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Review of the reviews-what the critics say about Howard's House in Salisbury and others

11 October 2006

The Times, 7 October
Giles Coren finds himself stuck in a mid-1990s time warp at Howard's House in Salisbury

But still I couldn't remember what we ate back in 1995. With our drinks, the waitress brought menus. I opened mine and does the phrase: "seared scallops, black pudding, apple purée" mean anything to you? Tee-hee. Of course. How could I have forgotten? In every line, it came flooding back. There was "barbary duck breast, sweet corn pancake, confit shallot" and "wild sea bass with gnocchi", and how about a spot of "fondant potato"? Oh, how we loved our fondants and confits.
Best of all (be still, my fluttering, nostalgic heart), there was "banoffee crumble tartlet". For pure 1995-tasticness, the chef might as well have come out of the kitchen and sung: "She came from Greece, she had a thirst for knowledge / She studied sculpture at St Martins college" (Score: 7.33/10; three-course à la carte, £42)

The Guardian, 7 October
Matthew Norman looks past the grubby facade to find exquisite sushi at Sushi Hiro in Uxbridge Road, London W5

There are moments when you just know, from the absolute, purist disdain for every other aspect of running a restaurant, that the food will be great, and so it proved. Describing this restaurant as hyper-utilitarian would imply a level of luxury to which it does not aspire, and it will by no means be to all tastes. However, anyone with a genuine passion for raw fish and the gumption to step beyond the uncompromising facade will find Sushi Hiro a glimmering Aladdin's cave. (Rating: seven out of 10; meal, £20 per head with a beer or small jug of sake)

The Independent on Sunday, 8 OctoberTerry Durack discovers that the Hoxton Grille in London's Great Eastern Street is oiled in all the wrong places

I must pause here and offer my thanks, yet again, for the invention of wine. On nights such as this, I feel like crying into my glass with joyful gratitude. The light, spicy red notes of Valpolicella (£29) are effectively the only fresh, clean flavours of the night. Around me, the place is pumping, as groups of six and eight occupy tables with the air of an invading army, fuelled on vodka and decibels. The Hoxton Grill-with-an-e should be a fun, fast, flexible place to eat, but something has gone horribly wrong in the kitchen, and the food is dull and heavy instead of light and fresh. (Score: nine out of 20; dinner for two, including wine and service, £95)

The Observer, 8 October
Jay Rayner can't get L'Atelier's no booking policy off his mind as he visits Jo‘l Robuchon's new restaurant in London WC2

Look at this review: 600 words and I haven't mentioned the food because I'm so irritated at the no-booking policy. It's a pity because, if you love food and watching the theatre of the kitchen, once you sit down it's a joyous experience: great food without the po-faced flummery. Expensive, yes - tapas-sized portions at around a tenner, main course at £15 - but worth it, I think.We ate slices of the freshest tuna marinated in the fruitiest of olive oils - with the crunch of sea salt. We had a mackerel tart with a crisp base and an acutely judged mix of Provencal flavours beneath the fish. We had exemplary sweetbreads, which were creamy inside and crisp outside, and a steak tartare with their own crinkle-cut chips. (Meal for two, including wine and service, £90-£150)

The Sunday Times, 8 OctoberAA Gill feels that even improved food wouldn't save the Mayfair Mews in London's New Bond Street from mediocrity

Mews sits in a little cluster of bars behind Handel's house. Fashionably, the dining room is on the first floor, above a large bar. The food is supposed to be modern English. It's a confection of stuff that comes from That's What I call Dinner, Volume 48. There is a distinctly Antipodean lilt to a lot of it - and it's perfectly well made. The T-bone steak was a big bit of beef. Lemon sole and a deep-fried prawn with chips was a modishly patronising take on the takeaway version. There's a nice manager, and the restaurant has an elaborately time-consuming and otiose website. If half as much energy and effort had been put into the ingredients and the food, this would still be a limp, showy, derivative, tastefully Botoxed little experience. (Score: three out of five)

The Metro, 11 October
Marina O'Loughlin enjoys the cooking at Langtry in London's Cadogan hotel but not the service

Chef Robert Lyon's cooking is a pleasure to eat. What is less easy to forgive is the tyro ineptitude of the staff. Which is why I find myself querying the class of the whole operation. In a hotel of this calibre, with a restaurant of this ambition, is it too much to expect efficient service? We experience a catalogue of hiccups. There's a welcome station as you enter the restaurant, but no welcome. Eventually, we track down a chap whose ill-fitting cheap-looking brown overcoat makes him look less like the maître d' of an expensive restaurant and more like a junior clerkin a "fork ‘andles" kind of hardware store. We're seated with menus, but no one brings us a wine list. Every question we ask our various servers results in a scuttle to the kitchen to "ask chef". As my beef tea is being poured into its bowl, I wonder what the white blob is. "Crème fraîche," I'm told; it is, of course, the quail's egg. A toe in the oddly-clad staff's posterior and it could be a real toff-pleaser. (Rating: three out of five stars; meal for two with wine, water and service costs about £100).

The Metro, 11 OctoberMarina O'Loughlin visits Notting Hill's Ribbands in London

The light fittings look like they come from Argos, the glasses come with heavy, conical, etched bases, there's the kind of colour scheme you find in a B&Q brochure. No, we're not in the ‘burbs, but in the throbbing heart of looks-fixated, style-obsessed Notting Hill. Our food is trying too hard. It's hilariously expensive: starters about £15, mains about £25; and, in looks obsessed Notting Hill, sits about as comfortably as I do in skinny jeans. (Rating two out of five stars; meal for two with wine, water and service costs about £130).

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