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Review of the reviews… what the critics say about La Noisette and others

23 August 2006

The Independent, 19 AugustThomas Sutcliffe enjoys Michelin-style refinement and local ingredients at Hipping Hall in Lancashire

A dish of pan-fried scallops, served with pea purée and smoked bacon, is probably the best of the starters, a really good balance of heft and lightness, but the breast of quail served with beetroot jus and foie gras is good too, as are the tortelinni of duxelled girolles, served with asparagus and spinach and deep-fried quail's egg.

The latter - a kind of Scotch egg for dwarfs - is a symptom of the menu's preference for adding one more thing, rather than taking something away, but on the whole that doesn't get out of hand.

This is hardly pared-down cooking but, at £42.50 for the three-course menu with coffee and petits fours, I don't think that's what the customers are coming for. (Rating, four stars out of five for food; three courses plus coffee and petits fours, £42.50.)

The Times, 19 AugustGiles Coren finds the dishes predictable, but enjoys them nevertheless, at pan-Asian restaurant Gilgamesh in Camden, London

The food is good. One is encouraged to eat sushi followed by dim sum (which is odd, because assumed identity] John's three-year posting in Hong Kong taught him that dim sum is strictly a lunchtime affair), followed by a big plate of something from somewhere else.
The nigiri is decent, though expensive and of limited range (four fish only - usual suspects). The maki rolls are well made, standard-issue Cali-Jap. Scallops on cubes of sweet pork belly is a very good dish indeed. Dim sum are cleanly executed and tasty. Miso sea bass is Nobu's miso cod as usual, giant lobster chunks are maybe a bit hefty for the tempura treatment. If the menu were a musical score (rather than a roistering potboiler), it would be marked "trad. arr. Pengelley". (Rating, 6/10; meal for three, £242.10.)

The Guardian, 19 AugustSimon Hopkinson visits a favourite lunchtime sushi haunt at Defune in London's West End

I have been enjoying sashimi lunches at the sushi bar at Defune for, I guess, about five years, on and off. I go there most often when under the regime of a fairly rigid diet that involves eating only protein and citrus fruit. The indulgence part, of course, is the eating of impeccable pieces of very expensive raw fish.

In fact, I have always thought that consuming several slivers of fatty tuna (for me, the very pinnacle of sashimi) is the closest thing to eating best beluga. It has an incessant cool richness, silky texture and, once briefly dipped into finest soy, a salty balm that seems to mimic intense savoury quality of caviar.

And, be warned, eating Japanese is never going to be cheap; sashimi chefs are royally remunerated and compromises are rarely entertained. A serving of fatty tuna sashimi at Defune is £16 - although you could not eat two, so rich is it. (Rating, 8/10; meal for two including sake, £120.)

The Observer Magazine, 20 AugustJay Rayner likes the food, but not the prices, at La Noisette in Knightsbridge, London

We finished with a fromage blanc soufflé with roasted apricots flavoured with thyme, and the only real misfire of the evening, a strawberry millefeuille which was far too heavy on the pastry leaves. Even allowing for that one duff dish, this was a good meal, great in places, delivered with relaxed and easy-going service.

What troubles me (as ever) is the price. With a couple of apéritifs, some mint tea to finish and a bottle of wine from the very lowest reaches of the list, we were looking at a bill for £165, which is a lot of money. The irony is that a substantial portion of that bill goes to the inflated Sloane Street rent on a room which is the restaurant's least attractive feature.

And that, my friends, is how the restaurant business works. Or not, as the case may be. (Meal for two, including wine, £165.)

Sunday Times, 20 AugustAlso at La Noisette, the flowery menu names make AA Gill think he's stuck in a 1980s timewarp - until he puts the food in his mouth

My classic cuisine surprise turned out to be a veal chop, carved at the table. Nobody has cut up my cutlets since I was three. There's also an inspirational tasting menu, of course, which is also a surprise. "Let my team and I take you on a culinary adventure, inspired by this morning's market, or today's mood."

The Blonde had cod with ham and squid. Nick went for Welsh lamb and the sommelier's phone number. Pudding was champagne cheesecake - very 1980s - and a peach melba with a spun-sugar basket on top. Oh my God. I haven't seen one of those for 20 years.
Now here's the thing, the really big surprise - it was all brilliant. Really elegant, well made, with clear flavours that were smart, complementary and respectful of the raw material. It was the best meal for money (£45 for three courses) I've had in months. (Rating, four stars out of five.)

Independent on Sunday, 20 AugustTerry Durack likes the food but not the clientele at The Horseshoe in Hampstead, London

Places such as The Horseshoe remind me why gastropubs were such a good idea in the first place. At one point, they were all becoming a bit too lookalike and cookalike, but now they are starting to develop individual characters and personalities.

This one is refreshingly direct and open in its approach. It's all about good produce, careful sourcing, making beer, and keeping the food simple but interesting. Serves are big, prices are decent and everything is visible, uncluttered, forthright. And if that means some off my fellow diners are just as forthright, then so be it. (Rating, 15/20; meal for two, around £70.)

Metro, 23 August
Marina O'Loughlin wishes she'd stayed in for a takeaway rather than going to 5th View Bar & Food in Piccadilly, London

I can forgive useless service if the food is great but this was truly grim. The tarts were squares of industrial puff pastry daubed with amateurish ingredients, the first a symphony of watery tomatoes crowned with exhausted Camembert and a single bacon lardon. The other, a swamp of luridly purple onions, some wizened black olives and the wrong kind of anchovy. This stuff made a West End pizza stand look like a beacon of caring culinary professionalism. (Rating 1/5; meal for two with wine, water and two cocktails, £73)

Metro, 23 AugustMarina O'Loughlin finishes a morning's shopping with a satisfying lunch at Nouveauté at Habitat, Regent Street, London

We ate some squeakily fresh salads: crunchy beans with piquant feta, lemon and Parmesan, and couscous with pepper and olives; a Famous-Five-tastic egg and dense brown bread sarnie; homemade lemonade; freshly crushed watermelon and strawberry smoothie; and a homemade berry muffin. Independent owners Sally Coyle and Simon Carey "pitched against the boys" to make their mark in the space, and their obvious enthusiasm is shared by the young, helpful staff. Maybe Nouveauté isn't worth going out of your way for, but after a hard morning's candelabra shopping, it might just be worth the ticket. (Rating 3/5; meal for two with water and smoothies £25)

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