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

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

The Independent
13 August
Tracey MacLeod enjoys great food and service at Ondine, Roy Brett's seafood restaurant in Edinburgh
To get the full experience, we ordered the roast shellfish platter (£38) to share as a starter, although I was secretly feeling I couldn't get too excited about another plate of shellfish. And then it arrived, a fabulous selection, garlanded with samphire, chilli and sea purslane. Local lobster, crab and langoustines, grilled with butter and wild garlic, whose warm buzz set the tastebuds singing. Razor clams, cockles and mussels, cooked marinière style, in white wine. Loch Fyne oysters supplying a blast of iodine freshness. This was a feast, and by the time we'd worked our way messily through it, I'd fallen in love with shellfish all over again. Our young waiter was indulgent in the face of the debris-spattered disaster area that was now our tablecloth. "Don't worry, I've seen this kind of thing before," he reassured us, like a paramedic at an accident scene. A main course salad of grilled squid, black olives, hunks of cucumber and feta was the kind of dish you dream of getting on a Greek holiday, but never do. Grilled whole plaice, removed from the bone, came with anchoïade and a slippery sour-sweet tangle of red pepper. Both dishes were absolutely huge.
Rating: Food 4/5; Ambience 3/5; Service 5/5
Price: About £40 a head before wine and service
Ondine review in full >>

The Observer
14 August
With its urban-rustic food and cool interior, the Crooked Well is Boho London at its knowing best, says Jay Rayner
For the most part it works. Some of the pricing is very keen indeed. A changing dish listed as soup and bread costs just £4.50. The night we were there it was a big bowl of gazpacho - British schmitish - with, on the side, a hunk of sourdough toast spread with carefully picked white crab. The soup could have done with a little more of a kick, but even so it was a butch bit of summer in a tureen. Even £7.50 for a plate of very good smoked salmon, scattered with rounds of sweet, crunchy pickled cucumber and halved soft-boiled quail eggs, doesn't seem extortionate. The mains - a rib-eye with Café de Paris butter, duck confit with chorizo and chickpeas, sole with broad beans, anchovies and capers - have a familiar urban-rustic feel. They broadcast their hearty, ingredient-led, cosmopolitan world view with every dot and comma. This is food for Londoners who have been places. More thrilling are the dishes for two: a whole poached sea bass with fennel and samphire, for example or - the one we chose - a rabbit and bacon pie.
Crooked Well review in full >>

Sunday Telegraph
14 August
Galoupet is a new Knightsbridge restaurant where the food is as elegant as the decor and clientele, says Zoe Williams
Of the two fish dishes, the octopus (£9.50) was superior. It arrived underneath some minced kohlrabi, with some more judiciously applied fennel, and the whole thing seriously, I can't even explain the perfection. Something to do with the chewiness of the octopus, set against the near-purée of the kohlrabi, both flavours distinctive but self-effacing - as an ensemble it was glorious. Sea trout with citrus fruits and wood sorrel (£11) was pretty good, but not as much of an event. The lamb (£11) came with chilli-pickled fennel, and the phrase "job lot" sprung to mind, but, frankly, I respect that. A load of incredibly flavourful fresh fennel comes in - why not use it in every other dish? High-quality meat, never too lean but not at all fatty, simply presented, letting the pickle flavours do the work, singing out with pure lambiness. I loved this dish, and I also loved a pork "rib-eye" (£11.50), a fusiony affair in which the pork had been spice-rubbed to an almost Cajun sensibility, while the salad had been subtly doused in nam pla fish sauce and tasted Thai.
Price: Four plates, £30.75Galoupet review in full >>

The Times
13 August
Giles Coren says tasting menus only work when they're as brilliantly executed as the one at Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham
I sometimes express irritation with tasting menus, challenging combinations and, above all, low temperature water-bath cooking, and this meal only reminded me most emphatically why - because there is no point in doing it unless you can do it like this. By all means, if you are Sat Bains, slow cook the hell out of a fatty lamb cut, give us a little chocolate puck of sheepiness, then throw at it fresh cheese, fennel and courgette in minuscule (for salt, sweet and bitter) and then anchovy (for umami). But if you are not, then please, please don't. Just as if you are (or were) Kevin Pietersen, then by all means slog-sweep Murali inside out with a left-handed grip for six, and if you're not, then just try to get to the pitch of the ball and drop a straight bat on it like a normal man. [] It was a great meal, though, that ebbed and flowed like a Test match, where bat and ball, sunshine and cloud, youth and experience tussle for influence, except here it was sleek horseradish ice-cream poking fun at the fat of pork and scallop, potty-mouthed oyster soup chirping at clean-cut salmon fillets, cumin and yoghurt sledging dark chocolate, and then strawberries and cream (red and white, the colours of cricket) chopped up and yammered together until you cannot tell which is which.
Rating: 8.5
Price: With decent wine you're looking at roughly £150/head
Restaurant Sat Bains review in full - available only to Times subscribers >>

The Sunday Times
14 August
Soseki, London EC3, may not be the best Japanese restaurant in London but its ethical intentions and pescatorial concerns are laudable, says AA Gill
Sushi was nice, with the addition of quite a lot, in fact a little too much, wasabi, on thick gobs of rice. There is no ethically contaminated bluefin tuna. Everything else was well presented. Each fish coming with its own little garnish or additional flavour - a leaf, a few caviar eggs - was nicely done. The soft-shell crab roll was indistinguishable from every other soft-shell crab roll. Where do these crabs come from? Who is farming or harvesting millions of naked, homeless crabs? My red miso soup tasted strongly of red miso. If I never ate it again, I wouldn't miss it. If I never had to eat tofu again, I'd be jolly pleased. They did something warm with it here. A plate of Cornish sashimi, mackerel, mullet and turbot was okay, but I must say, raw is never going to be the best way to eat a turbot. A dish of hot duck was disappointing, bordering on nasty, like a vaguely eastern, chill-cabinet deluxe ready meal. My favourite bit was the tasting menu of teas. I've never been good at discerning Japanese tea, but having five of them was an education and a real pleasure. I now know that I like genmaicha better than the rest. Though I'm never going to remember the name.
Rating: 3/5
Price: Set menus vary from £22 to £50
Soseki review in full - available only to Times subscribers >>

The London Metro
10 August
Madison has friendly staff and a breathtaking view of London - but the grubby surroundings and wide-boy food let it down, according to Marina O'Loughlin
The food arrives and it's laughably style over substance. There's lobster cocktail - crustacean of no discernible flavour and woolliness of texture in a lurid, vinegary sauce - in a double glass arrangement, ice in the bottom, cocktail in the top. Our neighbour takes delivery of a Caesar salad, served in a vast, lidded jar, enthusiastically shaken tableside for a piece of cringeworthy "theatre". What's rapidly becoming the prawn cocktail de nos jours - burrata with "heritage" tomatoes - is pretty blameless. But the rest of our meal is simply poor: a greyish, juice-free burger with overly strident cheese on unyielding bun; limp, bendy, skin-on fries; porridgey risotto with a socky whiff of Gorgonzola; and some beige broad beans. We manage to live without pudding. What do I know? The place is loud, mobbed, pulsing with a conservatively dressed, youngish crowd, all clearly up for necking quantities of champagne with ice (Möet does a Magners! Classy!) on a school night. Given the throb of loving-it custom, the Inc Group appears to have hit the jackpot. What was that about never underestimating the taste of the great British public?
Rating: 2/5
Price: A meal for two with wine, water and service costs about £120
Madison review in full >>

Time Out
11 August
Guy Dimond is impressed by Manchurian Legends, London W1, the capital's first restaurant serving Dongbei food from the north-east of China
As always with Chinese menus, the English translations don't tell the full story. "54: braised pork with glass noodle" was actually red-braised pork belly, a slow-braising technique in a dark reddish-brown sauce. The meat is then used to top the highly elastic, translucent noodles. The bite of this spaghetti-shaped pasta is surprising, and the rich, warming flavours transport you to Dongbei with its long winters. Suan cai is the Chinese version of Korean kim chi, used in stews and hotpots to pep up the starch and meat combos, for example in a big bowl of pickled vegetable with pork belly (58); another hit. Wide, translucent starch noodles over julienned cucumber with red-cooked pork (13) could also pass as a Korean dish with the pleasing chew of the noodles and crunch of raw vegetables. One of my dining companions, born and brought up in Harbin, commented that the portion sizes here are "small" compared to her native region - in which case they must be use bowls the size of Mongolia back home. But we all enjoyed the deep-fried chive and egg dumplings (41), which resemble Cornish pasties; and the spring onion pancakes (44), like fried rotis, "small" or not.
Manchurian Legends review in full >>

London Evening Standard
11 August
Fay Maschler manages to only dip her toe in the possibilities of the menu at Manchurian Legends, London W1
The menu at Manchurian Legends is, indeed, a thing apart. There were so many dishes that tempted and intrigued that I went for dinner twice. Even so, I feel I have only dipped my toe in the possibilities of tripe, pig's knuckle, duck tongues, chicken gizzard and heart, frog and so forth. I am going to have to return with sturdier companions. Based on the dishes we did try, I can recommend starting with soup, particularly the ribs and kelp soup - helpfully pictured on the menu - and the seaweed and egg broth. From the 30 dishes under the heading Cold Starter, traditional cold-style mixed vegetables successfully fleshed out some of my research, the translucent noodles made from mung bean starch were suitably bouncy and the vegetables a busy tangle in a quite fierce savoury dressing. Equally healthy-seeming and edifying was dry-fried spinach with green and red chilli. Chicken on the bone in ginger sauce was fragrant and in possession of the elusive sweetness that bones can bestow. Cold sliced pig's ear is a beautiful object, the cartilage embedded in the mahogany skin like ivory marquetry in a polished table. Served in chilli oil, it also has a most satisfactory crunch. Next time I am going to try chilli pork jelly with garlic.
Rating: 3/5
Price: A meal for two with wine, about £70
Manchurian Legends review in full >>

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