Search
The Caterer

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

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

The Guardian, 23 October

John Lanchester is a huge fan of the Canton Arms, London SW8, where he loves the ingredient-driven and flavourful British food

It's a short menu, with deceptively simple descriptions, a style derived from St John, the ideological mothership for this type of cooking, and Hilferty, an Australian, does a superb take on this punchy, ingredient-driven and flavourful British food. The trick is that there is no trick. That's riskier than it sounds, since there are no fancy flourishes to hide behind if things go wrong. Here's one example of a plain-sounding dish whose description doesn't quicken the pulse: leeks, soft-boiled eggs and sauce gribiche. Here's another: cod's roe on toast, pickled red cabbage and crème fraîche. But these two dishes, both starters, were superb. I was curious about the leek dish because I used to make leek vinaigrette at home, but stopped because I kept cocking it up, with the leeks ending up both too watery and too acidic. This version showed how to do it, the leeks trimmed into strips, the boiled egg (now there's a dish that gives you nowhere to hide) perfect, the gribiche giving it just the right tang. (Meal for two with drinks, about £50.)

Canton Arms review in full >>

The Observer, 4 October

Jay Rayner says while the food at vegetarian restaurant Otarian, London W1, is excellent, he finds its grand eco claims very hard to swallow

Otarian did everything they could to ensure I hated them before I tasted a forkful of their food. It began with a press release in which they described themselves as "The planet's first low-carbon restaurant". Let me say this: I am completely supportive of any business that puts sustainability at the heart of what they do. To not think about these things would be reckless. What I hate is shameless grandstanding, an attempt to beat the opposition through false claims. It makes the thoughtfulness at the heart of a sustainability policy look hollow and bitchy. So it is with Otarian. There are numerous restaurants which have put their impact on the environment - which means their carbon footprint - at the centre of their activities, most notably the lovely Acornhouse in London's King's Cross and the Field Kitchen at Riverford Farm in Devon. To claim, as Otarian does, that nobody else has ever considered this is either ignorant or deceitful. The most they can really claim is an interest in carbon counting. (Meal for two, including wine and service, £25)

Otarian review in full >>

The Times, 23 October

Giles Coren loves the food at Nahm, London SW1, the UK's only Michelin-starred Thai restaurant, overseen by David Thompson

A lush tangle of grilled beef with mint and chillies piled over salad sticks in my mind for the insane combination of mentholated freshness and eye-bleeding spice - it's a standard dish in Thai places here, but always done with such awful meat. Now, with serious beef, it was a miracle, as was the quality in another beef dish, stir-fried this time, with chilli and cumin. There were some gigantic prawns, hugger-mugger on the plate like toddlers arm-wrestling, beautifully roasted and lavishly spiced; a dish of venison, full of curry and peanuts and Thai basil; a fish maw curry - was it flavoured with the guts or am I getting confused with Bangkok? - and wonderful jasmine rice. It's just everything was so much better and different from anything I've had before. The sweetness of the first mouthfuls, now that I understood it, was welcome, and we begged them to take a free hand with the spicing. There's nothing like a good schvitz over food, and while it will never feel as right in the rather clinical, linear, windy environment of a big international hotel (whether here or in Bangkok) as it does on the street, on the plus side there are far fewer rats, hawkers, runaway scooters and sex tourists. (Score: 8.33. Price: £75 per head)

Nahm review in full >>

The Sunday Times, 24 October

AA Gill finds the food disappointing at Polpetto, London W1, but adds the atmosphere is nice, the room buzzes and its heart is in the right place

We had a nice young waiter who I see from the bill was called Ashley. He was responsible for recommending almost everything we ate. Each time he said, "Oooh, that's my favourite," and tossed his curly hair, Camilla would say, "Oh, let me have it." And it would be hideous. Ashley was a dear waiter: I just don't think he eats with his mouth. The starters are crostini things with chicken livers and beans, and were cold, sodden and piled too thickly. Crostini should be light and utterly delicious. This was in keeping with the bar downstairs: coarse, repetitive and boring. The polpetto - small octopuses - was like a queue of plastic toys, with the faint flavour of rubber fish. The cotechino bruschetta had the pig-foot sausage minced, which was again too much, too awkward and too fatty. The broccoli, which Ashley adores apparently, was some green fronds doused in a viscous confection of anchovy, vinegar and chilli that successfully managed to excise any lurking flavour of broccoli. (Average price for two £35 plus drinks. Rating 3/5)

Polpetto review in full >>

Sunday Telegraph, 24 October

Zoe Williams says that although the Red Fort, London W1, may not be the hottest hangout, she doesn't care too much because the curries are fantastic

K had been instructed by a friend to have the lamb biriyani (£18), for which the establishment is famous, so made me have the lamb kebab as a starter (£8) because of course it is bad manners to eat the same animal twice (though I've never worked out who's supposed to be offended). It arrived looking like any other seekh kebab - rolled, stubby and uniform, like a cigar - and could, from a distance, have even looked a bit rubbery. It was exquisite. The flavouring was all traditional stuff - coriander, cumin, chilli - but the spices and the meat seemed to deepen and unfurl as you chewed. Delicious. She had the somewhat culturally confusing hara kebab (£6), which was spinach burgers, with an apparently cheddary filling (though it tasted much milder, and was almost halloumi-ishly stretchy), with onion and coriander. These were great, too - rich but fresh in that way only spinach can pull off. (Three courses: £34.50. Rating: 7.5/10)

Red Fort review in full >>

The Independent, 23 October

Tracey Macleod says it's a case of right chef, wrong restaurant at former Roux Scholar Steve Love's eponymous restaurant in Birmingham

Loves, named after the chef-proprietor Steve Love, and his wife, restaurant manager Claire, is a contradiction of a restaurant, in which location, design, food and atmosphere are all pulling in different directions. The result is an unsettling dining experience which sends you reeling out into the night, thinking, "What was that all about?". It pains me to say this because the Loves are clearly passionate about what they do, and Steve is a genuine talent; a former Roux scholar with classical training whose path from his first eponymous restaurant in Leamington Spa has been strewn with awards, including Craft Guild's National Chef of the Year. When he opened Loves last year, he was hailed as capable of challenging Birmingham's big three - Purnell's, Simpsons and Turners - for Michelin honours. And I'm sure he'll get them; his food is inventive and complex, every plateful a mini-masterclass in technique. But there is so much more to a great restaurant than great cooking. There should be glamour and mystery, flirtation and cosseting, indulgence and adventure. All of which is almost impossible to achieve in a corner unit in a new-build development in Birmingham's deserted canal district. (Food 4/5; Service 2/5; Ambience 4/5)

Loves review in full >>

The Independent on Sunday, 24 October

Despite the queue Lisa Markwell is pleasantly surprised by the food at perceived tourist trap Bettys in Harrogate

Once inside, memories of the queue soon fade. For a perceived tourist trap, it's warm and comfortable, the kind of place you'd want to linger in. The well-informed staff add much to the atmosphere in the snug lower-ground room, where we settle into pastel-shaded Lloyd Loom chairs. The walls are lined with marquetry scenes which are a bit like the operation they surround - seemingly simple, but clearly a lot of work has gone into it. Bettys Traditional Afternoon Tea (£15.95) is no disappointment, either. Three tiers of temptation: crustless smoked salmon, ham, roast chicken and egg mayonnaise sandwiches, a plump scone with plenty of Yorkshire clotted cream and strawberry jam, a miniature éclair, elegant raspberry tart and a dinky lemon-and-almond sponge cake. I can bob between the tiers to my heart's content, so long as my companions can be fended off. Mr M is more than occupied by his Yorkshire rarebit (£8.95). His preferred meal is breakfast, and he delights in finishing a meal with a bowl of corn flakes whatever the hour. He has foregone the traditional breakfast specialities (available all day) for a shallow stoneware dish, all glistening and bubbling with a deeply satisfactory savoury meld of Cheddar cheese, Worcestershire sauce, Yorkshire ale and some crisp bacon thrown in. (Rating 8/10)

Bettys review in full >>

The Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email

Start the working day with The Caterer’s free breakfast briefing email

Sign Up and manage your preferences below

Thank you

You have successfully signed up for the Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email and will hear from us soon!