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What's on the Menu? – A roundup of the latest restaurant reviews

24 October 2011 by
What's on the Menu? – A roundup of the latest restaurant reviews

The Guardian
22 October
John Lanchester quite liked the gimmick of DC Diner, Coventry, being housed in an old plane, until the food started arriving

Where to begin? Maybe with the chicken and mushroom pie. This looked plausible until we took off the pastry lid and found nothing there. A short, determined search eventually located the filling, which had migrated underneath the soggy chips, presumably during the trip from the kitchen - which is outside, down the steps and along a polytunnel, not far from the loos. (Outside those loos, a marketing slogan proudly boasts about being "Number One In Number Twos". Just the thought you want rattling round your head as you sit down to eat.) Burgers? Terrible, like the worst burger you ever got a third of the way through at a motorway service station: an ice-hockey puck of overcooked mystery meat. Also sinister were my younger son's chicken nuggets. There is an evolutionary scale of nuggets, ranging from the organically sourced and lovingly made down to specimens that leave you tearful with relief when your children refuse to eat them. These were that second type.
Price: Meal with drinks and service, lunch from £15, dinner from £30DC Diner review in full >>

The Observer
23 October
Jay Rayner says that finding complex food a long way from London isn't easy, but Simon Rogan sets very high standards at L'Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria

To start there is a crumbly biscuit of aged Cheddar with a dollop of broccoli purée, followed by a fingernail-sized deep-fried croquette of smoked eel with an intense pommes purée. It was gone just as we recognised how intensely delicious it was. From rich and oily to light and fresh: a porcelain purse filled with a mixture of beetroot and a snow made from mozzarella, the whole lifted by touches of cucumber and dill. Back we go to something stickier: a soft, doughy, suet-like pudding the size of a £2 coin flavoured with truffle, surrounded by an umami-rich truffle broth, which is translucent but deep and intense. Pearls of toasted puffed barley give texture. We chase the last drops around the plate. A tranche of local smoked trout dressed with bright orange pearls of trout roe atop an oyster cream is a slap around the face with an unabashed fishiness. Pickled baby vegetables are so small as to be practically foetal and leave us wondering what the point of them is, save to prove that with the right vegetal obstetrician they can be delivered.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service, £180L'Enclume review in full >>

The Independent
22 October
Tracey MacLeod says all The Asquith, the latest restaurant from Glynn Purnell in Birmingham, is missing is customers

The Asquith's menu is a model of concision and good taste, with five options at each course, all of them tempting. Behind the bald telegramese of ‘Poached hen's egg - goat's cheese foam - onion soubise - sage' was a starter which achieved a shimmering balance of unstable elements - lightly poached egg, translucent potato wafers, whispers of goat's cheese foam, flashes of fried sage, all underpinned by a sweet obligato of onion. My main course was a sensational reboot of a classic Tournedos Rossini, with braised ox cheek standing in for steak, and sautéed duck liver for foie gras. With Puy lentils and pommes purée, it was a memorably satisfying, grown-up plateful. By this time, a few more couples had trickled in, dressed up for dates, and all tactfully averting their eyes from the lone weirdo. A cheerful looking Glyn Purnell was on the premises, striding around handsomely, and making sure everything was running smoothly. And indeed it was - this may have been opening night, but the food is already tip-top, with many of the dishes perfected at the original incarnation of The Asquith. Service, too, was smooth and… understanding.
Rating: Food 4/5; Ambience 2/5; Service 4/5
Price: Around £35 a head before wine and service.
The Asquith review in full >>

The Times
22 October
Giles Coren says some of the cooking at Cut, Wolfgang Puck's first European venture at 45 Park Lane, is very special but the prices are ridiculous

I took Tom Parker Bowles because he knows about food, and Alex Bilmes, the editor of Esquire, because, wait, I didn't take him. He took me. Or tried to. If I'm reviewing I reckon I really must pay. We fought a little. Then I saw the bill and decided I'd let him come in halvesies. Because it was more than five hundred (500) (FIVE HUNDRED) pounds. And I am not paying five hundred (500) (FIVE HUNDRED) pounds of anybody's money for a two-course steak lunch with two modest bottles of wine suggested by the house. Not even Rupert Murdoch's. Sorry. I don't normally mention the money before I've got to the food. But this was ridiculous. Half a grand for a steak and a glass of red. If ever I could get a swearword past the Times censors, this is where I would try. But they would instantly change it to something less offensive and the result might look ridiculous. Hell, let's give it a go: They brought the bill and I thought, "Puck! That's a lot of money."
Rating: 5.5
Price: Haha
Cut review in full >>

The Sunday Times
23 October
AA Gill reviews the Gallery at London's Westbury Hotel, which he says is a restaurant designed to appeal to everyone that doesn't please anyone
It's a typical hotel restaurant. It works backwards, letting the dining room dictate to the kitchen, which sounds great in principle, but in practice is a recipe for mediocrity. It needs to cover versions of easy-eating plates. We started with a wild-mushroom risotto that was slimy and tasted of dried-funghi water and had the slurry-wet smell of cellar mould. And the vitello tonnato, which was an anaemic mayonnaise chugged over meat that was underage beef, not veal. A baked monkfish with oxtail, little-gem lettuce and orange confit was a small brick of tough, lukewarm fish on a thin mulch of pasty oxtail with a faint infusion of Orangina. Potato purée was congealed root glue. Chocolate Provence was the international plate of sophisticated naughtiness, and the affogato was too much coffee drowning too little ice cream. Prices are West End careless: main courses £20-£30, starters £10-£18. The room and the food leave barely a trace of memory. Trying to resurrect the experience is like trying to remember the faces of bus drivers.
Rating: 2/5
Price: £70-£80 for two
The Gallery review in full >>

The Daily Telegraph
22 October
Matthew Norman enjoys the food at Cut at 45 Park Lane but wonders if chef proprietor Wolfgang Puck is a robbin' goodfellow
My crab and lobster cocktail probably was worth £17. The portion was colossal, the vibrantly fresh seafood mingled happily with great avocado, the Marie Rose sauce and the ensemble was hugely enlivened by fresh basil and a spicy tomato horseradish. It was much the best dish of its kind I have eaten. The same may only half be said of my steak. The tenderness of this 14oz rib eye, from Kansas and certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), was just sensational - you could have cut it with a plastic spoon - while the blackened surface had that marvellous chargrilled twang. But Americans are phobic about strong flavours and however long the beef is hung (in this case five weeks) I still haven't met a USDA steak with a hint of gamey savour. My friend felt the same about his 10oz New York sirloin, loving the texture and "outdoorsy" barbecue surface, but being underwhelmed by the taste. Herby chips were impeccable, a vast tower of crunchy onion rings superb, and the sauces and condiments a delight (who knew about "violet mustard"?).
Rating: 3/5
Price: Three courses with half a bottle of wine, coffee and tip: £120-£140 per head
Cut review in full >>

The Metro
19 October
Marina O'Loughlin says Bread Street Kitchen, Gordon Ramsay's new restaurant in London, is only a one-night stand
Yes, there's the odd heart flutter at two fine, barrel-shaped medallions of rosy venison, cleverly paired with sour cherries and a velvety pool of celeriac purée. And so-now sides of macaroni cheese and a fresh, creamy-crunchy slaw are excellent, as are tamarind chicken wings tasting of real tamarind, tangy, jammy and crisp. But there's a lot not to love: what's described on the menu as "oven-baked burrata, heritage tomatoes and onion tart" delivers something entirely different: oven-dried tomatoes on pastry, a measly hummock of good, creamy, uncooked cheese and no onion. A veal chop, served pleasingly pink, is weirdly truncated and misshapen, as though it's had a slab shaved off to appease the bottom line. And tagliolini of crab is simply nasty: cat food-like crab and too-springy pasta languishing in a deep bath of fishy oil. I have this image of Big Sweary whirling like a dervish around the enormous room, spitting: "Gimme a raw bar! And a wood oven! Seasonal, local, sustainable! Burger! Marrowbone! Chips in buckets!", getting redder and more starey-eyed until it looks like he might combust on a pyre of culinary buzzwords.
Rating: 3/5
Price: A meal for two with wine, water and service costs about £120
Bread Street Kitchen review in full >>

The London Evening Standard
20 October
Fay Maschler says the Lady Ottoline's decent cooking is hobbled by otiose detail and fancypants presentation particularly unsuited to the context of a pub
Along one is a button-back black leather banquette. Tables are bare and conversations ricochet around the room. The menu devised by chef Shaun O'Rouke is relatively ornate and ambitious, although it turns out that the cooking both in quantity and achievement sometimes falls short of the descriptions. A first course of orange-cured duck breast - orange is a favoured flavouring - arrived as tiny little pieces of meat occupying only a small area on one side of the plate. "Can you remember what came with it?" I ask its recipient later. "Oh, you know, some shamrock," he replied, referring to those microsalad leaves so beloved of chefs. My choice of foie gras and chicken liver parfait served with plum compôte and toasted sourdough bread was contained in a small, skinny container fashioned as a preserving jar. Its form squashed out any lusciousness that the content could and should have had. On the plate was a pointless squiggle of viscous dressing, balsamic probably. At £13.50, the lobster and crab risotto with orange dressing could have run to a few more visible pieces of shellfish but I rather liked the definitely chewy rice and the subtlety or, in other words, absence of orange flavour.
Rating: 2/5
Price: About £90 for two
Lady Ottoline review in full >>

Time Out
24 October
Guy Dimond says Abbeville Kitchen doesn't court bloggers, has no well-placed friends in the media, and - because it places the customer first - is all the better for it
Abbeville Kitchen doesn't court bloggers, has no well-placed friends in the media, and - because it places the customer first - it does take bookings. It's no relation to the nearby Abbeville pub, as some assume. It's a new venture from Kevin Hastings, who runs that little, year-old French bakery just down the road, called Le Petit Boulanger. The long room - once a neighbourhood Chinese restaurant - has been stripped back and simply decorated with bare wood, the open kitchen at the very back, as is the vogue. There's a school-of-St-John terseness to the menu - ‘cauliflower and bacon soup' or ‘grouse breast, Beenleigh Blue and hazelnuts'. The connection is via the Anchor & Hope pub in Waterloo, where chef Kevin McFadden spent a few months working with St John alumni Jonathon Jones. However, other influences - France, Spain, Italy - creep in too, such as Spanish cured ham or hare lasagna.
Abbeville Kitchen review in full >>

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