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

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

The Guardian, 27 NovemberJohn Lanchester finds small plates of honest food and great value for money at Polpetto, London W1, the tiny sister site of Italian restaurant Polpo
I liked the food. It doesn't try to be dazzling, but nor is it These You Have Loved. Duck and porcini meatballs, for instance, are listed under cicheti (Italian for, "You think those other buggers are small plates? You'll need to get your reading glasses out to find this lot"). A hearty, meaty dish at an unusual price for central London: £1.50. That's per meatball, but still. Anchovy and chickpea crostino? £1. Melanzane parmigiana? £2. A small plate of swordfish, lemon and dill ricotta was soothing and refreshing, and cost £2.50. It's not the subtlest or most delicate cooking in the world. Chilli and garlic prawns were too gloopy for me, and pigeon saltimbocca a bit rough. But at £7 for each dish, the value is so good, you don't mind. I also liked the feeling that the fresh, unpretending food was coming straight out of the kitchen and on to the table. Meal for two with drinks and service, about £50
Polpetto review in full >>

The Observer, 28 NovemberJay Rayner says French cooking, a charismatic owner and a jazz jam night at Brasserie Toulouse Lautrec, London SE11, light up an unloved corner of south London
It is all an expression of its owner, Hervé Regent, who arrived in the middle of the dinner service at the Toulouse Lautrec wearing a black frock coat, a cowboy-style spaghetti string tie, with brilliantined hair, and the kind of moustache joke shops model theirs on. Voles could nest in it. The brasserie is a family affair. Front of house, in white jacket and American retro kipper tie, is the eldest son Nolan; in the kitchen, standing in for the middle brother on a quiet Monday night, is the soft-cheeked youngest son Oliver. No matter that he only graduated from catering college in July. They are the Regent boys; ergo this is what they do. For the most part they do it well. The food is not earth shattering, but it has a reliable Gallic heft which is reassuring. On the menu cauliflower soup is first referred to as Crème du Barry - Comtesse du Barry, mistress of Louis XV, was obsessed by cauliflower - and the dishes are rich with the likes of duck confit, chicken livers and sauces mounted with enough cream to put a herd of Friesians on overtime. Meal for two, including wine and service, £80
Brasserie Toulouse Lautrec review in full >>

The Times, 27 NovemberGiles Coren says Parisian brasserie Les Deux Salons, London WC2, is a fascinating addition to the capital's restaurant scene
Next up for Joseph was the bavette, grilled on charcoal in the Josper. "Doesn't look very grilled to me," he said, eyeing the fat piece of meat served in a frying pan with what appeared to be its frying juices. But it had been, in that pan, and then the juices deglazed in it, and the thing rested long. It was an inch thick, and cut like butter, the flesh sweet and unfibrous like fillet. I have never known a bavette like it. And wonderful chips, golden and fluffy, good as McDonald's, but surely cooked in goose fat, or possibly dripping. And I had the best cassoulet that I have ever well, I've had a lot of good cassoulets. But this was a blinder. Served in a frying pan, the huge beans soft but still shapely and with no chew at all, as if each one had been meticulously skinned, the juices light and herby. And the duck so sweet and the tears of pork meat and sausage so subtle, then with a golden, sugary crunch from the breadcrumb top. Traditionally, cassoulet is said to be only worth doing huge, but this small one was better than any example of the genre ever cooked in France, ever. Definitely. Rating: Cooking: 9.5; Service: 7; Dining room: 8; Score: 8.17
Les Deux Salons review in full >>

The Sunday Times, 28 NovemberRelative to high-street fast food and the worst of the late-night kebab shops, chicken chain Nando's is good but its food is not delicious, says Kate Spicer
The food is cooked from fresh, not frozen, on a grill in front of you. I didn't come across any of the terrible, bloody embolisms you find in unhappy meat. After death, Nando's chicken does not go through the absurd amount of processing that a fast-food outlet's meat does. The chefs need a degree of skill beyond your average burger-flipper. Still, I struggled to find real chicken flavour in three visits. Corn on the cob cooked on the grill had a rubbery texture; it was stale. Macho peas in the "Fino" upmarket portion of the sides menu were a weird amalgam of squidged frozen peas with mint and, yes, chilli. The ratatouille was a hard, acidic shocker, unpleasantly overflavoured with industrial mixed herbs. The chicken livers were compelling, with a moreish, umami savoury flavour. A bottle of Portuguese vinho verde stepped above the sluggish flavours of mass-market wine. Rating: 2/5. Price: £30 for two including wine
Nando's review in full >>

The Independent, 27 NovemberTracey Macleod reviews Hawksmoor Seven Dials, London WC2, and discovers a beautiful restaurant that serves impressive food
A dramatic staircase leads down into a dark bar, as louche as a Prohibition-era speakeasy, with a cocktail menu to match. The vast dining room is similarly atmospheric. Too many new restaurants look like architectural models. This converted brewery has already acquired the patina of use, with pleasure encoded in its brick walls and reclaimed fittings. My guest Charlie, who runs TV's Grand Designs, knows his way around an ambitious project, and deemed this one a complete success.

If something about the vaulted roof and municipal woodwork recalls an old-fashioned station, it would be Meat Central. At Hawksmoor, it's all about the beef, from grass-fed Longhorn cattle, aged for at least 35 days. As in the Spitalfields original, the larger cuts - prime rib, Porterhouse and Châteaubriand - are chalked up on blackboards, priced by the 100g. Smaller cuts - fillet, sirloin and rib-eye - are listed on the menu. Extras include half a lobster, grilled bone marrow and two fried eggs. As Charlie observed, this would be the place to come if you had to arrange a lunch with Desperate Dan. Rating: Food: 4/5; Service: 4/5; Ambience: 4/5. Price: Around £135 for two, including wine and cocktails
Hawksmoor Seven Dials review in full >>

The Independent on Sunday, 28 NovemberEthics are shoved down your throat at Indian Veg, London N1, but according to Amol Rajan there's still plenty of room for the all-you-can-eat buffet
This small food hall, formerly known as Bhelpoori House and now in its 25th year, is a shrine to vegetarianism. Covering the walls are data, tables, graphs, mottos and information about vegetarianism - that, and pictures of pretty Indian women in saris. Veggies are happier! Go veg to boost your sex life! Ten tips for dropping meat! It's all-you-can-eat from a buffet for £3.95. On entering, we are supplied with a table, knife, fork and tissue. The banquet is laid out in a horseshoe structure by the window. On the right is a salad and sauce bar. The sauces are a thick mint and yoghurt, or thicker and syrupy mango chutney. There are two basic salads: the first is mixed cabbage with a bit of sugar and yellow food colouring; the second is red and white cabbage with lettuce and carrot. The first is dazzling and sweet without being sickly; the second extremely fresh and not too filling. Two basic onion salads - one diced onion and mint, the other red and white onion with carrot - are both pungent and strong. Rating: 8/10. Price: £3.95 per person without drinks
Indian Veg review in full >>

Sunday Telegraph, 28 NovemberZoe Williams says there's no faulting the atmosphere or biodynamic wine at Bar Battu, London EC2, but the food is less to be desired
These opening bars of mediocrity reached crescendo in the main courses. T had the cod (£13.50) on salsify, which was braised and buttery and pretty nice, with a broth of clams, and they were good, too. The fish itself, though, was disappointing; the flesh crumbled in dry shreds rather than flaking silkily. The Ratte potatoes (£3) had been fried to the point where they were very hard, without being crunchy. I don't know how they pulled that off, but I doubt it was deliberate. T said he didn't mind the cod as much as he would have if it had been £20. I'm not sure where I stand on that. It is good value here, but you shouldn't have to pay extra for a decent piece of fish. I had the osso bucco of pork, with girolles and thyme jus (£13.50). It's typically veal, this dish, though apparently it can be any cut with a hollowed-out bone. Pork shanks are smallish and nobbly; they lack the grace and drama of veal but they do work. It was a simple dish, a bit Marmitey, more salt than depth, but the mushrooms balanced it out. Rating: 6.5/10. Price: Three courses: £22
Bar Battu review in full >>

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