Brunswick House Cafe, London SW8, may be housed in an architectural salvage shop in a Georgian building, but there's nothing old-fashioned about the food, says John Lanchester Brunswick House is also home to a cafe. It's run by Jackson Boxer, whose family are in the food world, too: brother Frank runs the legendary Campari Bar on top of a multi-storey car park in Peckham and dad Charlie co-runs the deli Italo, a local favourite. His grandmother is Arabella Boxer, author of a number of excellent cookbooks, including one of my all-time favourites, Book Of English Food. That has a fascinating subject: high-quality British cooking between the wars, before Elizabeth David came along and recalibrated everyone's palate towards the Med. (It's out of print, but I'm told Fig Tree is reprinting it next July: do yourself a favour.) The short and simple way of describing Brunswick House Cafe is to say it is perfect. Jackson Boxer has made a place that sends exactly the right signals about itself: it is quirky and personal, and casual and cool, but it's very well run, too, and the underlying commitment to good food isn't casual at all. There is a feeling that the people working here enjoy what they do. That helps the customer relax and enjoy it, too.
Price: Meal with drinks and service, from around £20 a head.Brunswick Café review in full >>
Jay Rayner visits Australasia in Manchester and has a fine experience. For although the desserts impress, he leaves the city feeling disappointed The worst dish of the lot was a tranche of blackened cod, which was overcooked and tasteless. Yo! Sushi does a better version for a third of the price. And then dessert. Stay for dessert. A different sensibility kicks in. Making a soufflé flavoured with mango is tricky. Even when puréed the fruit can be so much mush and pith. This was as light and round and bouncy as an illustration on a Donald McGill postcard. It came with a glass teapot of warm mango sauce to be poured inside so that the whole thing wobbled and shook. An oozing espresso chocolate fondant was equally good. This came with a ripe old scoop of walnut ice cream and a dribble of salt-caramel sauce. Neither of these dishes was fine. They were a whole lot better. And yet despite that high point I left, as I so often do in Manchester, disappointed. I wanted lovely. I wanted vivid. I got fine. And, at these prices, that's not good enough.
Price: Meal for two, with wine and service, £110Australasia review in full >>
The Sunday Telegraph
Neither expensive nor cheap, exciting nor awful, Zoe Williams says Cây Tre in Soho, London W1, is best described as ‘meh'
The oyster sauce was nice enough, though, and the choucho was a revelation, a sort of savoury melon. I know! Who would have thought the world of fruit and veg was missing such a thing? It's wonderful with seafood, hydrating in a cucumbery sort of way, but with a more delicate flavour. I had the roast baby chicken royale (£10), which was marinated in honey, five-spice and dried Vietnamese herbs, but to such discreet effect that it could have been rubbed in butter. Or maybe that's not entirely fair: I could certainly taste the five-spice, but the overall effect was, to borrow a technical term from the Americans, ‘meh'. I very much felt that we'd just ordered incredibly badly, as at this point the people on one side of us had a delicious-looking platter featuring many things that had been deep-fried, and the people on the other both mysterious and enticing-looking stews. We'd foolishly fetched up with these nondescript lumps of protein, but, in an ideal world, the food would be nice however stupid your ordering was
Price: Three courses: £19.96Cây Tre review in full >>
The Independent on Sunday
Amol Rajan finds an almost faultless parade of beautifully crafted plates at Midsummer House in Cambridge
The menu is cleverly balanced, with a gentle rhythm between strong and soft flavours uniting each offering. For instance, the crayfish and pork belly served up next comes with a very rich cauliflower and cobnut purée, which itself is set against a sharp, pickled apple that renders the reblochon a distant memory. By now I feel that most parts of my palate are spoken for, so that when another plate emerges with duck, sweet-potato-and-orange purée and cherries, I fear it will be beyond me. But this turns out to be the best yet: a marvellous medley of hot meat against zesty fruit. Naturally, a Cambridge house named for the summer solstice will be inclined to fill its menu with the flavours of an English summer, and the common thread in the final desserts achieves this effect. The lemon posset with raspberry jelly and lime is superb and boastful, and there is lemon sorbet with strawberries and elderflower to finish - tart and sweet and the epitome of England.
Price: About £300 for two, including wineMidsummer House review in full >>
Giles Coren likes the idea of Meatballs, London EC1, but says its niche idea is not done quite well enough to suggest it will last
Some of the balls are fine, though none was served hot enough for my liking. Beef and ricotta in tomato sauce were good old-fashioned Lady and the Tramp efforts, the sauce a bit sugary, but in tune with this larger-arsed society of ours. "Greek lamb" were underseasoned but well served by their yoghurt dressing. "Pork, And Rosemary" were served daringly pink in an awful parmesan sauce and with a superfluous comma, but had a great gamey taste and a herby lift that the lamb could have done with. Vegetarian balls were surprisingly successful, being a sort of courgette bhaji. The special meatball was a dreadful thing: a spiced chicken confection of great firmness under a blanket of grey sauce made, I think, from smog. And there was another terrible one (faintly fishy-tasting though the menu is fish-free), which I finished completely (for these are hard times, and I am not fussy), but whose identity I could not ascertain after the event, for I was able to identify it to the waitress only as the one with capers in the sauce, and she seemed unfamiliar with capers, replying that it was a quarter to spoon.
Price: About £9Meatballs review in full - available only to Times online subscribers >>
Marina O'Loughlin says Elliot's Café, London SE1, is a blast of fresh air - unpretentious, unassuming and bristling with youthful, food-fanatic enthusiasm, from the totally charming staff to the wittily assembled wine list
The food, regularly changing as you'd expect, is terrific: simple stuff cooked well, such as plaice poached into ethereality with wilted radicchio, fennel and tarragon (check out those clever liquoricey combinations); or smart, surprising assemblies such as silky capocollo (aka coppa, cured pig's neck and shoulder), thinly sliced and served with spiced cherries - brilliant. Bread is baked on-site, from the crisp rye wafer that comes with a rich tartare of venison dusted with shavings of fresh horseradish, to the fine, full-flavoured sourdough, to the glossy, seeded buns with the burger. Allow me a small involuntary sigh of pleasure: that burger is a thing of beefy beauty - coarsely chopped, juice-oozing, aged meat from The Ginger Pig, topped with a squidge of caramelised onions and layer of Comté cheese. And crisp, shoestring fries. Writing this has made me long for another one. The open-all-hours informality of the place allows us to have a marmalade breakfast brioche and mug of tea for pudding. You can drop in for a glass of wine, or a ‘coffee flight' in the morning, or a full dinner blowout.
Price: Dinner for two with wine, water and service costs about £60Elliot's Café review in full >>
The London Evening Standard
Fay Maschler enjoys Ollie Couillaud's thoughtful, complex cooking at his new restaurant Lawn Bistro, London SW19
Bare tables, minimal cutlery and low-key decoration suggest an aim to be reasonably casual that is immediately undermined by a waitress wearing a white shirt with a brown tie fussing around with tongs and a basket of bread which is dispensed like Holy Communion. I take the one and only piece of stale baguette. There are also slices of brown bread and focaccia. Just put it on the table, I want to shout, but I don't. My friend Caroline chooses to start with beetroot and goat's cheese salad with truffle honey and toasted walnuts. Like the old song about love and marriage it seems now that with beetroot and goat's cheese you can't have the one without the other. Every gastropub sanctifies the union but usually with fairly drab results. This assembly is something else; leaves glistening, the beetroot almost profound in its earthiness, the scoops of cheese crunchily deep-fried in golden crumbs. The sweetness and a note of citrus in the dressing are just right.
Price: Set price menus, lunch £19.50/£22.50 and dinner £27.50/£32.50 for two/three courses.The Lawn Bistro review in full >>