The Guardian, 10 July
Simon Hattenstone finds the newly opened Japanese-inspired Wabi in Horsham, West Sussex, to be suffering from an identity crisis
My duck confit in a peanut sauce is OK, but there's not enough of it and nothing for company except a tiny bundle of hay. I ask the waiter what it is. He doesn't know and goes off to find out, returning to tell me it's crispy leek. Maya settles on Chilean sea bass and asks for a portion of rice. The waiter says he doesn't know if they do rice. When the nicely cooked sea bass arrives, he has forgotten the rice. He heads off again and returns with cold sushi rice. The fish is served on a bed of dark green something. We ask another waiter what it is and whether it is edible. She doesn't know and heads off for an answer (kombu, a bitter seaweed). After our fourth course, the waiter suggests we try a plate of sushi, "to fill us up". What? We order some, anyway. A fried crab jumps out of a California roll like a strippergram from a cake, but the sushi has all the raw appeal of an M&S party pack. (Meal with drinks and service, around £55 per head)
The Independent, 10 July
Tracey MacLeod likes the look, the food and the service at Table, adjoining Myhotel in Brighton, so why are there not more customers?
Our only non-fishy dish was exactly the sort of food you want to eat in a heatwave - a Middle Eastern-inspired partnership of spatchcocked chicken, zippy harissa-flavoured yoghurt dressing and a veg-packed couscous which, unusually, not only tasted of something, but tasted actively fantastic. We ended with a deliriously good slice of chocolate nemesis. For the third time in as many restaurants, mini doughnuts appear on the menu; here a brace of them come with brandy-soaked cherries and yoghurt. Naughty, but nice Perhaps the problem with Table is that it doesn't quite fit into one camp or the other; it's independent, but part of a hotel, and its sleek appearance gives it the feel of a concept that could be rolled out, like Canteen. The menu ticks all the foodie boxes, but unless it attracts the Carluccio's crowd, it isn't going to take off. And it would be a real shame, in a city that isn't over-endowed with brilliant places to eat, if a few more Brightonians didn't get their feet under the Table. (Around £40 a head before service. Rating: food 3/5, ambience 2/5, service 4/5)
The Daily Telegraph, 10 July
Matthew Norman endures glacial service and an appealing, but poorly executed menu, at the Olde Bell Inn, Hurley, Berkshire
The boy was lukewarm about his gazpacho, itself lukewarm until the draught dragged it down towards the correct temperature. "It's perfectly nice, but it wouldn't be my last meal," was the verdict, and it was a bit Covent Garden Soup perfunctory. My chorizo with a runny duck egg cleverly drizzled with chilli oil was a nice idea well rendered, though £7 seemed cheeky for the cost of ingredients. Then again, as restaurateurs often remind us, they spend far more on the service - ha ha ha - than the food. The eyebrow-raiser added a grimace to her repertoire of disapproving facial expressions when we cited the draught as reason to move outside. In the garden we soon came to envy customers walking by with burgers collected from the barbecue. What the menu called "rack of lamb" was four large and fatty chops of adequate meat, perfectly cooked to a deep pink finish, but clumpingly presented with a Zeppelin of a potato fondant and green beans.
(Lunch for two, without wine, £80.00. Rating: 3/10)
The Observer, 11 July
Jay Rayner enjoys, good, precise French cuisine at Brasserie Joël at Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, London SE1, but believes the chef Joël Atunès deserves a better location than a place that looks like a club-class airline lounge
A gazpacho, with a scoop of tomato sorbet, was vivid and light and fresh and lots of other words that are pressed into service to denote summer. Better still was a dark, sticky dish of sweetbreads, roast cèpes and beautifully turned roast potatoes with a hunk of long-braised veal cheek served in a Le Creuset-style pan. Admittedly this made it look like a desperate ploy to save on the washing-up, but at least it kept its heat. Another dish of big, butch duck breast was served medium rare, despite my companion asking for it medium; I rather admire the kitchen's obstinacy. It came with sweet cherries, an equally butch sauce and a certain Gallic swagger. A special word, too, for a side of gnocchi soufflé, a cast-iron dish of something light and fluffy and crisp that had us scraping furiously for the best bits on the bottomIt was an enjoyable meal, but we couldn't quite shift the sense that it had been enjoyed in the wrong place, that it was a restaurant full of solo diners who were there because they needed to eat and didn't want to go out.