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What's on the Menu? – A round-up of the latest restaurant reviews

18 January 2010 by

The Daily Telegraph, 16 January
Jasper Gerard says Tom Kitchin's obsession for the best Scottish ingredients has helped create a great restaurant at The Kitchin, Leith, Edinburgh
Diana begins with chargrilled razor clams, described here in the delightful Scottish manner as "spoots". A more Mediterranean touch is chorizo and lemon confit, lending bite and smoky flavour to the spoots. Colourful fennel, carrots, dill, chives and parsley make this sunny and yummy. I hardly feel I'm economising with the "head to tail" pork. There is a deliciously rich quail's egg with terrine of pork (cheek, ear) with crackling, bacon and haggis, while gherkin adds acidity and texture: fun and tasty. Just as fine is roast duck, still smouldering from the 12-bore that interrupted its day, in gravy with apricots, fresh almonds and potato barbecued on a rosemary skewer. But the highlight is Diana's boudin of (ubiquitous) pork belly with Devonshire snails, with seared lettuce and a garlicky parsley sauce. A potato plinth supports the snail like a statue on Princes Street. Atop the pork is parsley fried like Chinese seaweed and garlic crisps, echoing the sauce, with juicy girolles dotted around the base. (Lunch for two: £95. Rating: 4/5).

The Independent, 16 January
John Walsh enjoys the care and intelligence shown by chef-proprietor Santino Busciglio in preparing the Sicilian- inspired menu at Mennula, London W1
I had no complaints about the rabbit wrapped in pancetta with aubergine sauce. I'm always trying to find a rabbit dish which will make the hapless bunny taste like game rather than chicken, but I'm mostly disappointed. This, however, was lovely. There was a gelatinous feel about the meat, a slithery quality, to evoke which I must reach for a word mysteriously loved by restaurant critics, "unctuous". The slow-cooked rabbit (first braised, then roasted) benefited no end from the thin-sliced and salty pancetta. An accompanying "spaghetti of carrots, pine-nuts, sultanas and cavolo nero" was an artful cat's cradle of sliced carrot and cabbage, nuts'n'raisins, but it tasted good. It was, however, served tepid - an affectation in Italian restaurants in London 20 years ago, which I thought had been dropped. Angie had a main-course plateful of linguine with lobster, basil and tomato, in which the pasta was al dente, and the lobster as mysteriously light as a Communion host. I assumed it must have been cooked from frozen. No, no, they said, bridling at the suggestion - it was flown over from Canada and had turned up in the kitchen that very day, waving its claws and antennae with feeble menace. (About £110 for two, with wine. (Rating: food, 3/5, ambience, 2/5, service 3/5).
Mennula - review in full >>
The Times, 16 January
Giles Coren launches a new campaign to check out the vegetarian credentials of restaurants and finds that Kitchen W8, in London, comes up trumps
Of the seven starters, three were fully vegetarian, one mostly veggie, and one fish - a fantastic and totally coincidental beginning to my "Back Off On Meat" (or "Boom!") campaign. As it happens, we only had one of them: a dense, rich ravioli of wild mushrooms with melted onions and trompettes de la mort, which had all the complexity and wealth of flavour you could ask for in a meatless world. Hannah had chosen that, so I got to have a dazzlingly beautiful plate of smoked eel, sliced polythene thin to dress the plate with a pale ruby sheen, on which were two sweet plugs of fresh grilled mackerel with sweet mustard and leek hearts. Utterly adorable in conception, visual effect and mouth action. Xander and Esther had a foie gras mousse with raisin purée, fruit bread and parmesan. A little too rich and sexy if anything, for me, as a starter, but a wondrous thing in itself. I'd probably have it for pudding. If I was fattening myself up for slaughter. The vegetarian main was unbelievably good again - a roil of fricasseed chanterelles, cauliflower, salsify, leeks, spaetzle and parmesan. Salsify gives an especially good, earthy account of itself in the absence of meat and with the spaetzle for length and parmesan for depth, this was a dish to make me sure I could live for ever without meat. If I had to. (About £50 a head, all in, Á la carte. Rating: Boom!, 10/10, cooking 9/10, service 9/10, overall score, 9.33/10).
Kitchen W8 - review in full >> The Observer, 17 January
Jay Rayner is happy to be served small dishes - especially when they are generously filled with flavoursome food at reasonable prices - at Polpo, London W1
Apart from the charcuterie, nothing costs much more than £6 and a lot are cheaper than that. It means you forgive those that misfire: a crostini of anchovy and chickpeas at a mere £1.10, for example, which didn't deliver enough of the salty fish, or £4 worth of pumpkin risotto, which was slippery rather than rich, and lacked flavour. More disappointing was an over-salted plate of pork belly with hazelnuts and radicchio. You know how it hurts me to see good pork belly go to waste. Other things were very good indeed. The chopped liver on another crostini had a wintery smokiness to it, as did a fold of flat bread, scorched on a griddle to black in places then layered with slices of garlicky wild mushrooms. Best value was a fritto misto of squid, anchovies and prawns in a greaseless batter. Elsewhere in town they would sting you for a tenner for this; here it's £6.60. And yes, I know I'm going on about the price, but a restaurant in the capital which doesn't feel like it's trying to knee you in the groin while lifting your wallet ought to be praised. (Meal for two, including wine and service, £50-70).
Polpo - review in full >>

By Janet Harmer
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