Review of the reviews: what the critics say about El Faro and others

28 March 2007
Review of the reviews: what the critics say about El Faro and others

Metro](, 28 MarchMarina O'Loughlin loves London's El Faro

(Four stars out of five. A meal for two with wine, water and service costs about £90)

[Bloomberg](, 23 MarchRichard Vines enjoys his food at London's Zaika

Zaika has an excellent six-course tasting menu at £38 and an even more impressive nine-course gourmet menu at £58 that it's worth setting aside two to three hours to enjoy. The latter includes a dish of scallops presented side by side, one with crunchy sesame and onion seeds, the other in a sweet foam of kokum fruit and lime. There's also home-smoked tandoori salmon marinated in mustard and honey and tandoori prawn in rosemary and ginger, with salad leaves and pomegranate seeds. Pan-fried foie gras is dusted with spices and served atop buttery wild-mushroom naan. And there's a great course of three dishes in individual trays: diced Herdwick lamb cooked slowly in coconut milk with mustard seed; Label Rouge chicken makhani; and spinach with cumin seeds and garlic. The friendly and enthusiastic Sardinian waiter even produced some extra naan, without charge.

[The Times](, 24 March
Giles Coren explains that any hotel where you walk past two fat nine-month-old pigs rootling in the morning is bound to serve a good breakfast, when he visits Ty Mawr Mansion in Cilcennin, west Wales

The big poached eggs were laid by ducks, because the chef, Paul Owens, finds they poach better than hen eggs (the whites, when really fresh, set semi-transparent, like glass), and the home-made bread was toasted and chewy and full of life-affirming wheat flavours. At supper, Owens goes for posh: trio of seafood; tian of organic beetroot and goats' cheese; ham hock and black pudding terrine; roast halibut with oyster mushrooms, etc… And does it pretty well. Ninety-five per cent of ingredients come from within a 12-mile radius of the Mansion, the waitresses from even closer, and it's all very casual and unclunky for a country house hotel. (Rating 8.4/10. Breakfast included with room; three-course dinner £32)

[The Scotsman](, 24 March
George Kerevan wishes Dusit Thai in Edinburgh would get the recognition it deserves

The main courses all arrived simultaneously, Thai-style. I was especially interested in trying the Gaeng Luk Gua Ong Yang (£14.95), which is a red curry of grilled venison flavoured with holy basil and fresh chilli. This dish is not some multicultural mŽlange - they do have deer in Thailand. Amazingly, these tender, thin venison strips worked brilliantly with the holy basil and hint of chilli. The Pad Ped Tom-Yum (£15.95) was an excellent seafood stir-fry with chilli dressing, lemon grass, fresh lime juice, coriander and wild mushroom. (Meal for two £48.85, excluding drinks)

[The Independent on Sunday](, 25 March
Terry Durack is delighted to find a well-pedigreed chef plying his trade in his home town at the Kitchin, Leith, Edinburgh

But Kitchin is not one of those chefs with the same safe Michelin-magnet repertoire of beef, lobster and truffles, no matter what country they are in. His menu is strongly seasonal and flagrantly Scottish. So if there is foie gras, it is teamed with haggis, neeps and tatties, turning Sunday-night tea into Saturday-night dinner with the flick of a hot pan. A tartare of mackerel (£9) is apparently one of the dishes that caught the eye of the Michelin Man. It's a highly structured dish, the glistening mould of very fresh, finely chopped mackerel bordered by half discs of cucumber and teamed with tiny beetroot dice, radish, rock chives and a touch of crme fra"che, but it tastes clean and refreshing. (Rating 16/20. Meal for two £110, including wine and service)

[The Sunday Times](, 25 March
AA Gill explains that the name doesn't matter when the food's so fit for enjoyment at Magdalen, in London SE1

Maggie's is another of the slow, considered English-revival restaurants that have caught the inspiration of St John and sauntered off with it. It's not so much a renaissance of indigenous grub as a born-again middle age. We started with a skate, chicory and caper salad and a rabbit terrine, both impeccably well made - particularly the terrine, which could have gone on a lecture tour to inspire lesser p‰tŽs. Next, we had cotechino with lentils - which is about as indigenous as a Chelsea-Arsenal football match, but has a sort of English feel to it, in a Lombardian way, like trotter and dried peas - and a slow-cooked shoulder of lamb with laver bread, which was everything a slow-cooked shoulder of lamb could possibly aspire to be, gussied up with Welsh seaweed slime. (Rating 4/5)

[The Sunday Telegraph](, 25 March
Zoe Williams finds out that when the Three Fishes in Mitton, Lancashire, is good, it's very, very good; but when it's bad, it's horrid

Old veggie-chops followed with the Lancashire hotpot with pickled red cabbage (£9.95), and you could not fault it. The heather-reared Bowland lamb actually tasted of heather; it melted in your mouth; it made you want to cry; it was rich and sweet, yet savoury. But let me walk you through the travesty of my baked pig's trotter with Goosnargh chicken, Andrew Ireland's black pudding, mashed and braised red cabbage (£11.90). The trotter meat had been filleted out and minced up with chicken and black pud to form a smallish, rather dry kind of sausage; this had then been wrapped in a kind of decorative sock of fat, so that it looked like a trotter but would have played no part in actual trotting. (Rating 6/10. Three-course meal £22.75)

by Chris Druce

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