The Guardian, 17 July
Matthew Fort enjoys some thoughtful dishes made from well-sourced ingredients at the Pump House, Bristol
I was very taken by the Bath chap, which in its traditional form tends to be long on fat and thin on meat. Here, the cured pig's cheek was trimmed of fat, sliced as thin as fag paper and laid prettily on the plate with quarters of lightly pickled egg, summer truffle shavings and nasturtium leaves and petals. It was a light delight, delicately smoky, peppery from the flower, the egg providing just the right degree of ping. Sally approached her egg and asparagus, which had been baked en cocotte, with epicurean precision and every sign of pleasure. She was less whelmed by the red mullet which, although a magnificent piece of fish, she found muddled on the flavour front. Perhaps the crustacean foam put her off. Well, foams are a bit last Thursday. On the other hand, I cheerily put away the wild rabbit. It was a proper ballotine, too, a kind of sausage made with large chunks of meat in which the rabbit flavours hopped about in agreeable fashion, and were neatly offset by the sweetness of the carrot purée. (Three courses with drinks and service, £40-plus per head. Rating: 7/10)
The Times, 17 July
Giles Coren says the Magdalen Arms, Oxford, is a beacon of light in a city which lacks decent restaurants
I started with English octopus from Dorset. It was cool and beefy, purple and white and sweet as scallop flesh, tender and vinegary from the dressing like from an old-fashioned English whelk stand, and gorgeously native-tasting. Esther's asparagus served with drawn butter (posh for "clarified", I assume) was barely hatched and barely cooked, twinkly like emeralds and sweet like Haribo, and we ordered another plate of it to share because she was hunched over it like a greedy swot over a precious exam paper. I had hake with potato and chorizo for my main course and it was just dazzling: sunlight and fire, brightness and zip and howling loud yabberdabbers. The fish perfect: a thick, round cross section, white and slightly gold-gleaming, cooked perfectly to time, not 15 seconds wrong in either direction, with all the fat and density of the red and yellow meat and potato tumbling behind the gleaming fish, pushing its flavours forward like a half-unwilling champion being shoved into a bar brawl by its mates. (£120 for four, not counting booze. Rating: 8/10)
The Observer, 18 July
Allan Jenkins finds both food and service to be a hit and miss affair at Gauthier Soho, London W1, but says he will return
My companion's crab is clean-tasting, fresh if not exciting and surprisingly small (a recurring theme of the evening, as if we were Alice trapped in Wonderland). The risotto is faultless, with a generous layer of finely sliced truffles that begs to be held close to the face and inhaled. "Marmite" is the verdict from the young man a couple of tables away, but then everyone's an expert these days. Our meal takes a turn for the worse with the fish dishes. My monkfish with girolles, baby turnips, cured ham and more chicken jus offers satisfying savoury mouthfuls. But John Dory with lime, leeks and lobster velouté is a dull piece of fish the size of an After Eight that isn't saved by its slick of bisque. The meat course sees a reversal of fortunes. "Every other course is just mean," my companion smiles as my saddle of Welsh lamb is un-domed, exposing four miniature fingers of meat. This would be fine if I were seven years old - but it is not as good as my companion's guinea fowl, which falls from the bone. The best she's ever eaten, she says smugly. The star of her dish is the accompanying crunchy chard with mousseron. (Meal for two, including wine and service, £138).
The Sunday Telegraph, 18 July
Zoe Williams swoons over the characterful food that makes the most of local produce at the Elephant in Torquay
I started with a simple beetroot and goats' cheese salad, a pretty root mixture of pink and gold, with a scatter of cress and a wonderfully fresh-tasting, powerful elderflower dressing. When something has been sourced down the road, can you taste it? Normally I think that's phooey, but what sprang into my head was "Garden! This tastes as if it all came from someone's garden!" My companion, G, had the scallops with apple and cucumber, which was pretty good: it was a tiny bit zingy for my liking, but it has to be a good thing when an apple and a cucumber even have the muscle to assert themselves like this. The vegetables in particular are stunning here. G went on to have a Cornish sea bass with Cockington ramsons (wild garlic from the nearby town of Cockington). It was plump, spiky (in flavour not appearance) perfection. The fish was great, too. My Crediton confit duck leg was so soft it bordered on crumbly, so its black-pudding accompaniment worked very well on a textural level, though I felt something a bit less yielding and more bolshy might have broken up the richness. A warm vinaigrette of apples and lentils was fine. (Three courses: £29.50. Rating: 7/10)
By Janet Harmer
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