The Independent on Sunday
Amol Rajan says Dabbous, London W1, is the most thrilling addition to the London dining scene for yonks
Not long after this, a bowl arrives that is full of straw. And perched like a prince in the middle of it is an egg whose top has been scored off. In it is coddled free-range egg with woodland mushrooms and smoked butter. Now, try to think of the finest scrambled eggs you've ever had, and you won't get near the quality of this dish. The warm egg is tongue-ticklingly smooth; the woodland mushrooms are firm and almost meaty, and the smoky flavour is warming to the soul. For all that, this is neither the best, nor the second-best dish on the menu. Second place, in fact, goes to the roast king crab with buttermilk, chunks of parsnip and Hispi cabbage. The crab is muscular and flavourful, and the creamy sauce carrying it is a perfect match. But victory is awarded to the barbecue Iberico pork with savoury acorn praline, turnip tops and apple vinegar. No pig could reasonably expect a better fate than this, other than to live; and the praline is as good a friend as any slice of meat I can remember has had. It's a bit like the best satay sauce, except thicker and richer; and the apple vinegar, with its hint of sweetness, completes a spectacular triumph.
Price: About £150 for two with wineDabbous review in full >>
John Lanchester finds delicious, seasonal British food and cracking value at Ffresh at the Wales Millennium Centre
The chef is Kurt Fleming, aided by one of the great heroes of modern British cooking, Shaun Hill, consulting on the menu. […] Translated through the necessary constraints of the location - that is, doing a lot of pre-theatre covers pretty fast - Hill's presence is felt in a menu that has an emphasis on the local and seasonal. You feel the need for speed in the starters, which are the least interesting part of the meal. Halloumi had that weird, super-rubbery texture it sometimes has, and its pepper and aubergine dressing was over-tweaked with capers. Confit of duck leg arrived as three room-temperature discs of uncharismatic, dry terrine with a smear of apple purée on the side. The salad with it, however, was a brilliant assembly of pea shoots, cubes of apple and black pudding. It had an extraordinary earthiness. I don't mean that metaphorically - it did genuinely taste of earth, as well as of greenery: a remarkable couple of mouthfuls. With mains, the meal lifted off. Anthony Bourdain once said that it's impossible to avoid the word "unctuous" when discussing pork belly. I surrender: the belly was unctuous, all fat rendered and the meat dense but soft.
Price: Meal with drinks and service, about £40 a head à la carteFfresh review in full >>
The famous baguettes at Kêu, a Vietnamese sandwich bar in London EC1, may sell like hot cakes, but its other wares aren't terribly impressive, says Zoe Williams
That precaution would not have helped with his mackerel, which arrived (loosely) as described, in a barbecue style with rice and steamed greens (£6.70). But what they hadn't said was that it would be horrid: stolid and hard to get your fork into. In consistency it was more like smoked mackerel than fresh, only without the mitigating smoky taste, and besides, even that (done properly) has more give and fat and softness. This was like halva. I had the crispy pork belly on rice (£6.20), which was actually quite nice, especially the care they'd gone to with the crackling (they weren't just calling it crispy for effect - they took that responsibility pretty seriously). The pork was nice, the rice was fine, but it was all a bit safe; it was like something you'd find in the elaborate breakfast buffet of a Hong Kong hotel, purportedly local but really designed to suit everyone, down to the fussiest two-year-old. I have arrived at this conclusion more than once: don't trust fashionable people. They don't really care about food, and often are just following someone else with a similar haircut.
Price: Two courses, £9.20Kêu review in full >>
Giles Coren is so impressed with Burger & Lobster, London W1, he returns for seconds the very next day
Naturally assuming that I would come only once, and being alone, I had the lobster roll, considering it the compromise dish most likely to give a sense of the restaurant. My first mouthful, a crunchy chip dipped in a garlicky lemon butter of operatic heft and zing, told me all I needed to know: that having chosen to do very little here, they do it as well as it can be done. The little bowl of salad was, unusually, not pointless at all, but a tangle of ferrous leaves and interesting tomato varieties. The lobster roll was very good, too, if you like lobster and brioche, which I sort of do. But kind of regretted not having the burger. So I went back and had the burger the following day (I do not think I have ever liked a place enough to return the very next day, in 15 years of reviewing). It was terrific, fully benefiting from the recipe of half grain-fed American, half grass-fed British beef, with a sweetness/minerality balance that even you might notice.
Price: £20Burger & Lobster review in full, available only to Times Online subscribers >>
The Sunday Times
Lucas Hollweg says the Pig in Brockenhurst, Hampshire, is a charming place that serves great, unpretentious food
The kitchen's aesthetic is rustic and uncheffy. A dressed crab, the flesh piled back into the shell unadorned, came with a mound of celeriac remoulade - perhaps a little too sparse and a little underpowered - a sprinkling of pickled sea purslane, half a lemon and a tuft of baby salad leaves. Home-made chorizo with deep-fried baby squid was tumbled into a bowl with sea beet and foraged wild garlic sprouts on top. This was deliciously more than the sum of its parts, aromatic hits of fennel seed in the strips of sausage lifting the whole dish to brilliance. It was matched by a salad of crisp, sweet pork belly, cooked with honey and mixed with lightly pickled roots, grain mustard and quails' eggs. There are quite a lot of pickled things on the menu. It makes sense at this time of year - preserving is traditionally one way to deal with the privations of a northern winter - and here, the vegetables gave depth and contrast, like a deft take on sweet and sour.
Rating: 4/5The Pig review in full, available only to Times Online subscribers >>
The template for this student town's small treasure, Fitzbillies in Cambridge, should be on every catering college's curriculum, says Marina O'Loughlin
Anyway: dinner. It's great. Concise the menu may be, but there are fireworks: a blood orange and razor-thinly sliced fennel salad whose dressing is pungent with anchovy; or folds of burgundy-hued house-cured beef - there's a lot of curing and smoking in addition to the pickling and preserving - with shavings of Berkswell cheese, its sharpness adding a welcome layer of piquancy. There's game pudding with celeriac mash, remarkably achieving both delicacy and stodge. Its suet crust, toasty at the edges, is crammed with venison and hare and, I think, duck, slow-cooked in rich, very English gravy. Guinea fowl can be dry; Sykes's version is not, leg and breast both luscious and perfectly matched with a slightly sweet stewed red cabbage. Puddings? How about profiteroles stuffed with silky blood orange-ice cream and chocolate sauce? Or a bread pudding made from the killer - almost literally - Chelsea buns? Clever wine list, too.
Price: Dinner for two with wine, water and tip costs about £80Fitzbillies review in full >>
The London Evening Standard
Fay Maschler says friendly staff and the optimistic energy of the operation at Karpo, London WC2, bring into reality some of that much talked about renaissance of King's Cross
In authentic US style, baking is an important part of the Karpo offering. Daniel sang the praises of his young baker, François Mignard, originally from the South of France, and his pastry chef Jennifer Burl, whose talent was evident in the individually constructed Pink Lady tarte tatin. The display of baked goods by the window onto the street changes during the day in accordance with mealtimes, making Karpo even more of a welcome odd man out in a street of fast-food emporiums. But if, like me, you try to minimise bread consumption, the bourbon and chilli pecans are a wonderful substitute. The oven described as wood-fired is in fact a Josper. From its charcoal-fuelled depths we tried gnocchi alla Romana, cow's curd, Swiss chard and roasted courgettes. It was a bit of a semolina - or maybe polenta - car crash but the menu's exploration of starches is adventurous and interesting. The grits element of shrimp and grits - a dish I recommend - are presented as a firm square cake rather than a runny mush. Panisse made from chickpea flour served with fried red mullet - fried for too long - is fashioned into logs.
Price: A three-course main meal for two with wine, about £96Karpo review in full >>