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Review of the reviews… what the critics say about Bluu in Glasgow and others

06 September 2006

The Scotsman, 2 September
Emma Cowling finds friendly but slow and inattentive service at Bluu in Glasgow

Bluu is at the fag end of the Merchant City. A smattering of bars and restaurants have been trying to make this area trendy for years and I'm still not convinced that it's worked. It explains why Bluu's here, though. It started off in Hoxton and there are now four Bluus scatted around the UK. My main course was hands-down superb. Tuna, chargrilled to perfection with just a hint of pink in the middle with some seriously tasty soy-soaked greens. The only real disappointment of the meal was Kerry's undercooked rump of lamb. The waitress had asked her how she wanted it done -why bother if it's going to come out as pink as my new winter pashmina?

The Guardian, 2 SeptemberMatthew Norman finds food that would cause a prison riot at The Case in St Martins, Leicester

"If they served that in a prison," said Nick, tasting a piece of venison cooked pink as asked but with the slightly rancid tang that suggests a microwave, and doused in a bitterly metallic jus, "they'd be up on the roof banging the trays before pudding." Those inmates would have showed sound judgement. The pudding we shared, the Case Taster Plate, looked repulsive and although the raspberry jelly was fine, rhubarb and vanilla créme brûlée and other horrors were unnervingly warm, marginally stale and might have arrived from a central depot in a tin foil carton. In these circumstances you cannot blame the staff for their lack of interest. (Rating: 2.5/10; Three courses with wine, £35-£40 per head)

Sunday Times, 3 SeptemberAA Gill thinks the food at Saki in London is fine but the venue fails to stand out

Saki's food was pretty good. The fried courgette teriyaki was nice, the agedashi tofu was less like congealed river scum than usual, the sushi rice was nicely judged, if you care about judging sushi rice. Saki has a dark bar for young people with spots, and overall is perfectly good at what it does. But the experience is, if not instantly forgettable, indistinguishable. London's Japanese restaurants are like raw-fish Starbucks: they lack the essential ethereal dexterity and the ever so humble hubris, the Gilbert and Sullivan vanity, that makes eating in Japan so unique. (Rating 3/5; £219 for four, including £21 on drink)

The Observer, 3 SeptemberVinoteca in London is such a good idea that even the lousy mains cannot dampen Jay Rayner's enthusiasm

This is a wine-led business which happens to do food, rather than the other way round, and the look of Vinoteca backs that up. It is the sort of ‘urban rustic' that fits very well here in Smithfield. The food is better than it needs to be and reasonably priced too, with starters at £6 and mains at around £11. A five-bird terrine, mined with chunks of silky foie gras, was bold and flavoursome. And then to those mains which arrived like a loud fart at a happy wedding. Slices of bavette steak which should have been medium rare were cooked to the grey of a winter's sky. It is intriguing that a kitchen which produced such great starters (and puddings) could also send out such ill-judged mains.

The Independent on Sunday, 3 SeptemberTerry Durack says sublime sushi and way-out washrooms make Saki in London worth a visit.

When Saki opened in February, much was made of its "paperless toilet" system, with touch controls for bottom-washer, hot-air dryer, and temperature-controlled seat. Saki also boasts a whiz-bang automatic noodle-making machine that can process, mix, knead, extrude and boil in one go. The basement dining room is dark and moody with a large, look-at-me central communal table arranged around a garden of white pebbles and fanciful stalagmites of white wax. The loo, the noodle machine, the decor and the wine list are all good, but not as good, perhaps, as they think they are. Saki is particularly proud of its wine and sake list; so much so that when I later ask for a copy of it, they refuse, lest it fall into the wrong hands. The food, however, is very, very good. And really, that's the only gimmick anyone ever needs. (Rating 15/20; £100 for two including drinks and service)

MetroMarina O'Loughlin checks out Club Bar & Dining in London's West End

This restaurant must be for young people, because it was full of them on the night we visited (there's a hint in the name). At the risk of sounding like the worst kind of pompous fart, eateries with la jeunesse as the target audience too often come across as tarted-up junk-fooderamas. Thankfully, Club Bar & Dining is considerably better than that.

Club Bar & Dining is the offspring of Brenhan Magee (of Jerusalem, and Salvador & Amanda) and Simon Jordan (chairman of Crystal Palace football club). Between them they've come up with something perfectly pitched at slinky young Londoners with a few bob in their Mulberrys.

A meal for two with wine, water and service costs about £100 (rating 3/5 stars)

Via Condotti
(also by Marina O'Loughlin)

Via Condotti on Conduit Street: clever, huh? And that little name check of Rome's famous shopping street isn't the only clever thing about this new Italian on a site that has huckled off a number of pretenders, including Nico Ladenis.

For a start, there's the menu - vividly, unapologetically Italian. Chef-patron Pasquale Amico's cooking is assured, performing a shade below the capital's finest Italians, but pretty good nonetheless.

The place is understatedly clever, too: a soothing palette of beiges with quality linen and vintage posters. A joint venture between front of house Richard Martinez, Amico from Campania, and redoubtable restaurateur Claudio Pulse, this operation has the legs to keep running.

A meal for two with wine, water and service costs about £100.

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