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

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

The Observer
7 August
Jay Rayner says that Montpellier Chapter's hotel restaurant in Cheltenham, which is overseen by consultant chef Simon Hopkinson, shows an outpost can be a success
The dining room is, like the menu, long. At one end is a semi-open kitchen with a wood-fired oven for the production of pizzas - not especially Hoppy. Other things are. And in any case he is only the consultant. The head chef here is Tom Rains, ex of L'Escargot, and he clearly knows what he's doing. There are chunky salads, including a niçoise and something with Asian-style duck. Scallops are served on the half shell with a herb and garlic butter crust. They come surrounded by ponds of hot, melted dairy fats and are pretty perfect. As is what they are calling, a little clunkily, "the Simon Hopkinson inspired dish of the month" - in this case a lobster salad, half the meat returned to the shell on a bed of shredded lettuce. The lobster is still warm, the vinaigrette carefully balanced. It costs £16. It's so good you (almost) forget the price. Among the mains is steak au poivre, one of those dishes that got left behind by almost everyone apart from our consultant. Here, it is spot on: the fillet properly pink, with a full-on crushed peppercorn crust and a cream-rich sauce. There are good chips, too. Calves' liver comes thick-cut with bacon and beneath it petits pois à la Française. Hopkinson is very keen on offal, especially tripe, and the menu could do with more.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service, £120Montpellier Chapter review in full >>

The Times
6 August
Giles Coren finds "mimsy and ill-seasoned" food at Casa Batavia, London W8, the first UK venture from Italian chef Nicola Batavia
The only decent thing was a monkfish soup with lardo and lovely sticky focaccia croutons and a poke of red chilli, but everything else was mimsy and ill-seasoned, from the slightly tangy breaded sardines on burrata (I guess oily fish can tang on a Monday) to the dreary grilled squid on mashed potato. According to the menu, one of our starters won the "Best Dish Award 2010 - Italy", which allows me to reveal that they are giving out prizes somewhere for a poached egg served on out-of-season asparagus without salt. And there was none on the table. Like kissing a man without a moustache, as Marilyn Monroe would have said. Penne with a lamb ragout was not a ragout, just chips of oily roast lamb tossed with penne, and the side of cucumber salad (at £5.50) was, bizarrely, a sliced boiled potato with three chunks of half-peeled cucumber alongside. The coffee was terrible, and for petits fours we were served Haribo sweets in a posh box. I mock you not: cola bottles, gummi bears, even a couple of flying saucers. So, at the last, this average-to-poor restaurant revealed itself actually to be stone-cold mental.
Rating: 4.33
Price: with one set lunch, one à la carte, no puds and no booze, it came to £70.
Casa Batavia review in full - available only to Times subscribers >>

The Independent
6 August
John Walsh finds food lacking in interest or passion at the Chiswell Street Dining Rooms, London EC1, the latest venture from Ed and Tom Martin
The whole place shouts "Expense Account". So does the clientele, in their gelled haircuts and Apprentice suits. So do the prices. So does the noise. The only thing that prevents you from turning tail and fleeing is the attitude of the waiting staff, who are unusually welcoming, and seem unlikely to bounce you off your table at 9.59pm. An almost aggressive Britishness characterises the dinner menu: Benbecula langoustines, Isle of Man scallops, Cumbrae oysters, Lincolnshire eel, Norfolk asparagus. The bread was a good start - a small crusty loaf, fresh-baked and sliced into, and delicious. My friend Tim chose the seared foie gras with a spiced apple brioche and a port reduction, and wasn't impressed. It hadn't been seared. It might have been shown a photograph of a Dunhill lighter, but nothing more. "With foie gras, you expect density, smoothness and body," he said. "This is very raw and not hugely flavourful." The kitchen had compensated by overdoing the sweetness of the brioche and throwing in some candied hazelnuts. It didn't help.
Rating: Food 2/5; Ambience 3/5; Service 4/5
Price: About £120 for two, with wine
Chiswell Street Dining Rooms review in full >>

The Daily Telegraph
6 August
Matthew Norman feels lucky to spend lunch at the Wheatsheaf restaurant in Bath
If that portly, ruddy-cheeked paradigm of the genial host, who greeted our three appallingly behaved dogs with a cheery " ‘ello woofers!", lent added charm to the meal, it fell to a young and vastly promising chef called Eddie Rains to steal the show. That this is anything but your bog-standard gastric pub was apparent from the three kinds of warm bread served with incredibly good butter. What followed, with a lone exception, necessitates that the ensuing remarks be prefaced, in accordance with health and safety regulations, with the traditional Hazgush warning. The missus was mad about her "very subtle and creamy" Somerset goats' cheese, glazed with local honey and served with pickled walnuts; and I was wowed by chunks of River Frome crayfish floating amid thick udon noodles and cashew nuts on a limey, chilli and coriander-laden broth a brilliantly simple yet imaginative summery dish. The boy emitted an involuntary "this is one of the best starters I've ever tasted" about his foie gras and guinea fowl terrine with fabulously sharp and crunchy home-made piccalilli. Frances, meanwhile, felt obliged to amend her initial "best chicken Caesar salad ever", adding "apart from mum's", lest umbrage be taken.
Rating: 9/10
Price: Three courses, with wine and coffee, about £50 per head
The Wheatsheaf restaurant review in full >>

The Sunday Telegraph
7 August
Stick to the chargrilled meat at Barbecoa, Jamie Oliver's new restaurant, and you can't go wrong, says Zoe Williams
D had the rump steak (£18), which was brilliant, just a very macho statement of total competence. The creamed spinach (£5) did not look that appetising; it had a crust of something thicker than breadcrumbs, almost like a savoury sablé, with some fried onion perched on top like a fascinator. It looked extremely rich, which it was, but what its appearance failed to advertise was how intensely spinachy it was as well. You know these Frenchifications, where the answer to everything is to add a quart of cream? I think they've fallen very slightly out of fashion lately; when they resurface you remember instantly what was so good about them. A green salad (£4) on the side had a lovely, peppery dressing. The puddings were frankly disastrous. D had the cheesecake (£8), which was absolutely enormous. Its ginger-nut base was soggy, the cheesy element was fine, but then there was a flouncy topping of raw meringue that made it look like Victorian bloomers and taste like torture.
Rating: 6/10
Price: Three courses, £43.50
Barbecoa review in full >>

The Metro
3 August
Marina O'Loughlin loves everything about Spuntino, London W1, the new restaurant from Polpo duo Russell Normand and Richard Beatty
There are sliders - in this case, aka meatballs in a bun, or maybe excellent pulled pork with pickled apple, or spiced mackerel; lollipoped, slightly stodgy croquetas of Spanish ham; softshell crab, a little enthusiastically battered. Sure, there are salads, but of the butch slaw or panzanella (Tuscan bread) variety. What's become the trademark item - white toast, fried with a layer of cheese on top and a pool of truffle-oiled egg yolk in a central indentation - is like something I'd fry up after a night on the sauce. The febrile atmosphere, with its well-chosen swampy soundtrack, is catching. Half an hour after our arrival, the queue snakes out the door. I love the comfort-food excess of the menu: if it can be fried, put in a bun or slathered in cheese, it will be. It's genuinely liberating to order what you want, when you want it - one of us with a phwoar! caramelly brown sugar cheesecake, the other deciding that now is a good time to try the tangle of thin, curly, crisp shoestring fries. I love the insider smugness of knowing about the burger: it's not large (though not a slider) but the meat is excellent quality, there's a soft, briochey bun, pleasingly plasticky cheese and maybe a suggestion of bone marrow.
Rating: 4/5
Price: A meal for two with wine, water and service, costs from £40 to £80
Spuntino review in full >>

The London Evening Standard
4 August
Fay Maschler finds part-time restaurant the Bonnie & Wild, London N1, hit and miss
The £29 menu (as long as no side dishes are ordered) briskly entitled What We Serve offers a choice of three items in first and main course, two side dishes at £3.50 each and cheese or dessert. The meal got off to a thunderingly good start with pan-fried herring fillet accompanied by a salad of chickpeas spiced with cumin and smooched with apricots dressed in crème fraîche. The quality of the fish was perfect, as was the timing of the cooking. Wood pigeon breast roasted on a barbecue and served with black pudding, sweet tomato relish and balsamic reduction was also admired. Inverlochy cold-smoked salmon had a bit of a stand-off with its cucumber, red onion and wholegrain mustard salad. It would have made more impact on its own, perhaps with bread of a more interesting variety than that set out in blue-rimmed white enamel bowls on the table. Megrim, the thinking person's sole, pan-fried and served with spinach and a crayfish and caper butter was the fish main course. As its name suggests, megrim is not and never will be - until only a handful of fish are left in the ocean - a wholly seductive mouthful. It welcomes a bit of a boost from something quite acerbic such as capers.
Rating: 3/5
Price: Set-price menu of £29 for three courses, excluding vegetables
The Bonnie & Wild review in full >>

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