Giles Coren says Mele e Pere in Soho, London W1, serves good seasonal Italian food but is a really bum place to sit and spend time
The starters were correct enough: a lively, very green minestrone that was a bit under-seasoned; tripe nicely done in a tomatoey ragout, with the familiar bad-breath tang you either enjoy or vomit at the mere thought of (rather expensively priced at £9.50 for a hard-times offal dish); a scatter of Sicilian red clams, beautifully dressed; chopped veal with shaved Parmesan and razored leaves of what must be the season's first artichokes somewhere considerably warmer than here, which was neat but bland, like a steak tartare that's been through the wash in a jeans pocket. The next course took far, far too long to arrive. Maybe half an hour, maybe 45 minutes. That's fine if you're sitting on a boat off Sardinia, tucking into your third bottle of Prosecco of the morning and watching topless hookers diving off Silvio Berlusconi's yacht (and swimming madly for shore with their passports in their teeth), but not on a working Tuesday in a hot, stuffy, airless, bunker where you can't see the sky, in a town where most new restaurants consider even chairs a luxury fitting.
Price: £150 for three, with one bottle of wine Mele e Pere review in full, available only to Times Online subscribers >>
After a frosty start, Christopher Hirst has a rather enjoyable meal at Winteringham Fields in Lincolnshire
Alison's "middle course" of spätzli (a Swiss dish meaning "little sparrow") was a surprise. A gooey cylindrical pile, it tasted like veal in a thick, creamy sauce but turned out to be baked pasta topped with tiny ribbons of onion. "Lovely. Glad I chose it." I was equally happy with my gurnard. I suspect the three fillets had been sous-vided then flash-fried, which produced a tasty result. It came with a cold, flattish cylinder that proved to be "cannelloni" made from Japanese kelp and "compressed cucumber", which is more sous-vide. For her main course, Alison went for "12-hour cooked pork jowl'". After a half-day simmer in the water bath, this plebian cut acquired a velvety texture. Mostly fat with a slender ribbon of meat, it was perhaps as well that the dish consisted of two little rectangles with fragmentary crackling. "Probably the most tender pork I've ever had." My roast leg of lamb revealed the downside of sous-vide: consistency at the expense of character. The three dainty slivers had a uniform, slightly chewy texture more like steak. Slices from a proper roast leg of lamb would have been infinitely preferable.
Rating: Food 4/5; Ambience 4/5; Service 4/5
Price: About £160 for two, with drinks Winteringham Fields review in full >>
Jeremy Lee's arrival in the kitchen of Quo Vadis, London W1, has breathed new life into this rather faded Soho institution, says John Lanchester
Lee's cooking is a good fit for Quo Vadis. There's a clarity to it, an emphasis on simplicity and impact: his food reminds me of Simon Hopkinson's (no surprise, seeing as Lee worked under him at Bibendum). That's a compliment - a big one. Without making a fuss about the fact, this is very much an English restaurant. Most of the menu is in robust, plain English, with the exception of a few terms with no exact equivalent: onglet (a French steak cut), gremolata (an Italian lemon-peel dressing) and "méthode anglaise" (a French-baiting term for English sparkling wine). And one of the starters is a modern English masterpiece: eel sandwich, at £6.50. This features two generous slices of smoked eel between two pieces of fried bread, generously slathered with horseradish, and with super-sharp slivers of picked onion on the side. The rich, fishy denseness of the eel makes a superb mouthful with the crunch of the bread and the cold-in-temperature, hot-in-flavour horseradish. It's a pity there's no English term for ¡Ole! Our other first course could hardly have been more different in technique, a crab consommé (£5.50) with rouille and croutons, but it had a wonderful depth of flavour without the over-extracted, offputting sweetness that can come with shellfish broth.
Price: Three-course meal for two with wine and service, from £80 Quo Vadis review in full >>
Jay Rayner says Soho's Mele e Pere is a local Italian, but it serves challenging dishes and it's all a bit confusing
The menu is, as the name suggests, Italian, but very much in a "think-you-can-cope-with-us?" sort of way. There is very little in the way of comfort food. Octopus, fennel and blood-orange salad or hand-chopped (raw) veal or grilled razor clams or tripe - which amounts to half the starters - are hardly crowd pleasers. From a list of what I imagine are supposed to be canapés, deep-fried olives stuffed with a little chilli are a dense, ripe pleasure. Snails served in their shells in the bourguignon style, with pecorino and parsley, feel like a non sequitur. The crumbled Italian cheese does not give an Italian spin to this most French of dishes. A starter of sweet, soft, red Sicilian prawns with a fresh dice of carrots, tomatoes and onions gets a big thumbs-up. A tripe stew with grated Parmesan is simply not all there. It has all the musky, deep stickiness that you get from long-braised cow's stomach, but the sauce is just too sugary. Tripe cooked like this needs a big, bold peppery kick and this didn't have it.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service, £120 Mele e Pere review in full >>
Marina O'Loughlin says the Lounge, a partnership between Rowley Leigh and cinema operator Odeon, makes for restaurant-quality dining while you watch a movie
Restaurant-trained staff are notably charming, even though, with all the whispering and moving around on their hunkers, this must be the oddest front-of-house job in the capital. The whole thing has been thought through very carefully, from the rubber, sound-resistant seat-trays to rumours that those bent-double staff have to wear static-free fabrics so they don't "swish" during service. The four stars are not really for the food, which is competent rather than awe-inspiring, but for the whole experience: altogether a hoot. Bear in mind, though, that when I visit, there are only 10 or so occupied seats in the cinema (which seats 50) so it's a relatively serene oasis of giggly luxury. If full, with hunched up staff scuttling hither and thither, it might be different. I'd save it for the romcoms and leave the heavy stuff to the boutique independent cinemas, where the crunch of chilli cracker basket during the Kurosawa would make the whole place seethe with middle-class passive aggression.
Price: A meal for two with wine and tip costs about £70; cinema tickets £15 to £18 each The Lounge review in full >>
London Evening Standard
David Sexton is not impressed with the food served at Gregg Wallace's new restaurant, Gregg's Table at the Bermondsey Square hotel
Avocado prawn (£8) was fine, a half avocado sliced over a flat plate covered with plenty of prawns in a Marie Rose sauce, plus a drool of dark, pongy "shellfish dressing". Fish mousse (£7.50) was more troubling, a thickly gelatinous vaguely salmon-flavoured mound which had been so overcooked that its base was rubber, though the cockles scattered over it were good and fresh. Along came Gregg. "Have you had anything to eat yet?" We muttered that we had. "Hooray!" he said, not the answer of a confident provider. He knew. Then we waited an hour for our main courses, which given their retrograde simplicity was a very long time. Beef Stroganoff (£13.50) could have been worse, some slices of fried beef and mushroom served with a big dollop of sour cream, dusted with paprika, on top of some ever so welcome basmati rice. Fish fingers, chips and mushy peas (£12.50), a dish that should not stretch any take-away, was hopeless, though. The chips were pallid and flaccid, the mushy peas dry and bitter, the home-made fish fingers, perhaps containing pollack, had been coated in a discouragingly thick and dark crumby crust. A side dish, advertised as purple sprouting broccoli with almonds, was ordinary broccoli microwaved into mush. We didn't eat much of any of this and didn't make it to the Knickerbocker Glory.
Rating: 1/5 Gregg's Table at the Bermondsey Square hotel review in full >>