The Guardian, 2 JanuaryMatthew Norman heralds The French Table in Surbiton as a superb local restaurant in which the quality of service and decency of pricing match the excellence of the cooking
By the time my wife was stuck into her starter, a ham hock terrine with lentils and lightly toasted walnut bread, she was beaming. "Glorious, smoky flavour," she said, "and the chutney really brings out the taste." My butternut squash soup would have been very good, with its perfect texture and the rich tang of melty cheese, but for the addition of chestnut gnocchi that made it outstanding. Frankly, I'd had grave concerns about her main course, assuming that at the first mouthful of galette of quinoa (a type of Andean grain) with winter veg and hollandaise, she'd sequester my confit of duck. "I have never eaten anything without meat or fish that's so satisfyingly delicious," was the shock reaction. "Wonderful. I see why they put it at the top of the main courses rather than hidden away at the bottom." My duck, served with good red cabbage, was crispy-skinned, juicy and flake-off-the-bony, and with a depth of flavour that declared, long before the charming waitress confirmed it, that it came from France. (A la carte, £35-40 per head, excluding drinks and service).
The Independent, 2 January
John Walsh recommends the newly opened Dean Street Townhouse in London W1 as the perfect place to escape from the winter snow and enjoy the best comfort food
I ordered twice-baked smoked haddock soufflé. It was the size, hue and shape of a crème caramel, drenched with a buttery chive sauce, and was absolutely gorgeous, soft and light as a dream, while the smokiness of the fish came through robustly. My friend Adam's Dorset crab mayonnaise was perfectly cooked, the white crabmeat miraculously fluffy, with a fine rouille of tomato and paprika on the side. Even the garnish - finely sliced cucumber and fennel with chopped dill and a final dab of oil - came in for praise. Since the Townhouse was so determinedly blokey, I ordered their only signature dish, the Townhouse mixed grill. How could they do anything new to this trencherman's feast? But they did, by bringing out the unique flavours of all the constituent parts. The Cumberland sausage was taut and peppery like the handmade sausages in my childhood. The bacon was both crunchy and sweet. The fillet steak was juicily perky. No lamb cutlet in history was as tender as this lamb cutlet (had they marinaded it in lamb stock for hours?). The kidney was cooked Á point, and carried a faint whiff of pee, not unpleasantly. (About £120 for two, with wine. Rating: food 4/5, ambience 4/5, service 4/5).
Dean Street Townhouse - review in full >>
The Observer, 3 January
Jay Rayner enjoys some great food at Galvin La Chapelle in London E1, but suggests the service should lighten up and for the prices being charged it is not as perfect as it should be
I sometimes run out of space before I get to dessert and it would be a tragedy to do so with Galvin La Chapelle. Their rum baba is quite simply the best I've ever eaten, and as I'm a sucker for light sponge soaked in sugar syrup and liquor I've eaten far too many. I order it in the hope of finding something light and ethereal, that extraordinary balance of a savarin robust enough to soak up gallons of syrup, yet light enough to fall apart on the tongue. This one does exactly that. Think kisses from kittens and the brush of angel's wings on a baby's pert cheeks, and all the other much-loved Athena poster motifs. It bests the pear tarte tatin, but only, I think, because a perfect rum baba is always going to be better than a perfect tarte tatin - even one as good as this, with crisp friable pastry held in place by a coving of sticky caramel. (Meal for two, including wine and service, £140).
Galvin La Chapelle - review in full >>
The Sunday Times, 3 January
AA Gill says the Kingham Plough in Kingham, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, serves the kind of pub food you've always dreamed of, although it comes at a price
We started with home-made scotch eggs, one of those things that are infinitely better home-made than commercially bought, then home-corned beef with black potatoes and an egg. Each of these ingredients came with a provenance, a county name and a family tree, but I'm not encouraging that sort of thing. It was well made, though I thought it tasted slightly more of jack russell than cow. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Warm salad of goose neck was excellent, a rarely offered seasonal delicacy, and there was snails and mushrooms on toast, and, for Sunday lunch, beef, pork or lamb. All came with titles and addresses. Apparently, my lamb had gone to university, reading divinity, no doubt. All of this was exactly what you'd want from a Sunday lunch in a pub: well made, generous, hot, hearty, tasty, thoughtful and, of course, measured against country wages, ruinously expensive. Main courses are £15 to £17, starters £8 or £9. But then, hey ho hey nonny no, this isn't the country, this is Oxfordshire, and everybody's nanny earns more than £50,000, so that's all right. (Rating: 4/5).
The Kingham Plough - review in full >>
By Janet Harmer
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