The Independent, 11 DecemberWhatever else may have gone wrong for Gordon Ramsay lately, something has definitely gone right at the Savoy Grill, London WC2, says Tracey Macleod
The front-of-house team is young and relaxed, operating with a minimum of Frenchified fuss. And the menu feels equally modern, despite reaching back for inspiration to the classic grill dishes of the past. There's no messing about with fine-dining mimsiness - no supplements, or amuse-bouches, or any of that inter-course nonsense that Ramsay tends to go in for (don't start…). "This is easily the most appealing Ramsay menu I've seen," said my lunch companion, the restaurateur Oliver Peyton, of Great British Menu fame. And it is, without doubt, a great British menu. The modern French influence introduced by Marcus Wareing when Ramsay first took over the Grill in 2003 has been largely phased out, in favour of something more traditional. Grilled meats have been reinstated - not just the usual steaks, but Herdwick mutton cutlets, pork T-bone and mixed veal grill. Omelette Arnold Bennett survives, and the trolley bearing the roast of the day has been reintroduced. But what characterises this menu is a pleasing, Ivy-style mix of luxe dishes and trad Brit classics; you could follow glazed lobster thermidor with mutton, carrot and turnip pie.
Rating: Food 4/5; Ambience 4/5; Service 4/5. Price: Around £90 a head including wine and serviceSavoy Grill review in full >>
The Independent on Sunday, 12 DecemberIn an unlikely room above a pub, Assaggi, London W2, is an Italian so authentic you need to be a native to read the menu, says Robert Chalmers
The seemingly humble decor whispers sophistication, the walls hung with large rectangles in single colours. They resemble noticeboards, so much so that the less culturally enlightened diner might assume that some vengeful rival had swiped the reproduction of the Mona Lisa, and the Polaroids of regulars getting hammered that used to be pinned to them. The menu is in Italian with no translation, a practice that - since it demands the staff explain every item - gives monolingual Brits a taste of what it feels like to be blind and competing in a memory game. I'm fortunate in that my companion is the writer Michael Rose, who lived in Florence for 25 years, during which time, besides becoming an authority on Puccini and Berlioz, he conducted an in-depth study of Italian wines and cuisine. His scallops are "as good as I've tasted" even if, for £13.90, Assaggi might risk serving four rather than three. They have removed the orange coral which, despite its powerful flavour, is regarded by some scallop enthusiasts as the bivalve's prize feature. I have prawns with fritella di risotto al limone - a seductive melange I've never encountered before, certainly not sculpted into something that resembles a gonk.
Rating: 8/10. Price: About £130 for lunch for two with one bottle of wine, service not includedAssaggi review in full >>
The Guardian, 11 DecemberJohn Lanchester says Hawksmoor is a place that continues the long tradition of the British steakhouse, though with a big difference as unlike its predecessors it does it well
Good meat shouldn't be cheap, and this isn't, so Hawksmoor tests your willingness to go down the route of paying for happy cows. You should: it's worth it. If you've never tried it, and if you like rare steak, I can recommend the "D-rump", a cut favoured for grilling by the meat-crazed Brazilians. This had the depth of flavour that you get with the very best steak. There are options for non-steak-eaters, as well as hilariously meaty starters such as lamb chops, belly ribs, corned beef and bacon. Side dishes are good, and they do chips two ways, in beef dripping or triple-cooked. I'd be lying if I said our meal was perfectly perfect. That D-rump was over-energetically seasoned, a pepper sauce wasn't very nice (not enough pepper, too much veal stock) and I thought all three of our steaks were a notch more cooked than we'd asked for, though that's a tricky area in steak - I sometimes think the ideal thing would be to order by pointing at a Pantone chart.
Price: Meal for two with drinks and service, about £100.Hawksmoor Seven Dials review in full >>
The Observer, 12 DecemberJay Rayner finds great oysters but mediocre service and a menu full of erratic pricing at the second outpost of seafood specialist Wright Brothers in London W1
This does mean you can see the pricing of everything, and some of it is over the odds. They charge £4 for a pleasing but not especially large langoustine. At Scott's and J Sheekey's they charge £3.75; at Terence Conran's equally high-end Boundary they cost £3.33. Likewise, while their native-oyster pricing is pretty much on par, what they don't have on their standard menu are any of the cheaper rock oysters. It makes eating here look a little exclusive, and unnecessarily so. That said, the Duchy natives and some small sweet Kumamotos, usually only found in the Pacific North-west, delivered exactly what we were looking for. The rest of the menu is a mixture of standards, like fish pie and whitebait, and more evolved dishes. Charging £9 for rather good crispy squid looks opportunistic. By contrast, £11.50 for a big bowl of their thick, luscious fish stew, the liquor boasting a big peppery end and swimming with shellfish, was a bargain. I was less keen on their sardines on toast, each opened out and spread with a thick garlic and parsley persillade, and grilled.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service, £90Wright Brothers Soho review in full >>
The Times, 11 DecemberGiles Coren loves the new, tiny tapas restaurant Morito in Exmouth Market, London EC1
You're gonna love Morito. It's totally new and tiny and bolted on next door to the fabulous Moro, which continues to be one of the most exciting, talked about, foodiest, fashionablest, funkiest food places in London, even though it has been around now for what must be millennia. It's a tapas place. No, no, come back. You can book tables, even at lunch, and it doesn't smell. You squeeze through the door into the bustling little room and take your seat at a tiny table, crammed in with a couple of mates, on which is a basket of those weird little dog biscuits that the Spanish love and a roll or two, and you look up at the white board over the counter and you grab a guy and you point up at it and you go, "I'll have one of those, and one of those, and two of those, and - how big is that? - okay, just the one, and then one of those and, ooh, you have those? I haven't seen those in England before, well we'll definitely have some of those, and then we'll have, wait, have we got too much? Okay forget those, we'll start with this stuff and see how we feel. Actually, we will have them, put them back on. And can we get three sherries pronto?"
Rating: 9/10. Price: All of the dishes are between £3.50 and £6.50Morito review in full >>
The Sunday Times, 12 DecemberAA Gill says the Savoy River Restaurant, London WC2, is a sign of how far the iconic hotel has fallen from its grand panache
And then came pudding. Ahh, joy unconfined. Pleasure, lump in the throat: peach melba, one of Escoffier's many great inventions, but possibly his most famous. Created in this dining room for the Australian soprano Nellie Melba. He surprised her with a poached peach with vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce. "This," said the waiter, with a grin that promised neither confidence nor humour, "is our chef's homage." So, it isn't really peach melba? "It's melba, with a twist." Well, how dare you? How very, very dare you imagine that you could, or should, twist a masterpiece of your craft? It came not so much twisted as screwed up, chopped up with custard and some berry stuff. It went back unmolested. This is so plainly and self-evidently not an improvement. What did a man who put on a white jacket without irony imagine he was doing with this monstrous disrespect?
Rating: 1/5. Price: Average price for two £100 plus drinksSavoy River Restaurant review in full >>
The Sunday Telegraph, 13 DecemberAfter an uneasy first encounter with Trullo, London N1, Zoe Williams thinks this place too bossy and pleased-with-itself for her liking
I thought Trullo was going to be extremely good, because it took me such an unspeakable age to get a table. Having now been there, I explain its popularity thus: first, it's not very big; second, some of the food is nice; third, there aren't many other places round here. Trulli are those white-washed conical buildings you see in wilder parts of Puglia; they look quite narrow, but this place is about the size of two large front rooms knocked into each other. It has a trattorian bustle, paper tablecloths and plenty of four- or five-strong groups of people cusping 30, who might be flatsharers or the next generation of Labour politicians; it's hard to say without eavesdropping. The menu had a rather bossy injunction: ‘minimum order of one main course per person'. I'd understand if it were dirt cheap, but I'd call it actually mid-range: at which price point, I think if your customers want two starters, that should be up to them. T had the home-made ricotta ravioli (£6.50), in which the stuffing was fantastic, but the pasta was undercooked around the edges. One more minute would have done it, so it seems mean to carp. Nevertheless, it interfered with the tastiness, so carp I must.
Rating: 6.5/10. Price: Three courses £28.50Trullo review in full >>