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

18 October 2010 by
What's on the Menu? – A round-up of the latest restaurant reviews

The Guardian, 16 October
John Lanchester is impressed with Tinello, London SW1, a new Italian restaurant by Frederico and Max Sali backed by former mentors Giorgio and Plaxy Locatelli

As Italian restaurant pedigrees go, it doesn't get any better. You know that feeling you have when you can tell a restaurant is run right, the sense that you know you will be looked after? You have that feeling at Tinello. The menu has the currently fashionable distinction between larger and smaller starters, here "Antipasti" and "Small Eats". You'd want either one of the former or two of the latter, I'd say, unless you are going the hero route of having both a pasta and a main course. In the interests of scientific thoroughness, we had four small eats and one antipasto between two adults and a 12-year-old, and they ranged from the good (marinated octopus, chicken liver crostini) to the sublime: prosciutto so delicate it was, according to my son, "like air", a compulsively eatable dish of fried courgettes, and a sensationally good stew of squid, potatoes, chickpeas and chilli. (Meal with drinks and service, about £40 a head.)

Tinello review in full >>

The Observer, 17 OctoberJay Rayner says that faultless ingredients and execution make dining at the Kingham Plough in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, an almost too civilised experience
The autumn squash soup arrived in a jug to be poured into a bowl containing deep-fried sage leaves, seared ceps, squash dumplings and fragments of creamy goat's cheese. It's an admirable dish, and when I got a spoonful of the purée-like soup and the goat's cheese together the flavours stomped about gloriously. But I still found myself hankering after something a little less demure. Likewise a terrine of Old Spot brawn, with both celeriac purée and remoulade, was beyond reproach in terms of execution. The piggy head meat was presented in solid lumps, the celeriac purée smooth and velvety. But the whole lacked an assertive sharp punch. Bring on the capers. With a main dish of roast partridge laid alongside girolles and chewy duck hearts and more autumn dumplings, the issue was simply one of seasoning. It felt cautious, and very, very controlled. Fillets of John Dory with a celeriac fondant and mushrooms were more assertive, but only within the confines of subtle fish dishes. (Meal for two, including wine and service, £110.)

Kingham Plough review in full >>

The Times, 16 October
Giles Coren loves the simple food and the funky interiors at his local restaurant Kentish Canteen, London NW5, and gives it 10 out of 10

Simple things done well include grilled chorizo on lentils, the eggs Benedict, an excellent beef burger (soft floury bap, good meat, no frills, far better than any "gourmet" hamburger chain), big juicy sardines on sourdough toast with roast tomatoes, fat chips, a good mid-priced plate of Spanish charcuterie, and any number of salads for the swarms of local hair-shirted vegetarian Trotskyites (displayed on a table, as is the fashion at squat-and-gobbles such as La Fromagerie and Baker & Spice), including butternut squash, feta, sage and pumpkin seed; nanjing black rice, mango, spring onion, and soy; and French bean, runner bean, courgettes, pine nuts. Best of all, the place aims to fashion a bit of local pride in Kentish Town, with a beautifully photographed wall-sized photomontage of local people and landmarks (the sort of lush cliché of late Victoriana and beaming young black people that has made Notting Hill Gate what it is today) and our glorious postcode, "NW5", in giant figures above the door. (Rating 10/10)

Kentish Canteen review in full >>

The Sunday Times, 17 October
AA Gill is not impressed by the fish served at Italian restaurant Rosso in Manchester where the maître d's recommendations prove to be disappointing

At the recommendation of the maître d', I had some­thing that appeared on my bill as "gamberoni al'aglio". Prawns in garlic. It was nothing of the sort. It was actually a brochette of mixed fish on a slimy mattress of exhausted vegetables. I think some of them might have been monkfish, perhaps scampi. I couldn't have sworn to it. It was generous in quantity, which wasn't actually a good thing, because it was very meagre in quality. The fish was reluctant to give up the security of the skewer, but, when it did, it fell to bits into dry shards of misery. Altogether it tasted coarse and loud, like something from the party selection of the freezer cabinet. For a main course, I could have had the cod with creamy leak and saffron sauce. But, again, the maître d' tossed his tresses and pointed me towards the halibut with more garlic and spinach and a langoustine bisque. This was a brick of fish the size of Ryan Giggs's wallet. It had been cooked for twice as long as necessary. And then left under hot lights to make sure it was really dead. The langoustine bisque was, I suspect, fish soup with cream. It was a horrible waste of what had once been a good bit of fish. (Rating 2/5)

Rosso review in full >>

The Independent, 16 October
John Walsh says the Russo-Uzbek-Kazakhstani cuisine at Samarqand, London W1, must be an acquired taste

No question what we should have for a main course. Our plausible young waiter recommended Samarqand plov, a traditional Central Asian rice dish with succulent lamb and spices. He spoke of the wondrous tandoori pot in which it's made, the glowing coals, the lamb falling off the bone … talk about whetting my appetite. Then it arrived. It was a large bowl of rice, flavoured with something resembling Bovril, on which four small lumps of lamb sat disconsolately. A long, angrily hot red chilli was the only other constituent, but they threw in a tomato salad as a kind of booby prize. I summoned the plausible youth and asked where the flipping flip was the rest of my lamb. I'd been expecting, I said, a skewer-load. "In this culture," he smoothly explained, "plov is a rice dish, and is merely flavoured with the lamb…" This waiter, we agreed, was a master at explaining his way round the most thinly defeatist, ungenerous, dull, greyly unadventurous cuisine we'd tasted in ages. Tim's manty ("steamed lamb dumplings with Asian herbs and yoghurt dressing") didn't improve things. "There's a solid lump of mince inside that's not bad if you put chilli sauce on it," he said. "But if you were offered it for school dinner, you'd think, ‘Actually, I'd prefer the spam fritters'." (About £80 for two, with wine. Rating: Food 1/5; Ambience 2/5; Service 3/5)

Samarquand review in full >>

The Independent on Sunday, 17 October
Amol Rajan says when it hits the spot, there is not a Spanish restaurant in London that can match Cambio de Tercio, London SW5

A seared tuna salad arrives, replete with Amontillado vinaigrette on a rocket and almond salad, with peach garnish. It's a decent idea, but poorly executed: the tuna is marginally overcooked, and the peaches are raw and lack flavour. Then comes a shocking white asparagus in "salsa verde", with little torrenzos of ham to apologise for that which they're garnishing. The asparagus, which seems to have been par-boiled for six years, is flavourless and drowning in an ugly white-wine goo. But these courses are curious anomalies. Expectations dimmed, an excellent sea bream arrives, grilled to a crunchy skin but muscular beneath, and decorated with smoked leeks, creamed fennel and the most flavoursome segments of orange I have come across - their tang preparation for an outstanding meat dish. Fillet of venison, it is, scarlet but not under-cooked, succulent and with that delicious mustiness unique to this animal. It comes with a sweet potato purée and a delicately spiced apple that make the whole thing sing on the roof of the mouth. (Dinner for two about £140 with wine. Rating: 7/10)

Cambio de Tercio review in full >>

The Sunday Telegraph, 17 OctoberAn enchanted Zoe Williams says thanks to some visual tomfoolery, the food at Verveine in Milford-on-Sea is magical in more than one way
I had the tiger prawns with home-smoked duck (£8.95), which arrived under a cloche filled with smoke. ‘What's that?' I asked, thinking maybe dry ice ‘It's smoke!' she replied, looking pleased, as though they couldn't believe themselves what a cool idea this was. The duck and prawns worked brilliantly: a perfect contrast of dark and light, rich and fresh. We both had an intermediate course (£6.95). ‘The chef will personally create a dish to complement your starter and your main course,' the menu said. Who could resist such an offer? Perhaps it was a trifle misleading, since he gave us both ham-hock terrine, with a beautiful tube of flash-fried spiced squid on top. It can't have been meant as a complement to everything. But this, like my starter, was an original and chic take on the not very chic theme of surf-and-turf, and we both loved it. M carried on with the monkfish: you choose your fish then one of four ensemble dishes to go with it. Hers was parmesan risotto, truffles, wild-mushroom purée and artichokes (£17.95). There was only one imperfection here, but it was glaring: the truffles were pickled, so the flavour-bomb that makes people go so crazy for truffles never exploded. (Three courses: £32.35. Rating: 7.5/10)

Verveine review in full >>

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