The Daily Telegraph, 28 November
Jasper Gerard, joined by Heston Blumenthal, praises the fine cooking at Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, London SW1, despite the astronomic prices
The Independent, 28 November
Tracey MacLeod applauds Ben and Hugo Warner for creating a restaurant - the Ashmolean Dining Room in Oxford - which lives up to its spectacular setting on top of the remodelled Ashmolean Museum
My friend's cassoulet was the proper job, its golden carapace of breadcrumbs giving way to a porky mulch harbouring Toulouse sausage and confited duck leg. My chargrilled sea bass was advertised as coming with gremolata, but arrived at the table nude; when I protested, it was removed and swiftly returned with its promised slathering of parsley and lemon zest, but with no explanation or apology. It was a nicely cooked piece of fish, though, the skin blistered from the grill, the flesh sweetened by herbs, and the accompanying boulangère potatoes were outstandingly good. As my friend observed: "It all tastes home made, in the best possible sense." And that homely touch continued through a pudding menu which offers nursery classics like treacle sponge, or our own choice, a nicely unsweet baked custard tart, the pastry butter-rich, the custard velvety under its nap of nutmeg. Our bill came to £40 a head before service, £19 of which went towards a carafe of Tinpot Hut Sauvignon Blanc. Which puts the Dining Room at the top end of the market in a city surprisingly short on good restaurants. (£20-30 a head, without wine. Rating: food 4/5, ambience 3/5, service 3/5).
Ashmolean Dining Room - review in full >> The Times, 28 November
Giles Coren enjoys his best meal of the year at Mitch Tonks' restaurant Seahorse in Dartmouth, Devon
In the golden light of our table (wall-mounted mid-lighting, Tiffany chandeliers with big, spherical, low-wattage bulbs, tea lights on tables), in the chocolaty bustle of what felt like the best restaurant in a small town in Brittany, we were given very good olives and smoked cod roe to accompany our cocktails of white port and tonic from the list of "today's apéritifs". Only the very best, most hospitable restaurateurs put apéritifs of the day on the menu. Then we had a scallop each, blasted in Mitch's astonishing 400ÂºC charcoal oven. I don't know if they were fished with a rubber glove, a submarine tractor or a stick of dynamite, but they were gorgeous: blasted to a buttery beauty with the faint aniseed tang of tarragon (maybe). A scorched circle on the shell was testimony to the heat of the oven. Then we had unbelievable local mussels, tiny and sweet, some cuttlefish in red wine, tripes Florentine, and gorgeous, juicy chicken livers grilled on skewers over wood. We drank a picpoul with those, and an albariÁ±o. And then a bottle of Tonnix - the excellent white Tonks makes with Mark Hix (the clue is in the name). (You could eat for £30/head, just. But with wine and serious fish it'll be a lot more. Rating: meat/fish 10/10, cooking 8/10, atmosphere 9/10, total 9/10).
Seahorse - review in full >>
The Observer, 29 November
Jay Rayner says Dock Kitchen in London W10 is one of the benefits of the pop-up restaurant scene
At lunch the menu is the very definition of ingredient-led. Shortly after we'd sat down, Parle popped over to say he had just received some English ceps. He'd do them any way we liked. I asked how much. He shrugged. "Probably about 12 quid?" It was all very civilized. I asked for them sautéed on toast, and he charged a tenner for perfect slices of the king of wild mushrooms, lightly caramelised with a burst of garlic and salty butter and parsley. Alongside this we had a simple, crunchy fennel salad perked up with a squeeze of lemon juice and just enough chilli. For mains we had grilled rabbit on a pile of puy lentils, brightened with a carefully balanced vinaigrette. Even better was an onglet, one of the great if undervalued steak cuts, that had been long marinated then grilled, and served not as a flat piece but more of cylinder: black outside, purple within. You knew this came from an animal that had lived. Alongside was the prosaic made gloriously elegiac: cauliflower cheese laid with salted anchovy fillets baked until they were falling apart into the heat-crusted, cheese-busted sauce. (Meal for two, including service, £70).
Dock Kitchen - review in full >>
By Janet Harmer
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