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

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

The Times
10 December
While Tony Turnbull isn't convinced by the sharing concept at Aurelia, London W1, he finds the food to be faultless
But these are minor quibbles because the food, delivered as asked, course by course rather than dish by dish, was faultless. Better than faultless, actually, like watching a slide show of all your childhood holidays rolled into one and discovering they were even more sun-kissed and golden than you'd remembered. We started with some warm Alfonso olives, marinated in thyme, orange, coriander, garlic and chilli. Warm olives was a new one on me, and the heat brought the flavours of the marinade alive and helped the olives slip off their stones. Crudités of radish, lettuce, fennel, carrots, red peppers and eggs with a big scoop of pokey anchoïade was equally simple but somehow conveyed more than the sum of its parts. You might think courgette fritters (£8.50) more of a side dish, but here it was worthy of the spotlight, ribbons of vegetable and their flowers in the lightest batter and perked up no end with lemon and Parmesan. Perhaps that's the way they always serve them on the Via Aurelia, but again it was new to me.
Aurelia review in full - available only to Times Online subscribers >>

The Sunday Times
11 December
AA Gill dines at Caprice Holdings' latest restaurant, 34, London W1, where the only thing done well was his steak, which he wanted rare
[Jeremy] Clarkson had a hamburger, which he ate with the gusto of an ingénue porn star. It was, he said, as good as Tootsie's. Tootsie's was an old Sloane café of memorably braying vileness. He was surprised when the mushroom on top turned out to be foie gras. "This mushroom's foie gras," he said, with awe. I had the now-ubiquitous wagyu sirloin, which I ordered rare, and came medium, verging on well done. It was the only thing that was well done. It gave off the faint flavour of Wonderloaf soaked in warm dripping, and it cost 85 of your English pounds, which makes it the most expensive steak in this part of the world. There seems to be some sort of plutocratic inflation going on with steak. A whack-your-meat-on-the-table one-upmanship in the amount you can nonchalantly fork out for a dead cow's arse. Value is all relative, but I don't feel comfortable eating overcooked short-order muscle that costs more than the waiter makes in a day. Possibly more than the bus boy makes in two days. I feel even less comfortable sitting among people who don't feel uncomfortable about that.
Rating: 2/534 review in full - available only to Times Online subscribers >>

The Guardian
10 December
John Lanchester says Paul Foster's cooking at Tuddenham Mill in Suffolk deserves all the accolades the young chef has garnered
After that, though, it was all good. We had the tasting menu, to give Foster's food a thorough go. At £65 for eight courses, it wasn't cheap, but the cooking was at a high enough level to ease the pain. The outstanding course was a stupendous ragù of hare with Jerusalem artichoke purée. That's a combination I'd have bet against, but something extraordinary happened between the rich, deep sauce and the artichoke: the tastes changed direction and went somewhere unexpected. A pickled onion garnish and a dusting of walnut added notes of acidity and texture - a brilliant, unusual dish. Quince dauphinois was another great idea, so much so that it outshone the duck breast it was garnishing, though the dish made good use of a bitter herb to tweak the flavour profile. Herbiness is a feature of Foster's cooking. Foraging is super-trendy, of course, but not many people follow it through with such conviction. Here, there is ground ivy in a lime curd and yoghurt mousse pudding (brilliant), chickweed with cauliflower cooked three different ways (very good), rock samphire, sea buckthorn and several others I forgot to write down.
Price: Set lunch from £20 for two courses; dinner from £45Tuddenham Mill review in full >>

The Observer
11 December
The 10 Cases, London WC2, is a great idea for a restaurant but a short menu, small portions and unreliable food means it doesn't deliver, says Jay Rayner
The rest of the menu changes every day and lists just three choices at each course. That's the problem. Offering so little choice is great; Lord save us from menus that make you feel like you've read War and Peace before you've started eating. But with so little choice, everything has to be bang on. Not everything was. And to retread the old Jewish joke: the portions! So small! Admittedly they don't charge much for this corner of town - £4 to £5 for a starter, low teens for mains - which is probably why they don't give you very much. Best of the savoury dishes was a dolls' house-sized bowl of pea and ham soup with chewy shreds of ham in it. For all its depth of flavour, though, the soup lacked texture. It was just a little too well mannered. By comparison, another starter of braised lentils with merguez sausage was decidedly ill-mannered. Just half a sausage loitered near a pile of lentils, which covered an unadvertised lump of ham hock. But the mains were the real problem. A veal breast cassoulet sounded interesting, and it was, but not in a good way: a vast, square hunk of undercooked meat, looking like something carved by Barbara Hepworth, sat in a meagre puddle of white beans.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service, £9010 Cases review in full >>

The Independent
10 December
John Walsh leaves Soif, London SW11, feeling stuffed, but impressed by the gutsy intensity of the chef's cooking
Main courses brought more novelty tastes. Angie's roasted hake ("Absolutely delicious, fresh and meaty") was given a nice counterpoint of crunchy chickpeas, sexed up by Romesco, the Spanish sauce that combines tomato with hazelnuts crushed together with pimento peppers. It was delicious. My roast partridge was served whole with a kilo of choucroute (or sauerkraut) and a fat Montbéliard sausage the size of a baby's arm. I must have put on three pounds just looking at it. The partridge was beautifully cooked, the breast so virginally white, the fat little legs so pungently purple, and tasty as hell. But what with the ocean of choucroute and the vast sausage, this was a dish that would have defeated a team of Provençal truckers, and I couldn't finish it. Our unfeasibly dashing Spanish waiter Abel spoke with such urgency about the Apéritif de Coing Sauvage pudding wine, I had to try it with the panna cotta, quince and chestnuts. Because (as I'm sure you knew) coing means quince, blended here with elderflower and white cherries; the combination of pudding, fruit, chestnuts and wine was gorgeous.
Rating: Food 4/5; Ambience 2/5; Service 4/5
Price: About £100 for two, with wine
Soif review in full >>

The Daily Telegraph
10 December
Matthew Norman finds good food at reasonable prices at Hotel Endsleigh in Devon
Sitting there drinking a nice Chilean cabernet sauvignon (£21 from a list that takes not the faintest of liberties), gazing down on the Tamar Valley in all its late autumnal majesty, we would have been perfectly content had a waistcoated waiter then brought us bowls of gruel garnished with weevils. Instead, he delivered dishes that deepened the joy. Two of us had the roast beef - three chunky, deep red slices of South Devon sirloin, a tall and crunchy Yorkshire pud, crispy roast potatoes, roasted root vegetables, curly kale and a rich red wine gravy. Unimprovable. An envious glance necessitated the transfer of several forkfuls to the missus, but she also loved her fillet of brill, which lived up to its name, in an "unbelievably good", buttery coriander-flavoured sauce. For pudding, she had a trio of local cheeses, among them the excellent Godminster cheddar. The boy's poached pear came not only with a borderline over-rich chocolate mousse but a chocolate teaspoon, a cute touch that also adorned my warm prune sponge pudding with cognac ice-cream.
Rating: 4/5
Price: Sunday lunch, £25 for three courses; weekday lunch, £20 for three courses
Hotel Endsleigh review in full >>

The Sunday Telegraph
11 December
Zoe Williams says Aurelia, London W1, is pricey and a bit mixed, and if you get it right it's wonderful, and even if not, it's fine
But then I had some broccoli (£3.50) on the side, which was beyond perfect - it had bite but it wasn't chewy, it was spritzed with lemon but tasted of nothing so much as a garden in spring. And B's cavolo nero (£4.50), with a judicious scattering of Parmesan and pine nuts, was just as good, as fresh and green as if it were still growing, as rich and alluring to look at as velvet. His salt-marsh lamb (£21) was heaped generously on the plate, with a splash of salsa verde and some whole cloves of roasted garlic. This was the dish of the day, I think; the lamb was heathery and salty and crossed a range of tastes within each mouthful, from the almost-sweetness of the fat (I could have eaten it all day, on its own, I am embarrassed to admit), to the delicate depth of the lean meat. It was great. Some potato dauphinoise (£4) was not great; it was massively underseasoned, except for the mace, of which there was too much, and their mandolin was on the wrong setting so that the slices were too thin and had regrouped during cooking into a spongy wedge. But the puddings were a total treat.
Rating: 3/5
Price: Three courses, £40.72
Aurelia review in full >>

The Metro
7 December
Marina O'Loughlin can't imagine anyone not liking Union Jacks, London W1, the latest restaurant concept from Jamie Oliver
The food is far, far better than in most places with wrap-round glass windows in purpose-built food courts. It's all about attention to detail: long-fermented pizza dough blasted in fiercely hot wood-fired ovens - three that I can see - resulting in a puffy, chewy and oven-blistered crust and thin, crisp base. Creamy smoked trout served with warm baby Yorkshire puddings - if you've trashed one tradition, the gloves are off, I suppose - has a dandruff of incredibly finely grated lemon peel. Meaty, Cumberland-coiled sausage with crisp bacon and sweet wholegrain mustard comes with deep-fried sage leaves. Every tiny element has been tested to within an inch of its life. The design is all detail fetishism, too. Scratch the surface of the casual, T-shirted insouciance to find the work of several hardcore control-freaks: from the rotating video clips on the website that provide snapshots of nostalgic Brit popular culture (Fanny Cradock! Tommy Cooper! Sham 69!) to a soundtrack that gallops from Mott The Hoople to Gary Numan to Duran Duran. It straddles child-friendliness and adult appeal with all the knowingness of a Shrek movie.
Price: A meal for two with wine, water and tip, costs about £50Union Jacks review in full >>

The London Evening Standard
8 December
Fay Maschler says the Delaunay, the latest restaurant from Christopher Corbin and Jeremy King, London WC2, offers elegance, attention to detail and, most importantly, what diners really want
Dish of the day for Monday is chicken curry. Served in a silver chafing dish, with rice and lime pickle and cucumber raita on the side, it was heady with the smell of sautéd curry leaves and boldly, authentically spiced, a perfect assembly for a cold Monday. Frankfurters at £9 for two - for £9.75 you can have a choice of two from Frankfurter, Käsekrainer and Berner Würstel - are served with caramelised onions that are a brilliant riposte to the sauerkraut alongside and a new potato salad with a dressing that declares this year's fashion is grain mustard. Culinary highlights of the "rehearsal" dinner included baked Romano pepper with spiced aubergine; egg Florentine (with spinach); whole roasted sea bream with confit fennel; chargrilled calf's liver with bacon and buttery mash; fillet of beef "Stroganoff" with which the side dish of pickled cucumber salad went particularly well. Ginger-glazed Chantenay carrots also deserve a mention in despatches.
Rating: 5/5
Price: A la carte, a three-course meal for two with wine, about £100
The Delaunay review in full >>

Time Out
14 December
Susan Low leaves Mishkin's, London WC2, the fifth venture from the team behind the Polpo and Spuntino restaurants, feeling processed not nourished
I half-expected our waitress to ask "yeah, whaddaya want?" as she clutched her notepad and pulled a pencil from behind her ear; the service in New York delis can be brusque, but is usually efficient. At Mishkin's we experienced lost and forgotten orders, and bill mishaps - forgiveable if delivered with a smile or an apology, or the sense of caring for customers that we'd noted in the Polpo siblings, but on this oocasion notably absent. Halfway through the evening, the lights were suddenly turned down and we were plunged into such Stygian darkness that we could barely see our plates; the music was so loud that we had to shout into each others' ears. The atmosphere and attitude at Mishkin's left us feeling processed, rather than nourished - as you often do in chain restaurants. We felt as though the staff wanted us in and out as quickly as possible, to make way for the next bums on seats. Could Mishkin's be the one that marks the shift from "restaurant group" to "restaurant chain"? We hope not. This is a fun place to pop in for a cocktail and nibble, but if you're looking for an enjoyable, relaxed dining experience, eat elsewhere.
Rating: 2/5
Price: Meal for two, with drinks and service, about £55
Mishkin's review in full >>

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