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

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

The Observer
4 December
Jay Rayner says the relaunched Rib Room at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel, London SW1, serves lacklustre food at extortionate prices
The famed Rib of Beef, an inch-thick hunk of Aberdeen Angus served with gravy and a Yorkshire pudding, is listed online as costing £40. Get to the Rib Room itself and suddenly it's £42. Why is it never the other way round? There are lots of jokes I could make here about how, for that price, you'd want the animal to come out and give you a dance and a joke, perhaps a tour of the new dining room. But, actually, I'd have happily settled for it tasting nice. In the 60s, the Rib Room declared their ambition to serve the best beef in London. Today I'm not even sure it's the best beef on Cadogan Place. The meat was completely under-seasoned and was so much dull, wet cotton wool. I left at least 15 quid's worth of it on the side of my plate, because I simply couldn't be fagged to carry on dragging it through my teeth. The gravy was like an episode of Downton Abbey: it looked all right, but had absolutely no depth. The Yorkshire had the texture of something that had been loitering in the kitchen for a while.
Price: Meal for two, including drinks and service, £220Rib Room review in full >>

The Independent on Sunday
4 December
At his new chain Union Jacks, which launched in central London, Jamie Oliver is reimagining the pizza. But Lisa Markwell wonders whether he really needed to
It's my duty to try one of the more challenging flats myself: Old Spot (roast shoulder of pig, quince and Bramley sauce, Cropwell Bishop Stilton, crackling and watercress, £12). Just like a delicious exploded wintery sandwich, surely. Mr M is known as a chilli freak, so orders a Chilli Freak. Helpful face turns concerned. "It is very, very hot," she explains. "It can be too much." So why serve something called Chilli Freak? He says he can handle the heat. She says she'll bring some cooling curd for when it gets too much. It doesn't. It's spicy, but there's not even one bead of sweat on his brow. Distracted into thinking I might need to throw a pitcher of water over my husband, I fail to notice the friend who ordered a Margaret has abandoned it after one slice. What could go wrong? It is, after all, cheese on toast with posh cheese and posh toast. I try a bite. Boak. My Old Spot works best when I eat the shards of crackling piece by piece, followed by the meltingly soft chunks of pork, and slivers of quince. I'm left with vaguely slimy Stilton on chewy bread.
Rating: 5/10
Price: About £45 for two
Union Jacks review in full >>

Sunday Telegraph
4 December
Zoe Williams visits the Riding House Café, London W1, which she says is a restaurant that strives to be all things to all people
The menu is varied and tantalisingly worded, so that I wanted to order about two thirds of the things on it. And I would have been happy with all of it, except for the items that sound like recipes from the American Heart Association (super-food and herb salad, I'm talking to you). There are small dishes at £3, £4 and £5, which you can mix and match, but there are also standard mains between about £10 and £20 if you prefer things the way they've always been. It was an amiable and inclusive way of doing things. I had the salt-cod fritters with a red-pepper aïoli (£5) and my friend R had the clams, mussels, chilli, parsley and garlic (£4). Mine looked gorgeous, but after all these positive vibes I have to admit that the fritters didn't really taste of anything. They were all potato and no salt cod, but I don't think they were being stingy; I think it was fear of the challenge. Not everybody is expecting salt cod to be so salty or, for that matter, so fishy.
Rating: 3/5
Price: Three courses: £26.45
Riding House Café review in full >>

30 November
Marina O'Loughlin says Ducksoup, London W1, is the very incarnation of nowness but not for those looking for a relaxing lunch
The menu is also very now. A bit Brit, a bit Med, a touch of the old Middle East, maybe a hat-tip to Scandinavia. It changes every day, so you get buzz ingredients such as creamy Tuscan pork fat Lardo di Colonnata, Jésus de Lyon saucisson, pigs' cheek guanciale, or cavolo nero. We have a good buffalo mozzarella, slicked with oil and pepper; and casarecce - Puglian in origin, twisted short, dense pasta tubes, splendidly niche - with a rather brilliant duck liver and sausage ragu. There are lamb chops served, depending on your point of view, either bravely unadorned or boringly unaccompanied (especially for £14). They're excellent quality but this is perfunctory cooking: bung in pan, fry, add lemon and salt. There's one dish that appears to be a celebration of muddy flavours: egg deep-fried into hard-boiledness, mulchy morcilla (blood sausage) and girolle mushrooms. And I think that charging £2 for three thin slices of sourdough is just naughty. Don't go to Ducksoup expecting napery and schmoozing or even room to eat your meal in peace. If you have issues with personal space, steer clear - your pasta is likely to be accessorised by fellow diners' elbows or posteriors.
Rating: 3/5
Price: A meal for two with wine, water and tip costs about £90
Ducksoup review in full >>

The London Evening Standard
1 December
David Sexton says Soif in Battersea, London SW11, the third venture from the creators of Terroirs and Brawn, has a menu that's on trend and an inspired wine list
The menu is short, often changed, butch as hell, seasonal and right on trend: bone marrow, heirloom beetroots, pig cheeks, partridge, quince, all that. Soif's chef (tongue twister of the week), Colin Westal, was previously head chef at the Café Anglais and his style is clearly influenced by Rowley Leigh's gutsiness. We began with faultless slices of Felino salami (£5) from near Parma, cured with only a little salt and pepper, to give the purest possible taste of the pig. Pancetta arrotolata (£6) was even more remarkable, the rolled up, cured but unsmoked pork belly sliced wafer-thin and served raw. It's very fatty, so, given that you are thus mostly eating lard, heavenly lard, it needs to be soaked up with the good Poilâne bread. Then, lifted by the peppery, aniseedy seasoning, it's the perfection of that beastly treat. Savvy buying, sharp serving, thus far. The rest of the meal was less exceptional. Black pudding and squid (£11) was very good - a big fat round of juicy black pudding crowned with plenty of judiciously grilled squid, tentacles emerging from a little hat of body pieces, a surf-n-turf arrangement it was a pleasure to dissect with that razor-sharp knife.
Rating: 3/5
Price: About £80-£100 for two
Soif review in full >>

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