John Lanchester quite likes Silvena Rowe's food at Quince at the May Fair Hotel, London W1, which is he says is more home than restaurant style cooking I quite liked the food. It's more subtle than anything else about the place. The starters are for sharing. Lamb cutlets came with a tahini and black truffle sauce, and a sprinkling of za'atar, a spice and herb condiment that gave the dish a welcome complexity - it kept you thinking about what new flavours were coming through. A special starter of four roasted king prawns was toppily priced at £21, but they were beautifully tender and their accompanying pomegranate butter was sweet and unexpected; and I say that as someone who thinks it's easy to overdo it with pomegranate. Whitebait were much too big, not properly seasoned and didn't work with their under-chillied chilli mayonnaise. When we got to the main courses, I realised something about Rowe. Because her experience isn't so much in professional kitchens - the best cooking of the eastern Med is home cooking, not restaurant food - she presents her dishes more like a home cook, with less of a pro's emphasis on the purely visual. There is something underwhelming about that if your expectations are keyed to Mayfair, grande luxe and beautifully presented plates (Ottolenghi's, for instance, are on a different level).
Price: Meal with drinks and service, around £75 a headQuince review in full >>
Jay Rayner says a visit to the Red Dog Saloon, London N1, a US-themed barbecue restaurant, is a complete waste of his time We call over a waiter. Don't you have any ribs? Sadly not, he says. We don't have them until later in the afternoon. I stare at him. Let me get this straight: you're a barbecue restaurant with no barbecue? He gives me the sad, would-that-it-were-other face again. There isn't space in their smoker to produce enough for both lunch and dinner. We had phoned ahead and they had never mentioned this. A quick huddle and the staff announce they can rustle up some ribs in 20 minutes if we get going on the starters. That's fine by us. We order Buffalo chicken wings. They are raw at the middle. We send them back. The second lot are cooked through and are better than any Buffalo wings I've had in London. The skin is crisp in the Southern fried style. The hot sauce glaze is balanced and salty and forces you to lick your lips. Other dishes are great, too. Mac and cheese could do with being a little more burnished on top but has crisp bits of bacon buried in the properly cheesy Béchamel, and I'm not about to kick something like that out of bed. We like the beans, into which have been dropped fragments of leftover pig. Coney Island fries hide under an outrageous landslide of cheese and chilli.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service, £75Red Dog Saloon review in full >>
Tracey Macleod says Rocksalt in Folkestone, Kent, is almost a fairytale come true for Mark Sargeant Monkfish, one of several ‘catch of the day' main-course choices, came arranged in pearlescent slices over buttery peas braised with lettuce and lardons; it's hard not to love anything served with braised peas. But an otherwise decent sirloin steak was let down by its fixings - a half head of garlic not quite roasted to full sweetness, and the ‘Rocksalt steak sauce', brown and sickly, which only a full DNA test could have differentiated from HP. Duck-fat chips lacked crunch and salt - scandalous, in a place named after the stuff. Chocolate fondant gets a maritime twist, with a liquid centre of sweet-sharp sea-buckthorn. Gypsy tart, the Kentish answer to dulce de leche, is made to a recipe from Mark Sargeant's mother; the caramelish filling here whipped to a foamy lightness, nothing like the dense school-dinner version of blessed memory.
Service is still rather shaky, but small wonder if the staff were on edge; the place was crawling with food bloggers, as well as various multi-generational groups who turned out to be members, according to our waitress, of "The Family". They looked dead chuffed, and why wouldn't they? As family businesses go, a chic seaside restaurant is a lot sexier than selling discount travel insurance.
Rating: Food 3/5; Service 3/5; Ambience 4/5
Price: Around £35 a head before wine and serviceRocksalt review in full >>
The Independent on Sunday
Amol Rajan has a truly awful meal at The Peach Tree in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, where he hopes the chef had called in sick
There is a final insult, however, in the crab thermidor, one of the worst plates of food I have ever had in a restaurant. Where to start? With appearances? With the aroma? With what my companions had to say about it, which is unfit to print? The smell really is overwhelming, and this pitiful, mustard-grey dish is delivered on a bed of rock salt, from which, in my case, it has momentarily taken flight. Yet the fact that different parts of this plate are having a barely disguised domestic is only the start of our troubles. It is cold. I should say: it is £14.95 worth of cold. Nor does the grimace on Matt's face convince me that heat will be any kind of remedy, but we think it's worth a try. By the time it has returned it is indeed piping hot, albeit so over-salted and deficient in crabness as to be unpalatable. Of the rest, the crème caramel (£5.50) is an overcooked omelette, the wine list is good, with reasonable bottles under £18, and the service is convivial. There is a strong chance that this particular Friday afternoon is the worst gastronomic off-day Shropshire, or just the Peach Tree, has ever had. Maybe the chef called in sick. Perhaps there were other mitigating circumstances. One can only hope so, because the only thing the Peach Tree did for these four tourists was to almost convince us that the spectacular Abbey alongside should also be avoided at all costs.
Price: £150 for four with two bottles of wineThe Peach Tree review in full >>
Giles Coren finds very expensive food that isn't very good at Massimo Restaurant & Oyster Bar at the new Corinthia Hotel, London SW1
Now, the food. Mostly not good. But the staff were very sweet and solicitous and when we were grumbling to each other about how we'd much rather share dishes than match people to plates they were quick to say they could do that for us. Which was nice. At least till the food arrived. Calamari and razor clams gratin were lifeless and bready, and lobster with tomatoes was properly pointless: just chunks of lobster and chunks of tomato, which don't go especially well together, so you pull out the lobster bits and leave the superfluous fruit. The scallops were tiny and a bit bitter. Grilled octopus and avocado chopped up with lemon and aïoli and piled in a cylinder was the only top-class dish in five starters weighing in around £100. Esther had spaghetti with langoustines, prawns, courgette flower and pecorino (£20). The pasta was excellent, but the langoustines were squishy. Nothing in the world more dismal than squishy langoustines. Can't have been frozen (can't possibly) so must just have been overcooked. Terrible waste. Monkfish cheeks Milanese style (£24) were much like oval fish fingers and tasted nearly as nice at first, but were a bit dry in the end. If I did my fish fingers that dry at home I'd chuck 'em and cook some more.
Rating: 5.33Massimo review in full - available only to Times online subscribers >>
The Sunday Times
AA Gill visits the Old Vicarage in Ridgeway near Sheffield where the cooking and the ingredients and the grasp of gastronomy are faultless
We sat in strained, whispering silence as the food came. The madeira, vanilla and grape sauce with the liver was spectacular. The nutmeg and pickled lemon was surprisingly at home with the sea bass. The main courses were a Gressingham duck, roasted over liquorice root with a liquorice purée, a fantastic piece of Charolais beef with girolles and roasted beetroot, and a Whitby cod with parsnips and asparagus and the panache of a rhubarb and anise sauce. All was made with generosity and elegance, but best was an afterthought I ordered as a side dish - the vegetarian option, a cinnamon broth with young vegetables and stir-fried spring greens and walnuts. Pudding was a strawberry millefeuille, a gooseberry shortbread tart and a chocolate pudding with fudge sauce and custard. Coffee and dozens of choccy, sugary things were served back in the yellow sitting room. Molly had a bit of a turn about the morality of the sotto voce experience. She doesn't do what she called "fussed food with atmosphere". I thought it was perfectly outstanding.
Price: Four-course menu £65The Old Vicarage review in full - available only to Times online subscribers >>
The Sunday Telegraph
The Corner Room may be a casual offshoot of Nuno Mendes' grander restaurant Viajante, but inferior it most certainly isn't, says Zoe Williams
The squid was scored and grilled, all very simple, and reminded me - to its own advantage - of a mosaic of squid I had in Viajante, where some poor schmuck had cut the tubes into squares the size of a baby's fingernail, then laid them out like an all-white chessboard for incredibly intelligent mice. This was easier by far, and also much nicer. The spuds were golden and lovely. The fennel, E said, was so intense that perhaps it was braised in fennel juice? Injected with fennel? Something of that order.
I had the lamb belly (£6) with delicate cubes of courgette, a crumble of goat's cheese, and a seriously green underlying purée, which I believe was also courgette. It was quite an unusual cut for a starter, not because it's chewy - although it was - but because the flavour was so meaty. It sort of missed the point of whetting the appetite. That quibble is small and as good as irrelevant to the excellence of the starters; I put it in just to prove I was concentrating. Mains arrived. ‘Oh wow,' said E, her eyes shining.
Price: Three courses £22The Corner Room review in full >>