Review of the reviews… what the critics say about Gordon Ramsay's Narrow and others

18 April 2007
Review of the reviews… what the critics say about Gordon Ramsay's Narrow and others" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">The Times](, 14 April
Giles Coren visits the Narrow in London E14 and reckons if he ever walked into a restaurant that wasn't owned by Gordon Ramsay, he'd feel cheated

The best of the mains was boiled salt beef and carrots (£9) in a bit of broth, which had been refined, of course, but in such a way that for all its subtle saltiness, lean elegance and gay little Chantenay carrots (very 2005, but still cute), it still triggered the right food memories. Other dishes were, for me, a little muted. The faggot, though good, was rather mild, perhaps because it was made of veal innards not pigs', and the braised Gloucester pig's cheeks with neeps (£9) were also a little wan. The Oxford lamb steak (£11.50) was a great piece of meat served with anchovy butter and a lovely big mushroom, but nobody asked us about cuisson, and it came too well done. (Rating 7.66/10)

[The Guardian**](, 14 April*
Matthew Norman visits not so much a restaurant but a repository of broken dreams at Washingborough Hall in Washingborough, Lincolnshire*

My "cranberry and rosemary-crusted spring lamb" was horribly overcooked, the requested pinkness restricted to the odd random tinge, and swamped by a weedy port gravy, but roasted sweet potatoes and assorted vegetables were good. Nick went for the fish of the day, cod on a bed of grainy mustard. "Cold and chewy, and in a blind tasting I wouldn't know I was eating fish," he said, malevolently passing over a forkful of what proved to be not only the alleged cod, but also a large piece of plastic. I asked Kerry if it might have been boiled in the bag. "I wouldn't have thought so," she said. (Rating 2.5/10. Three courses with wine about £45)

[The Observer](, 15 April
Jay Rayner finds the élan of pre-war Paris at the French, in the Midland hotel, Manchester

Unforgivably at these prices, some of it is authentically bad - for example, the shellfish bisque. A good bisque should make you worry for your appetite. It should be richer than Bill Gates and more satisfying than kneeing Jim Davidson in the knackers. This was limp and insubstantial. Plus, the rouille was a disgrace to the name, empty of garlic or saffron or cayenne. It was just mayonnaise. My companion did much better. For her, a tortellini of chicken made with exceptional pasta, wild mushrooms and black truffles. She did better, too, on her main course, a priapic arrangement of impeccable veal chop, with lovely crisp fat, and fondant potatoes: everything was arranged on the plate pointing upwards, like the kitchen had been at the Viagra. (Meal for two including wine and service £140)

[The Independent on Sunday](, 15 April
Terry Durack samples fabulous rustic Italian fare in sniffy, five-star surroundings at Theo Randall at the InterContinental, in London W1

So just like that, you are suddenly kicked out of fine dining and into rustic Italian, ready and willing to accept a terrific starter of house-made taglierini (fine pasta strands), threaded with zucchini and chilli and topped with a handful of brown shrimp, for £9. I should feel sorry for the poor sod in the kitchen who had to peel these infuriatingly fiddly little shrimp, but I can only feel happy to reap the rewards. The pasta is not exactly al dente (egg pasta rarely is) but it has bounce and life and works so well with the rich butteriness of the zucchini, the hit of chilli and the nuttiness of the shrimp. I love the way food is simply plonked on the plate here, rather than artfully and painfully arranged. (Rating 16/20. Meal for two including wine and service about £130)

[The Sunday Times](, 15 April
Alex James finds himself escaping the pressure of deadlines and practicalities at Lords of the Manor in Upper Slaughter, Gloucestershire

The room was starting to fill up. I was studying the fish knife, which was from another realm, when other people's bread started arriving. I saw their faces light up and I realised that getting here early had been a good move, as you get everything first and it's all a surprise. The amuse-bouches came with a lot of information but were basically a mouthful of onion risotto with Chipsticks on the top. I'm a Monster Munch man, really, but they were good Chipsticks. Foie gras and ice-cream followed. It wasn't just ice-cream, it was a miniature tamarind knickerbocker glory involving spinach, tiny poppadoms and a cube of burnt apple. Claire said it was "exquisite". I've never heard her use that word before. (Rating 5/5)

[Bloomberg](, 13 April
Richard Vines enjoys the food and prices at London's Ristorante Semplice

There's delicious spaghetti with pecorino tio bore and Sarawak pepper, with excellent pasta. A Milanese risotto comes with saffron and bone marrow. The saffron makes for a bright yellow hue whose flamboyance can't distract from the depth of flavour of the dish, which is rich and nutty. There's good gnocchi filled with pesto. Pine kernels add texture, and there are French beans whose role escapes me. The peppery pear is my favourite dessert. It comes with a great big chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano so generous I've not made it to the cheese selection over three visits. Other desserts include apple fritters with cinnamon custard cream; and a chestnut mousse with kumquat salad. The prices are reasonable, particularly compared with Locanda Locatelli, which is a celebrity hangout. Ristorante Semplice demonstrates that you don't have to pay through the nose in London for honest and accomplished cooking and for drinkable wine. Salute (cost £18 for three courses).

[Metro, 18 April
Andy Lynes has mixed feelings about London's Haiku

What arrived at the table was for the most part good. There were enough thin, fresh slices of turbot sashimi with grapefruit ponzu dipping sauce to split between the two of us but dividing up the three skinless grapefruit segments to accompany each mouthful proved to be a challenge. Finger-licking good tandoori lamb came in a sensible two-chop formation with a side order of garlic nan, also cooked in the tandoor but tasting bland, as if it had been made without salt. The cubes of meat were grilled to tender perfection on an open Japanese robata grill. Despite some decent food, there is something faintly ridiculous about Haiku. I can't imagine there were many people yearning to eat dinky portions of prawn tom yum and lamb rogan josh at the same meal before the restaurant opened and I don't think many will regret missing the chance when it inevitably closes. (Three out of five stars; a meal for two with wine, water and service costs about £120)

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