John Lanchester says London Vietnamese restaurant group Mien Tay's Northampton outpost is even better than in the capital
My concern at writing about the out-of-town Mien Tay was that it would be less good than the London versions and I'd end up saying don't go here, go there. The outcome was more troubling still: this Mien Tay is better even than my local one. That might be to do with how quiet it was - on a Tuesday lunchtime, the two of us were the only customers in the place. We had the chef's full attention, and he made the most of it. There is a starter that everyone who goes to any branch of Mien Tay has to try at least once: grilled quail with honey, garlic and spices. Even people such as myself who don't much like quail, and who find honey very easy to over-use, like this delicate but meaty dish, which comes with a dipping salt that both cuts and emphasises the sweetness of the honey. It's guaranteed to end with an obscene climax of finger-licking. Pork and prawn crispy pancake with bean sprouts is one of several Vietnamese dishes to which you add your own mix of lettuce, mint and dipping sauce. Fresh, crunchy and, thanks to the liberal use of green stuff that is such an attractive feature of Vietnamese cooking, light.
Price: Meal with drinks and service, from £10 lunch, £15 dinner.Mien Tay review in full >>
Jay Rayner says the food at the Midland Hotel matches the super building and the view
There are many other good things here. Soft, sweetly soused fillets of mackerel come with crunchy autumn salads; a competently made piggy terrine, with a strip of beetroot running through it, is served with slices of still-warm toasted brioche. A sea bass fillet, with skin seared to crisp, is laid on grilled globe artichokes which in turn float on a gentle chive beurre blanc. Best of these savoury dishes is lamb, both as medium-rare fillet and as braised shoulder, on Puy lentils and roasted winter vegetables. The meat is especially good, which is as it should be. Some of the best lamb in Britain is raised on the lush hillsides of Cumbria just across the bay, and this is the best of that, complete with the depth of flavour that only comes with a little age. The dessert menu - a crème brûlée, a chocolate delice, a sticky toffee pudding, cheese - is on the big C side of conservative, and also delivers the meal's only misstep. The sticky toffee pudding is dry and dense. Given that Cartmel, the spiritual home of this classic, is also just across the water, this can be regarded as a shameful crime, which could invite punishment involving ducking stools and mouldy root vegetables. The crème brûlée is more than workmanlike, however, and the choice of cheeses a little more extensive than usual.
Price: Meal for two, including drinks and service, £80-£100Midland Hotel review in full >>
The Independent12 NovemberJohn Walsh finds uninspired cooking and absurd prices at the Hansom Cab in Earl's Court, London W8
Sophie's halibut was well executed and served, "but it's very ordinary," she said. "Nothing's been done to make it interesting." The same went for the puddings. Eton Mess was rendered uninteresting by being served with the meringues un-smashed; it simply wasn't messy enough. And a free helping of vintage Stilton served beside a slice of Marco Pierre White fruitcake just looked silly, like a slice of cherry tart served with vichyssoise. The problem with the Hansom Cab is two-fold. First, the food displays no particular skill or imagination beyond the chef's ability to use a grill. It's cooked, but not transformed. And second, everything is absurdly expensive. My bread and dripping was £7.50! Halibut was £21.50, rib-eye steak £22.50, my dodgy veal was a ludicrous £28.50, as was the Dover sole. Who are they kidding? Modern London diners are becoming used to paying £30 for a seared fillet of beef in Park Lane or Mayfair - but in a tarted-up boozer in Earl's Court? Leave it, as they say, out.
Rating: Food 2/5; Ambience 2/5; Service 4/5
Price: £120 for two, with wineThe Hansom Cab review in full >>
The Independent on Sunday13 NovemberAmol Rajan has the most calorific meal of the year at Wolfgang Puck's Cut but enjoys each bite
On the lunch menu, the starters vary from Austrian oxtail bouillon (a broth) with chervil and bone-marrow dumplings (£9) to an Australian wagyu (a breed of cattle highly prized for its flavour) steak sashimi, with spicy radishes and Greek cress (£18). The broth is hot with the taste of iron and the chervil - a kind of delicate parsley - is ideal in accompaniment. There is an extensive seafood selection for the mains, the most expensive of which is a sautéd Dover sole for £39. But this is my first Puck experience, so it seems insensitive to avoid the mammals on offer, most of which give the appearance of having been massaged to increase their fat quotient. For £48, there is a tasting of New York sirloin, which is, in fact, cuts of American, English and Australian steak. These are faultlessly done. There is variation in the marbling, so that with all cooked medium-rare, the English is the most succulent, while the Australian gives off the strongest aroma. You get a sauce with your main course, and can add an extra one for £1.50. There are five to choose from - béarnaise, home-made steak sauce, Armagnac and green peppercorn, wasabi-yuzu kosho butter (concentrate on the first and last words) and creamy horseradish - each of which is mouthwatering.
Rating: 8.5/10Price:About £250 for two, including winehttp://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/reviews/cut-at-45-park-lane-london-w1-6260021.html" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">Cut review in full >>
The Times12 NovemberGiles Coren reviews Roganic, Simon Rogan's two-year pop up in Marylebone, London W1
Grilled langoustine, purple sprouting, elder and loganberry oil. Great little langoustine. Dusted with "ash" or something. Well seasoned. Not sure what the berries brought to it. (Was this the dish served under a bell jar filled with wood smoke and smelling of cap guns? Something was.) Royal kidneys cooked in chicken fat, snow peas, goats' curd and clam juice. Royal kidneys were potatoes. Two weeny pieces. Snow peas raw and sliced. Little smear of white curd. Made a good mouthful. Skate belly, young beetroot, caramelised cauliflower and king scallop. Skate belly a long column of fish, warm. Perfect. Good scallop. Cumbrian rose veal cooked in buttermilk, cobnuts, savoy and mead sauce. Veal perfect. Small medallion. Dark brown sauce very sticky. Three nuts. Warm salted chocolate, William pear, chestnuts and buckthorn. Chocolate came out of aerosol, warm, like a poo machine. Bilberries, dried caramel, natural yogurt and iced lemon thyme. Weeny deconstructed crumble. Caramel was crunchy dust.
Price: six-course lunch/dinner, £55; ten courses, £80 (with drinks/service bound to hit £300 for two).Roganic review in full - available only to Times online subscribers>>
The Sunday Times13 NovemberAA Gill says Brunswick House Cafe, London SW8, is like the canteen for Harry Potter and the Ghostly Open Sandwich
And it's filthy. No, that's libellous. It looks like all these decrepit and disintegrating things will slowly be depositing the dust of ages into your lunch. The waitress was short and appealing. She pointed out a blackboard menu that was short and unappealing. I had beans and ham hock, which was a viscous sludge of broad beans with pink shards of salty pig, and came with a piece of very dry bread. It was insistently evocative of the workhouse and amateur productions of Oliver Twist. The fork I was given had enjoyed its last meal so much, it had kept seconds between its tines. Its helpmeet spoon had kept the crisp reminder of its breakfast on its back. Molly had a beef sandwich: two bits of staleish loaf with hacked cow that was sticky, sweaty and cold as a fever, with a nest of rocket that fell out of the bread like autumn leaves. It was glued together with a tablespoon of napalm horseradish that shot up your nose like a cure for cocaine. There was also a plate of salad that was so badly made, it might have been someone's therapy: mutilated vegetables with slimy grey couscous.
Rating: 3/5Brunswick House Cafe review in full - available only to Times online subscribers>>
The Daily Telegraph12 NovemberMatthew Norman is impressed with the authentic tapas menu served at Tapas Revolution set within the Westfield Shopping Centre in White City, London W12
Prawns, or gambas, were suffused with red chilli and fresh herbs, while pinchos morunos, three skewers of beef, came with a devilishly chillified tomato sauce. The one blemish was a dish of pimientos de padrón so blisteringly overheated that we were less concerned that all the flavour had been cauterised out of them - though it had - than that they might melt our tooth enamel. These were quickly replaced, but none of the substitutes had the eye-watering pepper power that roughly one in six pimientos should possess to lend the dish its Russian-roulette allure. One highlight was carrilleras, a small but delectable serving of slow-braised pork cheek. "Delicious, but in Spain they'd give you a basket of bread to mop up the sauce," said El Goosio, the Top Gun wannabe to my left, although the chap who guards his menus so jealously is not one to lavish you with freebies. Joint favourite was a paella with clean, distinct and subtle flavours, and with none of the metallic twang it often has in Britain. "Better than Andalusia," said my friend. "More delicate."
Rating: 4/5Price: Six dishes shared between two with beers and coffee, about £20 per headTapas Revolution review in full >>
Sunday Telegraph13 NovemberZoe Williams says the 10-course tasting menu at Roganic, London W1, is fascinating, awe-inspiring, confusing, dazzling and delicious
The first course was described as heirloom tomatoes, poached lamb tongue and dill custard, and arrived in layers, the lambs' tongues buried at the bottom (which, for the squeamish, is the best place for them). The tomatoes were on the top, having been heavily smoked into a state of alarming tastiness, then set in jelly. This was delicious, the richness of the lamb particularly drawn out against the subtlety of the dill, but I'm afraid it also reminded me of the Friends episode in which Rachel accidentally puts mince in a trifle. So I approached it with gusto, but also a wincing fear that I might find a strawberry; this whiff of danger could be when I first started thinking of it as art. Then came the Braddock White duck egg yolk (this variety, incidentally, was hitherto only famous because someone bought a box in Waitrose and two of them hatched into ducklings. Yes, they really did!) with pickled roots and ox-eye-daisy leaves, which have a rough-toothed edge, are zesty and fresh, with a spiky, bitter topnote, like an angry adolescent. The egg yolk had been cooked for 45 minutes at 63 degrees. I pass that on for nerds. I loved this dish.
Price: Ten courses: £80Roganic review in full >>
The London Evening Standard10 NovemberFay Maschler enjoys the modern British menu served up at the three-month pop-up restaurant by the Young Turks at the Ten Bells, London E1
A long wait and then come green radishes, an Oriental variety, finely mandolined and steamed accompanying smoky squid rings and a powerful, verdant tarragon purée. This and the following - after another long wait - assembly of crisp Jerusalem artichoke slices, roasted onion layers and big-fisted watercress are the two culinary highlights of the evening. The onion dish seems the perfect evocation of Bonfire Night, which it happens to be. A hallmark of the New Kids on the Block school of catering - a category in which I include Noma, where McHale spent a brief time - is playfulness with textures, including an appreciation of the pleasure in crunch. Both the slow-cooked soft ox cheek of the meaty course and the poached pear with honey granita in the dessert of chestnut mousse were topped with contrasting textures, something like Indian sev in the case of the ox cheek, seemingly pulverised brandy snap for the granita. It is a fine notion but makes less of an impact through immediate repetition. An admirable policy towards wines on the brief list is a constant mark-up of £10 on the bottle price.
Price: Set menu £39 pp plus drinksThe Young Turks at the Ten Bells review in full >>