Sunday Times, 13 December
AA Gill says Aqua Nueva, London W1, is the first restaurant for ages that has been seriously poisoned by its design.
There are things hanging from the roof, hundreds of things, thousands of turned wooden things, streams like trolls' shower curtains. Who knows what they're for, or why they are. It's a suspended avalanche of trine. Spindles, or butt plugs. They've been hung with numbing effort and precision, and you can't stop looking at them, and wondering, why? Why did they do this? What is it for? Why does it irritate me this much? Is it some sort of Japano-Iberic feng shui? The rising fury and inability to ignore The Hanging Things is so annoying that, all on their own, they would stop me ever going back. If they'd set the table with a pair of scissors, I wouldn't have been responsible for the design mayhem I might have caused. (Rating 1/5)
The Guardian, 12 December
Matthew Norman declares The Modern in Manchester as the last place on earth anyone would choose for their final meal The hint of amateur hour offered by twice getting the answerphone on ringing for directions after 1pm was confirmed by my starter, from a menu with pretensions to the gutsiness of the Hinds Head and its many imitators. Soused Orkney herring and anya potato salad were chunks of rollmop artfully plopped on to new potatoes. Nothing wrong with that for an effortless lunch at home, but cheeky indolence at £5.50. I was wincing at the worst glass of wine I've ever lacked the strength to send back (from a bottle of pinot grigio that must have been opened in the 80s) when "a hotpot of slow-braised mutton shoulder & Cuan oyster with pickled heritage beetroot" (Lancashire hotpot in English) arrived. For £8.25, this wasn't so bad, albeit the gravy was watery and way oversalted, the meat astoundingly tasteless for mutton and the potato overcooked. At £16.50, however, it was a calumny. As for my pud, warm parkin - "A northern kind of treacle tart," explained the incongruously warm and expert waitress - struck me more as McVitie's Jamaica Ginger Cake swimming in treacle. (Prices per head for three courses, with wine and coffee, around £45-55.
The Modern - review in full >>
The Independent on Sunday, 13 December
Lisa Markwell enjoys well-executed simple dishes from chef Scott Davis at Llys Meddyg in Newport, Gwent
Luckily there are four of us, so between us we cover all the dishes from a menu that wears its Welshness lightly - descriptions mercifully stop short of telling us which allotment produced the potatoes. There are local sprats with home-made tartare sauce; fig, ham hock and Caerphilly salad; or pumpkin and Parmesan soup to start. Main courses are gnocchi with perl las and pine nuts, game pie with root-vegetable mash and sprouting broccoli or fishcakes with a poached egg and hollandaise sauceâ¦ My game pie, served in a dinky, cast-iron casserole dish, is all killer, no filler. That is to say, big chunks of venison and pheasant with a rich gravy topped with meltingly soft pastry (no great big mushrooms or onions taking up space). The fishcake is packed full of flavour, good texture and is, crucially, what Mr M calls a "man-sized portion". (£60 for two, including wine. Rating: 15/20).
Llys Meddyg - review in full >>
The Observer, 13 December
Jay Rayner says the exemplary food at Seven Park Place by William Drabble, London SW1, is marred by the joyless eating experience
The problem is that the 26-cover space is an afterthought, a few corners and cubbyholes around a bar which have been flounced and primped and decorated to within an inch of their lives: beige leather banquettes, ironic takes on flock for the wallpaper, deadening carpets. But enough. If you do come here - and Drabble deserves your attention - you will find yourself in a quiet corner of London (think deathly hush) eating very well indeed. It begins with a taster of tuna loin, seared to within just millimetres, leaving a dark red eye, alongside an avocado cream. His lobster raviolo starter with a butter sauce and caramelised cauliflower is the very essence of rich, indulgent neoclassical cooking. A fricassée of snails and bacon, with darkly caramelised vegetables, comes with a curl of mashed potato embedded with more snails and silky dots of an exquisitely balanced garlic cream. A main-course assiette of veal - a beignet of the sweetbreads, darling little rounds of the loin, a rosy red piece of the tongue - is smart and detailed without being overwrought. Best of all are two expertly cooked breasts of grouse, the right shade of crimson on a lightly acidic blackberry sauce. All of this sits on a fritter densely flavoured with the liver, but with a curious though not completely pleasant, grainy texture. We forgive him this on account of the fabulous breasts. (Meal for two, including drinks and service, £140).
Seven Park Place - review in full >>
By Janet Harmer
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