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

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

The Times
30 July
Giles Coren discusses the moral dilemma of reviewing a restaurant owned by someone he's friendly with but says the food at Silvena Rowe's Quince is "catastrophic"
Turkish food doesn't have to do much. There is a basic level that it almost always achieves in restaurants, but rarely exceeds, whether in London or in Turkey, and nothing here came even close to it, apart from maybe a small plate of chicken wings. The borek, whose crunch is their raison d'être, were limp and flabby; crispy fried baby squid was dry and crusted in oily brown breadcrumbs; hummus was served, inexplicably, with shrimps on it - no two foods ever went less well together. There was a "fattoush salad" of baby gem with a dressing so cloyingly sweet it tasted bottled (by a jam-maker) under a chunk of "burrata" that shamed the name of the great creamy Puglian cheese. And from there, things only got worse. It truly makes my heart ache to say so, for I'm sure Silvena can cook. But there is sure as hell someone in that kitchen who can't.
Rating: 4.5
Price: £250 for four, excluding drinks
Quince review in full - available only to Times online subscribers >>

The Sunday Times
31 July
Rod Liddle finds rotten service and a restaurant he doesn't like at the Leconfield in Petworth, West Sussex
I didn't like the town and I certainly didn't like the restaurant. Most of all I disliked the haughty, marble-mouthed, pig-ignorant waiters and waitresses. You would find more congenial service in a Syrian police station and greater efficiency in the Greek treasury. I ought to point out it wasn't only one waiter - our little party for Sunday lunch had a different one each time, a procession of bored and aloof youngish people who neither brought us what we asked for nor inquired if the meal was okay, and then, at the end, overcharged us. Actually, that wasn't quite the end. The end came after we'd adjusted the bill and left the restaurant to see five of them slumped around the bar engaged in desultory conversation, not even raising their eyes as we said our thank-yous and goodbyes and certainly not possessing the energy to murmur anything in return. I don't know why we said thank you. Habit, I suppose, the same stupid blind habit that propelled me actually to leave a tip, which I regret doing.
Rating: 3/5
Price: £70 for two, plus drinks
Leconfield review in full - available only to Times online subscribers >>

The Guardian
30 July
John Lanchester enjoys the meat feasts served by food trucks Pitt Cue and Buen Provecho around London's South Bank
Pitt Cue is a van parked directly under Hungerford Bridge; so directly under it that when a gust of wind got up, a graffiti pen fell off and landed on my foot. Their thing is barbecue. The choice at lunch was beef brisket or pulled pork (I know it's immature, but the term "pulled pork" never fails to make me giggle), served in a cardboard box with beans and coleslaw, at £7 a go. The quality of the barbecued meat is very high: the brisket was unfatty and the texture reflected long, careful cooking, but the pork was even better, with an astonishing, but not overpowering, smoky flavour. I found the beans and slaw a little sweet, but then they often are in proper barbecue - one of the reasons I don't love-love-love it. I've eaten at Jamie Oliver's Barbecoa, and I'd say the barbecue at Pitt Cue is twice as good at a third of the price.

Buen Provecho, meanwhile, is on Lower Marsh, on the other side of Waterloo, and it's a stall rather than a cart. The cook here is Arturo Ortega Rodriguez and his thing is Mexican street food; this is promising, since Mexico has one of the world's best street cuisines. He cooks a range of sauces - on the day I went, five meaty and three veggie - which you can have either on a soft flour tortilla or in a lunch box with red rice and refried beans. Homemade salsa and guacamole are there to add to taste, as are hard tortilla chips if you fancy a bit of crunch. The boxes are £6, the tacos £2.50 each or £6 for three.
Pitt Cue and Buen Provecho review in full >>

The Observer
31 July
Jay Rayner says the Royal Academy restaurant, London W1, run by Peyton and Byrne, manages to make dinner into a fine art
The food looks like the greatest hits from the kind of glossy cook books the people who come here would fill their shelves with. So it's butch and modern and English in places, because we are proud now of our re-engineered culinary heritage, but there are also continental flourishes. There is gazpacho. There is a touch of pasta. A ham hock and crackling salad, bolstered with mustardy strands of celeriac, is a lot of piggy bits in all the right places. Another salad of heritage tomatoes with burrata, the foetal version of mozzarella, is exactly the kind of thing ladies who want to have lunch without really eating would enjoy. A whole lemon sole, expertly trimmed, seared in butter to the point where its pearly flesh slips from the bone like Venus losing her silken slip (come on, people; I'm in an art gallery) is served with sweet brown shrimps and a beurre noisette. The pecorino filling in a plate of ravioli dressed with truffle oil could do with a little citrus zest to cut through the richness, but the pasta is very good indeed. There are sides of pickled wild mushrooms which aren't mostly shiitake, as is often the case, and tiny roasted new potatoes which we don't manage to finish.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service, £95Royal Academy restaurant review in full >>

The Sunday Telegraph
31 July
From décor right down to seasoning, Cassis, London SW3, seems too hung up with not causing offence to be exciting, says Zoe Williams
Thankfully, we had both gone very rustic and meaty for the main course. I had the Pyrenean suckling pig's leg with girolles (£29), which was curious. For the first bite it delivered a vigorous chewiness. But there was something lacking in the bass flavours, a strange sensation that, however much you chewed, you never got to the porcine root of it. Of course it's an immature beast, the suckling pig - that's the point of it. But it didn't make up for its lack of depth with any other quality. S's rabbit fricassee (£19) was a more interesting assortment. It featured saddle, liver and hind leg (this is the money cut on a rabbit, apparently; nearly half the meat is on the back legs). It certainly wasn't horrible, but it was bland, tasting further towards the chicken end of the spectrum than the gamey end. Oh, and I also had green beans (£4) - nothing wrong with them, though they didn't bring much more to the table than a flash of green.
Rating: 6/10
Price: Three courses, £38.50
Cassis review in full >>

The Independent
30 July
Tracey MacLeod finds a really special restaurant in Simon Rogan's Roganic, London W1
It wasn't just the beauty of the dishes that made us keep reaching for metaphors from the visual arts. At their best, they provoke a synaesthetic reaction; a smoked egg yolk, slow cooked in a waterbath and partnered with sea vegetables and a warm breath of wild mustard sauce, stirred up some memory of eating smoky bacon crisps on a windy seaside cliff. Pretentious as all this may sound, Roganic doesn't feel over-cerebral. I'm not generally a fan of cooking which involves tweezering microscopic ingredients onto weirdly-shaped plates, but here the flavour combinations really do repay the mind-boggling amount of labour that has gone into each dish. Even after three hours and 10-plus courses (plus, gulp, an optional selection of British cheeses) we felt stimulated, rather than overloaded.
Rating: Food 5/5; Ambience 3/5; Service 5/5
Price: Lunch/dinner, 6 courses, £55; dinner, 10 courses, £80
Roganic review in full >>

London Evening Standard
28 July
Fay Maschler is impressed by Mikael Jonsson's creative menu at Hedone, London W4
Jonsson is no fan of molecular gastronomy, believing that ingredients become denatured and some of the mechanical and chemical processes used are deleterious. His own food has remarkable clarity. Effort is expended in tracking down produce that is best in show - if possible in the UK - and effecting interesting, fortuitous introductions. The menu changes in part daily so I won't wax too long or lyrical about any one dish in case it has disappeared. Highlights of our well-shaped, well-balanced eight-course dinner included a savoury custard topped with a purée of nori - entitled umami flan, seaweed coulis - served small and hot and packing a powerful punch. A sablé (crumbly biscuit) flavoured with Berkswell cheese had preceded it but this was the official opening shot - and was duly impressive. A smooth gazpacho with a scoop of dill-flower cream was intense and slightly surprising, as if pieces of melon had crept into the blender along with the tomatoes. Translucent steamed scallops, judged in the cooking to a nanosecond, were served simply with their juices. With shellfish so fine nothing else is needed.
Rating: 4/5
Price: £45/£60 for five/eight courses, not including wine
Hedone review in full >>

The Metro
27 July
Marina O'Loughlin says Pollen Street Social, London W1, is hit and miss and finds it hard to work out what all the fuss is about
Chef Jason Atherton (ex-Maze, a restaurant I very much liked) has been getting rave reviews for his new baby. He's undoubtedly immensely talented, but a lot of his food - the tiny portions in the huge plates; the use of dessicators, Pacojets and other out-there kitchen kit - seems unnecessarily faffed with. When he's being straightforward - tender, smoky little lollipops of lambchop served with a mulch of slow-cooked lamb shoulder and some enthuastically spiced, baba ganoush-like aubergine; or some delicate but meaty halibut served with samphire and a paella given a real blast of umami from shellfish and (I guess) Iberico ham - his food is entirely successful. But some of the experimentation and tricksiness just grates. Tomatoes float forlornly in gazpacho with a whack of vanilla and almost liquid burrata (cream-filled mozzarella): the whole is not a significant improvement on any of the individual components. A salad of finely mandolined radish comes with dessicated peanut powder, pure white with a texture like crushed glucose sweeties and an evanescent hit of the peanut. There's no sign of its billed samphire.
Rating: 2/5
Price: Meal for two, with wine, water and service, about £160
Pollen Street Social review in full >>

Time Out
26 July
Guy Dimond says Hedone, London W4, is one of the most interesting and accomplished restaurants to have opened in London for a long time
Jonsson's dishes, however, are a thrill worth the expense. A starter of what the menu called an "umami flan" resembled the Japanese dish called chawan mushi, a warm set custard served in a small egg-cup of a dish, with a seafood flavour. The umami flavour in the Japanese version is there by dint of the seafood dashi (stock); in this case, it was enhanced by a seaweed coulis on top of the custard, creating an exceptionally savoury and satisfying dish. Theatrical presentation runs just the right side of silly; gazpacho was brought in a dish resembling a goldfish bowl with a lid on. Pungent of ripe tomato, a chilled cream of dill flower created a slick of contrasting colour. Although Jonsson rightly claims a Mediterranean sensibility to his food, he's successfully introduced some Swedish notes, the dill being one of them. Foraged ingredients are another, such as sea aster, in this case matched with some lightly seared wild salmon, freshly skinned white almonds and a streak of puréed cucumber.
Rating: 5/5
Price: Meal for two, with wine and service, about £180
Hedone review in full >>

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