London Evening Standard, 7 January
Fay Maschler is disappointed that eating at the Ritz, London W1, does not have the timelessness and thrill that eating in a grand hotel should provide
After long deliberation I chose to start with tortellini of langoustine with cauliflower purée "Tout Paris", only to be told that it was unavailable. It would have been useful to have heard that earlier - this is the only criticism of the service, which was otherwise smart, willing and friendly. Warm native lobster with carrot purée and spiced coconut broth was so overpowered by the perfume of vanilla as to have no appeal whatsoever, which made its £28 cost even more excruciating. It was served tepid verging on cold, which emphasised the dessert-like flavour. Smoked potato and egg yolk bacon ravioli with Alsace bacon and Jerusalem artichoke, also pallid and tepid, was misconceived on about four different levels and not a pleasure. Cannon and Glazed Rib of Lamb (not, as you might be thinking, two of the diners) served with curried sweetbread and aubergine pain perdu fielded in addition a smear of unpleasant avocado and featured heavily salted meat. I never did get to the bottom of what is aubergine pain perdu beyond a pointless conceit. (Average price for a meal for two: £200 including service. Rating: 2/5).
Metro, 6 January
Marina O'Loughlin loves everything about the newly opened Dean Street Townhouse, London W1, including the clubby interior and great retro menu
Is this a restaurant or public school refectory? The hero dish is mince and potatoes, as stark a confection as it sounds. Still, I haven't eaten a proper duffer yet, not that mince, nor bacon sarnie, Scotch egg with caper mayonnaise, or potted smoked mackerel. Some of it is astonishingly good, like a pillowy smoked haddock soufflé with little jug of sorrel beurre blanc; and the roast chicken for two is a total blast: succulent, buttery, with punchy stuffing and crisp, crunchy roasties. There's an unutterably squelchy syrup pudding, also for two, which is impossible to finish (though we give it a red hot go). Niggles? Sure. A stodgy, mean-spirited chicken and leek pie (though gorgeously presented with blackbird pie funnel); weeny side dishes; too-salty salt beef with microscopic caraway dumplings. Despite staff being filched and cannibalised from London's finest - The Ivy, The Groucho - there are service hiccups. Someone I know phoned from her room for an emergency condom and was put through to the kitchen where the question was asked! Can you imagine her blushes at breakfast? And yes, I do mean someone I know, not 'someone I know'. (A meal for two with wine, water and service, costs about £80. Rating: 5/5).
Dean Street Townhouse - review in full >>
Time Out, 7 January
Guy Dimond enjoys the mixed culinary and aesthetic influences at trendy new Chinese restaurant, Seventeen in London W11
The menu's a mixture of popular styles, a bit like the 'Western' restaurants of China, only much better. Order carefully, and you can find unusual and interesting dishes. Xiao long bao - 'soup dumplings', originally from Shanghai - appear on the dinnertime dim sum menu. The pasta-like cases were delicate and filled with pork and umami-packed stock, just as they should be. A popular Cantonese ingredient, stone fish, is used in a classic Sichuan dish called shui zhu yu ('water-cooked fish'), where trim fillets are served in hot oil, flavoured with hot red chillies and the numbing flavour of Sichuan pepper. Dong po pork is another classic dish, this time from Hangzhou, near Shanghai. I first had this dish in Cheung Sang Kee, a Hangzhou restaurant in Hong Kong, and was so impressed I made a special journey one year later to the original branch in China. That dong po pork is still the best I've had: the fatty pork belly is first pan-fried then 'red-cooked' (slowly braised in a dark soy sauce); the fat becomes the texture of set custard, but imbued with rich soy, ginger and garlic flavours, and headily aromatic. (Meal for two, with wine and service, around £80. Rating: 3/5).
Seventeen - review in full >>
By Janet Harmer
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