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What's on the menu? AA Gill spends more time waiting than eating at Gee's

25 June 2012 by
What's on the menu? AA Gill spends more time waiting than eating at Gee's

The Sunday Times
24 June
**AA Gill spends more time waiting than eating at Gee's Restaurant & Bar in Oxford
Gee's menu is short and portentous. Not pretentious - the customers can manage that on their own. We started with asparagus, which was adequate and uncomplicated, and risotto that was rather porridgey, and little artichokes. I also ordered a vitello tonnato to share. For main courses, we went for stewed lamb, stewed veal and salt cod. After a long half-hour, a waitress came and said the kitchen had done something to the lamb, but not in a good or edible way, and would we wait for them to do it again? I was happy talking to the students. [] Then, after another half-hour, the waitress returned to tell us that the salt cod had been dropped, or burnt, or sent down, and would we mind waiting another half-hour for some other fish to be interviewed. "Does this happen often?" asked Paul. Well, no. And, for a critic, it is such a critical open goal, such a huge and obvious double-first, that I just walked away from it. I have nothing to say. By the time the food did come, all appetite and expectation had been eaten by the clock.
Rating: 2/5
Price: £140 for four without drinks

The Independent
23 June
Tracey Macleod says there's so much to like at Tramshed, the latest restaurant from Mark Hix in Shoreditch, London EC2
There's a Hirst-evoking touch of the macabre in the way the chickens come to table - vertically spiked, with legs crossed, as though they've swan-dived onto the plate. For £25, you get a bird big enough to feed three; for £15.50, a poussin for one, or "spring chicken" as the menu has it. Slow-reared in Wiltshire, these birds are lean, crisp-skinned and full of flavour. "It's like… so chickeny?" as the young woman at the next table put it. They're also quite hard work. Long after I'd polished off my steak, my guest laboured over his poussin, building up neat heaps of skin and bones as juices pooled in the earthenware dish. Steak is served medium rare, unless otherwise requested and again, there's no choice - just the "mighty-marbled Glenarm sirloin", dry-aged in a Himalayan salt chamber and served with Béarnaise sauce and chips. Deep red inside, with a dark and dirty char and a strip of caramelised fat, it was terrific, and decent value at £20 for 250g. The skinny chips taste unmistakeably of rosemary and chicken fat; presumably they're fried in it. A side order of onion rings in scrumpy batter carried the heady whiff of the fairground.
Rating: 4/5
Price: About £55 for three courses, including wine and service

The Daily Telegraph
19 June
Matthew Norman finds the Black Rat in Winchester is suffering from a spot of Michelinitis
Apart from Teenage Dirtbag and its eclectic companions on that solitary speaker, everything about this place made us want to love the cooking. And, but for a single failing, we would have; because it was technically flawless and beautifully presented. What ailed it was Michelinitis, also known to the culino-medical dictionary as Faine Daining Syndrome by Proxy. Or as our old friend put it, "when people go out to eat, do they really enjoy eating mimsy food?" Slow-cooked octopus served with Russian salad and dotted with foraged flowers was partially rescued by a properly opinionated anchovy, fried to perfection in light batter, but exceedingly dull in itself. Aberdeen Angus tartare, with quail eggs, ciabatta and young shoots, looked luscious, but my unsettlingly vampirical wife could only taste the capers, "when I wanted to taste some blood". Honey-smoked duck breast, with goats' cheese cream and candied walnuts, was equally effete, though the boy liked the peppery dressing on the watercress salad.
Rating: 2.5/5
Price: Three courses with wine (excellent list) and coffee, about £65 per head

The Guardian
23 June
Since Greg Malouf took over the Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, his dazzling way with spices has transformed the cooking. But the bill still leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, says John Lanchester
Zhug is a chilli-hot sauce from Yemen, a bit like an Arabian version of salsa. Malouf uses it to liven up a dish of fried courgette flowers with orzo and artichokes - beautifully done, and not easy, since courgettes flowers and stems normally call for different cooking times and techniques, but here they arrived in one piece, respectively fried-crunchy and just al dente. Wild sea bass, crisp and moist, had noticeably more flavour than farmed fish does, and came with fennel and "barrel-aged feta". I'm not sure I've had that before: I think I'd remember, because this was the best feta I've ever tasted, asserting its presence with mild, creamy acidity, but not too much to overpower the fish. This cost £29. As I say, the prices are an issue, but not enough of one to stop the place being permanently packed. There's a reason they call it Richmond.
Price: Set lunch from £24.50 for two courses, à la carte about £50 a head, excluding drinks

The Observer
24 June
Jay Rayner says Karpo in King's Cross, London NW1, may look like a Dutch youth hostel, but it's actually rather grown up
For our main we shared the special, a fabulous bone-in veal chop with perfect asparagus and an anchovy sauce at £40 for two, a terrific piece of meat, treated with the sort of love and affection usually heaped on an only child. Almost literally so: the chef told us later, with a pout, that it was the only one he'd sold that night. The rest were missing out. For carbs we had the thick, unctuous macaroni cheese which, in London, is currently the dirty dish of choice. Done as well as it is here, the top properly crusted, I can see why. With this we drank a 500ml carafe of a white Loire and the same of a Grenache Noir, from an interesting list which offers lots of well-priced opportunities to mix and match.
Price: Meal for two, including drinks and service, £100

The Metro
20 June
Marina O'Loughlin says the meat-free menu at the Gate, London EC2, avoids all the clichés of vegetarian eating
Much of the food has an Asian/Middle Eastern flavour, probably because the original owners, brothers Michael and Adrian Daniel, are Indo-Iraqi-Jewish, which means lots of spicing, pickled lemons and a wicked way with an aubergine. Simple stuff becomes sophisticated: their falafel takes a late-night guilty pleasure and zhuzhes it into poshness: broad bean purée, deep-fried into crisp quenelles, served with fluffy, light pita bread for ballast, a blob of baba ganoush (aubergine purée) for silky, smoky lubricant, a pool of pepper purée for heat and the crunch of raw pickled vegetables in the Middle Eastern style. I order a risotto cake out of badness: bound to be a claggy abomination, surely. Nope: the cake, while creamy, retains the grains' bite; wild mushrooms deliver earthy richness; its tangle of leaves is sharply dressed. And it's testament to the success of a dish of big steaks of aubergine, scented with chermoula (a Moroccan spice mix) and stuffed with cheese, that its recipient is convinced it contains bacon.
Rating: 4/5
Price: Dinner for two with wine, water and service, costs about £80

The London Evening Standard
21 June
David Sexton says the price tag of eating at Il Ristorante at the Bulgari hotel, London SW1, leaves a bitter taste in the mouth
Main courses were poor. "Piccata Milanese della casa, leggermente impanata, condimento di capperi, limone e pinole" (£29) was ropey. Some breaded veal escalopes had not been very well fried, not crisp on the outside, while chewy inside, and were served on a bit of spinach with a sharply citric sauce that was no improvement on the basic slice of lemon and sprig of parsley. It's a dish done much better in many a simple trattoria. "San Pietro all'isolana" (£34) was no good either: three largeish fillets that didn't seem enticingly fresh, on top of a tian, or mess, of lemon, tomato and potato, again oddly acrid, the palate here seeming to veer between the sweet and jammy and the sharp and sour, in pursuit of emphatic flavours. We didn't eat very much of this dish and didn't progress to the puddings, enjoying instead a punchy glass of limoncello from Amalfi (£8), much more than a burnt Moscato di Pantelleria (£11). The waiter promised "I get for you something special," and a big biscuit of hazelnuts in sugary flour was brought, too late to have with the drinks, along with a little hammer to break it up. More sweet and nutty cakes were offered in cellophane as a parting gift.
Rating: 2/5
Price: A meal for two with wine, about £200

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