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

17 January 2011 by
What's on the Menu? – A round-up of the latest restaurant reviews

The Times
15 January
Giles Coren says Brawn, London E2, the new restaurant from the team behind Terroirs, is terrific
Sitting down, we had an assortment of meats to go with glasses of white (this place is descended from Terroirs in Covent Garden, and shares an enthusiasm for "natural" wines, lots of them, many very interesting ones, in all sorts of different quantities), including my beloved lardo di collonata (which I prefer milk-skin-thin over hot puffy rolls, just melting, but will eat off the floor of a pub toilet if I have to), some Jesus du Pays Basque and slices of garfagnana, a Tuscan brawn that I guess gives the place its name. In cross section one is offered a delicious mosaic: the dark red of pig blood providing a night sky against which morsels of pork bonce glisten like cartilaginous half-planets. The oysters were very good, with real texture. There was a zander boudin, the river-fish sausage just wonderfully pale and faintly flavoured on a dark golden shellfish reduction so rich and sweet as to be almost caramelly. There was a gorgeous "caillette", a sort of cabbagey faggot, a dense pigoffaly slap in the mouth, and a great bottle of red, and a spatchcock'd quail on red stuff, and a cassoulet thing, and a bottle of white from somewhere, and some clams, and, you know what, I knew halfway through that I would finish off too drunk to remember what I'd eaten (or where I lived).
Rating: 8/10
Price £40 a head
Brawn review in full >>

The Sunday Times
16 January
AA Gill finds the ideal nostalgic pub in the Lord Nelson in Brightwell Baldwin, Oxfordshire
This food is what's usually passed off as "good home cooking" - a phrase that is usually a euphemism for chilled cabinet convenience, with ketchup. But this really was good home lunch, of the sort you'd be lucky to get if your mother was as good a cook as she thinks she is. A menu that was both local in ingredients and comfortingly national in intent, without being English Heritage or gastro-restoration. That's a very difficult thing to pull off as catering: it's not starred food, or photographed food, it's precisely what you want in a pub, but never seem to get. Composing eulogies about pubs is a peculiarly English trope: most writers venture into the snug for a shandy of prose, Chaucer and Pepys, Falstaff and Orwell, famously with his Moon Under Water. And Chesterton, with the rolling English drunkard, and both Amises did some fine gothic pub crawling. I think I may have found in the Lord Nelson that fabled, romanticised, mourned and bucolically idealised pub, at the end of the nostalgia rainbow.
Rating: 4/5
Price £45 for two excluding drinks
Lord Nelson review in full >>

The Guardian15 JanuaryJohn Lanchester says grilled chicken is proof that a multinational fast-food chain's offerings don't have to be awful
Nando's is a casual restaurant rather than a fast-food one - another aspirational touch. The food is energetically spiced, where so many of its competitors are bland, and grilled to order, where the competition fries food and then lets it sit around. I'd be interested to know exactly how healthy the Nando's offering is, but that information isn't openly available in its restaurants or on its website. As for the chickens, they're not organic, but neither are they battery-farmed; Nando's buys from big outfits that comply with the industry's voluntary standards. This is for reasons of price and what it suspects customers are willing to pay - if the customers showed signs of being willing to pay more, I'm guessing Nando's would be quick to react. About that spicing: The Oxford Companion To Food, the masterpiece by the late Alan Davidson, says that dishes featuring African peri-peri chillies "are likely to be hot". No kidding. My standard Nando's order is a chicken breast burger served "medium", which is still fairly spicy. But on my Ofsted-style inspection visit, I ordered it "hot". After my first mouthful, I burst into tears and went crimson. Lord only knows what the "extra hot" is like.
Nando's review in full >>

The Observer
16 January
Jay Rayner finds a mixed menu at kebab house Lahore, London SW16, but can't complain because of the incredible value for money
What then of the Lahore? For the most part the cooking is bright and fresh, and compared to the silly prices charged in so many restaurants, very cheap, the low cost aided by the lack of an alcohol licence, though you can bring your own and they will be so accommodating as to offer a bottle opener or corkscrew. The good news is that in the serious business of seared meats they score. We ordered the mixed grill for £12, which brought a bit of everything. The all-important lamb chops had a good amount of meat on them, a proper cheek-coating crust with a not unwelcome citrus burst at the end as if they'd been doused in lemon juice as they came off the flame. Seekh kebabs - minced lamb - were soft and tender and not overly fiery. The stars, though, were pieces of tandoori fish. In a cooking culture which favours the mallet over the feather, the thump over the tickle, there's always the risk that fish will be cooked until it surrenders. Here, the flakes fell apart with just the tap of the fork, and the rub did not overwhelm its flavour.
Meal for two, including service, £35Lahore review in full >>

The Independent
15 January
Tracey Macleod finds the seemingly idyllic foodie paradise of farmshop café Bill's Produce's first outpost in the capital, London WC2, is all a bit ersatz
It's undeniably picturesque, this rus-in-urbe idyll, apparently created in some old light-industrial building. Until you realise that the whitewashed brick walls, reclaimed furnishings and exposed ducting all appear to have been imported on to an empty site and painstakingly reconstructed from a designer's look book. All the homely touches - candles guttering in jam jars, cutlery stuffed into porridge tins, newspapers scattered around battered leather armchairs - are similarly ersatz. So pervasive is the illusion that I began to peer at the signage which covers every flat surface, to see if it was genuinely hand-written or printed off in that special font called "Arty Manageress". With towers of spotlit produce dominating the room, Bill's comes over as a foodie paradise. And then you look at the menu. Tomato soup; avocado and bacon salad; salmon with hollandaise; hamburger; minute steak and chips. Special of the day: T-bone steak. The stuff of every bog-standard brasserie, in other words, with no particular focus on seasonality or provenance, unlike the original Bill's, which built its menus around produce from local farms.
Rating: Food 2/5; Ambience 4/5; Service 3/5
Price: Around £25 a head including drinks and service for three courses
Bill's Produce review in full >>

The Independent on Sunday
16 January
Lisa Markwell's cover is blown at Peter Gordon's new restaurant Kopapa, London WC2, but despite the consequent special treatment she says she'll be back
It takes some time to decipher the rest of the menu, not only because the lighting is that dim variety so loved by modish establishments, but also because the menu is a panoply of fusion: oysters come with gazpacho, wasabi and sake; there's an ox-tongue and cheddar fritter with pickled red cabbage; and deep-fried squid is accompanied by puy lentils, with chipotle chilli and aubergine salad, caramelised peanuts and rocket. If you like fusion, this is the place for you. Less successful is the shoehorning in of the sharing-plate phenomenon. It all requires a great deal of concentration and clear views on how hungry you are going in. Given the wordy main courses, we four decide to share the mixed platter (£10.50) of grilled chorizo, guindilla chillies, marinated olives, Zamorano cheese, Marcona almonds, Hansen & Lydersen east London smoked salmon and a sourdough stick. It's a delicious array of good things; only the smoked salmon a slightly odd addition, since it is overpowered by the other flavours and drenched in their various juices.
Rating: 7/10
Price: About £75 for two, including a carafe of wine
Kopapa review in full >>

The Daily Telegraph
15 January
Matthew Norman finds madding crowds, muzak and flashes of brilliance at Sienna in Dorchester
After good bread and canapés (duck with quince was a belter), we kicked off with suitably Lilliputian cups of a velvety butternut squash velouté with melty Parmesan on the bottom and - a clever touch - a sprig of crispy fried sage on top. But the soup had little depth of taste; nor did slices of peppered venison loin which, although perfectly cooked to a deep pink finish, were virtually obliterated by the flavour juggernaut of an accompanying celeriac remoulade. Despite The Champions having given way to a muzak CD more in keeping with the foyer of the Crossroads motel, the quietude was becoming oppressive. So with the best part of a bottle of sancerre inside us (excellent for £28.50, from a wine list constructed with thought and enthusiasm), we strove to dispel it with a minor domestic, refereed by a pubescent boy of our acquaintance, about the shade of yellow on the walls. I posited that it was lemon sorbet, while my wife fought a doughty rearguard in favour of vanilla custard.
Rating: 7/10
Price: Two-course à la carte lunch £23.50; three courses £26.50. Two-course à la carte dinner £34.50; three courses £41. Tasting menu £50
Sienna review in full >>

The Sunday Telegraph16 JanuaryArchangel in Somerset is an absolute winner, says Zoe Williams. And if you disagree with her there's something wrong with you
It suddenly dawned on me that this is the point of all the fanciness of haute cuisine: just to remind you that you're not at KFC and you should at least have the respect of pausing between mouthfuls. My silverside (£7) was probably the more innovative dish, small slices of cured beef, served cold, with teeny chargrilled artichoke hearts and cubes of Bloody Mary jelly the size of fingernails. The meat was exceptional. The artichoke brought the subtlest changes to the texture and the flavour, just a slick of oil and a note of earthiness, which ramped up the deliciousness tenfold. The jelly packed a punch that was almost incomprehensible considering its size. Even though the plate appeal had made me slow down a bit, it was all over far too soon. And then the main course was even better. I had pork belly with five-spice (£14.50). I tend not to be fussy about this poor man's cut. If they want to serve it as if it's been torn off the carcass by bare hands, I don't mind. But this was five perfect, symmetrical slices. The crackling was crisp, and there was a fine covering of fat that never overwhelmed the flavour of the meat. The five-spice was subtle and distinctive.
Rating: 8/10
Price: Two courses: £22.95
Archangel review in full >>

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