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

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

The Guardian20 August
Joanna Blythman says Martin Wishart's new restaurant, the Honours, in Edinburgh, is far too much on the fine-dining side for a brasserie
Having only tasted the celebrated ibérico de bellota pig in cured rather than fresh form, the presa steak - a famously juicy cut from just behind the shoulder - was a must. I'd like to be able to tell you whether this semi-wild, acorn-munching porker really does taste perceptibly better than other pigs, but I can't, because it tasted overwhelming of charcoal. And if you like a coq au vin that has been sent to finishing school to prevent it from hanging out with the peasants, then you won't demur at its treatment here. The bird itself was impeccable (free-range from St Bride's farm in Lanarkshire) and fell off the bone obligingly. The sauce, however, was a bland hybrid of the rustic red wine braise and that sticky, reduced, all-purpose brown sauce on which so many chefs rely. Give me the real thing any day, with its full-throated, purple, winey juices thickened with beurre manié. Then again, when conventional, conservative outfits do let their hair down, they often get it wrong. Brasserie favourites - tarte Tatin, crème brûlée - are flanked here by a list of ice-cream parlour sundaes. Perverse, I know, and my peach melba sundae - a blur of white, orange and scarlet crammed into one of those thick, cafe-style goblets - rapidly became a mess of fibrous, fragrance-free peach lost in layers of neutral cream, ice-cream and meringue.
Price: Lunch from £17.50, dinner about £120 for twoThe Honours review in full >>

The Observer
21 August
Tom Kerridge's cooking at the Hand & Flowers in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, is everything you'd hope for - though your fellow diners may not be, says Allan Jenkins
As a tribute to Kerridge's legendary meat-cooking skills and as a nod to the note on the menu that "Some of the meats and fish are served medium rare," I opt for steak and chips, aka fillet of Lancashire beef with Hand & Flowers chips and Béarnaise sauce, priced at a hefty £27. The chips are floury, fluffy, fine, but shaded by the duck's. The meat is well sourced, well aged, but it is medium and not medium rare as I asked. I toy with sending it back, I tell the waiter it is wrong, but the table of eight has turned to noisily trashing "northerners". Deflated, defeated, wishing the maître d' would intervene, we order dessert. My choice of Willie's 100% cacao hot chocolate tart with malted-milk ice cream is a sublime mix of adult and childish flavours: bitter cocoa and caramel matched with a bag of Maltesers. But again my wife wins out (I hate having menu envy) with English blueberry soufflé accompanied by blueberry sorbet and verbena sauce. The soufflé is ethereal, the cooling lemony sauce a clever touch, but the sorbet is the star, with an otherworldly intensity of colour and taste. For a few moments even now our evening may be saved, but a rat-faced man on the fat man's table starts bleating about why the Scots "don't use toilets when they can piss outside". Saddened, we pay our bill and head outside, too, and home.
Hand & Flowers review in full >>

The Times
20 August
Giles Coren is horrified by the kitchen practices at the Riding House Café, London W1, the latest venture by the team behind the Garrison
But that was as nothing compared to the main kitchen itself, where the flouting of basic standards was so surprising that I became quite horrified and have perhaps ended up being less kind to the cooking than I might otherwise have been. No hats, again, because hats are not cool, and chefs are so painfully desperate to appear cool. But the guy rubbing and scratching at his sweaty, stubbled pate and then handling food made me shudder. And that was before this same chef pulled off his apron, pulled up his white jacket so that I could see his bare, hairy, slightly potted belly, and scratched it, then ran his thumb round his waistline to let some air into his goolies, then apronned up again and carried on about his business. It was a different guy who ate constantly through service, picking big mouthfuls with his fingers and pushing them into his mouth. Eating in a professional kitchen is forbidden. And very unpleasant to behold.
Rating: 5.5
Price: £30 per head sans grog
Riding House Café review in full >>

The Sunday Times
21 August
AA Gill says Pizza East, London W10, is a great addition to Notting Hill, which improves without patronising
The menu is very simple, which is a relief (every other menu I've eaten from recently looks as if it were written by Dan Brown) - antipasti and charcuterie; stuff from a wood-burning oven; pizzas, salads, puddings. We kicked off with bone-marrow bruschetta, some mortadella, which is a wonderful sausage horribly libelled by its family connection to baloney, and some coppa. Next course, there was crispy pork belly, deliciously unctuous, and which the Blonde said was better than the River Café's. A chopped-up chicken and very good, really excellent, beef lasagne. The pizzas, though, are the thing. Pizza is one of those dishes, such as burgers, or chicken soup, that everybody has a trenchant opinion on, but which can only ever achieve so much. In the end, a pizza is just a pizza. And here's my pizza orthodoxy: the simpler, the better. The thinner, the better. With pizza, less is better. It should taste of itself, not an edible plate with some seething stew on top. This is the simple food of the southern poor, made out of a penn'orth of ingredients, in an oven hot enough to glaze porcelain.
Rating: 4/5
Price: From £7 per pizza
Pizza East review in full >>

The Sunday Telegraph
21 August
The outside might be a mess, but the food makes the Prince of Wales, London SW15, a real find, says Zoe Williams
So far so gastro, though. It wasn't until we had our main courses that it became clear how ambitious the cooking is, and how far it exceeds what you'd expect from the back of a pub, never mind that it was just an ordinary week night. I had lamb (£19), with pea purée and a salad of heritage tomatoes, which were raw, particoloured, gorgeous and juicy. The meat came in three distinct cuts: grilled tongue, which was unexpected and glamorous; a braised piece of neck, which was rich and could have easily carried the whole plate on its own; and a cut of roast lamb, served pink. Impossible to say which was the most satisfying and lamby; I was leaping from one cut to the next, trying to decide, alive with enthusiasm. L had the stone bass (£17), with saffron potatoes, which were gorgeous little waxy Cyprus affairs. I'm not a huge fan of saffron but putting my prejudice aside and listening to her: delicious. A deep-fried oyster roughed up the edges a bit, prevented its becoming too genteel. But it was still an oyster, so still the right side of sophisticated; it wasn't like a side order of Spam.
Rating: 4/5
Price: Three courses £29.50
Prince of Wales review in full >>

The Independent
20 August
Christopher Hirst says Paul Peters's cooking at the Black Swan hotel merits a detour to Helmsley, North Yorkshire
Chef Peters flaunted his ambition with a "green salad" starter. This proved to be two tiny heaps of granita, a green one made from some herby stuff and a brown one made from sherry vinegar, which flanked a large, gleaming black olive. When I probed it with a fork, the olive collapsed into a slurry of purée. I had encountered a culinary legend, nothing less than the spherified olive of Ferran Adria's El Bulli. It demands prodigious patience (the Spanish maestro requires the purée to be sieved by hand 15 times) and skill. The Black Swan rendition was wholly persuasive though, entre nous, I'm not entirely sure that I wouldn't have preferred a real olive. I would certainly have liked a more potent accompaniment than a foamy shot glass of "elderflower espuma". The wine pairing (£20 per person) did not start until the second course. Chef Peters should be vigorously informed that it is not a good idea to leave guests without a drink at the start of the meal. Things picked up on the second course, which consisted of two caramelised scallops accompanied by a pleasingly astringent Loire sauvignon/voignier. The sweet interior of the shellfish was teetering on the edge of raw. "They have got a just-out-of-the-shell taste," said my wife.
Rating: Food 4/5; Ambience 3/5; Service 4/5
Price: Six-course Signature Menu £50 per head
Black Swan review in full >>

The Metro
17 August
Marina O'Loughlin suggests Silvena Rowe should get back on TV and out of the kitchen as she has a disappointing experience at Quince, London W1
"It looks like an Aberdeen Steak House," whispers the chum. And he's bang on: with its scarlet, crushed velvet banquettes, lavatory-green tiling and low ceiling, chic and restrained are not words that spring to mind. There's irritating, trancey music blaring in our ears due to our position at the fringes of the dining room, although we do get a good view into the open kitchen, where Rowe noshes and joshes with her team. Her cooking is, apparently, based on "generations-old recipes handed down from grandmother to daughter" and "Ottoman gastronomy". I'm prepared to bet that neither features preternaturally silky, cloyingly buttery hummus studded with chunks of seared prawn, an innovation that does few favours for either ingredient. Some of what we eat is lovely: cigar-shaped börek featuring the lightest carapace of filo stuffed with spiced, stewed lamb; a smoky aubergine dip given sweet depth with tahini and pomegranate molasses. But largely, our dinner is bad. There's "crispy" "baby" squid with soggy coating that collapses at the sight of cutlery; tough and pallid, these babies are bruisers.
Rating: 2/5
Price: A meal for two with cocktails, water and service costs about £170
Quince review in full >>

The London Evening Standard
18 August
Fay Maschler says that, despite attempts to modernise, tradition is still the trump card at the Lyttelton at famous London hotel the Stafford
The menu itself is a handsome document, the prices bold. Feelingly rustically British, you could start with wild Irish smoked salmon at £28.50 and move on to Dover sole on the bone at £38.50, but we were cannier. Given that my husband Reg was wearing his guards officer tie - I had asked him to look smart - he was destined to order the crab soup described as officer's mulligatawny (£11.50). Our friend Joe chose for himself snails and crubeens (pig's trotters) on toast with Paris mushrooms (£12.50). Having drawn the short straw regarding who would get the grouse, I felt justified in ordering The Lyttelton Cocktail, with lobster, crab, shrimps and langoustines (£19.50). This last was astonishingly generous, with shellfish almost outnumbering the shreds of lettuce and dressed comme il faut. Snails and chunks of breaded pig's trotter also got the thumbs-up, and the mulligatawny paid due reference to its Tamil origins with a pepperiness on the palate and a pretty golden turmeric hue. Homemade bread, brown and white, did not ameliorate the long wait for these dishes as it was wildly salty.
Rating: 3/5
Price: Set price lunch £22.50/£27.50 for two/three courses. A la carte, a meal for two with wine, about £150 excluding service
The Lyttelton review in full >>

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