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

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

The Times
9 July
Giles Coren enjoys delicious and sustainable seafood at Japanese restaurant Soseki in the City of London
It's a beautiful, romantic little place, perched up above street level, all wooden and cool and secluded and full of jingly-jangly Japanese music, with views out over the masses, eating their sandwiches in the sunshine. And there was lovely, kind, well-informed service and immaculate presentation of the quite small array of dishes. It is unusual (unique, for me) to hear a Japanese waiter naming UK locations for recently caught fish and I found it rather moving. The white fish we ate - turbot, plaice, brill - all came from Cornwall, and was morally unimpeachable. But the thing is that such fishes as these, uncooked, are rather chewy and wan, and do not make for the most thrilling sushi. The scallops were delicious though, succulent and plump and full of fleshy texture and scattered with sweet, bulbous salmon roe. And the yellowtail was good. And the yellowfin tuna was okay, too, if a little crimson and screechy compared to the pale hum of the posher, deader members of the family.
Rating: 6.67
Price: it's going to be easily £50 per head before booze
Soseki review in full - available only to Times online subscribers >>

The Sunday Times
10 July
Despite hideously bright light fittings, AA Gill finds surprisingly good food and the best value in Chelsea at French restaurant Medlar, London SW3
To start, there is a chilled broad bean soup with goats' cheese and summer truffle, a salad of tongue, beetroot, dill, broad beans and endive, which is a pretty ideal summer starter, and a duck-egg tart, with red-wine reduction, turnip purée, lardons, sorrell and a duck heart: a clever, rococo adaptation of oeufs en meurette. Main courses were gnocchi with chard, taleggio, girolles and stewed tomatoes that Danny recommended, but I went with the halibut with little peas in the French manner, lardo, radish, baby gem lettuce and Jersey royals, which the waiter recommended. Halibut is one of the greatest fish, and this dish did it up like a white bride on her big day. There was also a bit of rabbit and three sorts of lamb, and an interesting blade steak with snails and béarnaise, a dish that, incidentally, I invented and Marco used to cook at the Mirabelle. Pudding was lemon posset with raspberries and shortbread, and a chocolate torte with honeycomb ice cream and caramel sauce. The room was sparsely populated for lunch, the atmosphere relaxed and confident. The food is really unexpectedly good, and at £25 for three courses, for a lunch of this quality, the best value anywhere in Chelsea, which almost makes up for the lights.
Rating: 4/5
Price: Three-course lunch, £25
Medlar review in full - available only to Times online subscribers >>

The Guardian
8 July
John Lanchester enjoys a top-class take-away curry from Mangla in Sheffield
The meal had one duff component, a chicken pokora starter. This was deep-fried chicken bits, but the deep fryer is not the glory of the subcontinental kitchen, as the batters are often too heavy; so heavy, at times, that they seem to attract extra gravitational power. This one was like that. Masala fish was better, a dense piece of white fish spicily marinaded and served in a batter that was both less heavy and detachable. The fish was better without it. The chef's speciality main courses and the breads, however, are where it's really at. Chicken karahi was chicken in smallish pieces, on the bone, in a tomato-based sauce with lots of coriander to lighten it and spicing so complex I couldn't identify one specific dominant note - which is one way of identifying a really good masala. Bruchi lamb was a new one for me, a dense mutton (I think) curry that was half-dry and cooked with crunchy potatoes and fried onions. This was chewy and strong-flavoured, a real no-faint-hearts Kashmiri special. Saag paneer was more puréed than I like my spinach and seemed heavy on the ghee, which I'd have to say is an issue at Mangla. Luckily, a garlic nan was on hand to cut the richness and/or mop up the sauce. Paratha, another of the region's world-class breads, was another hit.
Mangla review in full >>

The Observer
10 July
Jay Rayner says global menu all too often ends up as a mess on the plate but the Modern Pantry, London EC2, makes it a virtue
In short, to pull off this kind of fusion cooking right now requires poise. For the most part it is there. A perfectly made omelette of sugar-cured prawns, spring onions and coriander comes with a scoop of sweet smoked chilli sambal which is more a tickle than a punch. A crab salad with sugar snap peas and shaved turnip declares a yuzu soy dressing, but is more about the quality of the ingredients than the wanderlust of the chef. A grilled onglet, marinated in miso and tamarind, is a proper piece of beef with a fine smear of aioli on the side, alongside some crisp cassava chips. It is steak frites by any other name. The only question mark for me is over a dish of roast cod with rings of cuttlefish sitting atop a thick sauce described as a turmeric laksa, in which lay leaves of Little Gem lettuce, the whole scattered with a breadcrumb and chorizo mix. Even allowing for my pathological laksa fetish, it felt like an opportunity missed. Or, to put it another way, if a plate of food merely makes me dream about the root version from which it is drawn then something is wrong. I tried Hansen's low-key, over-muted laksa and immediately wanted to be eating the echt laksa from Noodle Express down the road.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service, £95Modern Pantry review in full >>

The Independent
9 July
John Walsh is impressed by Medlar but finds something constrained and buttoned-up, dainty and polite about the Chelsea restaurant
The service at Medlar deserves a mention at the start. Everyone seems to have undergone strenuous training in butler-like discretion, murmurous reserve, sotto voce reticence. The waiters speak very quietly, ask for your order as though concerned that they're being a bit cheeky and forward, and hover nervously behind your chair until you've finished speaking. As one who's had the punchline of a hundred stories ruined by intrusive waiters, I should welcome this development; but it seems a little bloodless and distant. One can take formality too far. Even the menu has a tightly-controlled feel about it, its starters, mains and puds ranged in what look like three paragraphs from a very serious novel. But I liked being required to eat three courses for a £38 fixed price - and the food really is remarkably good. Home-made foccaccia was moist and saltily delicious. My crab raviolo disgorged a lovely fondue of buttery leeks, to join a tender ensemble of samphire and brown shrimps. There wasn't, sad to say, enough bisque sauce to justify the extra spoon, but that's just greed talking. Clementine bravely ordered the deep-fried calf's brain with gribiche sauce (a denser variant of tartare with extra egg yolks).
Rating: Food 4/5; Ambience 3/5; Service 3/5
Price: About £120 for two, with wine
Medlar review in full >>

The Independent on Sunday
10 July
Amol Rajan reviews the Cobbles Inn in Kelso, Scotland, but finds it's not quite as special as its surroundings
The main courses go into a higher gear. Iestyn's marvellous spatchcock poussin with lemon and honey glaze has the clever accompaniment of wedges, with fennel and red pepper "slaw", though why they bother Americanising coleslaw in this part of the Borders I've yet to discover. I can well believe my local pork belly is "twice-cooked", because it is a fraction too dry; but this can be forgiven given the beastly quality of the Stornoway black pudding, as full of flavour as I've had, and a very decent mustard mash with cider jus. Ella and Charlotte have a rib-eye and sirloin steak respectively, for which there is a £5 supplement, and both are cooked as requested and delivered in a hot peppercorn sauce. Ella has had her eye on the beer-battered onion rings (£2.25) from the minute we walked in, and now that these elliptical wonders have turned up the locals have at least two new friends for life. Proper onion rings are an endangered species, and those whose batter tastes of a flavour beyond grease rarer still - but here in Kelso they are thriving. The house salad, though, is a little limp and obvious, with wedges of tomato thrown against bland lettuce.
Rating: 7/10
Price: About £170 for four, including wine
The Cobbles Inn review in full >>

The Sunday Telegraph
10 July
Zoe Williams says that although it looks authentic, and tastes authentic, a meal at Chabrot in Knightsbridge is not entirely convincing
I had the lamb chop with aubergine and sundry Provençal vegetables (£24.50). I've seen some awfully tired vegetation travelling under the name Provençal, so I have at least to give this its due that it looked authentic and summery. The aubergine, especially, was fat, juicy and bursting with health. The lamb was faultlessly cooked - pink, perky, but just not that interesting. It's the kind of dish that, if you'd had it on holiday in 1980 - before gastropubs and celebrity chefs, before anyone in this country could identify a basil from a bay leaf, before the great food revolution that has, frankly, changed all our lives and to go back to the way we were would feel like slavery - if you ate this then, you'd feel as if you were climbing out of black and white into glorious Technicolor, like restaurant Wizard of Oz. But in this modern era, it was inoffensive and meaty enough, but it was insufficiently special, for the price or to save the rest of the dishes.
Rating: 5/10
Price: Three courses, £37.75
Chabrot review in full >>

The London Evening Standard
6 July
Fay Maschler reviews Roganic, Simon Rogan's two-year pop-up restaurant in London's Marylebone where a tasting menu is available only
Broad bean and hyssop (a medicinal herb from the mint family), fresh curds and beetroot is the first official course. Do you remember Worzel Gummidge and his love interest Earthy Mangold? This little cluster of ingredients made me think of the children's books and TV show about the crotchety scarecrow. Earthy would have appreciated the intensity of the beetroot. I liked the brisk snap of the emerald green beans. If I go through in detail the remaining nine assemblies we will be here all night. Were they plotted on graph paper, a distinct pattern would emerge; a modest leading ingredient (not always protein), a mysterious purée and a strange leaf. Best of the bunch, the three of us agreed, were the aforementioned mackerel served with orache (a native weed often found on waste ground), broccoli, both limp and petrified, and a dribble of Regent's Park elderflower honey; roasted brill with chicken salt (a nice tingling unctuousness), cockles, ruby chard and intense mushroom purée; and Heritage potatoes in onion ashes with lovage and wood sorrel. This is the one dish that has migrated from L'Enclume and the three small spuds in allium-sweet woodsy cinders become one of the definite highlights of the evening.
Rating: 3/5
Price: Set price meals, £40/80 for five (lunch only)/10 courses.
Roganic review in full >>

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