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Review of the reviews… what the critics say about the Hardwick in Abergavenny and others

10 May 2007
Review of the reviews… what the critics say about the Hardwick in Abergavenny and others

http://www.timeout.com/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">The Times](http://www.timesonline.co.uk), 5 May
Giles Coren finds the Hardwick in Abergavenny a touch hit-and-miss

The Hardwick is an old-fashioned pub-restaurant rather than a ponced-up modern interpretation. Best of the starters were a juicy black pudding and bacon salad and a bread-crumbed belly of local Old Spot wth bok choi, which was neatly done if a touch dry. A purple sprouting broccoli salad with anchovy hollandaise was less convncing. The poached wild halibut [main] was wonderful but bizarrely accompanied by "chicken cream sauce with fried sausage meat". And then I had a roast shoulder of Middle White that was really too dry to eat. Luckily the Blumenthalian triple-cooked chips I ordered on the side were so good one could almost believe Heston stole the idea from Stephen [Terry]. (About £26 per head, without drinks. Overall rating: 6.67 out of 10)

[The Independent](http://www.independent.co.uk/), 5 MayJohn Walsh is one of the first in the queue to taste the fare at Gordon Ramsay's first pub venture, the Narrow, in London's East End

The menu is remarkable for two things. First, the prices are astonishingly cheap: onion and garlic soup for £3.50, grilled mackerel with potato salad for £5. Second, there's a curiously panicky feel to some dishes, as if you're being offered snacks rather than a meal. The starters turned out OK, though. The grilled mackerel was deliciously hot and slithery and lightly smoked. The beetroot, radish, spring onion and parsley salad was pure and clean tasting. My Cromer crab was dry and lacked any bindng agent, but the flavour came through intact. We waited ages for drinks - I can't recommend the house white, but the widely praised English Chapel Down is a dream of elderflower at £20. (Three courses with wine, about £43 per head. Rating: three out of five stars)

[The Guardian](http://www.guardian.co.uk/), 5 MayMatthew Norman finds the service uppity and the food variable at Ristorante Semplice in London's West End

A glass of Champagne was out of the question, we were told, because "we're an Italian restaurant and serve spumante" and the maître d' took ostentatious umbrage at the sending back of a bottle of white wine that tasted like sugar water. When I asked him to suggest something else, he said that if we didn't like the first, he certainly wouldn't recommend another. All the starters were sparkling. A raviolo filled with ricotta and adorned with a hazelnut dressing drew yelps of pleasure. The main courses, however, were unimpeachably mediocre. (Three courses, about £45 a head. Rating 4.5 out of 10)

[The Sunday Times](http://www.sunday-times.co.uk/), 6 MayChrista D'Souza takes her Mum out to Daylesford Organic Café near Kingham, deep in the Gloucestershire countryside

Eating here is good value. Not because of the prices as much as the gargantuan portions. My Mum's tartine of smoked salmon with Daylesford pea shoots and my elder son's plate of smoked charcuterie and curried salad could easily have done as a greedy person's mains. My raw cashew nut soup, which tasted intriguingly of marzipan, came in a bowl out of which you could have served a salad. The wooden plank of crudités with grissini, soft-boiled egg, aïoli and courgette dip needed its own table. My Mum and I, we're congenital plate-lickers, but even we couldn't finish it off. (Rating: three out of five stars)

[The Observer](http://observer.guardian.co.uk/), 7 MayJay Rayner heads to Bethnal Green, east London, on a friend's recommendation to check out Maida

I am sitting in a Muslim Pakistani restaurant just off London's Brick Lane, ordering tandoori lamb chops and I feel like I am committing adultery. Close by is Tayyab's, the leading Pakistani grill house, famed for the pungency of its marinades and the size of its chops. Here, then, is the verdict. The chops at Maida are not better than those at Tayyab's, which are more forthright with the spicing and more generous with the all-important fat. When it comes to grilled and roasted meats, fat cannot be optional. But that is not to dismiss what Maida is doing. Four of us gave the menu a shakedown, and everything we tried was well above average. Those chops, for instance, might not be premier division, but they still had a full meaty kick. (Meal for two, including drinks, £45)

[Time Out, 8 MayGuy Dimond visits Great Queen Street, London

The Freemason didn't seem impressed. ‘Hmph,' he said, ‘this used to be a nice place.' He turned and left. This site was once the perfect bolthole for members of the Grand Lodge as it's opposite the Freemasons' Hall main entrance, but it seems this new brasserie, with its distinctly bohemian new look, isn't quite their thing. The Freemason might have been more impressed if he had understood the lineage of Great Queen Street. The team working here is, in its own way, a different sort of ‘fraternal organisation' with shared ideals. The staff have previously worked at or managed St John, The Eagle and The Anchor & Hope, three of London's legendary eating places, and Great Queen Street's approach is recognisably similar. The menu changes daily and is posted in the window. The dishes use seasonal British produce, and can be simple (radishes and butter) or inventive (bottled rabbit and caponata). ‘Bottled' rabbit and caponata is very similar to a Piedmontese dish which uses chicken, and indeed if Great Queen Street had used chicken instead of rabbit we wouldn't have known the difference: the agrodolce (sweet and sour) flavours of the vegetables' sauce dominated the meat, but it was a great dish nonetheless. Great Queen Street, which currently has no signage to identify it, is a handy spot to eat before or after a free weekday visit to the library and museum at Freemasons' Hall, a Covent Garden institution since 1932, which, unlike joining the Grand Lodge itself, welcomes women. And while Great Queen Street may look like a louche gastropub, it has some of the most charming service and interesting dishes you'll find in the vicinity.

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