Two Italian restaurants provide the most positive restaurant reviews in the weekend's newspapers.
Christopher Hirst of The Independent finds little about the interior design of La Lanterna in Scarborough, with its various vinous impedimenta, to inspire him, but once he stars to gets into his meal, he realises that this is an exceptional Italian restaurant. Offering Piedmontese dishes with a Yorkshire twist, the menu ranges from a fish stew ("stufato di pesce di Scarborough con crostone") at £9.95 to a seasonal starter of carpaccio topped with white truffle "from £33".
Another Italian eaterie - this time, Trullo in North London - has Giles Coren writing an enthusiastic review in The Times. As well as being served some sublime dishes, he also enjoys the single best bit of service he has had in 15 years as a restaurant critic. When he asks for "one very small piece of bread", the waitress returns immediately with just that. While it is not a major request, it is one that few restaurants accurately fulfill.
Meanwhile, Jay Rayner of The Observer is not so lucky on his visit to Redhook, a seafood and steak restaurant. He is served wrongly portioned steaks and awful desserts, including a banana tarte tatin that tasted of burnt sugar. "Clumsy, unnecessary, and a waste of my time," is how he sums up the experience.
Guy Dimond of Time Out is enthused by the second branch of Geales fish restaurant, which has opened on the site of the Tom Aitken's failed Tom's Place in Chelsea. Serving sustainably sourced fish, he enjoys a selection of carefully cooked seafood and fish. "If it's done its sums right and don't upset the neighbours with fish-frying fumes, this fish restaurant could prove to be more sustainable than its predecessor," he writes.
The Independent, 25 September
Christopher Hirst finds Italian comfort food par excellence at La Lanterna in Scarborough, North Yorkshire
My wife's main course of risotto cooked with orange and Raschera cheese (a Piedmontese speciality somewhat like Fontina) was a masterly rendition; the separate grains of rice retained a good bite, while slender parings of orange zest cut the richness of the cheese. My ox cheek cooked in red wine for seven hours was a perfect definition of that mouth-watering word "braise". Tender, rich and flaking, it is the perfect cold-weather dish. As I mopped up the last of a generous plateful, Alessio emerged from the kitchen to whisk up zabaglione on a spirit stove for a neighbouring diner. The strands of yolky foam he scooped into a dessert bowl were a powerful temptation but I had a slight sensation of coming apart at the seams. Dessert seemed impossible - until we were presented with a second recitation. From a list of 13 homemade ice-creams, we plumped for saffron, hazelnut, dark chocolate with chilli and black pudding. Very grown-up ices, they provided intense, true flavours wrapped up in sweet, chilly creaminess. (Around £50 per head for three courses with wine. Rating: food 4/5, ambience 3/5, service 4/5)
The Times, 25 September
Giles Coren is bowled over by the impeccable, sensibly priced food and spot-on service at Trullo, North London
Starters are between £5 and £7 and might be thinly sliced ox heart with mushrooms, spellbinding bottarga and gem salad (though I wondered if the anchovy shards were fair competition for the roe), the bruschetta (nicely charred) with fresh coco blanc and summer girolles, which is like the best baked beans on toast in the world, or deep-fried rhomboids of squash and taleggio, beautifully clean and dry, or some of the best home-made pasta you'll find anywhere: the pappardelle with beef shin ragù made Esther's eyes roll back in her head, and the slim, lean ravioli, filled with calves' brains and drenched in butter and sage, is making my groin pulse as I write, just remembering it. They're very good with fish, too: a huge piece of roasted halibut with razor clams and chard was just perfect and quite stupid at only £18. I swear, we can break these guys. We had six dishes for lunch just now (including a great fig and almond tart) and a half carafe of good Italian white wine and coffee, and the bill was £51.50, which is mental. Properly mental. (Rating 9/10)
The Observer, 26 September
Jay Rayner likes the look of Redhook in London, EC1, but says that the cooking is a blurred approximation of the real thing
Take Oysters Rockefeller, the rocks topped with a mixture of spinach, cheese and breadcrumbs. The topping needs to have texture, the individual ingredients not overly ground down, or it becomes, as here, a salty slurry. Giant grilled prawns had been split down the back to remove the gut, but the job was unfinished, so there was still a black line of what the prawns last had for dinner. Three scallops had not been seared properly, though the cubes of pork belly were certainly crisp enough. It was the steaks that were the real problem. If you are going to run a steak house, serve proper bloody steaks cut to proper sizes. The 300gm ribeye was a nice enough piece of meat but cut far too thin. And it would have helped if they'd brought the shallot and garlic butter I'd ordered rather than the claggy peppercorn sauce I didn't. More depressing still was the New York strip which should be, as the name suggests, a 2in-thick strip of meat. This was just a small, flat sirloin. The New York strip comes from the sirloin, but it is not the same thing. (Meal for two, including drinks and service, £120)
Time Out, 29 September
Guy Dimond is hoping that Geales in London SW3 will be more sustainable than its predecessor, Tom's Place
Prawn cocktail, served in a melba dish, sits alongside a few more daring touches such as wasabi peas, but mostly the menu proceeds as if the clock stuck around 1973 - but using better ingredients. Deep-fried whitebait were a joy to pop in the mouth whole, heads and all, still piping hot from the fryer. A fishcake of smoked haddock and salmon came in a firm, fried carapace which prevented its creamy sauce from turning it soggy. Deep-fried scampi is a dish you don't see much these days, tainted as it is by association with 1970s service-station food. But if Heston Blumenthal can reclaim Little Chef, then Geales (Notting Hill branch: est. 1939) can reclaim Nephrops norvegicus from the arrivistes who call it ‘langoustines' or ‘Dublin Bay prawns'. And good scampi they are too, fresh, tender and not overcooked. Desserts include sticky toffee pudding, strawberry trifle, and even - a special on the board - chocolate éclair. (Meal for two, with wine and service, around £75. Rating: 3/5)
By Janet Harmer
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