John Lanchester says there's nothing amateur about the Fox and Grapes, London SW19, the gastropub from French chef Claude Bosi and his brother Cedric
The Fox and Grapes is pitched at the spot many gastropubs aim for, with food that is better than the old pub norm, but not trying to push the culinary envelope. It tries to give customers what they want, rather than lead them to try new things. Nothing wrong with that, and the formula is very well calibrated for Wimbledon, since the place is packed. Some trend boxes are ticked: 2011's compulsory pork scratchings? Tick. Post-ironic scotch eggs? Mais bien sûr. (A great version, actually, crunchy on the outside, runny in the middle, and made with wild boar for extra flavour.) The menu is classic modern gastropub, executed with the high skill levels you'd expect from Bosi's team. Dandelion salad with a poached egg and smoked eel was an early spring classic, served with a zingingly acidic vinaigrette; sharp cooking in every sense. A noticeably generous portion of crab was served on a slice of sourdough, with salad, as a starter - a simple dish, but good crab served plainly is hard to beat, and this was a very good-value portion for £7.50.
Price: Meal for two with drinks and service, about £80
Fox and Grapes review in full >>](http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/apr/16/fox-and-grapes-restaurant-review)
Jay Rayner says the most surprising thing about the Savoy Grill, London WC2, is that it isn't atrocious
I book a table for two at 8.15pm. The gal on the phone says "and you will have your table until a quarter past ten." Eh? This meal is going to cost what's technically known as a whore's ransom and you're putting a stop watch on my dinner? "What happens if I'm not finished?" She pauses. "I'm not entirely sure, sir, but we do advise our guests that it's a two-hour turnaround." Is it? Is it really. When I get there I ask our waiter why they do this. "We need to turn the tables." Full marks for telling it like it is. Here's the thing. The only reason you'd tell customers that they must give the table back after two hours is if you don't think, in the run of things, that you can serve a meal in that time. If you can, then you don't need to mention it, do you. Generally a restaurant should make you feel they are grateful for the custom; this is designed to make you feel grateful for being allowed in. It makes the whole business of feeding people look shabby, grubby and obsessed only with the bottom line. Arguably, in terms of his current media profile, Gordon Ramsay has got this element of the venture spot on.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service £150
Savoy Grill review in full >>
Tracey MacLeod says the capital offers many more exciting places to eat that are cheaper and more salubriously positioned than the new St John Hotel, London WC2
With its close-packed tables and harsh acoustics, it's an unforgiving space; all the comfort is to be found on the plate and in the glass. Head chef Tom Harris has come from St John, and his daily-changing menus here are a chip off the old block, not that you'd find anything as banal as chips on them. As fans of the house style know, behind St John's unpromisingly terse menu descriptions are dishes that not only taste good, but are also in perfect good taste. A starter of sliced veal tongue and waxy new potatoes was lifted by a perfectly pitched mustard-sharp dressing. Crumbed skate cheeks, crisp, scampi-like nuggets, came with tartare sauce for dipping. A side salad of punchily-dressed watercress was so iodine-rich it practically leapt off the plate. In a departure from St John tradition, at dinner there are several main courses to share between two - on the night we visited, they included suckling pig ("It's the face," I heard a waiter explaining to a neighbouring table).
Rating: Food 4/5; Service 4/5; Ambience 2/5
Price: Around £65 a head including wine and service
[St John Hotel review in full >>](http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/reviews/st-john-hotel-1-leicester-street-london-wc2-2267227.html)
The Independent on Sunday
Lisa Markwell says that despite banging tunes and achingly hip surroundings, Brunswick House Café, London SW8, has the potential to be much more than the SW version of a Shoreditch twat One of everything is perfect for four people - there are nine main dishes (of the sharing variety, natch). Young Mr Boxer talks us through each one, pointing out the provenance of the piggy fat in a white bean, garlic and lardo plate (£4.40) and the exact heat rating of the nduja, the fiery sausage stuffing in tiny, tender squid. Berkswell, fennel and bloodcrumbs (£6.60) gets him (and us, when we taste it) very fired up: the cheese matched with wafer-thin slices of the fragrant bulb and black pudding cooked then crumbled to give an earthy, rich edge. Pollock with dill and candy beetroot ceviche (£6.40) is also a complex and knockout-good mouthful - the meaty fish and sweet varieties of beet mingling to perfection. The plates come two or three at a time, which works well for sharing but there is a quite a wait between them: the place isn't quite full, but the tiny kitchen space is already creaking at the seams.
Price: About £150 for dinner for four, including wine
Brunswick House Café review in full >>
The Sunday Telegraph
The White Swan, a wonderfully rustic Yorkshire inn in Pickering, could win on charm and looks alone, says Zoe Williams
And then we both had roasts, which sounds not very adventurous, but I think we can justify ourselves Well, no, we can't. We just fancied it, OK? My pork loin (£11.95) was extremely good; the meat was Ginger Pig, that famous piggery of the Yorkshire Moors, where all the animals have incredibly happy lives. Verily, you can taste the happiness in every mouthful, but you might not want to think about that too hard. The gravy was perfect. Spuds were a bit soggy. A generous dish of vegetables was mainly great, if you exclude my fervent prejudice against swede. Even if you mash it, it still tastes like pig food which, incidentally, is what the French call it. I bet the posh pigs of Ginger wouldn't go near it. C had the beef (£22), which was not quite as special. That is to say it was fine - there was certainly nothing wrong with it, but nor was he seized with a desire to discover its producer's whereabouts and shake him firmly by the hand.
Price: Three courses £31.30
The White Swan review in full >>
The Sunday Times
AA Gill says the soup at Polish restaurant Daquise, London SW7, alone is worth a date, giving it a full five stars, and a kiss on both cheeks
The menu starts with cold, then warm, and soup. Herring, beetroot and horseradish, mixed vegetable salad (don't call it Russian), pierogi, sweetbreads, and marinated salmon with potato pancakes. A borscht with dumplings, which is not like Soviet borscht, but a clear, spinel-red broth that's both sweetly refined and trollishly earthy. And then there was the sour rye soup: rye that's been left to steep in bacon stock, but comes with boiled egg. Now, I love soup. I think there's nothing like enough soup on menus, or in life. Soup may be the answer to almost everything. Our existences are written in soup. This may be the Rosetta stone of soup, a grand polonaise of blissful, clever, witty, sympathetic, encouraging and entertaining soup. Not just a great anecdotal soup: but a comforting, attentive soup, with an egg. This is the soup your mother wanted you to marry. If you're not attached to a soup at the moment, or you're just fooling around with hot and sour, this soup alone is worth a date at Daquise.
Price: Tasting menu £19.90. Set lunch, two courses for £9; four courses for £14
Daquise review in full - available only to Times online subscribers >>
By Kerstin Kühn
E-mail your comments to Kerstin Kühn here.
If you have something to say on this story or anything else join the debate at Table Talk - Caterer's new networking forum. Go to www.caterersearch.com/tabletalk
Looking for a new job? Find your next job here with Caterersearch.com jobs