John Lanchester enjoys the Ibérico pork at Opera Tavern, London WC2, the latest venture from tapas specialists Salt Yard Group
Those dishes were from the "bar snacks" section of the menu, which is one of those you can arrange any way you like, from meats, cheeses, grills, veg or tapas. The Salt Yard group are great aficionados of the Ibérico pig, and the porky things here are excellent, in particular the presa, a cut from between the shoulder and loin, served medium rare, with a jus spiked with shallots, and a dressing of capers and lemon. Its relative underdoneness showed how much we lose out by our routine incineration of pork. This outshone the other meat dishes, such as salt marsh lamb with pumpkin gnocchi and salted anchovies, or a grilled skewer of flank steak with ceps. Short rib of beef had great depth of flavour but an offputting, hash-like texture; but then, any dish would have found it hard to compete with that presa. One or two other dishes were startlingly acidic by contrast with the mellow meat flavours: mackerel escabeche with roast beets was very sharp, as was a salad of salsify, chestnuts and potatoes.
Price: Meal with drinks and service, around £50 a headOpera Tavern review in full >>
Jay Rayner says Vietnamese restaurant Café East, London SE16, is the best kind of cheap restaurant
Move on to a swimming-pool-sized bowl of wondrous pho, yours for £6.50. The beef broth has that sort of intensity and depth of flavour which suggests it would set as a jelly when cold. Alongside comes a platter of greenery - mint and coriander, basil and something with a profound anise flavour, leaves of iceberg lettuce for flavourless crunch, and a small bowl of finely chopped fresh red chillies, to give it a bit of oomph. It is that F word - fresh - which dominates. Nobody eating this stuff could feel that they were doing anything other than being good to themselves. We ate a few other things. There was an intriguing beef casserole served with a baguette, a hangover from French colonial rule, the liquor to which had a subtle ginger and garlic end so you knew which part of the world it came from. There was long-braised pork belly on a pile of sticky rice quickly soaking up the sweet, dark juices. There was a seafood soup with thinner noodles that made your scalp sweat. But it is the memory of the pho that lingers.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service, £30Café East review in full >>
Tracey MacLeod finds something disorientating about Nopi, London W1, the new all-day brasserie by Yotam Ottolenghi
Service is first-rate, charming and informed, and no charge is made for filtered water and excellent sourdough. Good though most of our dishes were, we both found something disorientating about the Nopi experience, with its unfamiliar ingredients, unpredictable meal structure and unclassifiable décor. That disorientation intensified after a visit to the loos, a nightclub-style hall of mirrors which makes it hard to avoid catching unexpected views of yourself mid-act. I'll do anything for lunch, but I won't do that. My faith in Yotam Ottolenghi and all his works remains solid. But I don't feel able to hail Nopi as the second coming. In fact I can't quite imagine when I'll find the right occasion for a second visit.
Rating: Food: 3/5; Ambience: 3/5; Service: 5/5
Price: Around £40 a head before wine and serviceNopi review in full >>
The Independent on Sunday
Lisa Markwell says Meateasy, London SE14, is so trendy it hurts but it serves the very best of fast food
Of course, it's all about the meat. Philly cheesesteaks, burgers: cheese ones, bacon cheese ones - plus the eye-popping "dead hippie". This delight is two mustard-fried patties with lots of cheese and special sauce - I never do discover what they put in it, but I want another straight away. I hope it's not an addictive substance the hippie had in his pocket when he died… We also try chilli cheese fries, mac and cheese, buffalo wings and onion rings. Almost everything has a mustardy tang that makes it moreish. The chicken is sticky and spicy, and they're generously fleshy wings. The mac and cheese is crusty on top, with a molten swamp of mature cheddar and Parmesan-enriched sauce. For £5, it's a meal in itself. The dead hippie (£7.50) is also a total bargain - the meat is coarse-ground and well-flavoured, with juices that muddle with the sauce and run down your wrists. Luckily there's a kitchen roll on every table. Almost everything is disposable - the cutlery, plates and tubs holding ‘slaw.
Rating: 7.5/10Price: £40 for two, including drinksMeateasy review in full >>
The Daily Telegraph
Matthew Norman finds only grey gloop and vegetable slurry at Spice Market, London W1, the comeback restaurant from Jean-Georges Vongerichten
Awaiting us in the valley of death was steamed pollack with shiitake mushrooms and ginger, the ugliest dish I have ever seen. Mounds of drab white fish were adorned with a hideous grey-green spring onion and tarragon gloop, while the mushrooms were as stone cold as the fish. "Is this meant to be burned?" asked my friend of supermarket-quality chargrilled baby chicken, with a kumquat and lemongrass sauce. Vegetables in green curry (£8 for a few bits of broccoli and corn) had been boiled close to slurry. Chilli garlic egg noodles with seared shrimp and star anise franked the form, the shrimps overcooked to a desiccated finish. "I'd mind less if these were difficult dishes," said my friend, "but I've had so much better in the local Thai pub. I'm sorry," she went on, holstering her chopsticks, "I do generally soldier on, but"
Price: Average-sized meal for two with wine and coffee, £65-75 per headSpice Market review in full >>
The Sunday Telegraph20 March
Zoe Williams finds the food at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal a bit unsurprising but adds that even when playing it safe the chef still manages to spellbind
As unsafely as I could, I went with the powdered duck (£24). Its year was 1670. Perhaps it was so called because it was marinaded in gunpowder, to celebrate the Restoration? Nope. ‘Powdered' is just olde worlde for ‘brined' , and the brine was the classic mix of water, salt, cloves, bay leaves and sundry other nobbly spices. It featured two criss-crossed duck legs of exquisite plumpness, shiny with glaze, burnished with care. If Walt Disney himself had made a cartoon advertising meat, this is what it would have looked like. The brine was detectable but didn't ruffle the ducky nature, and some underlying fennel was braised - subtle but distinct. Excellent, but only a surprise in so far as I had assumed it would be more surprising. C had the beef royal (£28, circa 1720), a short rib of Angus, slow-cooked for 72 hours, and this was awe-inspiring. Imagine the depth and dimension of a stew, with the glamour, the pinkness, the satisfying chew of a rare-ish fillet steak - it's Mephistophelean, isn't it? An amazing dish, whose oxtail, anchovy and onion accessories only underlined how perfect it was.
Price: Three courses: £51.25Dinner review in full >>