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

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

The Sunday Times
10 April
AA Gill finds honest, good ingredients, made with pride and served with nonchalance at Chabrot Bistro d'Amis, London SW1
We began with foie gras, a dish that is deceptively straightforward. A single ingredient, and you can get it in a tin, but exemplary foie gras is a fiddle and a skill, and this one was a perfect example. Nothing in the whole world of agitprop demonstration is as philistinely joyless, as sourly thick-tongued, as the demand to ban foie gras. And just to underline my commitment to the farmers of the southwest, we also had a warm pâté of duck liver that came with a sort of Yorkshire pudding enriched with Comté. It was a bit chopped liver. And just to go with the Elizabeth David nostalgia, I managed half a dozen snails in thick green garlic butter. Snails are a pleasure that transcend their mucusoid, bogey, muddy reality. For the main course, there's black pudding with apples, stuffed cabbage, a de rigueur steak, a rack of lamb. We shared a côte de veau, cooked pink, served with its own juice, and some crisp, fatty fries.
Rating: 3/5
Price: ‘Formule Bistro' set menu: £17.50 for a meal with a glass of wine and a coffee gourmand
Chabrot Bistro d'Amis review in full - available only to Times online subscribers >>

The Guardian
9 April
John Lanchester is impressed by the Turkish food served at Sheesh, Chigwell, Essex, housed in a former pub now owned by Sir Alan Sugar
There's a familiar trajectory with this kind of cooking, from interesting and various starters to simpler kebabs and grills. My advice would be to go for the fish, which is delivered fresh daily. Sardines were plainly grilled, which is the best way to cook them, with salad - in its way, a perfect dish. Slow-cooked squid with spinach was outstanding, melting in texture and richly, deeply flavoured by its spicy tomato sauce. Turkish pizza was good fun, a thin pizza base with a crispy lamb topping. The meze dips were less distinctive - they didn't have much flavour - and I'd be inclined to give them a miss. With mains, again, go for the fish. Monkfish kebabs were simply grilled and none the worse for that; they were £18, which I don't mind paying when the fish is as good as this. Mixed kebabs, also £18, was minced and grilled lamb and minced and grilled chicken - decent if unstartling. Chips were the old-fashioned British style of chunky potato, rather than the modern Frenchified crunchy chip - good. Puddings were a bit boring; portions are generous, so maybe people are often so full they don't get that far, but crumbly chocolate cheesecake and heavy date and toffee pudding were very skippable. All the food came on rectangular black plates. Groovy.
Price: Meal for two with drinks and service, about £80.Sheesh review in full >>

The Observer
10 April
Jean George Vongerichten's astronomic prices have made their way across the pond at Spice Market, London W1, where sadly the great food has turned to mush, according to Jay Rayner
We ate one good dish: crisp, warm samosas filled with a lightly spiced minced chicken and a mint raita for dipping. A bowl of ginger rice with a fried egg wasn't bad either. The rest worked on that carefully calibrated scale between awful and mediocre. The worst concoction was a salmon tartar with avocado and radish in a ginger broth. A version of this is a key dish at Jean Georges, where it features tuna. This was a take on it, though only as if realised by someone who has merely read about it. The raw fish needs texture. Here the salmon is blitzed unto slop. It sits on a mush of avocado, surrounded by a dribble of the ginger broth which is one note rather than the operatic composition of the original. Eating it felt like meeting an old friend down on his luck. Yours for £10.50. Four small slices of sea bass sashimi dressed with green chilli, pistachio and mint - £18 - are one long gastronomic shrug.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service £140Spice Market review in full >>

The Sunday Telegraph
10 April
Zoe Williams likes the food and beautiful people at Brawn, London E2, a new restaurant by the team behind Terroirs
H's cod (£15) was exquisite, very simply done in a buttery sauce, as fresh as anything and beautifully white and thick and luxurious. However, I envied her not, on account of my incredible choucroute (£14). These amazingly pink, amusingly artificial-looking German sausages are going to come into their own, I think, one of these days; they're going to blow the Toulouse out of the water, with their superior texture and faintest whiff of frankfurter spices. It was huge, the sausage, and, needless to say, I finished it with no bother at all. The choucroute was tangy and moreish and there was a point at which I thought it would have been fine, surviving a medieval winter with only cabbage and stoicism. What were people complaining about? Some lovely lozenge-shaped waxy potatoes completed the holy simplicity of this perfect European masterpiece. I am dribbling as I describe this.
Rating: 7/10
Price: Three courses £26.75
Brawn review in full >>

The Independent
9 April
John Walsh says uncertainty characterises everything about Bennett's Oyster Bar, London SW11
Bennett's also has a breakfast menu, and bakes cakes for its teatime clientele. But hang on, it also has a special Store, selling wine (which you can drink at your table for a small corkage fee), fruit and veg, and flowers. I'm surprised they haven't thrown in a multiplex cinema, a bouncy castle and a boutique, as well. The all-things-to-all-men-women-and-children restaurant is a concept that's been struggling into public consciousness for years; it seems to me to require boundless energy and very patient staff. Can there be enough passing trade in this backwater of London SW11 to justify opening for breakfast and tea as well as lunch and dinner? The Uncertainty Principle extends to the food. Unsure of whether to leave classic ingredients alone or add something to them, Bennett's unerringly goes for the latter option.
Rating: Food 2/5; Ambience 3/5; Service 4/5
Price: About £130 for two, with wine
Bennett review in full >>

The Independent on Sunday
10 April
Robert Chalmers loves everything about St John's Tavern, London W19, scoring it a perfect 10
The ambitious menu includes a wide range of fish and vegetarian choices. (An equally impressive selection is served in the light, spacious bar adjoining the restaurant.) My main course of dab is filleted, simply seasoned with salt and pepper and lightly grilled, served with sauté potatoes and spinach. Having developed a chronic aversion to words such as succulent, moist and flavoursome, I have to restrict myself to a more general adjective: stunning. Presented immaculately, as here, the dab has the delicate flavour of a tiny sole. The staff at St John's are friendly without being intrusive: a more traditional establishment, especially if French, would have lectured me on the sin of accompanying fish with a red wine of the heavy bomb load like the Vacqueyras 2007.
Rating: 10/10
Price: About £30 per person for three courses, including wine
St John's Tavern review in full >>

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