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Review of the reviews: What the critics say about Scott's and others

13 December 2006

The Metro, 13 December
Marina O'Loughlin likes the menus and the cooking at the recently refurbished and re-opened Scott's

The Observer, 10 December
Jay Rayner picks good food over poor service at The Glasshouse, Worcester

The pheasant pudding with which I started was my dish of the year: a proper steamed suet casing, as comforting as that implies, hiding pieces of pheasant and morels. On top, for crunch, shards of crisp, salty bacon, and leaves of deep-fried sage. Underneath, the kind of dense game gravy (not a jus, never a jus) which almost had me lifting the bowl and tipping the contents straight into my gob. Instead I asked for a spoon. For the main course I chose one of Shaun Hill's signature dishes, monkfish with cucumber and mustard sauce. The dense monkfish [stood] up well to the slippery slices of pickled cucumber and the boisterous grain mustard sauce. I finished with the pudding selection. The star was a perfectly executed Muscat crème caramel, but the crunchy nougatine parfait and the squidgy treacle pudding deserved serious spoon action, too. The problem here is the service. It's welcoming. It's enthusiastic. It's also completely amateurish. But - and it's a huge but - the food really is good, and even if the staff don't know what they're doing, they do seem pleased to see you. (Meal for two, £80 with wine and service)

Sunday Telegraph, 10 December
Zoe Williams drops into Tom's Kitchen, London, for some inconsistent but likeable fare

I had the deep-fried pig's ears (£7.50), about which I had a whole heap of complaints, viz, for one, even though they are an amusingly cheap cut, ears, they don't have the assertiveness of all the other cheap bits (I mainly mean offal), so really, in terms of flavour, it could have been deep-fried my finger. My main course - rump of veal with ceps and gratin dauphinois (£17.50) - was so incredibly good that I wondered whether the starter wasn't deliberately so-so, in order to lull your palate into false security. It was tender, deeply flavoursome, judiciously garlicky - a show-stopper. For pud, I had the baked vacherin with white wine, garlic and thyme (£6). God knows what I was expecting; what I didn't expect was the cheese to have been excavated from that classic duvet-scape of its rind and re-fashioned in a cute ramekin as a kind of thick soup of cheese. Quite delicious. If I've made this sound hit-and-miss, well, there was a miss or two, but there was something very likeable and eventful about even the misses. (Rating: 6.5 out of 10. About £30 for three courses)

The Independent on Sunday, 10 December
Terry Durack dines at Villandry, London, a restaurant set in the Fitzrovia food store

A salad composed of salt beef and barley, topped with rocket and frisee leaves (£8.50) is an unusual idea, but the individual components are good enough for it to work. The leaves are well-dressed, the beef is warm, and the barley is comfort food. But I'm looking for proof that I am dining in a food store - and find it in the globe artichoke, a huge thing (£6.50) that comes with salad leaves on top like a carnival headdress. It's pluck-it-yourself action food, with a little bowl of hazelnut vinaigrette for dunking. I choose the grilled fish of the day. Bad move. I get a chargrilled fillet of sea bass (£18.50) that is overcooked and muddy-tasting, carelessly presented with greasy, sautéed mushrooms and salsify. Still searching for proof that I am eating within a gourmet dream of a food store, I order Villandry cheeses (£8.50). It is then I realise that this restaurant has no idea what it is doing. Some of the finest cheeses of Europe are metres away, and all I get is a few little pieces of cheese all piled up on top of one another, with nobody knowing what they are. Oh, please. (About £120 for two including wine and service).

Time Out
Guy Dimond finds out why Chris Corbin and Jeremy King's new restaurant, St Alban, London, has proved instantly popular

Corbin and King have gone for an up-to-the-minute Modern Mediterranean menu, employing Chef Francesco Mazzei who previously worked at Franco's in Mayfair, and before that Alan Yau's Anda. The pasta is exceptional. Pappardelle was silky-thin, the wide, flat pasta ribbons running over a ragu of duck that had been roasted Chinese-style then simmered for several hours, with spices and jus added to make a light but flavourful sauce. Seafood also takes prominence on the menu, such as a bowl of mussels and razor clams steamed in salty broth and further seasoned with white pepper, garlic and thyme. Sicilian rabbit stew showed a Moorish influence, both in the agrodolce flavours of the sweet muscovado sugar and crushed sultanas, and the sherry vinegar, but also with the liberal use of pine nuts over the chunks of firm rabbit. Dessert of panna cotta was delicately set and not too sweet, almost savoury - pleasantly so - when accompanied by dark chocolate flakes and espresso sauce. (About £110 for two, with wine and service, rating: five stars out of six)

The Times, 9 December
Giles Coren goes for green at Acorn House, London, the capital's first environmentally sustainable restaurant

There is nothing in the world so wasteful of resources as a restaurant. Every restaurant in London could operate like this. Acorn House isn't a compromise. It's a great little restaurant. I had mackerel grilled, filleted and cutely split vertically along the spine to create, from one fish, four firm cigars of oily flesh, nicely punctuated with grill bars. But it wasn't lovely and hot off the grill. Whether a batch was grilled earlier for lunch service or this had just been sat around at the pass, I don't know, but it made the dish a lot less exuberant than it might have been. Celeriac and horseradish soup was chunky and sweet and not afraid of its ingredients; mozzarella di bufala was staggeringly fresh given the ban on air travel. My shoulder of mutton was okay, but a bit dry. Pappardelle with lamb ragout was so-so. In the end, not bad cooking, some excellent stuff.

The Independent, 9 December
Tracey MacLeod likes Bumpkin, London, so much she went twice in one week

It's the kind of local that makes you wish you were local, and there are surprisingly few of those in Notting Hill. Openers include a punchy dish of pan-fried chicken livers with pancetta, beetroot and balsamic vinegar, and an autumnal salad combining roasted squash with goat's cheese and toasted pine nuts. Black leg chicken and roast pheasant - both served in generous leg and breast portions - were also excellent. From the grill, calf's liver was notably sweet and soft, and cooked just as ordered. A shared sticky toffee pudding was much enjoyed, despite hiding a lurking date stone which nearly administered a true bumpkin makeover to one of us by taking out a front tooth. (£40 per head in the restaurant, £30 in the brasserie)

Sunday Times, 10 December
AA Gill is under impressed by Launceston Place, London

Launceston Place sits in a quiet corner of Kensington. I was told it had a new cook, and was worth a visit, but as you walk in, there's that familiar stench of boiled fish and cabbage, emanating either from the soft furnishings or from the staff. The new menu looks good: hearty English ingredients frotted and liberated by a light French-ish hand. Mozzarella and artichoke salad with pumpkin seeds arrived with the seeds still in their shells, as your parrot would expect them to be served. For main course, I had a slow-roast mutton with baby vegetables and polenta. The ingénue vegetables were midgets and dwarves, boiled so that they held their natural shape only by a collective act of nostalgia. But they were ambrosia compared with the mutton, [which] resisted knife and fork, being mostly translucent, sweaty gristle and greasy fat. It was inedibly disgusting, without question the nastiest ingredient I've been served this year. (Rating: 1 out of 5)

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