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

06 September 2010
What's on the Menu? – A round-up of the latest restaurant reviews

The Guardian, 4 September

John Lanchester is impressed by the cooking Gauthier Soho, in the venue that used to be Richard Corrigan's Lindsay House

Service is smoother under the new regime - a bit hovery, perhaps, but that goes with all the Michelin palaver. It was 45 minutes from our arrival until the first course came, which would have been really annoying, except there were waves of free nibbles, involving vegetables to dip in a salsa verde, a smidgen of foie gras, and a mullet and squid sort-of escabeche. What redeemed Gauthier Soho was the level of the cooking. This had some quiet patches - a pigeon dish that was a little unemphatic, lamb that also seemed polite - but at its best is truly exceptional. The best thing I ate, a risotto of summer truffles made with chicken stock, was as good a dish as any I've eaten all year. If it were my restaurant, I'd serve the cooking with fewer poncey trappings. But Gauthier can really, really cook. (Rating: 7/10)

Gauthier Soho - review in full >>

The Observer, 5 September

The sophistication of Digby Chick in provincial Stornaway surprises Jay Rayner, despite niggles with an overwritten menu

The Digby Chick is a smart, buzzy modern little bistro of the sort you could easily find on Islington High Street. The menu is not without its faults. "Seared curried scallops, smooth apple chutney, Stornoway black pudding and coriander crème fraîche", wasn't quite as exhausting to read as the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, but bloody close. What came was two fabulous, well-seasoned local scallops, expertly seared with a disc of equally fabulous blood sausage, with its crisp exterior like the summer crust on a soft marshy bog, and a couple of sauces. Another of a mackerel fritter with seared mackerel, from the set-price menu (£23 for three courses) was let down only by a light hand with the salt. If there was a fault with the main courses it was a formulaic approach. Different proteins - monkfish and lamb - came with the same heap of crushed potatoes beneath and a bird's nest of deep-fried carrot strips above. While that set-price menu keeps the bill under control, it is not cheap. Think Islington bistro prices. But, unlike in Islington, the clientele don't make you want to punch them. (Meal for two, with wine and service, £70-£100)

Digby Chick - review in full >>

London Evening Standard, 2 September

Tom Aikens' new Tom's Kitchen at Somerset House leaves Andrew Neather wondering why anyone would pay so much for food with a mass-produced feel

A portent for London's stomach? I do hope not. The new venture is unexciting. And it's insultingly overpriced, despite having trimmed prices slightly since my visit. We began with starters from a defiantly unadventurous range - gazpacho, Caesar salad, charcuterie. A salad of Devon crab with fennel and orange was somehow less than the sum of its parts, a coleslaw-like pile without any zing. Our mains arrived. Here the menu moves solidly into comfort-food territory: shepherd's pie, cod and chips, Cumberland sausages. Aikens's signature dish of seven-hour confit of lamb is served in a plain, shallow oven dish. A homely witticism? Or at £42 (for two), is the joke on you? Trying to pin down the slightly mass-produced feel, my eye settled on the small kitchen-door window, through which I could to see a chef tipping something from a large, catering-size yellow plastic bottle into a small china pot. Mustard? The Béarnaise? Chutzpah? Who knows? This is a joint venture with Compass Group: the international corporate catering giant provides the staff and facilities, while Aikens trains them and controls the menu. Why come here? The food is ordinary, the place is neither beautiful nor comfortable, and you can eat better elsewhere for far less. (Rating: 2/5)

Tom's Kitchen at Somerset House - review in full >>

The Daily Telegraph, 6 September

Mick Brown enjoys locally-sourced seafood at Webbe's Rock-a-Nore in Hastings, despite disapproving on the poncet mineral water

Webbe's Rock-a-Nore claims to have "one of the shortest ingredient journeys in Britain", which is true enough - any sufficiently martyrish crab could theoretically scuttle across the road and hop into a saucepan in little more than a minute. A "taster bar" offers a sample selection of seafood including sprats in cayenne and lemon parsley, razor clams with garlic butter, and salt and pepper squid. We went à la carte. My smoked mackerel arrived on a bed of mixed leaves and beetroot, with horseradish cream and grain mustard dressing. It was simple and delicious. My wife fared even better; her Hastings potted crab was the perfect consistency, lightly oiled and seasoned, served with a salad and toasted sourdough. The service was attentive, helpful and friendly; the food is tasty and nourishing, with good, fresh ingredients, imaginatively prepared but without any hint of pretension. Alas, that can't be said for the restaurant's own-brand mineral water, which is ludicrously described as being "purified by the classic crystal system using naturally occurring ceramic earths, ion exchange and ultraviolet light". For heaven's sake, it's only fizzy water! (Lunch for two without wine: £50-60. Rating: 7/10)

Webbe's Rock-a-Nore - review in full >>

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