Review of the reviews – what the critics say about Empress of India and others

31 January 2007 by
Review of the reviews – what the critics say about Empress of India and others

The Metro](, 31 January
Marina O'Loughlin enjoys her starters but not her mains at the Empress of India, London

[The Telegraph](, 27 January
Tessa Boase enjoys life at the bar of Barrafina in Soho, London.

Behind the counter is the cheffy jostle of a new-wave Spanish bar, all naked flames and raw monkfish tails. It's inspired by the hip Cal Pep in Barcelona where orders are prepared in front of you. Of course the true test is tortilla and it is frankly astonishing to witness one cooked from scratch in a little pan instead of a leathery slice of something kept in the fridge. Like a molten chocolate pudding, the Barrafina tortilla is defiantly liquid at its core, oozing out onto the plate in a sludge of soft onions and rich yellow. The only drawback in weeks to come will be waiting for a stool at the bar. Word is rapidly spreading that Barrfina is a class act. (Lunch for three £100, including a 12.5% service charge)

[The Independent](, 27 January
Thomas Sutcliffe finds good desserts are too little too late at London's Fat Badger.

I was so disenchanted by the end that I even took against the Timorous Beasties wallpaper - with its pink toile de jouy pattern populated by bag-ladies and muggers and hoodies against the backdrop of the Gherkin and Trellick Tower. Witty modern twist on a chintzy classic or just snobbishly condescending? It certainly suits the place anyway, with its buzzing crew of Portobello Road bourgeois, congratulating themselves on their proximity to the edgy urban underbelly. Great name though. What a pity the restaurant couldn't match up. (Dinner £119 for five. Rating: food 2/5 ambience 2/5 service 3/5)

[The Sunday Times](, 28 January
AA Gill reaches fish-and-chip heaven at the Magpie Café in Whitby

There is something touchingly peculiarly English about the posy of Captain Cook, Dracula, jet, styptic pencils, Huns, and Goths. Whitby has one other thing that makes it a joy and a place of pilgrimage - the best fish and chips in the world. A thick fillet was dipped in batter and fried and came eight minutes later blisteringly hot. The batter had been immolated into a filigree of stalagmites and fans of coral. I broke off a corner. The fish smoked and glistened translucent white. What do you fry it in, I asked. "Beef dripping." I doused it in vinegar, sprinkled it with salt and went and sat on the harbour wall. It was stupendous. Beef dripping is everything in terms of both chemistry and gastronomy. Only animal fat burns hot enough to seal the batter instantly into this light coat. Inside the fish doesn't fry - it steams itself in its own hermetic juiciness. (Rating 5/5)

[The Observer](, 28 January
Jay Rayner finds high quality hearty fare at the Blacksmith's Inn near York

This sort of food is built on sturdy principles: buy good stuff, preferably locally (that black pudding is prepared to their own recipe), cook it well, serve it up nice. Take my main course: two thick slices of dry cured gammon from a pig of saintly quality, seared to crispness with a free-range fried egg and some of Heston Blumenthal's triple-cooked chips ( his one great contribution to British gastronomy so far). In short: bacon, egg and chips, albeit seriously high-quality bacon, egg and chips. Which is exactly what you want in a pub. Their baked egg custard tart was extraordinarily light, its richness offset by a zippy orange sherbet, and the kitchen knows what makes a proper sticky toffee pudding. (Meal for two including wine and service £65)

[Time Out](, 31 JanuaryGuy Dimond finds XO is a chic pan-oriental well-suited to its Belsize Park location.

XO is the sixth branch of the growing Will Ricker empire, a charming and smart businessman who knows how to run a successful restaurant and has a passion for oriental food. He's well aware that live fish filleted at your table (Japan) or desserts of snow frog fat (big in Hong Kong) won't cut it in NW3, so he's knocked all the sharp edges off the real thing. A dish called 'wagyu beef new style' was a starter-sized sliver of beef carpaccio dressed with oil and some chilli, costing a startling £12.50. The bill can add up, especially if you're one of those suckers who simply has to have the black cod and miso at £21. In Japan last month JETRO the Japanese overseas trade body did the rounds of 600 Japanese restaurants in Paris, grading them for authenticity - and only 50 made the grade. I wonder what JETRO would make of XO's menu, with its banana, pepper and aubergine tempura, or its miso soup with quail eggs. But do XO's customers's care if the menu's as fake as the Prada bags from a Shanghai street market? I doubt if they give a hoot. And who wants to eat fish lips or sea urchin roe anyway? (Meal for two with wine and service £85. Rating 3/6)

[The Scotsman](, 27 January
George Kerevan is impressed by a re-visit to Daniel's Bistro in Edinburgh

I make no apology for reviewing Daniel's, though it has been with us for nearly a decade. In the first place, it is refreshing to know there is an eatery that you can rely on for consistently good cooking, efficient service and a pleasant ambience. In the second place, Daniel's deserves credit for prospering all these years in the black hole for eating establishments that is Commercial Quay in Leith. It has a truly enormous menu covering not just French and Alsatian favourites, but Scottish standards and specialities. Normally I'd say run a mile from such a place as there is no way the kitchen can deliver with uniform quality. However Daniel's manages possibly because the head chef Denis Guilloneau, enjoys his job and insists on the best ingredients. They also do masses of vegetarian and gluten-free options. (Lunch for two £23.25 excluding drinks)

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