The Guardian, 15 August
Matthew Fort finds eating at The Crown at Whitebrook, Monmouthshire, is agreeable in every respect
The Crown is comfortable in a well-mannered, chintzy way, and the staff are charming and well schooled. Pretty soon I was forking down poached and roast squab with foie gras, butterscotch and gingerbread, which is not as odd a combination as it might at first appear…However outre some of the ingredients, each dish knows where it's going and how it's going to get there. So the warm, toffee sweetness of butterscotch nuzzled the soft, sweet delicacy of the foie gras and the muscular squab breasts like a swath of pashmina around the throat, with thin wafers of gingerbread providing the faintest spritz of spice to liven things up. This wasn't the only dish to declare Sommerin's penchant for unexpected combinations. Smoked eel and pig's trotter? Langoustines, fennel and white chocolate? Pork with pickled carrots and coconut? There is clearly a distinctive palate at work here. In lesser hands, such a meal could be not so much a car crash as a multiple pile-up, but it is not, because the ingredients are handled with originality, assurance and, more importantly, a keen sense of pleasure. (£45 a head for three courses from the à la carte menu; lunch is £25 for two courses, £28 for three).
The Times, 15 August
Melanie Reid says Scotland has never before seen anything like the "delightfully dotty" 21212 in Edinburgh
Mains include lamb assiette, sweetcorn, dates, walnuts, soy sauce au lait. Or fillet of trout, smoked mackerel, banana confit, cucumber, gordal olive-buttered cream. How about slow-cooked black pudding, bacon, ham, cream cheese, celery, potato, fig purée? Halibut and smoked salmon with braised chicory, Savoy cabbage, black peppercorns, strawberries? Potions, I tell you, potions. Of course, you southerners have been going on about Heston Blumenthal for years, and the playful twists and ways of making us look afresh at ingredients and combinations are classic tricks of the molecular gastronomy trade. But you have to realise how totally new this is to us north of the border, and in Edinburgh of all places, where such touches should be too high-church and complicated for our suspicious, east-windy Calvinist souls. (Dinner, five courses for £60; lunch, two courses £20, three courses £30, four courses £40, five courses £50).
21212 - review in full >>
The Daily Telegraph, 15 August
Jasper Gerard is equally bowled over by the rule-breaking pleasures of Paul Kitching's food at 21212
Kitching seduces us into liking what we have been taught to distrust. His mentor at Gidleigh Park was the celebrated Shaun Hill. "Shaun," Kitching smiles "is mad." So I feel moved to reveal that Hill had told me precisely the same about Kitching. "Ah, well, Shaun made me mad."â¦My starter is described as "fresh salmon nugget, trio of carrots, walnuts, barley and sultanas". But why is it so smoky? It's covered, I discover, in kipper sauce, which secretes a large pocket of smoked caviar. In every mouthful there's a carnival of taste, from sweet sultanas to crunchy walnuts. This leaves Diana with a summer ragout of scallops and black pudding, artichoke, chicory and curried Brazil nuts. "My palate is being taste-bombed," she exclaims. "Scallops and black pudding is a recognised combination, but there's also peppery salami. And the chicory isn't bitter, it's braised and sweet. And what a contrast in texture to the crunchy nuts." (Dinner for two, £168 including wine. Rating: 4/5).
21212 - review in full >>
The Independent, 15 August
Tracey MacLeod describes Damson in Stockport as the perfect local restaurant
Damson, which opened in April, is a place any one of us would kill to have on our local high street. Everything about it works wonderfully well; the stylish, understated room, the friendly, well-informed young staff and best of all, the menu full of things you really want to eat, from baked sea-bass with ragu of squid and tomato to sirloin steak and "real chips". After years at the Chop Houses, head chef Simon Stanley is obviously enjoying getting in touch with his feminine side. There's a lightness and some playfulness to his cooking, anchored by rock-solid technique. Take my starter, a rich crab and parsley risotto whose dark depths were topped by a surf-like froth of foamed bisque, and in a cheeky seaside reference, a skewer of deep-fried cockles, finished with salt and vinegar. More simply composed, but just as good, was a main course of slow-cooked belly pork, the fat well-rendered under a crisp carapace of golden crackling; with it, a slick of perfectly smooth, buttery mash and the palest green apple purée. (Around £35 a head with wine (set lunch £12 a head for two courses, £15 for three. Rating: food 3/5, ambience 4/5, service 4/5).
Damson - review in full >>
By Janet Harmer