26 December 2011
Elaine Lemm finds a splendid meal with exemplary service at the Punch Bowl Inn at Marton cum Grafton, where it seems the owners have charmed the villagers too
After much deliberation, we decided upon quail, with poached egg and cubes of fruity-spicy black pudding and pan-fried wood pigeon with a fricasée of wild mushrooms on focaccia bread. Both showed great skill from the kitchen with a carefully crafted blend of tastes and textures. There was little reason to ask if we had enjoyed them, the plates went back to the kitchen wiped clean.
An unusual offering of the Punch Bowl Chicken "Shawarma" Platter almost begged to be ordered given that it seemed slightly askew on what is essentially a traditionally British menu. The dish is from the new rotisserie spit and comes as spiced, marinated chicken with char-grilled flat bread and mezze portions of hummus, tzatziki and garlic aioli.
The Asian-style dish then surprisingly comes with side dishes of thyme roasted potatoes and a choice of Punch Bowl salad - either classic Caesar, Italian panzanella or a classic garden. Despite each component of the dish being bang on in every respect, the eclectic mix made it just a little confusing. A fresh simple mint-herb salad on the side would have sufficed and be much more in keeping with the origins of the dish.
Tom Chesshyre describes Jolyon's at No 10, a new 21-bedroom independent hotel in Cardiff as "a breath of fresh air" in a city full of "big, boring, corporate chain" properties
Each room is slightly different. Mine had a big, old, wooden cabinet next to a soft-leather Chesterfield sofa in a side room leading to the bedroom. I opened a panel of the cabinet and was surprised to find a microwave lurking inside. Another revealed a toaster, while a fridge purred in a section below. There was also a lap-top safe; apparently, many Welsh Assembly politicians have stayed and they need the safes to protect Welsh state secrets. The bed was wide and there was a tiny bathroom with a "Japanese bath" - a deep, square trough. Some of the rooms are quite tight, but with with suites such as mine from £80, you can hardly complain. I ate "Welsh trio of sausage and mash with gravy" in the bar with a pint of Felinfoel. It was not the grandest of culinary experiences, but the menu is simple, the prices low (£6.50 for my dinner) and Jolyon Joseph, the owner, said quite plainly: "We're not about a fine-dining experience." But a stay at Jolyon's at No 10 is an experience - an enjoyable one.
Rating: 8.2/10. Price: Bed and breakfast doubles from £55
31 December 2011
Jay Rayner finds perfect steaks, incredible desserts and a scattering of phone-hackerati Everything about 34 adds up
In early publicity, 34 allowed itself to be billed as a meaty version of its sister fish restaurant Scott's. I'm not sure that's true. The menu is broader than that. But certainly a list of very good steaks is at its core, including Australian Wagyu at fearsome prices and Scottish cuts which are both more affordable and leave less of a whacking carbon footprint, with American steaks in between. My rib eye was simply a great piece of meat, cooked with care and precision. We loved another dish of long-braised short rib, slipping from the bone, with winter vegetables. Sides are worth making space for: creamed sweet corn with chilli and basil or Brussels sprouts with a crust of crumbed prosciutto and hazelnuts.
And then there's dessert. In a city where you can have anything you like as long as it's a chocolate fondant, a crème brûlée or a lemon tart, the 34 list is special. We didn't have the pear tart or the sloe-gin fizz jelly or the butterscotch sponge pudding. We did have the chocolate bomb, a sphere of chocolate on to which was poured a hot sauce of same, melting it to reveal mint ice cream. There were also hot, sugared donuts with a dipping bowl of a zingy lemon curd and another of chocolate sauce. And if you don't want to eat that right this instant, you are reading the wrong page.
Price: meal for two, including drinks and service, £130
The Daily Telegraph
1 Jan 2012
Matthew Norman wishes to forget his visit to Massimo, London WC
The first and last thing to be said in Massimo's defence is that it is a prisoner of one of those hotels, The Corinthia off Whitehall, that suck the life out of restaurants like dehumidifiers. Such paeans to marble-sanitised vulgarity may be perfect for lobbyists to entertain their prey, and well suited to very young and blonde Bulgarian women seeking quality time with a new uncle or godfather from Moscow. But it is hard for any restaurant within them to create an atmosphere, and despite its lavish decor Massimo did not come close.
Both main courses were supposed to look winsomely peasanty, but in fact looked plain hideous. My friend's gnocchi with lamb ragu resembled mince and tatties in a Glaswegian greasy spoon, while the mouthful he passed over was dominated by gristle. My lamb cutlets were oversalted, too fatty and stone cold. The purpose of the accompanying apple sauce and horseradish escaped me. Perhaps chef was making a clever, nihilistic point (molto filosofico) about how, while the one goes so well with pork and the other with beef, neither goes at all with lamb.
Price: Three courses à la carte with wine and coffee, £90-£100 per head; set lunch: £23 for two course, £28 for three