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

22 March 2010 by
What's on the Menu? – A round-up of the latest restaurant reviews

The Guardian, 20 March
Matthew Norman praises Florence Fowler and Tony Abarno for transforming the Magdalen Arms in Oxford from a puke'n'sawdust football venue into a cracking bistropub

The menu, which is modern British with strong Italian influences, this daily changing paean to rustic cooking based on local produce brought a grateful tear to the eye. My roast wood pigeon with braised chicory and semolina gnocchi was beautifully understated, the gentle seasoning allowing the gaminess of the pigeon its freedom, and wild rabbit with fennel and chorizo replicated the sweet-sour balance of the beetroot starter. Pork "cooked like boar" had been long marinated and slow cooked to a remarkably tender finish, and came with delectably crispy polenta, but the guv'nor was a big, juicy chunk of roasted hake with Puy lentils, cavolo nero and aiöli. Simplicity, as so often, was king. Puddings were terrific, too, especially indecently moreish homemade praline ice cream, but then so was everything else. The wine list is short, thoughtful and as fairly priced as the food, and despite a busy room the service was jolly and expert. (Three courses, with wine and coffee, £30-40 a head).

The Independent on Sunday, 21 March
Lisa Markwell declares that London is richer in every way by the return of Bruno Loubet to the city at Bistro Bruno Loubet at the Zetter hotel, London EC1

How better to test the bistro-ness of a bistro than by eating a daube? Loubet's is advertised as the classic - stewed beef with ProvenÁ§ale flavours, accompanied by mousseline potatoes (at £16.50). It arrives in Staub cast iron (the Rolex of casseroles), correctly spoonable beef with soft tomatoes, courgettes and peppers. This is seriously high-class comfort food. Mr M's pan-fried breast of wood pigeon, cauliflower, almond and quinoa and giblet sauce, meanwhile, looks and is more adventurous - served scattered across the plate - but the crunch of the nuts with the meaty pigeon and thinly sliced cauliflower works well. It is at once piquant and woody, a marriage far more successful than it might sound. It's possibly not necessary to order more food, but with Valrhona chocolate tartlet, caramel and salted butter ice-cream on offer, I'm afraid greed gets the better of me. It is, quite simply, the best desert I've eaten in recent memory. Quiveringly fondant chocolate, crisp pastry shell and the salty sweetness of the ice cream all come together in lip-smacking gorgeousness. A triumph? You bet. (Rating: 17/20)
Bistro Bruno Loubet - review in full >>

The Observer, 21 March
Jay Rayner recommends Eddie Gilbert's in Ramsgate, Kent, as the place to go for intriguing fish cookery with flair

There are certain food combinations which cannot but thrust you back to childhood in a lovely, uncloying manner, and a boiled egg and soldiers is one of them. Here, though, it is a duck egg, served soft, the top expertly sliced, the visible circle of sunflower-yellow yolk dusted with seasoning. Alongside it is a cone filled with strips of smoked eel that have been breaded and deep fried. Dip. Crunch. Dip, scoop, crunch and repeat. Oh my. The salt of the eel, the lusciousness of the egg. I could write fragmented sentences about this one dish all day. It speaks of smarts in the kitchen which are obvious elsewhere: in a plate of vodka and beetroot-cured smoked salmon its fringes the colour of a tart's knickers, with a cooling and coolly understated horseradish and potato mousse; or another of seared squid in a ripe pond of buttery chilli, spring onions and ginger. (Meal for two, including drinks and service, £35-70)
Eddie Gilbert's - review in full >>

Time Out, 23 March
Guy Dimond likes Mark Hix' s latest offering, Hix at Selfridges in London W1, for the cocktails and the view of the capital's coolest shoppers, but finds fault with the cheeky pricing and dizzy service

‘Starters. Purple sprouting broccoli £9.25.' Now that's got to be pretty impressive broccoli, thinks I. Either that or a typo. But it's neither. The small plate of steamed cruciferous greens is served with pieces of pickled walnuts (a bit like vinegary olives) and some shavings of Lancashire cheese. It was a lovely combination of flavours, which I suggest you could knock up at home in about five minutes for under a quid. The cheeky pricing continued with another starter of smoked anchovies served in thin, purple discs of cooked beetroot, topped with shavings of fresh horseradish root. Again, a great combo, though £8.75 for a starter portion seems a bit steep. Throughout the whole meal we were torn between thinking: This is great food, and checking our arms and legs were not going to be removed on departure to settle the bill. Chicken kiev was fried, spry, crisp and dry, the meat favourful and the buttery centre boasted with wild garlic (£16.75). A tiny side dish the size of an ashtray contained steamed spinach for a rapacious £3.95. (Rating: 3/5)
Hix at Selfridges - review in full >>
By Janet HarmerCaterer Eats Out
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