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

01 November 2010 by

The Times, 30 October
Giles Coren says Lumière in Cheltenham is a well-run restaurant with great staff, good produce and a talented chef who sadly lacks originality
After the nice little starter of a duck egg scrambled and slipped back into its shell, Esther had three delicious scallops with crispy pork belly, a brilliant shard of cumin-flavoured caramel and a slightly unfortunate carrot and orange purée flavoured with anise (unfortunate because, in 41 years of life, I have yet to meet anyone who really, honestly, likes the taste of liquorice). I had mi-cuit salmon ("You Tarzan, me Cuit") with apple and vanilla, which again sounds a bit try-hard and Heston-lite, but vanilla matches savoury stuff more comfortably than aniseed does, and this came out fine, with a fluffy little "smoked eel bonbon". Badminton Park venison was served medium-ish and sliced, with red cabbage and other vegetal bits and pieces. Very Christmassy, very honest and tasty. Farmed meat, of course, but I'm not one of those bores who go on and on about wild deer, and how pointless the farmed stuff is. I'm a different kind of bore. The kind who orders fish for both courses and then writes about how he doesn't even really like fish. Score 7.33. Three-course à la carte lunch/dinner - £22/£42
Lumière review in full >>

The Sunday Times, 31 October
AA Gill has a miserable evening at Sake No Hana, London SW1, where he finds no atmosphere and food made without poise or skill
Beef tobin was chewy and tasteless, and I don't need to know the name of the cow. The roasted aubergine tasted of too much, and none of it nice. It had the texture of scarecrow snot. A crab salad was finished with something they said was vegetable caviare. Well, if cabbages could lay eggs, this is what they would taste like. The sushi was badly made, clumsy, flabby and too warm. The tuna had the whiff of cat food, the proportion of fish to rice was all wrong, as was the rice itself. Rice is the soul and the narrative of Japanese food. It isn't a side dish, it isn't a delivery system for more expensive ingredients, it is the point. This was supermarket sushi, from a supermarket in some landlocked central European city. Handrolls have to be made to order. Within minutes, the seaweed absorbs moisture from the rice and becomes a green condom. Ours had been hanging around, limply. Rating 1/5. Meal for two £115
Sake No Hana review in full >>

The Guardian, 30 October
John Lanchester says Oxford's been crying out for a decent place to eat out for years and now has one in the form of Ben and Hugo Warner's Ashmolean Dining Room
Perhaps the food was a little heavy, too: a battered courgette was very batter-oriented; salt cod croquettes were good but contained too much potato, and came with a saffron aïoli that lacked kick; devilled whitebait had just the right level of spicing and crunch; quails' eggs weren't as soft-boiled or as just-cooked as I like them; and mini chorizos were great, but then the margin for error there is small. These five dishes would have made a decent meal in themselves for two unhungry people, at a cost of £15.50. My main course wasn't quite right, either: an Italian-American fish soup called cioppino. The dish began life in San Francisco as a local interpretation of the fish soups that immigrants remembered from the old country. This version came with prawns, mussels, clams and hake, but also sardine - and that last addition was a mistake, since the soup ended up with the unusual defect of tasting too strong. Salt beef hash with poached eggs was a safer, more successful choice. The best course was dessert - Britain is the only country in the world where this tends to be true - an astoundingly light yet powerful Amedei chocolate mousse served in a pool of espresso. There are British cities where having a new restaurant at this level would matter less, but for Oxford it's a big deal. Meal for two with drinks, around £50
Ashmolean Dining Room review in full >>

The Observer, 31 October
After an emotional week, Jay Rayner craved nourishment in every sense - and he found it thanks to Angela Hartnett at the York & Albany, London NW1
Hartnett's food here is very much an extension of her personality. Sure she can do big and solid, but she also has technique by the gallon, which allows her to do serious stuff to ingredients while still retaining their essence. The most comforting of her starters, pumpkin tortelli with a beurre noisette and crisp sage leaves, may well be the sort of dish you want to get up to your armpits in. But that visceral appeal comes hand in hand with something else: an admiration for the pasta making and the acute seasoning of the pumpkin. It's spot on. A more complex starter of watercress panna cotta with deep-fried oysters also delivers. Generally if you muck about with an ingredient as much as the watercress is played with here, something of itself is lost. But here it all was. The fat oysters survived the deep-fat fryer to still be very much themselves within their crisp panko-crumb coating. It's a wonderfully distracting dish, which is exactly what I needed. Meal for two, including wine and service, £120
York & Albany review in full >>

The Independent, 30 October
Tracey MacLeod is impressed with Les Deux Salons, London WC2, a new Parisian brasserie by Anthony Demetre and Will Smith
Appropriately, in this border territory between Whitehall and Theatreland, the menu caters for both Horace and Doris, with soups and salads sitting beside brawn, andouillete de Troyes, and double veal chop from the charcoal grill. My friend Caroline and I hedged our first-course bets by ordering a couple of butch starters, plus a ladies-who-lunch salad. Snail and bacon pie arrived in a cast-iron skillet domed with perfect pastry, which yielded to reveal plump snails in a heady wine and garlic sauce. Equally indulgent were lamb sweetbreads bouchée à la reine, the pert sweetbreads folded into a mushroom-rich béchamel inside a choux-pastry case, like the world's poshest vol-au-vent. By contrast, our third starter could have leapt from the pages of the Ottolenghi cookbook - a fashion plate assembly of broccoli and nutty quinoa, spiked with preserved lemon zest and jewelled with pomegranate seeds. Both our main courses were identifiably restaurant dishes, rather than brasserie ones. Pan-fried plaice was lifted by a stuffing of shrimp and kaffir lime leaves, and partnered with salsify and trompette de la mort so sophisticated they threatened to overshadow the main event. Rating: Food 4/5; Ambience 4/5; Service 4/5. Around £55 a head including wine and service
Les Deux Salons review in full >>

The Independent on Sunday, 1 October
Amol Rajan finds a trendy neighbourhood Italian in Trullo, London N1, but as far as the menu goes it promises much but delivers little
It is a well-intentioned, inoffensive, reasonably priced, iterative error. With a few exceptions, its menu is a series of repeated mistakes. The mistake is to provide dishes that are either over-complicated or simply deficient in strong flavour. Take the slow roast mutton, Jerusalem artichoke, cob nuts and anchovy dressing, at £7 joint equal as the most expensive of the four antipasti on offer. This dish is like a team of enthusiastic and talented youngsters who lack an inspirational captain. It has no driving force, no leader. The mutton is OK, but the anchovy dressing is engaged in permanent violence against it. "Quite complex but ultimately flat," is the report from Virginia, whose birthday we are celebrating. The salt cod with coco blanc and salsa rossa - little beans, one grade up from haricot, and a tangy, parsley-infected green sauce - is fine but unspectacular, and the Romanesco fritti with melted Gorgonzola would be overly dignified by comparison to a soggy cauliflower cheese. Score 5/10. £210 for dinner for four including wine and service.
Trullo review in full >>

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