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

21 November 2011 by

The Guardian
19 November
John Lanchester says the Artichoke in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, is a neighbourhood restaurant that's on top of contemporary trends and executing them with command
Laurie Gear seems particularly good with dairy products (also very on-trend): the pre-dessert was an amazing dish of Greek yoghurt with cucumber granita - very grown-up, totally unsweet, dense with flavour and refreshing at the same time. Apicius, the Roman food writer, pointed out 2,000 years ago that scallops go well with cumin. Gear puts the cumin in a carrot purée and serves it with scallops that have the faintest detectable curry taste, with pickled carrots, slices of coconut and a light dusting of (I think) toasted hazelnuts. A lovely dish, and a fascinating interplay of textures. The other starter, sea bass in a broth of seaweed and cockles with a pickled oyster on top, was the only flat note in the meal: it was a bit polite and muted. Main courses made up for that: a saddle of venison was served the perfect degree of under-doneness with a robust dumpling of its haunch, cavolo nero, celeriac, pickled red baby onions and a rosehip and hawthorn berry emulsion. It looked ravishing and tasted just as good. Pork fillet, served just-pink, came with braised belly and a tagliatelle heavily spiked with fennel, a salad of raw fennel and sorrel, and the aforementioned Kalamata smear. A lot going on, all of it good.
Price: Set lunch, from £21.50 for two courses, dinner from £45 for threeThe Artichoke review in full >>

The Observer
20 November
Jay Rayner says the Potted Pig in Cardiff is a jewel in a city that has rarely been spoilt for good restaurants
The Potted Pig, which opened earlier this year, is a gift to a city which, even its biggest fans will admit, has rarely been spoilt for good restaurants. For a long time people talked sagely about Le Gallois, but that has now gone. There are a couple of Indians, most notably Mint and Mustard, which did well in the Observer Food Monthly awards - and that's about it. If I'm wrong on restaurant choices I know you'll tell me, but certainly the Potted Pig, located in reconditioned, brick-lined bank vaults, is a jewel. They describe their food as British, with an occasional nod to French classics in one direction and New York grills in the other, and that just about does it. It is solid, gutsy food without dogma and with quite a lot of pig. They also have around 30 gins, because apparently it goes well with pork, which makes sense on account of the juniper, though I've always found gin a little bullying. Still, there is a smart wine list, which doesn't act as if it's trying to pat you down for cash. Nor does the menu, with starters at £6 and most mains in the low teens.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service, £80The Potted Pig review in full >>

The Independent on Sunday
20 November
Lisa Markwell loves the brilliant, authentic Indian food at Roti Chai, London W1
I've eaten bhel pouri everywhere from a back alley in Mumbai to a backstreet in Euston, and this one is the best, hands-down. Fresh, crisp and with a zingy tamarind sauce - little flecks of onion, ginger and spices have elevated it quite some distance from street food. Then there's dahl and roti combo. Three piping hot breads - plain, brown and chilli - are stacked in a bowl; all are exemplary. The chilli kulcha has that "beads of sweat on the brow" feeling without being overpowering, and works brilliantly with the yellow lentil dish that puts my local to shame. It's vibrant in colour and flavour. This is all a bit one-note, as in, brilliant. But the flavours are anything but one-note. Our shared main dishes - railway lamb curry, pulusu chicken and macher jhol (Bengal fish curry) - are distinctly different (about £9 each). The lamb is tender and earthy, the chicken hot, hot, hot and the fish fragrant and faintly mustardy; there's major rivalry to slurp up the last of the sauces with the last of the roti (okay, we order more roti).
Rating: 8/10
Price: About £45 for two, including beer
Roti Chai review in full >>

The Daily Telegraph
19 November
Matthew Norman is impressed by the food served at the Greek in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire
Accepting the menu's invitation to "create your own mini-mezze", we ordered nine weeny starters, with hot pitta bread, for a startling £12. "Austerity measures," explained the owner. Other than the tasteless shrimps known to the menu as "prawns" (though even those were flawlessly thawed), all were excellent. Taramasalata and hummus were patently home-made and full of flavour, and mushrooms à la Greek and stuffed vine leaves juicy and fresh. The pick of the bunch, which go together beautifully, were the Loukanika sausage and halloumi, the engagingly waxy ewes' milk cheese. By now we were reconciled with a bottle of house retsina (also £12) which, on first sip, drew a glance of panic from my father, who had forgotten that the only possible reason for sending back that devilishly rough young Greek wine is if it doesn't taste corked. When Yiannis gets around to redecorating, it would do for makeshift paint-stripper. The main courses deepened our happiness. My dad's trout Cleopatra came grilled to perfection in brilliantly light batter and a zingy lemon sauce, topped with more of those shrimps, alongside sautéed potatoes. My stifado was as fine a rendition of that beef and onion stew as I can remember. A huge mound of tender, flaky meat, protected by an honour guard of four crunchy, golden roast potatoes, came drenched in a delectably herby red wine gravy.
Rating: 4.5/5
Price: Three courses with retsina and coffee, about £25 per head
The Greek review in full >>

The Times
19 November
Former Gordon Ramsay Scholar Aled William's cooking at Cennin in Wales, impresses Giles Coren
His cooking is very modern and very good. He serves most of his meat dishes with a plain prime cut alongside a slow-cooked fatty end, as young chefs generally do these days, and our party of eight raved hard for his pork, lamb, chicken and bass, all insanely local and nicely presented. But the main thing is the Welsh Black beef from the herd of his business partner Brian Thomas, who owns the place, and two farms nearby. The meat is dense and minerally, the sirloin especially insistent, almost offaly, the rump very fragrant, the fillet impeccable in a tartare. Aled, in his modern way, prepares the meat to "rare" and "medium-rare" sous-vide in the water bath before service, and then finishes to order. It undoubtedly makes for consistency (Ramsay will have taught him to treasure that above all things) and for ease of service, but I disagree with him and with most of his generation that it produces as desirable an end result.
Rating: 8/10
Price: About £50, including wine
Cennin review in full >>

The Sunday Times
20 November
Casa Batavia, London W8, fails to impress AA Gill, who says its puddings wouldn't have attracted a wasp with diabetes
The Best Dish of 2009 was roasted fillet of pork with tuna sauce, a twisted remake of vitello tonnato, which, in an Italianish way, I waved my hand at and asked, why? Vitello tonnato is a perfectly decent dish. Why make the tuna cheat with a pig? We got a loin of warm pork and tuna mayonnaise that was a gagged version of itself, and ended up as a faintly fishy, chewy mouthful of tepid pork. Not nice, not an improvement, and not remotely Italian. The puddings wouldn't have attracted a wasp with diabetes, and most of the dishes, which came in silly plates, had temperature issues. They were either worryingly chilly or tepid in parts. Which might have been trendy, or it might just have been forgetfulness and boredom. The prices are average. About £18 for a main course. The service was sluggish and imprecise, as it invariably is when you're the only table in the place. Good waiters rise to pressure.
Rating: 3/5Casa Batavia review in full >>

The Metro
16 November
Marina O'Loughlin says she'd cheerfully go back to the 10 Cases, London W1, every week
We also have excellent main courses: slabs of rolled suckling pig, tender and sweet with an appley jus and layers of crackling that's as crisp and translucent as sugar caramel; perfectly rare fillet of good beef is topped by a wibbly slab of seared foie gras and a punchy, reduced red wine sauce. The food is as matter-of-fact as the surroundings: free from garnishes or flounces, accessorised with maybe a few roast potatoes or reduced meat juices. The menu changes daily - you might find hearty terrines, or snails on toast, or Barnsley chops. It's not sophisticated, more like confident home cooking made with quality ingredients; but that's not a criticism, especially when you clock the postage stamp-sized kitchen. Perhaps people of a jaded disposition might be disenfranchised by the 10 Cases's pared-down approach but it works for me. So what if it's a tiny menu? They're all things I'd be happy to eat. No, it's not the greatest cooking in town, it may be a little short on the old va-va-voom but with the exception of a diabolical tart - dusty, oversweet, under-appled, I suspect bought-in - it's all perfectly fine. Like I say, I'm happy to return, something I think about maybe one restaurant in 10.
Price: A meal for two with wine, water and tip costs about £90The 10 Cases review in full >>

The London Evening Standard
17 November
Fay Maschler says the Mediterranean menu of small, markedly expensive dishes at Aurelia, London W1, doesn't easily lend itself to the sharing approach
Our waiter had conceded that what, in terms of price anyway, seemed like main courses could be served after the cheaper dishes chosen. Veal cutlet Milanese and pork chop with fennel seeds and braised borlotti beans were served sliced, all the easier to hand around. Reg kept his corn-fed baby chicken flavoured with thyme and smoked paprika from La Vera close to his chest and would only give away the accompanying polenta. He doesn't like polenta. While I thought Amy's Dover sole with clams, tomato and capers was truly delectable it just didn't sit well with Tim's pork or my veal. The impact of three skilfully cooked main ingredients was diminished by muddling them up. Side orders of cavalo nero and sprouting broccoli were just too Lilliputian for their role. The presentation of a scoop of chocolate truffle cake nestling in a white paper cloth was too vivid an image for a couple - our guests - whose memories of nappy-changing are not all that far away. Tarte Tatin with vanilla ice cream was luscious.
Rating: 3/5
Price: A meal for two with wine, about £140
Aurelia review in full >>

Time Out
23 November
Guy Dimond says Aurelia, London W1, is the latest see-and-be-scene restaurant in Mayfair and has a price tag to match it
The menu is broadly "Mediterranean", and serves up essentially simple dishes at prohibitive mark-ups (melon and ham salad: £19.50). Escabeche is a peasant-style dish of fish that's poached or fried, then marinated in an acidic dressing. Our red mullet starter still contained some small bones and was near-raw in the centre, but more importantly, it just didn't rock our boats. A little basket of deep-fried courgette strips that would make a nice bar snack in Italy, the thin straws of the courgette cooked nicely crisp, is served here for £8.50. Both a pork chop and lamb leg were moist yet properly cooked, the pork flavoured with fennel, the lamb with a salmoriglio-style pesto; both very good. But the best dishes were the desserts: a crème brûlée with a scoop of melon ice-cream, and a semifreddo that resembled a deconstructed Strawberry Mivvi. Arjun Waney seems to have the Midas touch, having been the financier behind Zuma and Roka - both first-class and very successful restaurants. Yet we felt a little disappointed with Aurelia, which takes the far more conservative and risk-averse approach of far too many Mayfair restaurants; it's more in the mould of its sister restaurant, La Petit Maison.
Rating: 3/5
Price: Meal for two with drinks and service, about £140
Aurelia review in full >>

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