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

09 May 2011 by

The Times
7 May
Giles Coren says the Archangel in Frome, Somerset, has potential thanks to its helpful staff, good beer and great location even though its kitchen needs to calm down
The menu had the confident brevity I look for - six starters, eight mains - but showed its timidity in such horrors of boondocks multitasking as "authentic Thai green chicken curry with basmati rice", which serve always to remind you that in rural Britain there is nowhere else to eat for miles around, and they have to offer a little bit of everything. I dodged the pork carpaccio, due to some timidity of my own, and had a deep-fried Cornish whitebait salad with confit tomatoes and aïoli which came looking like the Nineties on a plate, with its zigzaggy mayo squirts from the squeezy bottle. But the fish were fresh and perfectly fried. I'd as soon have thrice as many of them, and hold the flummery, but I can't go touring round the country saying, "Simplify, simplify, simplify" even if it is what I feel.
Rating: 6/10
Price: Three-course set lunch only £16.50 and good value à la carte, too
The Archangel review in full - available only to Times online subscribers >>

The Sunday Times
8 May
AA Gill says that while Jason Atherton is an inspired and sophisticated chef, the food at Pollen Street Social, London W1, is not what you want to eat with friends for dinner
The problem here isn't that Atherton can't cook - plainly, he's inspired, though not plain enough, and rather too inspired. These plates suffer from the most common defect of trendy kitchens: nobody eats them before they get to the customer. Oh, I'm sure they're tasted, and everyone stands round and dissects them, making suggestions like Barnes Wallis's bouncing bombs, but they haven't actually sat down and ordered them, and eaten them with friends for dinner. It is vain and rude to offer this up in place of the pleasure of eating, and it's frustrating, because it could so obviously be much more enjoyable. The skill and the commitment and the sophistication are all there. There needs to be a lot less cogitation and a great deal more gurgitation.
Rating: 2/5
Price: Average price for two, £82 plus drinks
Pollen Street Social review in full - available only to Times online subscribers >>

The Observer
8 May
Jay Rayner says Barbecoa, the meat-driven restaurant by Jamie Oliver and barbecue enthusiast Adam Perry Lang, is a missed opportunity
What it would have is a menu that delivers on its promise. For at the moment Barbecoa, on a new-build site by St Paul's Cathedral, is an opportunity missed. The restaurant is a co-production with Adam Perry Lang, a New York chef famed for his way with barbecue. It is about long, slow cooking and the alchemy of smoke. It is about sticky marinades and seriously hot hand-on-meat action. The pre-publicity for Barbecoa promised barbecue heaven. The space looks the part, up to a point. It makes a virtue of hefty materials. It is all metal and stone and big, blunt bits of wood. What it has failed to do, curiously, is make a feature of fire and flame. The kitchen is hidden away when it should be a central piece of theatre. And the same is true of the barbecued meats. In a recent interview Perry Lang said it was refreshing to be setting up in London, where nobody had any preconceptions about what such a restaurant should be. That sounds horribly like shorthand for a license to be slapdash. And it underestimates the British audience.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service, £120Barbecoa review in full >>

The Independent
7 May
Tracey Macleod says there's a great deal to enjoy at Pollen Street Social, where Jason Atherton has put his heart and soul into the restaurant
The big innovation in Atherton's kingdom is the dessert bar, where one perches on stools and watches as the pastry chefs perform their calorific prestidigitations. I can't quite see how it works when five tables all go for their pudding course and fight for the stools. But we enjoyed the display - "PBJ" is peanut butter and jelly, and involves parfait of peanut and cherry, plus crumbs of one and dollops of the other, "Tiramisu" is a symphony of chocolate sheets and twirls, served in a sundae, melted with a hot coffee velouté. It's beautiful, it's a lovely climax to a meal - and it takes bloody ages. It's a little like watching Rowan Atkinson wrapping that Christmas gift in Love, Actually, all tiny details and dramatic flourishes. It's most enjoyable, provided you're not in a hurry.
Rating: 4/5 for food, service and ambience
Price: About £160 for two, with wine
Pollen Street Social review in full >>

The Independent on Sunday
8 May
Amol Rajan says the food at the Curlew, Bodiam, East Sussex, is a triumph and totally deserving of its Michelin star
The menu is shamelessly simple, with five options at each course. I can't see a vegetarian main, which is briefly maddening, but then I note that herbivores are directed to a "separate menu" at the bottom. Of the starters, the pickled herring with horseradish and soda bread (£6.50) is slightly too rigid and unyielding, but my pressed ham and duck liver with prune chutney and toast (£7.50) is superb. The chutney is spicy without being hot, and there's a cacophony of textures in the ham, with various degrees of coarseness, each clamouring for attention. Main courses here are a success story, too. Short of resurrection, I don't know that a dead cow could do better than the Jacob's ladder (Americans call it short rib) with thick-cut chips fried in dripping and served with coleslaw (£17.50).
Rating: 8/10
Price: About £110 for two including £40 bottle of wine
The Curlew review in full >>

The Sunday Telegraph
8 May
Zoe Williams says nothing could be more perfect than the Star Inn, Harome, Yorkshire
This part of Yorkshire sets a new standard of gorgeousness, so it should be no surprise that the pub and restaurant going by the name of Star Inn should be of such a high standard. Turn right as you enter, and there's a beamed nook of quintessential pub, the sort that claims (sometimes truthfully) to date from the 15th century. Turn left and there's a casual restaurant that you can imagine starting in at noon and being turfed out at closing time. Go further in, though, and you'll arrive where we were, a formal, very gorgeous room with grey tweed banquettes, port-hole windows and sleek wood surfaces. Outside, there is a pretty garden and some wicker bar stools, which gave it all a summery atmosphere even in March. It's the kind of place one vies to think of huge occasions to suit - what a great place for a 40th! A wedding! A funeral!
Rating: 8/10
Price: Three courses £41.50
The Star Inn review in full >>

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