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

22 November 2010 by

The Independent, 20 NovemberJohn Walsh finds a Provencal paradise at Cigalon in the City of London WC2, where the staff are performing small miracles of transformation At the entrance, trellises in a honeycomb design seem to await the arrival of honeysuckle. By the loos, a branching design climbs up the cream wall. Overhead, the light fittings are shaded by a graceful structure of spokes like the struts of an umbrella or an insect's wings. Between the chairs and tables lie several three-quarter-circle booths, upholstered in what looks like sackcloth and feels like corduroy. The booths are so warm and enclosing, it's hard not to think you're in a cocoon. Before us the kitchen is on full display, accessed through knee-high walls of rendered plaster, like an unsuccessful patio, and the chefs work against an old-fashioned backdrop of white tiles, as though they're in a municipal bathroom. Have I painted you the picture yet? This is the Provençal outdoors, brought indoors. £110 for two. Rating: Food 4/5; Ambience 4/5; Service 5/5
Cigalon review in full >>

The Independent on Sunday, 21 NovemberLisa Markwell enjoys a family meal at Les Deux Salons, London WC2, the latest venture from Anthony Demetre and Will Smith
For an all-day venture in the heart of tourist London, families are key (I'd have thought) - and Les Deux Salons does offer a children's menu. And, greeting grumble aside, there's scarcely anything to find fault with. The cunningly aged rooms are beautiful - all fogged mirrors and faux-smoke-tinged walls. A pretty tiled floor and brilliant arrangement of tables that allows diners to feel tucked away, even in this large space, add to the splendour. And that's before we cast an eye over a menu full of brasserie classics such as omelette "Arnold Bennett", andouillette with mustard sauce, bouillabaisse and onion tart. Closer inspection reveals a few new-generation twists to keep repeat visitors happy. A salad of quince, wet walnuts and dolcelatte, for instance, or Cornish plaice stuffed with shrimps and kaffir lime. £75 for two, including drinks and service. Rating 8/10
Les Deux Salons review in full >>

The Guardian, 20 NovemberJohn Lanchester says the George And Dragon in Clifton, Cumbria, is a top-notch gastropub that hasn't forgotten its roots as a place for locals to meet and drink
I started with a twice-baked cheese soufflé. I've made this at home; it's a good cheat's dish - you get points for making soufflé without the risk of it collapsing, since the whole point is that it collapses and is then cooked again. This was a lavishly generous version, liberally flavoured with herbs, which came with a lot - a hell of a lot - of deliciously cheesy white sauce. Also, this excellent starter was the first restaurant dish I've been served in years that arrived at the table too hot to eat. New season partridge came dismembered into four pieces, with a slightly too sweet sauce and a bed of shredded cabbage, carrots and pancetta, and a celeriac purée. A few tables away, a posh woman was mercilessly bullying her dinner date. Her comment, delivered at table-rattling volume: "It's not the best partridge in the world, but it's very nice and the purée is good." Yes. Meal with drinks and service, £40 a head
The George And Dragon review in full >>

The Observer, 21 NovemberJay Rayner reviews the Garrick Street branch of the Aberdeen Angus steak house, London WC2, where the steak isn't too bad but everything else is
But that good steak set everything else into relief. A starter sharing platter with rings of deep-fried calamari appeared to have all the texture and flavour of surgical support hose. A bolus of breaded chicken breast was desperate and dry, skewers of prawns simply odd. Spare ribs were the colour of an old lady's velour sofa and edible, in the sense that I ate them. This cost the best part of £15, the best part being £14.95. That's the point. […] Worse were the béarnaise and peppercorn sauces, which were possibly the nastiest things I've put in my mouth since a game of truth or dare at college (don't ask). We must assume they made them from scratch, which makes the fact they tasted like they had been reconstituted from powder all the more remarkable. The peppercorn sauce, in particular, was vile. It looked like the sort of thing you might extract from a long-untended wound. Meal for two, including wine and service, £100
Aberdeen Angus review in full >>

The Times, 20 NovemberGiles Coren reviews Homa - not Noma - a warm, friendly, funky, sociable, cosy, simple, elegant, well-priced and chic restaurant in London N16
The waiters were efficient, knowledgeable and thoughtful. And the food ah yes, the food. Now, I had an excellent artichoke and almond soup, mild and well-mannered, and then venison with a juniper sauce on wet polenta, mild again (I could have stood for a gamier beast) and Esther had lovely fresh Cornish squid, fried and served on lentils with parsley oil, and then a cracking pizza. I don't seem to have a copy of the pizza menu, but it was a spicy sausage effort, good and crisp, with a bright, unsweet sugo. There was "seared N16 smoked salmon" - home smoking is very much the thing in even the humblest cafés now, all thanks to Mark Hix - and there was excellent tagliolini with crab, and pappardelle with porcini, and I think someone had the sea bass. Everything was hot, fresh, delicious and not overpriced. Around £32 a head. Rating 7.33/10
Homa review in full >>

The Sunday Times, 21 NovemberAA Gill reviews Samarqand, London W1, an interesting restaurant with a very Russian menu And there was manti dumplings, reminiscent of those Polish, Hungarian, Russian pierogi, which, again, probably originate from the Mongol border, and a thick soup made with hand-pulled lapsha noodles. And then there was the plov, Uzbekistan's great gift to the world after the death squad. It was very good. Big and meaty, bright and sweaty. Made with lamb rather than mutton, globular and glistening with aromatic fat. It's more refined than I remember, closer to the Moghuls than Tamburlaine, but still not house-trained. This isn't svelte or sophisticated food. It's outdoor, booted and quilted food, to be consumed on felt blankets in a biting wind, drinking small glasses of salty black tea. And that, I suspect, is why the Russians like it. They enjoy being comfortable and expensive, but with a plate of something that reminds them of the misery and hardship of others. £40 for two. Rating 3/5
Samarqand review in full >>

The Daily Telegraph, 20 NovemberMatthew Norman finds glorious food is served at Middle Eastern restaurant Al Waha, London W2
Jawane mashwiyeh, five cute little chicken wings, had such savour, and came in such a delectable garlic mayonnaise, that we had to order a second portion. Basturma (Arabic for pastrami, and served with gently pickled cucumber, though without rye bread and a Jackie Mason impression) was rich red slices of bresaola-thin beef fillet, laced with a variety of spices. Sated by now, we would probably have stopped there had this been a civilian outing, but professionalism demanded a foray to the charcoal grill to check the quality of the meat. Chunks of rosemary-infused lamb (meshwi) were delicious, despite being marginally overcooked to lose the pinkness; while boneless, skewered chicken pieces marinated in garlic, olive oil and lemon juice (shish taouk) were perfectly browned and fantastically tender and juicy. The dish of the day, dajaj meshi, matched a cinammony chicken quarter-baked to a pleasingly flaky finish with pistachios, saffron rice and a yogurty cucumber salad. Three course meal with wine, £25-£35
Al Waha review in full >>

The Sunday Telegraph, 21 NovemberZoe Williams has just one word for Les Deux Salons, a new French bistro in London WC2: merveilleux We shared a Paris Brest with praline cream (£5.50), so called not because it was in the shape of a breast (A said that, not me - the diet is making her light-headed), but because it was conceived to commemorate the Paris-Brest cycle race, and is in the shape of a wheel. Choux pastry is insanely moreish, and the praline buttercream didn't make it any more resistible. In an off mood I might find the atmosphere a bit mannered, a bit themey. But seriously, some (though not all) of the dishes are so good, in such a French way it's almost impossible to believe you're not in Paris (or Brest). It's more than a restaurant; it's a minibreak. Three courses £30.15. Rating 8/10
Les Deux Salons review in full >>

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