Review of the reviews – what the critics say about Wild Mushroom and others

10 January 2007
Review of the reviews – what the critics say about Wild Mushroom and others

The Daily Telegraph, 6 January
Tessa Boase dines at the Wild Mushroom in Westfield, East Sussex, and finds it doesn't quite live up to its name

The Wild Mushroom sits on a stretch of rural road between Hastings and Ashford, where lorries roar past so fast they create suction. Lunch cost £20 for three courses and it's not a pared-down shadow of the pricier ˆ la carte menu, but amply generous. Overwhelming, even: so many ingredients jostling for place in so many dishes. My husband is underwhelmed by his "insipid" risotto, served on an enormous white plate with a dimple in the middle. How can a mushroom risotto not taste of anything? Not even of the wholly unnecessary other ingredients, Jerusalem artichoke and "roquette"? My starter - pigeon, mallard and pheasant terrine with pistachios and Cumberland sauce - seems to have come from a different kitchen: it is very good, distinctly gamey, the three arcs of meat contrasting shades of pink. (Lunch for two, excluding service, £75)

The Independent, 6 January
Thomas Sutcliffe sees what all the fuss is about at the Gordon Ramsay restaurant in New York's London hotel

There's an explosive bit of lighting bling above the bar. The food, by contrast, is positively decorous and understated - even though some of the variations to the menu may look a little brash in print. I start, for example, with a BLT ($12) - a dish that is served in a martini glass and consists of a bacon and onion cream layered over a tomato jelly and topped, at the table, with an eye-zapping emerald swirl of lettuce velouté. Witty, I guess, if wit is something you seek from your supper - but also delicious enough to mean that your tastebuds don't end up paying for the conceit. (Meal for two $255/£130).

The Observer, 7 JanuaryJay Rayner is seduced by the Rosemary restaurant at Stanton House hotel in Swindon, which has set its sights on capturing diners from the nearby Honda car plant

To one side is a Japanese food shop and it immediately becomes clear that this place isn't just a restaurant, but a resource for an expatriate community which happens to find itself here amid the rolling hills of Wiltshire. There is a short menu at lunchtime, but the choice for me is obvious: a kaiseki bento box, with seven dishes for £24. It is a huge thing, practically filling the width of the table, and most of what is in there is very good indeed, particularly the sashimis and sushis - tuna, salmon, sweet prawn - which are a reminder of how good these can be in the right hands. The star for me is the tranche of marinated eel - unagi - with its butch savoury marinade and oily flesh. The only letdown is the tempura, which needs to hit the table seconds after it has left the oil. (Meal for two including wine and service, £40-£70)

The Sunday Times, 7 January
AA Gill finds there's room for improvement at Jeremy King and Chris Corbin's new restaurant, St Alban, in London's Regent Street

The room is retro, reminiscent of the Festival of Britain, new Elizabethan and Tomorrow's World. It's a fluid, attractive space, though I'm not sure I really get the anodyne graphic materials of random household objects. It did, though, have that satisfying, well-oiled rich hum of a precision restaurant cruising. There is already a high calorie count of celebrities, and it's all pretty good and comfortable. Until you get to the menu, which is short and Mediterranean and priced at mid-market. And not terribly good. My deep-fried-squid starter was overcooked and flabbily coated in what tasted like soggy Rice Krispies. A Sicilian rabbit stew would have been better off sleeping with the fishes: imprecise, underpowered and with bunny that was dry, dense and dull. (Three stars out of five)

Time Out, 10 January
Guy Dimond gets a grilling at south London's new Argentinian hot spot, Santa Maria del Buen Ayre, in Battersea

Order the parrilada mixta (minimum two people), and you get the full works, brought on a dish heated below by hot charcoal. Two big steaks (sirloin 14oz; fillet 10oz) chilled and shipped by boat from Argentina, both tender and rare, top-quality lean cuts; Brindisa's morcilla (black pudding) from Spain, moist and bursting with flavour; Italian-style sausage made in Walthamstow, dense with pork, spiced with aji molidao (a paprika-like sauce) plus a serving of melted provolone cheese, just in case your arteries weren't lined enough. (Meal for two with wine and service, about £85)

Metro, 10 JanuaryAcorn House, Marina O'Loughlin finds the eco-friendly restaurant terrific

There is so much droppingly admirable about Acorn House that it threw me into a lather. So I am beyond thrilled to report that the food wasn't just edible, it was mostly terrific. The regularly changing seasonal menu is bursting with ingredients such as chestnuts, pumpkins, Stilton, pearl barley celeriac and wild mushrooms. And we get mutton not lamb, a melting pile of ripely flavoursome meat, with a dod of quince to cut the sheepy richness and some pink fir apple potatoes of such firm, earthy, potatoey gorgeousness that I never want to eat another plebeian King Edward. But there are things that don't work. I didn't warn to a pyramid of flourless peppered chocolate cake with a curious moisture lacking dustiness. 4/5

Metro, 10 January
Drones at Fenwick does not impress Marina O'Loughlin, 5 January
Richard Vines says Odette's Williams is a chef to watch and savor

Odette's is a neighbourhood restaurant in north London that has been around for years and only attracts attention when it changes hands, as it did before Christmas. Its greatest claim to fame is as the one-time hangout of Liam Gallagher, the lead singer of rock group Oasis. But something more important has happened now. Bryn Williams, who has a growing reputation, has taken over the kitchen and his food is worth the trip to Primrose Hill. Williams, who is 29 and from North Wales, came to public attention last year in BBC television series the Great British Menu. His resume includes three years under Marco Pierre White at the Criterion and another three with Michel Roux at Le Gavroche. I haven't tasted a dud dish and the six-course tasting menu is well balanced, intelligent and enticing. The only teething troubles I noticed were with the service at Odette's. Dishes repeatedly went to the wrong diner. One waiter attempted to push me higher on the wine list than I had requested. And I encountered some irritation on my first visit when I showed up early and resisted being given what looked like one of the worst tables in the empty restaurant. The menu is seasonal and uses mainly UK ingredients, many of them from Wales, including the beef. The earthy venison dish was the highlight for me. The medium-rare loin is served with crispy shoulder, braised for three hours, along with spiced pear and a beautifully rich bitter-chocolate sauce with cabernet sauvignon vinegar for acidity. The dish is a perfect combination of tastes, textures and techniques. The tasting menu is £55 and a la carte is £40 for three courses.

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