hugo Rifkind enjoys the food at Roux at the Landau, London W1, but finds the service doesn't live up to what you'd expect from Michel Roux Jnr
The table was set for four, even though I'd called up to tell them we'd only be three, which seemed to send the waiters into an uncomprehending loop, incapable of even acknowledging our presence while we remained next to an empty chair. Over time, we began hatching plots to kidnap a tramp off the street and pay him to sit in it. Anything to get fed. I'm not kidding; we were honestly there for 45 minutes before we even had a drink. I was about to start stealing chips from the table next door.
Once they noticed us, though, they were pretty good. Some canapés turned up (chorizo, egg, possibly rhubarb; scoffed them, wasn't really paying attention). Periodically, there were nice little touches, like the way that, when my wife ordered a glass of prosecco before her meal and a glass of white to go with it, and they brought them in the wrong order (this isn't a nice touch, this is background), they then watched her like a hawk so that, when she finished one, they could bring back the other, suitably chilled. Price: £288.60 for three, including service and wineRoux at the Landau full review available only to The Times Online subscribers >>

The Independent
5 March
John Walsh says the food at the restaurant at the Royal Academy, London W1, seems to be an afterthought to the decor and advises the chef to visit some decent suppliers
It's a hard thing for the professional glutton to say, but I searched in vain for anything that suggested a gastronomic good time. A wild sea bass carpaccio with mandolined lime slices was brinily pleasant, mainly because the fish wasn't really carpaccio'd - the slices were quite plump and succulent. A duck egg and Parmesan salad came with fennel and celeriac in little bootlace strips, which were nicely crunchy and cleansing. The duck egg, perfectly boiled to keep the yolk runny, was covered in balsamic vinegar and surprisingly, teeth-freezingly cold, which didn't seem right for a salad. Main-course pig's cheek with pommes mousseline looked frightful - as if someone had dolloped two large spoonfuls of Branston pickle on to a bed of mash, ignorantly embedded with bits of broccoli and carrot. The piggy flesh (that's what the pickle turned out to be) had a dense, gelatinous tenderness which worked with the "mousseline" exactly like lamb shanks with mash. These were the most densely padded cheeks I've encountered since The Godfather. Rating: Food 2/5; Ambience 4/5; Service 4/5
Price: About £100 for two, with wine
Restaurant at the Royal Academy review in full >>

The Independent on Sunday
6 March 6, 2011
Lisa Markwell says chef, author and delicatessen owner Yotam Ottolenghi has struck gold with his new restaurant Nopi, London W1
The menu is divided into meat, fish, veg and sweets. Would you be surprised to hear the theme is sharing plates? Thought not. Prices range from £6 for green beans with hazelnuts and orange to £12 for such dishes as ossobucco with sage and Parmesan polenta. On my first visit, the three of us take heed of the menu's instruction to order three savoury dishes per person and have (deep breath) that ossobucco, twice-cooked baby chicken with lemon myrtle salt and chilli sauce, grilled lamb cutlets with spicy aubergine and goats' cheese, seared scallops with pickled daikon and green apple, grilled hake kebabs with lemon pickle and yoghurt, prawn toasts with ginger-and-cucumber dipping sauce, braised winter greens with tahini yoghurt, fondant swede gratin and savoy cabbage, and burrata with blood orange and coriander seeds. There are so many "wow" moments that to detail each would take up pages. So, from a stellar line-up, the scallops are just so, with a crisp, tangy salad - we could have eaten double. The prawn toast, cylindrical rather than in the traditional triangles, is a million miles from tacky take-out. The chicken is succulently moreish, while the lamb is wonderfully tender and pink, complemented perfectly by the smoky accompaniments. Rating: 8/10
Price: About £100 for two, including wine
Nopi review in full >>

Daily Telegraph5 March
Matthew Norman has a long, confusing meal at L'Etranger, London SW7, and vows to remain a stranger to the restaurant until Doomsday at the earliest
This restaurant won the Good Food Guide reader's award for best London restaurant in 2009, but unless there was a block vote cast by a few oenophiliac oligarchs, we couldn't see why. The service was unnerving, with the staff doing more hovering and earwigging than order-taking, and the food inconsistent. The cooking is "fusion", a culinary genre that went out of vogue for the inexplicable reason that it is, by and large, pretentious rot. At its best it can be great, and dishes from this Franco-Japanese menu impressed. Others hit a nihilistic note worthy of the novel. Crispy squid with sweet chilli sauce and spring onion was as immutably dull as squid usually is, but a salad of grilled quail, rocket and soba noodles was delectable. Beetroot raviolo, for all the artful presentation, was "like tasting grey". Tofu with pickled ginger and ponzu (a citrusy sauce) was blander still, while a sweet and fleshy giant prawn came split down the middle, with one half grilled in yuzu kosho (a red chilli and citrus rind paste), the other in tarragon and ponzu. Rating: 5/10
Price: Three courses with wine about £100 per head
L'Etranger review in full >>

Sunday Telegraph
6 March
Zoe Williams is impressed by A Little Bit of What You Fancy, London E8, saying within its rustic, casual ambit, it couldn't get much better
Asian-style pork belly (£15.50) was brilliant. It was a huge great slab, I guess to make sure people got enough, even those who wouldn't eat the fat. I will eat the fat - that's the main reason I order it - so of course I ate way too much. A ginger and sesame slaw underneath was excellent and balanced the richness of the meat with an exotic, explosive crunch and lightness. F had the slow-roast lamb with buttery mash and savoy cabbage (£17); the meat was wonderful, very stewy and wintery, pretty simple and unadorned, but with plenty of character. I'm going to sound unsophisticated, but I thought the mash was the unlikely star of this dish. I cannot tell you much: it tasted of potatoes, and it tasted of butter, and it was uncannily good. Puddings were large, incomprehensibly so, as if they were trying to make some kind of point. (Diets are so 2008?) Rating: 8/10
Price: Three courses: £27.20
A Little Bit of What You Fancy review in full >>

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