The London Evening Standard
9 AugustAmazing views aside, the expensive menu and intrusive service at Sushisamba atop Heron Tower, London EC2, don't impress Fay Maschler
The bold pricing made us timorous in ordering. Avoiding Large Plates, we chose from other sections - Aperitivos, Small Plates, Raw, Robata and Samba Rolls. As an accompaniment to the drinks when they finally arrived, green bean tempura with black truffle aîoli were faultlessly deep fried but the presence of truffle in the dip was, how shall we say, fugitive. Tuna tataki and yellowtail tiradito exhibited no intrinsic flavour and the mouth feel of the raw fish was flaccid and sulky. Robata offers skewers - anticuchos - grilled over charcoal. Octopus with Peruvian red pepper was too salty and vinegary to be enjoyable. In case you are wondering, the £45 large plate is five meats - grilled hanger steak, rib-eye, pork tenderloin, chorizo and linguiça (smoked, spiced pork sausage) served with chimichurri and best for sharing. If you wanted plantain or Peruvian corn to go with it, that would be an extra £5 plus 15 per cent service. The two Samba Rolls we tried - Ezo comprising salmon, asparagus, onion, chive, sesame, tempura crunch, soy paper and wasabi mayonnaise; and Wagyu Te Amo fashioned from beef, quail egg, garlic chip, sweet potato, scallion and pear soy - were the best of the assemblies chosen.
Price: A meal for two with wine, about £170 including 15 per cent service
The Sunday Times
12 AugustAA Gill has a poorly prepared kidney at Sonny's Kitchen, London SW15, and says the restaurant - from Phil Howard and Rebecca Mascarenhas - really should be better
A main course of ravioli was, Firyal graciously said, nice. Firyal gives good graciousness. The Blonde had a quail, which she said was really exceedingly okay. I chose calves' kidneys. They would almost certainly be on my list of 100 best things, but predictably weren't on the nation's. I don't think they chose any offal. The waiter asked how I'd like them cooked, and I said what I always say: however the kitchen is happiest serving them. Vital organs are as susceptible as dabs to too much heat. The difference between a pink kidney and a gritty, seized-up, curly grey one is enormous. What arrived was rare on the outside, and raw on the inside. Now, I really don't mind eating raw kidney, but what I do mind, and mind quite a lot, is being expected to eat one that hasn't been prepared properly. If you've never done a renal autopsy, let me explain that there is, in the centre of every kidney, a tough, terrier-like tendon, which has five fingers that grab the organ. These need to be removed. It's the work of a moment.
Score: Food 2/5; Atmosphere 2/5
Price: £147 for three with four glasses of wine
11 AugustThe Windermere setting is spectacular, but the underachieving menu and stuffy service at the Samling hotel are tiresome, says Jay Rayner
Who really wants to be treated like this? No enquiry on arrival as to whether you might like to go straight to the table. Through to the wood-panelled lounge you must go. Suited man trots off. Back again, to offer a drink. Trots off again. Pause. Very long pause. Stare at view. Notice they vacuum the backs of the sofas. A waiter starts heading across the room in a businesslike manner. There are only six people in the whole place. I can't quite imagine what needs attending to so swiftly. Can we, I ask, have the menus please. The answer to this question is "yes". It's not: "The menus will be with you presently." Oh for God's sake. This is tiresome. It's tiresome the way having a corn removed is tiresome. It's not unbearably uncomfortable, but it does bloody well go on. All of it would be justified if the food was something truly exceptional, but it really isn't. It's not bad. But it isn't worthy of the sort of flummery that sucks the life out of you.
Price: Lunchtime, £25 for three courses; Evening, £50 for three courses
The Independent on Sunday
11 AugustLisa Markwell says you can have a great meal at Feng Sushi, London NW6, provided you order the right dishes
The chilli edamame are a bit gloopy, but a hearty amount of heat gets the tastebuds jumping, while chilli sauce makes another appearance with the deep-fried sushi, which is much better than its billing. A bit of a revelation, in fact, although I suspect the calorie count prevents it becoming a regular order. Sushi, by the way, can be ordered with white or brown rice, which gives a waft of health over proceedings, as does that deluxe sashimi, which is beautiful: pearlescent cuts with microherbs, all tasting very fresh and very of itself. But a fusion salad of chilled ramen noodles with cherry tomatoes, prawns, tamago and wakame with a squirt of creamy dressing is misguided. The noodles, omelette slivers and seaweed work inasmuch as one assumes lots of Japanese people like that combo, but the tomatoes and prawns look, and taste, like somebody said the phrase "classic with a twist" at a menu-planning meeting. Similarly, an X-ray salad (£7.50) felt like a crisper-drawer clear-out: peppers, pomegranate, edamame, avocado and chives. Bright enough to look at, but a bugger to pick up with chopsticks and nothing much to taste.
Price: £50 for two with beer
8 AugustMarina O'Loughlin loves Lardo, London E8, where fashionable Hackneyites are drawn to the home-made charcuterie
We chomp our way through a fat ball of burrata, its elasticky mozzarella skin tumescent with fresh creaminess; astonishingly vibrant broad beans and shoots in a dressing piquant with mint and pecorino; and arancini, fried rice balls sticky with mozzarella and flecked with pungent n'duja sausage. We try an excellent slow-cooked rabbit stew with a soothing, vegetal braise of peas and lettuce. Only a tiny bowl of fregola (a kind of fat, Sardinian couscous) with clams lets the side down: its tomato sauce lacking depth and seasoning. That blingy oven is pressed into excellent service: focaccia, open-crumbed, oily and fragrant with herbs; pizzas, their crusts airy, the bases thin, topped with imaginative ingredients: truffle-shaped, spicy Belper Knolle cheese and their own-made, gorgeous, black anise pepperoni. Ah yes, home-made charcuterie. This is Lardo's secret weapon, influenced by the US farm-to-fork movement. Lardo cures its own meats, everything from rosy, fat-marbled, chilli coppa (a whole-meat sausage), through salamis, cured loin but none of the eponymous, pure fat lardo. Either we've missed this, or Hackney can't replicate the marble curing baths of its native Colonnata?
Price: A meal for two with wine, water and service, costs about £80
By Kerstin Kühn
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