Review of the REVIEWS

09 March 2005 by
Review of the REVIEWS

5 March

Victor Lewis-Smith is in heaven at Masala Craft, at the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai

My favourite haunt among the several I visited was the Masala Craft (in the Taj Mahal hotel), which was once the home of the legendary gourmands' club, Greens, (back when this city was still called Bombay) but has now got rid of its downmarket Indian-dancing-for-tourists trappings, kitted its staff out in cult-orange robes, and offers multi-regional cuisine. It has also spent oodles on an interior design that makes you feel like a little person in Land of the Giants, as you sit in a gigantic mahogany pipe box for a very long time (because, in India, the waiters habitually take the starter orders, then disappear for aeons before returning to take the main course).

But who cared? Certainly not me or my companion, because the laid-back Mumbaian concept of time was already undermining our European obsession with the clock, while the pungent scent of asafoetida hung enticingly in the air, like an angel's fart trapped in a lift. (Meal for two without wine, £77)

5 March

Tracey MacLeod is enchanted with the George, in Cavendish, Suffolk

The George, run by husband-and-wife team Jonathan and Charlotte Nicholson, is one of those labour-of-love places that radiates friendliness and wellbeing.

Under them it has been reborn as a gastronomic destination in an area not overburdened with the same. Charlotte looks after front of house - while Jonathan, whose previous position was as head chef of Conran's Bluebird, does the cooking.

It may be smaller than his old gaff, but the George is still much more restaurant than gastropub. The menu owes little to the restrained good taste on which the Conran empire was built. This is exuberant Modern European food, strong on big, punchy flavours and served in remarkably huge portions. (9/15 stars. Average spend, including wine, £25 a head)

6 March

James Brown is so enamoured with Ubon in Canary Wharf, London, he now eats there twice a week

If I had only a day left, my final meal would be Japanese - and Ubon is where I'd eat it. Yes, Ubon, not Nobu or Zuma. The clientele at Nobu just want to show off, and Zuma is like a departure lounge to hell when there's an air-traffic control strike (full of 50-year-old men in baseball caps and chains trying to look like rappers).

Anyway - what to eat? You shouldn't visit Ubon without considering the tamago (sweet omelette); in some places, this can be like chewing on the bottom of a Green Flash tennis shoe, but there it just dissolves in the mouth. And there's the tuna tempura handroll - a winning combination of crunchy tempura and soft avocado that's worth every penny of its £9 price tag. (Four out of five stars)

8 March

Guy Dimond enjoys PENGELLEY'S in London, but wonders how long the good times will last

There are fashionable restaurants and there are fashionable chefs. Ian Pengelley has been elevated to the latter in recent weeks, thanks to a feverish press campaign mounted by his PR company. Yet Pengelley's menu is more hit than miss, it's just that with all pan-Asian restaurants individual dishes rarely match the standards of the best dedicated Thai, Japanese or Chinese restaurants.

Pengelley's is an aspirational kind of place - attractively designed, with a beautiful bar upstairs. It's where Monte's club used to be [and] the clientele has changed little since then: men and women with expensive tastes, though not always the most discerning palates. We just wonder how long before the fashionable crowd move on and it's time to reinvent itself one more time. (Meal for two with wine and service, about £110)

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