The London Evening Standard
Fay Maschler says Peruvian cuisine just got even more exciting with the opening of Lima, a new and vibrant restaurant in London W1
One of the arresting qualities of dishes at Lima is their beauty - due to a vivid use of natural colours. When I saw ceviche of artichoke, white onion, Amazon tree tomato (aka cocona) and pink peppercorns, which I think is the translation of molle, I thought I would like a dress in exactly those colours and in the way they were arranged. Pungent micro-herbs play a part of constantly elbowing your taste buds and quizzing your taste memories. Potatoes, one of nature's greatest comforts and a Peruvian staple - and invention - run through the savoury courses in a fascinating way that would convert the most ardent carb-avoider. Suckling pig topped with Amazon cashew comes with 4,000-metre potatoes. They would sort out those Zil lanes. Octopus with white quinoa, red shiso and botija olives (allegedly the most flavourful olive in the world) is a wholly satisfying assembly and an argument for wider restaurant use of octopus. Lamb shoulder was rendered too long and glazed too commonly but the black quinoa, coriander, white grape and pisco cinnamon accompaniment compensated.
Price: A meal for two with wine, about £120
Belfast has its own answer to Polpo and co over in London. And - whisper it - if anything, the cooking's even better at Il Pirata, according to Joe Warwick
The first time I went was a solo recon mission to check if it was up to spec for Mother. From the daily specials, I had deep-fried bocconcini - too much time in the oil and they'd have been a disaster, but the mozzarella was melted, not molten, inside the breading - followed by a £15-for-two "Italian sharing roast" (porchetta, roast garlic potatoes and charred fennel). I asked for a half-helping, to which they graciously agreed. The portion of local pork was monstrous, but I still cleared the plate. Dessert was a fine lemon posset topped with a raspberry jelly. I returned several days later, early evening, with Mother. The white-tiled, stripped-back, low-lit interior with plain wooden tables and open kitchen looks at its best at night. It's successfully Polpo-esque, just as Polpo is successfully Brooklyn-esque - and that's meant as a compliment to everyone concerned.
Price: Meal for two with drinks and service, about £65
Serious food with a great attention to detail is served at the Neptune Inn, Hunstanton, Norfolk, but the cost will leave you slack-jawed, says Jay Rayner
A red-pepper gazpacho with a tiny scoop of avocado sorbet, served as a taster, is a Mighty Mouse of a dish that kicks you hard in the shins, in a good way. There is a pleasing bit of garlicky fire after the sweetness of the red pepper has subsided. A rabbit starter is a complicated plateful: there are warmed discs of a rillette, pieces of loin and tiny cubes of big, piggy chorizo. There's a lot of fiddly knife work here to good purpose. Equally, there is huge attention to detail in a main course of rose veal, not just in the deep-pink bits of fillet the shade of a baby's cheek, and in crisp-crumbed potato and veal croquettes. A little deep frying never goes amiss at this level. There's a soft carrot purée and a terrific meaty jus that has us chasing the last dribbles round the plate with the remaining crumbs of bread. The problem is price. It's very much a case of "Ouch" And "Oh My". We're talking just shy of £14 a starter, nearly £27 a main course, and £9.50 a dessert. They might as well be done with it and offer a fixed price menu at £50 and hope nobody notices.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service, £160
Tracey MacLeod says Brasserie Zédel is a place to eat smugly, in surroundings that would make any occasion feel rather special
All the expected brasserie classics are here, along with the kind of hard-core, Frenchies-only gear that doesn't make the cut at Café Rouge - grilled andouillette de Troyes (tripe sausage) with mustard sauce, blanquette de veau, lapin à la moutarde. The decision to list starters in untranslated French is a challenging one, given Zédel's come-one, come-all ethos - you have to be pretty menu-literate to know that pissaladière is anchovy and olive tart, or that saumon marine à l'aneth is gravadlax. And you have to be pretty optimistic to order cuisses de grenouille, or frogs' legs, which is what I stupidly did. As dry and characterless as chicken fillets rescued from yesterday's barbecue, they were just awful, a one-dish repudiation of all the care that has gone into Zédel, all those hand-painted murals, acres of honeyed marble and bespoke faux-vintage tableware. An accompanying sauce, vividly green but elusive in flavour, and some shavings of fried garlic, couldn't repair the damage.
Rating: Food 3/5; Ambiance 4/5; Service 4/5
Price: About £35 per head for three courses, including wine and service
Giles Coren is totally over the whole barbecue craze thanks to a dreadful meal at Duke's Brew & Que, London N1
Everything we ate - pork ribs, beef ribs, burgers, steak - had been cooked to within an inch of its life, then some more, and then for a few extra hours to ensure you'd need dental records to have a guess at what species it had been. The barbeuce pork ribs had been so overdone that there was nothing porky left of them at all. They were not fatty, juicy and falling off the bone, but dry and chewy, overspiced and tasting above all of an old Christmas ham. The beef ribs were worse. Bjorn was practically in tears. "What have they done?" he wept, as he turned over a huge carbonised bone with more than a whiff of the foot-and-mouth funeral pyres about it. I had no answer. They had taken a cut that wants to be roasted hot and quick and served rare, or possibly braised slow with a lot of liquid (which is effectively what the American barbecuing style is - with carefully regulated humidity), and simply left it in a potter's kiln while they went on holiday. I couldn't chew a piece off the bone to taste and swallow. It was dark grey and hard as a skinhead's toecap.
Price: Not a fortune, maybe £30 per head for a meal and a drink
The Daily Telegraph
Matthew Norman is bamboozled by the inconsistency at the Crazy Bear in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire
Of the four starters, "Thai-style" quail was horribly dry and the only discernible flavour was of hoisin sauce, which had little to do with old Siam the last time I checked. "Crispy Gressingham duck salad", dotted prettily with pomegranate seeds, was freezing cold, though the chillified, lemon-grassy, zingy salad dressing was authentic, in the spicy style of north-east Thailand, and superb. The main courses confirmed the smoker's unparalleled genius for swinging from the sublime to the borderline inedible. Initial outrage that there were only the two tiger prawns in a pad Thai (noodle) dish priced at £13.50 gave way to resentment, so overcooked to a blancmange-like texture were the prawns, that there were so many. Stir fried "Cotswold" chicken livers, which should have been as squidgy as the prawns, were so sandpaper dry that the ancient hunting cry of "plunger to table 13!" nearly went up. But chunks of ostrich, stir-fried with long beans and doused in a fine red curry paste, were gamey and delicious; and a red mullet curry, in which two succulent fillets came in a thick, tangy, deep red sauce with juicy little lychee, was sensational. "Subtle and delicate without pulling any punches," said the missus. "Just heaven."
Price: £60 to £70 per head
Marina O'Loughlin is impressed with the Rustic at Strattons hotel, Swaffham, Norfolk, whose chef Sam Bryant, a National Chef of the Year semi-finalist, is quite the talent
Some of it is properly brilliant: the blowsy gorgeousness of a suet crust, astonishingly slight and delicate while still managing that puddingy, satisfying squidge, bulging with pheasant and pig's trotter. There's a pool of limpid, deeply savoury "pork sauce", some tiny, glazed turnips and, on top of the pudding, creamy little cubes, porky with gentle crunch. They're cured pork fat: a touch of genius. Or a burger the size of a baby's head on a soft, rapeseed oil bun spread with bacon jam. I'll just say that again: bacon jam. It's draped in melted Norfolk Dapple cheese and there's something liquefying at its core: a nugget of bone marrow that leaches its fatty richness into the locally sourced beef. It comes with stout, crunchy chips, triple-fried in dripping. Rabbit given the full KFC treatment is a total blast: marinated overnight in buttermilk for tangy tenderness, then spiced and fried and served with home-made barbecue sauce and treacle vinegar. Treacle vinegar is my new favourite thing in the world. Puddings - rhubarb trifle, for instance, with saffron custard and home-made honeycomb - are also mighty fine.
Price: A meal for two with wine, water and service, costs about £80
By Kerstin Kühn
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