The Daily Telegraph, 21 July
Mark Palmer visits Leon, London SW3
Who is Leon? It seems a sensible question given that his name is here, there and everywhere in the busier munching parts of the capital. Then, on stepping inside the Knightsbridge branch across the road from Harrods, I pick up a postcard showing a dark-haired man leaning on the dusty bonnet of a car, with a caption that reads: "Leon in Praia da Rocha, 1965". "Who is Leon?" I ask a Brazilian member of staff (although at Leon they would prefer staff to be known as members of the "Leon family", especially if you have registered your details and are happy to be "gently updated" with any Leon comings and goings and generally feel that you are part of the team). "Yes, we are Leon," she says, sweetly. "I know, but I just wonder if Leon is the founder or the money-man or a relative of the owners?" "Leon is the name where we is," she explains. And we leave it at that.
The Times, 21 July
Giles Coren visits La Petite Maison, London W1
This week, yet again, I have a really wonderful restaurant for you. I'm sorry this keeps happening. You must think I'm going soft. I haven't hammered a place in ages, and I know how you love a hammering. All the surveys say so. It's why the "my-starter-tasted-like-poo-in-a-sock" school of restaurant criticism is so much to the fore these days. Not because restaurants are any worse than they used to be (au contraire), but because grotesquely negative reviews seem to be what people enjoy most. "The omelette tasted of dog biscuits and old gramophone," we write, meaninglessly, and you fall about. "The soup was browner than a Frenchman's mother and twice as slimy; the waiter was so rude you could have bottled his breath and called it Fergus; I wouldn't eat here if it was the last pub in Oslo and my horse was on fireâ¦"
The Independent, 21 July
John Walsh visits The Forge, London WC2
The Forge is the new eating-house from Robert Seigler who gave the capital Le Café du Jardin and Le Deuxieme, both with a WC2 address. This, his third Covent Garden restaurant (is it time to have a word with the Monopolies Commission?), is on the site of what used to be Inigo Jones, a restaurant with a reputation for being scarily over-priced. It's a peculiar, faux-Gothic building, matched by the deeply peculiar décor, menu and cooking of The Forge itself. My guest, Amanda, and I sat in a kind of corridor outside the main dining area, trying to work out why the new owners had laid one wall to exposed bricks (nice homely touch) but installed silver panelling in the ceiling (nasty Doctor Who touch) and why the paintwork, though aspiring to Kelly Hoppen, looked like it came from B&Q.
The Guardian, 22 July
Jay Rayner visits La Petite Maison, London W1
With certain restaurants you need to know more than what they serve and whether it's any good. You need a user's manual, a little advice to help you get the best out of it. La Petite Maison is such a place. If you choose to go, and I think you should, here's what you do: before drinks, menus or even the word ‘hello' has been offered, tell your waiter that you want the whole Blackleg chicken and that it should go in the oven now. Why? First, the poulet de noir au foie gras, to give the dish its full menu name, is a whole chicken and it takes at least an hour to roast one of those properly, and you don't want to be twiddling your thumbs between starter and main course. And secondly, it is the most thrilling dish to arrive on a London menu in years.
Are You Ready To Order?
Jan Moir visits Pinchito Tapas, London EC1, and Barrafina, London W1
At Pinchito Tapas, which recently opened in London, the vibe is merry, the décor is modern and comfortable and the lively, can-do spirit is evident in the way the roof of the back area has been removed, to give gasping Pinchito customers the opportunity to smoke in comfort. Cool. In fact, everything about Pinchito is pretty cool, even if some of the cooking lacks a certain grace and accuracy. However, the low prices engender good will and the staff are so enthusiastic that the odd transgression is forgiven. There is a long list of daily specials - although news that they have run out of the wild boar cheeks makes tears run down S's own cheeks - and a short menu featuring standard fare such as boquerones at £4, pollo al ajillo (£5), a mixed cheese platter (£5) and a bowl of ensaladilla rusa for £4.
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By Janet Harmer