The Caterer

Reviews: The Crown in Chiswick, Gloria and more

11 March 2019 by
Reviews: The Crown in Chiswick, Gloria and more

Visiting Henry Harris' the Crown in London's Chiswick, Jimi Famurewa of the Evening Standard finds "not a pub… but a restaurant that, in its own way, is doing a decent impression of a well-oiled, reliable local"

My beccafico sardines brought crisped rolls of fish filled with a useful herbed breadcrumb stuffing and lifted by a zinging shallot dressing. Mark's steak tartare may not have looked much (a yolk-less mass of glistening mince, unfortunately redolent of a dropped burger) but it was terrifically seasoned with a bright lick of maybe Worcestershire sauce, masses of pepper and what tasted like the briny double whammy of gherkins and capers.

That red mullet dish almost reversed this formula; a shimmery pink, capably cooked fillet aboard spuds, softened hillocks of cabbage and a half puddle of thickened squid ink sauce, which all looked very inviting but perhaps needed something to cut through the various coalescing blasts of salt and stodge and surf. My grilled rabbit leg came draped in Alsace bacon and encircled by a mustardy, mushroom-free sauce Diane. It was pleasant in the way that a gently poshed-up Côte mainstay might be. A side of cheese-clattered funghi trifolati (truffled mushroom gratin, basically) mostly made me wish we'd just ordered chips like practically everyone else in the room.

Price: £78.75. Score: ambience: 3/5; food: 3/5


Everything is unexpectedly "really good, if not downright delicious" at Gloria in London's Shoreditch, writes The Guardian's Grace Dent…

A fresh Puglian burrata cremosa appeared on a vivid green puddle of extra-virgin olive oil, and that deep-fried carciofo came with cacio e pepe sauce for dipping. Artichoke can be a vast disappointment, a triumph of effort over return, but Gloria's is the best being served in London right now.

We eschewed "The 10-level lasagne" in favour of pasta al tartufo, a satisfying, dank bowl of fresh mafalda ribbons littered with black Molise truffle, mascarpone and button mushrooms. The Big Mamma carpaccio is a gigantic, oval plate of fine-quality beef, plus leaves and parmesan, that could feed at least three. "Vegan (De)Light" is a portobello mushroom on a skewer with some sort of chickpea and hazelnut gloop and an aubergine mush. I sense it was added to the menu through gritted teeth.

Price: from about £30 a head, plus drinks and service. Score: food: 8/10; atmosphere: 9/10; service: 8/10


…while the Evening Standard's Fay Maschler asks whether Gloria is "restaurants' last hurrah before Brexit"

The carbonara settles the disputes people have about how it should be, specifically dryish, gilded with egg yolk, rendered sexy and funky with crisp chips of guanciale, rugged Parmesan and lots of black pepper. Tortellini in brodo are pasta parcels filled with three different meats in a big bowl of sonorous broth flecked with herbs. The dumplings are agreeably chewy as if they are squaring up to the powerful stock.

Gloria's pasta al tartufo, a house special, is a tangle of freshly made mafalda (frilly ribbons) in a hallucinogenic amount of black Molise truffle smoothed with mascarpone.

Score: 4/5


So LA in Glasgow "isn't so LA. But it is so, so, so Glasgow," writes The Sunday Times' Marina O'Loughlin

One pal and I share a chateaubriand because the Rusks have built their restaurant reputation on meat. This is a weird creature, presliced into fat collops of a suspiciously uniform rosiness. Sous-vided before a final shimmy on the grill? It's also the chewiest fillet I've come across, more like that French faux-filet but without the flavour. This is steak as deliberate ostentation, ordering it the equivalent of parking your high-spec Audi in the middle of the pavement. I've chosen the Sichuan pepper sauce, which brings a boat of creamy, vaguely tingly gravy. It's basically steak au poivre, which is so LA in the same way Musso & Frank is so LA. One thing unites every dish: they've all had as much titivation as the denizens of the bar. Fit as.

I feel a bit mean slating the food at So LA because it's better than it needs to be. Those starter tacos are good, as are the ribs. Their chips are great. But it's a bit pointless: you could give half the audience here a plate of guacamoled tortilla chips, call it LA-style and they'd be perfectly happy. One side dish is cocktail sausages in "lobster mayo", which could only have been dreamt up by someone familiar with Glasgow's tradition of outrageous "Scooby snacks". No. Wait. Stop. This isn't snobbery: it's recognition that the place isn't so much restaurant as nightclub.

Price: £142 for two, without service charge


The Courier's Helen Brown describes the Michelin-starred Cellar in Anstruther, Fife as "spectacular"

Ox tongue - perhaps not everyone's cup of meat but more than worthy of its place here - came with 36-month matured Parmesan cream that packed a wonderful punch, bedded on little chunks of meat that were crispy on the outside and melting in the middle. Another element was tri-boiled potato (I don't know how you could be bothered tri-boiling potato but the texture and smoothness it achieved here was worth the time and effort), topped with Wiltshire truffle shavings and bright green chive oil. It was rich, strongly flavoured and fabulous.

The meat course was venison, served pink. The perfectly cooked centrepiece came surrounded by densely flavoured meat juice, barbecued kohlrabi (a cousin of cabbage) topped with crunchy, tangy mustard seeds, wilted cavolo nero, a circle of black pudding cream and dots of rosehip gel. These were wonderful ideas, the flavours and freshness coming right through to complement the rich venison perfectly.

Price: lunch tasting menu £40 per head; dinner tasting menu £70 per head. Value: 9/10; menu: 9/10; atmosphere: 9/10; service: 10/10; food: 10/10; total: 47/50


"Nice wine, horrible price. Naughty sommelier," is how The Telegraph's William Sitwell sums up Beck at Brown's in London's Mayfair

At Heinz Beck's restaurant in Brown's hotel, I'd given the sommelier a very big clue as to the bottom of my pocket when ordering a bottle of white at the start of dinner - the cheapest on the list, an Italian vermentino (Cantine Lunae 2017) at £50. Having exhausted it, and now facing the chateaubriand, we asked for two glasses of red.

A barolo was suggested, and soon enough two 125ml measures of the stuff materialised. It was wonderful, and you might imagine sommeliers high-fiving at this fine example of skill-set delivery. But fast-forward to the bill, where I noted that the two glasses of barolo came in at £68 - £34 for a smallish glass of red?

The chateaubriand for two was strangely soulless. I always thought the point of chateaubriand was that it came as a feasting dish. A burly piece of meat, resting from the fire, to be carved and shared. And the menu promised 'triple-cooked chips'. So I anticipated a hairs-on-your-chest, meat-and-potatoes moment.

Instead, out came two plated portions of the meat, cooked in a way (possibly sous vide and then a little grilling to colour) that rendered it too tender, too light; textureless in fact. And those triple-cooked chips? A mere triplet of them. That's right: three chips.

Score: 2/5

The Times' Giles Coren finds "expensive and simple" fare at Onima in London's Mayfair

Eight pounds for a little stack of perfectly fried, wonderfully crisp and dry little slices of zucchini and aubergine with tzatziki I guess I can live with. This is Mayfair, after all. But then £36 for the Sicilian prawns was pretty mental. They came a little weirdly presented, with one empty head leaning on the side of a wide bowl and one empty tail "diving in" on the other side, and between them maybe 10 peeled prawn bodies. But such delicious, warmish, sweet, melty bodies. Exactly what you want from a Sicilian prawn.

Then a small £14 spanakopita. For that money I can make a spinach and feta pie big enough to feed an entire school (and bring the kids to their knees with the sheer weight of it), but this was teeny and light with lovely crispy filo and we all banged the table with lust and wished there were more of it.

On the side we had some surprisingly wonderful green beans with tomato and shallots (£6) and then some even better tonnarelli cacio e pepe. It's only pasta with salt and pepper and cheese and a splosh of the cooking water, but they found a way to charge £19 for it. I guess "cheap and simple" won't get the punters flocking in the way that "expensive and simple" will.

Score: cooking: 8/10; Mykonostasticness: 8/10; modesty: 2/10; total: 6/10

Le Petit Cochon in Glasgow is not trying to be refined or fancy, "just wholehearted and honest", writes The Courier's Joanna Blythman

I've learned to be suspicious of soup in restaurants. In Anglo-American gastronomy it's the chef's Cinderella, neglected, abused, barely tolerated. Not the French, now they know how to make a good soup, such as this thick, creamy onion purée, its allium sweetness underpinned by the smoky, alcoholic depth and acidity of cider, and lent additional interest by a large, but thin, sage-scented crouton. This stomach-filling potage epitomises lusty mountain food. I could live without the deep-fried onion rings in crisp batter float on top of their crouton raft, more Glasgow than Haute Savoie, if you ask me.

The duck might have been deep fried, rather than roasted or sautéed in a skillet. It's a tad fatty, but this is not a cardinal fault. Here's a repeat - more green beans and pickled onion - but there's also gratin Dauphinois, which, although it could do with a more intrinsically interesting potato variety, is otherwise respectable.

The beef stew honours its pedigree, robust home cooking, generous nuggets of meat that yield to the fork, thanks to their preliminary marinade in wine, a deep, damson-dark, mouth-filling gravy that's textured by celery, onion. The pancetta that comes with the accompanying sautéed potatoes is addictively brittle and crisp; it's just a shame, again, that the potato variety is just too nondescript to match the meat's standard.

Score: food: 8/10; atmosphere: 8/10; value for money: 9/10; service: 9/10


The Telegraph's Keith Miller finds "a perfect sweet spot between thefamiliar and the ceremonial" at Jin Go Gae in New Malden, Surrey

Two bean sprout pickles were very different from each other, the swollen yellow head of the legume bringing a nutty flavour and a palpable protein hit to one, the other crunchier and tangier.

My daughter loved the seaweed pickle, and devoured most of a plateful of very lightly seasoned spinach with garlic. We set up a pincer movement vectored on her tempura prawns, and found them fresh, juicy and greaseless.

The crab arrived: a whole beast, and a large one too, lightly belaboured with a rolling pin then doused in a thick red sauce. A server brought paper napkins in industrial quantities. It's quite a hardcore dish (not least because you're picking bits of shell out of your teeth for days afterwards); but the gelatinous texture and delicate flavour of the leg and claw meat stood out beautifully against the ferocity of the sauce, which had (we thought) a little head meat mixed into it. It was a lot for two of us, and I'm not sure we finished it; but I've never had anything quite like it.

Price: £80 for dinner for two. Score: 4/5

The cheesesteak at Passyunk Avenue in London's Fitzrovia will "stay with you, possibly for days", writes Jay Rayner in The Observer

Authenticity has never troubled me as much as the answer to the question: does it taste nice? Oh God yes. The beef has been sliced and sliced again, properly seared, then mixed in with their own version of Cheez Whiz, or, as the server put it, "a kind of cheddar fondue". They say it's made on site, which is impressive because massive food corporations spend zillions trying to come up with something as engrossing, glowing and quasi-industrial as this. My fingertips tingle. My blood emulsifies. The bun, made by an outside bakery to their own recipe, is the perfect soft-yielding vehicle for the filling. Is it cheesy oniony beef? Or beefy oniony cheese? Or oniony cheesy… Oh never mind. Just know it's a serious amount of sandwich for £11, which will stay with you, possibly for days.

We also try the roasted pork platter. Do not come to Passyunk Avenue and do this. The meat is described as porchetta, but is nothing of the sort. It is limp, depressed, grey slices of meat, that would have a much better life doused in more cheese whiz and shoved in a roll. We do not finish it. To be honest, we don't finish much. This is a one dish kind of place, and we've ordered far more than is strictly necessary. We conclude with cannoli, and watch with pleasure as the pastry cylinders are delivered from a box behind the bar to be filled to order with a sweetened ricotta cream, studded with chocolate chips. They arrive looking like giant stubbed out cigarettes.

Price: starters and sides £4-£9.50; mains, including cheesesteak £11-£12; desserts £6; and wines from £19


The Telegraph's Sherelle Jacobs checks out South Lodge hotel's new £14m spa in Horsham, West Sussex

South Lodge's spa treatments are pleasant and luxurious, if not ground-breaking. I sampled the Omorovicza Botanical, exclusive to the hotel, which involved having my face and body lathered, scrubbed and layered with a spiky cacophony of botanical products, including camomile, sage and jojoba, until my skin lingered with a smoky, Scandi scent vaguely redolent of a Hans Christian Andersen novel. This was followed by a 10-minute "anti-ageing" Hungarian-style massage of the cheek and temples, which wasn't exactly a game-changer for tackling my frown wrinkles, but was still a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

South Lodge is more pitched at people seeking a bit of five-star pampering than serious spa seekers, so it was my deluxe pedicure - including a luxury foot mask "activated" by heated bootees and a glass of sparkling wine - that stole the show.

Price: rooms from £265, including breakfast. Score: 8/10

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