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

15 March 2010 by

The Observer, 14 March
Jay Rayner finds that, unlike many places he reviews, the Canton Arms, London SW8, is true to itself

The Canton Arms - review in full >>

The Sunday Telegraph, 14 March
Zoe Williams enjoys a mainly wonderful, partly weird meal at the West House, Biddenden, Kent

There arrived some wonderful bread, with a condiment of whipped pork dripping. S revealed that he'd spent his studenthood going from butcher to butcher (this was in Sheffield), taste-testing their dripping. I've never had a more serendipitous match of companion and fat product. The whole thing was delicious, like bacon reincarnated as squirty cream - lovely but weird, which is exactly what I'd say about my starter, cured foie gras with caramel pineapple, sweet wine jelly and sesame crunch (it's three courses for £25 at lunchtime, £35 in the evening). The foie gras had been grated - I can only imagine as an economy - so that it fluffed up like a cloud. It was still delicious but it was also pretty sparing. The caramel fruit was very good; it worked well against the liver. And the jelly was tasty though incredibly alcoholic. The sesame crunch was exactly what it said on the tin, that intensely sweet but annoyingly worthy ‘treat' you give to children who aren't allowed proper treats, sitting there in huge shards, daring the rest of the ingredients to stand up to it, which none of them could. I ended up shovelling it into my mouth on its own (well, come on, it might be strange but it's still a treat). S had the warm haddock carpaccio with bacon dressing, pickled rock samphire and pea shoots, and this was lovely, far more predictable. If I had one tiny niggle it would be that the samphire had been slightly aggressively pickled. He continued with the star of the show: fried pig's head, roast pork belly, twice-cooked duck egg, and an anchovy and caper vinaigrette. For the pig's head picture a spam fritter, then make the meat really classy - rich, but still a bit grubby and street. Profoundly piggy. (Three courses: £35. Rating: 7.5/10)
The West House - review in full >>

The Sunday Times, 14 March
Kate Spicer, eating out with chef Tom Aitken, says the Crab Shakk in Glasgow may lack finesse, but it is somewhere to go for a good time

The crab cakes are famous at the Crab Shakk, and deservedly so; we all had one of these little buttons of just crab, with a hint of chilli and seasoning, and no unnecessary bulking agent - as the gods have it - and all agreed they were near to perfect. Tom was a cautious reviewer's buddy. He knows how hard it is to do restaurants, and how stupidly easy it is to write bad reviews. He wasn't going to play poacher-turned-gamekeeper for me. Neither was he going to get into describing food. "When I asked how his lemon sole with shallot butter was, he replied, "It's good." Why? "'Cos it tastes nice." What makes it good, though? "Like I said, 'cos it tastes nice." I asked Tom if he thought critics were ignorant tossers and he said, "No… not all of them." An early memory of mine is of my parents getting a bit giddy at the thought of going to Newlyn, in Cornwall, to buy crab off the quay, and here were my two brown fellas, certainly fresh, not far off living, even, but nobody had done the dirty work and extracted the white meat for me. I regretted not having gone for a less labour-intensive experience, like the smoked mackerel and horseradish club sandwich. And where was the finger bowl? I got in a right royal fishy mess. The crab might have inspired more joy in me had the chips whiffed of a once-muddy potato rather than the freezer, and if the mayonnaise had had more of the rich egginess of a home-made version. (Rating: food 3/5, atmosphere 4/5)
Crab Shakk - review in full >>

Time Out, 16 March
Guy Dimond is delighted that Bruno Loubet has returned to London from Australia and is cooking as brilliantly as he has ever done at Bistrot Bruno Loubet, The Zetter hotel, London EC1

The menu's thoughtfully constructed to satisfy novelty seekers, but at the same time won't scare off the conservative palate. Confit lamb shoulder, perfectly tender and disintegrating under the fork, used the classic southern French match with white beans, but was also pepped up with North African preserved lemon and harissa. A more daring option was slow-cooked hare (lièvre royale). Hare has a strong, gamey flavour, in this case very slow-cooked and matched by a dense and dark reduced sauce of a type that was common in Escoffier's day, but seldom seen in the twenty-first century. Yet the dish was a paragon of its type, the intense, bosky flavours lightened by a slightly comical topping of a single, onion-filled raviolo. Playful French desserts are another Loubet strength. A ‘rice pudding panna cotta' was a well-textured hybrid of the two desserts, with lashings of marmalade lurking at the bottom on its little clay pot. And the accompanying madeleines would have made Proust swoon. Loubet's take on a millefeuille had dense, not unpleasantly chewy pastry sandwiching poached apple, served with a light custard delicately scented with orange blossom. (Rating: 5/5)
Bistrot Bruno Loubet - review in full >>
By Janet Harmer

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