Indian restaurants were the focus of this weekend's restaurant reviews but sadly the critics failed to be impressed by what they were served.
Writing in The Times, Giles Coren is horrified at the changed menu at curry chain Bombay Bicycle Club after it was taken over by Bollywood celebrity Shilpa Shetty.
"We ordered. It came. It was terrible. Don't want to talk about it," he moans. "Six or seven bowls of brown cloacal waste, containing amorphous protein chunks. The sick of an infant who lives on Dairylea Lunchables."
Zoe Williams of The Sunday Telegraph is underwhelmed by Gordon Ramsay's F Word winner Lasan in Birmingham, where despite lovely service, the food is like an "elaborate punishment for an unknown crime".
The Observer's Jay Rayner says that if you want a slice of old Bombay you won't find it at new Indian café Dishoom in London's Covent Garden. However, that doesn't stop it pulling in the crowds, forcing him to queue outside.
Meanwhile Richard Johnson, writing in The Independent on Sunday, finds a modern Italian menu with a twist at Tempo in London's Mayfair where former St Alban chef Yoshi Yamada is in charge of the kitchen.
Matthew Norman of The Daily Telegraph describes a studiedly unmemorable lunch in an instantly forgettable restaurant at Koffmann's, while John Walsh of The Independent loves the food but not the prices at Michel and Alain Roux's Waterside Inn in Bray, Berkshire.
The Times, 14 August
Giles Coren is horrified at the changed menu at curry chain Bombay Bicycle Club after it was taken over by Bollywood celebrity Shilpa Shetty
"It was her," she said, turning over my menu and pointing at an over-made-up, poodle-haired trollop in some Bollywood publicity shot who, on closer inspection, turned out to be none other than Shilpa Poppa I mean Shilpa Shetty. "She bought it," said the waitress. "She bought the whole chain. The old menus are gone. Just these dishes now. They said it would be popular. But everyone hates it." We ordered. It came. It was terrible. Don't want to talk about it. Six or seven bowls of brown cloacal waste, containing amorphous protein chunks. The sick of an infant who lives on Dairylea Lunchables. Why cubed? The meat here was always slices of chicken, big pieces on the bone, skin, fat, all that. Now it's all rhomboids from giant rectangular chickens reared on Mars and cut by machines undreamt of in Bernard Matthews' most foetid nightmares. Got home, checked internet, all true: 33% stake in V8 catering group (owner of Bicycle Club) bought by this fat dancer (who is "Co-Chairperson" and "Brand Ambassador") and her millionaire husband, with a plan, clearly, to cut costs, level down to the LOWEST common denominator, and bang out the cheapest crap imaginable with a lot of smoke and mirrors to throw people off the (rancid) scent. (Rating: 0/10)
The Observer, 15 August
Jay Rayner says that if you want a slice of old Bombay you won't find it at Dishoom, London WC2, but that doesn't stop it pulling the crowds
The chicken biryani, cooked in a pastry-sealed pot, was terrific on the aromatics, the waft of cardamom, clove and turmeric hitting my olfactory bulb before a mouthful met the tongue, though it was a little dry. Their dark, pungent sticky lamb chops rubbed with black pepper and chillies were very good indeed, the outside deeply charred, the meat still pink. I would come back here for a plate of these. Or perhaps two, maybe three with a friend. Other than that, oh dear. Bombay sausages are what you would get if a mildly ambitious home cook decided they wanted to make Indian food but only had a pack of chipolatas to hand. It was, as we call it in the restaurant reviewing trade, A Very Bad Idea. Their cheesy naan promising "melted cheddar inside" sounded awful, which is was why I ordered it. They lived down to my expectations. It is the kind of thing made by drunken students at 3am when all they have is the remains of yesterday's takeaway and a hunk of Cathedral City. (The plain naan was better.) (Meal for two, including wine and service £70)
The Sunday Telegraph,15 August
Zoe Williams is underwhelmed by Indian restaurant Lasan in Birmingham, where despite lovely service the food is like an elaborate punishment for an unknown crime.
Prawns, sautéed with spinach, with a herby onion and coriander curry (£12.95) were a disaster. The curry was thin, red and aggressive, differing from E's starter sauce only in colour. E said it was hot, but had no warmth. She kept making a face like a chipmunk, in involuntary reaction to the sharpness, rather than because she was trying to look cute. The prawns were tasteless, overcooked and yellow in the middle, which suggested to young Miss Sherlock that they had been cooked somewhere other than this very red sauce. She certainly had a point - the sauce didn't taste of the prawns and the prawns didn't taste of the sauce. A Peshwari naan (£3.50) offset the sourness, but only because it tasted like a coconut doughnut (even the dough was sweet. Usually, the desiccated fruit filling is considered sweetness enough). She held out some hope that the earthiness of the spinach might cancel out the acidity of the vinegar, leaving her with an experience close to Zen. That didn't work. And I did even worse, with the Old Delhi-style poussin (£12.95) - a spring chicken with ground coriander and roasted cumin, in a ginger-scented gravy that tasted mainly, confusingly, of Bovril. The chicken managed to be quite dry, despite its generous sousing in a gravy that was, again, strangely thin. (Rating 3/10)
The Daily Telegraph, 14 August
Matthew Norman has a studiedly unmemorable lunch in an instantly forgettable restaurant at Koffmann's, London SW1
The staff's mild froideur on arrival had faded by now, possibly thanks to the appearance of the notebook, but the sterility of the room had not. "This place," said my friend with disturbing precision, "is as anonymous as a high-class escort from Sofia." So was his main course, if much less fun: a fillet of cod, sensationally bland despite being perfectly cooked and receiving the attentions of a sauce of aubergine and olive. Mid-mouthful, he looked yearningly across at my chunks of sweet, juicy roast rabbit, served with cutesy little tomatoes on the vine, morels and artichoke hearts, this colourful ensemble enlivened by a Dijon mustard sauce. I passed over a forkful. "Mm," he said, the resentment at being the self-appointed victim of menu apartheid palpable in his tone, "that is good." The passive-aggressive atmosphere was becoming a shade marital for my taste, so I did the decent thing and swapped puddings. But it was too little too late to assuage the sense of martyrdom. "Nice," he said of his Peach Melba, "but it's not blowing my socks off." French custard with meringue from the cheapo hardly impressed either. (Rating 5/10)
The Independent, 14 August
John Walsh is impressed by the cooking at Michel and Alain Roux's three-Michelin-starred Waterside Inn in Bray, Berkshire, but slightly confounded by the prices
Amuse-bouches were lovely: a tiny steak tartare with a sliver of soft-boiled quail egg on a McCoy's-style crisp; some yummy anchovy and parmesan pastry; a tiny masterpiece of prawn with onion and pomegranate seeds exploding in your mouth. Susie and I divvied up the four starters. Her flaked Devon crab with melon balls and a salty mango jus was surmounted by a single prawn, lightly curried. It was pretty ("traffic-light colours," said Susie) and tasted terrific, but wouldn't stop traffic in Torquay. My foie gras terrine was a tranche of slimy goose liver given welcome friction by peppered pigeon breast and delicious pickled cherries - fine, but, like the single slice of brioche, not enough. A single, pan-fried scallop was seared to perfection and served with slices of summer truffle (distinct from winter truffles by tasting of nothing much) plus a green Chinese leaf containing a sorrel risotto. It wasn't a happy union. They had little to say to each other. Susie's lobster medallion in a port sauce was "delicious and well-cooked, despite being too brashly sauced". Perhaps our niggles were something to do with cash. You know? The feeling that a £50 dish should be more than tasty, it should be Homeric, miraculous, achieving a transcendent flavour that's quite new… (Rating: Food 4/5; Ambience 4/5; Service 5/5. Four-course tasting menu, £112.50 a head before wine)
The Independent on Sunday, 15 August
Richard Johnson finds a modern Italian menu with a twist at Tempo, London W1, where former St Alban chef Yoshi Yamada is in charge of the kitchen
The wonderful waiter then draws our attention to the chef's small plates (typically served in bars in Venice) called "cicchetti" (from £1.50-£4). The fatty tuna loin is heaped up on to a tiny bruschetta. Technically, it is "two bites big" and designed for sharing with friends. But sharing tuna this good would put a stress on any friendship. So I order a second. The highlight is the lardo. Lardo is the butter of Italy - a cured pork fat, striated with rosemary. It's usually used for flavouring soups, but if you want to show an old-fashioned rusticity, serve it on its own. As I pop the bruschetta into my mouth, I regret everything negative I have ever felt about the Italians and their pedantry with food. Unfortunately, given the size of the bruschetta, that regret is only short-lived. So I have high hopes of my Italian summer tomatoes (£6.50). Tomatoes don't taste like they used to. Their skins are bred for thickness to make them easy to transport. And they're never ripe - they are picked when they are green, moved to cold storage and forced to redness with ethylene gas. But Tempo douses my Italian summer tomatoes in balsamic, so that - even if they do taste different - I wouldn't know anything about it. (Rating 6/10)
By Kerstin Kühn
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