Tony Turnbull's meal at Galoupet, London SW3, is just the job to dispel any post-holiday tristesse
Get to the food, though, and the accent veers swiftly from the Mediterranean to Asia. The chef, Chris Golding, has worked at Zuma, Nobu and Nahm, and the menu of small tapas-sized plates - what else? - promises maximum flavour for minimal calorific intake: tomato, shiso, pepper dressing; chilli pork, cucumber, coriander, lime; chicken, miso, peach, ginger. We sat on Carl Hansen Wishbone chairs in the long, narrow and very beige dining room, and kicked off with crisp flatbread and a dip of red pepper with Gorgonzola and pistachios. It was as good a way as any of signposting the textural and palatal rattling our taste buds would be given that evening: a thwack of saltiness, a swirl of soothing sweetness, a crunch of protein, the boing of umami. This is gymnastics for the tongue, food that leaves your brain playing catch-up as you catapult from one flavour to the next. Stand-out dishes included mackerel with potatoes, mint and Diamante citron, which managed to be both clean and smoky; octopus with fennel, kohlrabi and miso, a tsunami of fermented moreishness; stone bass with burnt tomatoes and coriander provided a sweet, delicate breather.
Price: £50 a head if you are sensible with the wine.Galoupet review in full >>
The Sunday Times
AA Gill says Made in Camden, the restaurant at the Roundhouse arts and entertainment venue, London NW1, is an exceedingly good caff with a bit of lost space attached
We were eating mob-handed. The menu comes as small plates and big plates and puddings. The dishes take their inspiration from high and low, from far and wide, from hither and yon. They search the markets and the shacks of the globe for dainties. Everywhere, in fact, except Camden. Which is a jolly good joke, and a blessing for the digestion. From the small plates, I might single out grilled sardines with tahini, lemon cream and flatbread; fennel with feta and pistachio-salted caramel; sticky pulled pork with papaya and mango; crab and cassava croquettes; and, best, spiced lamb kofta with a tomato tagine, saffron yoghurt and crispy shallots. All these little dishes are as good and enticing a collection of robustly flavoured and stoutly made food as you could hope for. Indeed, I think most people eat solely from this bit of the menu. Dishes cost between £5 and £8. Of the larger plates, I tried the slow-roast Roman leg of lamb with pink fir apple potatoes and the braised beef short ribs with Asian slaw, fried rice and azuki beans. These were less successful, perhaps because the first-course dishes were such a tough act to follow, and they imply a sort of dining that the room isn't really catering to.
Price: Small plates £5-£8; large plates £12-£16Made in Camden review in full >>
John Lanchester says dining at Roganic, London W1, the two-year pop-up by Simon Rogan, made him want to visit the original restaurant in Cumbria
In a sense, all restaurants are theme restaurants; they all have a central, organising idea. The idea at Roganic is, quite simply, the food. You are supposed to think about it, to discuss it, to argue with it. If the restaurant were a person, it would be someone who only ever talked about cooking. Mackerel, for instance, is a fish that often comes fairly plain - and, when super-fresh, is hard to beat that way. Here, it's the opposite of plain: it comes cured in seawater; with two kinds of broccoli, one a dehydrated blob, the other a puréed smear; with warm elderflower honey from Regent's Park that contained tiny pieces of chopped herb; and with a spinach-like leaf called orache. It was the sort of dish that takes a while to figure out. I eventually decided that I liked it, but that the honey was a mistake - the wrong kind of faintly cloying sweetness. The waiter asked what I thought, I told him, and he said that this very question had been discussed at length by the staff. The frantically inventive and busy cooking worked well, on the whole.
Price: set menus £55 for six courses or £80 for 10, excluding wine.Roganic review in full >>
Although the interior reminds Jay Rayner of the inside of Sir Alan Sugar's wallet, the Turkish menu at his Sheesh in Chigwell, Essex, is solid
The virtue of this sort of design - I use the term loosely - is that they could serve almost any food here: French, Chinese, a selection of roast cats. At the moment it is, as the name suggests, Turkish, which is no bad thing. Having just returned from a holiday on the southern Turkish coast I found the menu familiar. It is full of the dips, salads and grills which are the portion of Turkey's repertoire tourists generally get to experience. The Sheesh aubergine salad is smokey and fresh. The minced lamb topping on their lahmacun, a kind of Turkish pizza, may lack zest and brio but there's no doubting the quality of the flat bread. The squid in a tomato and garlic sauce is better than most of the squid dishes I tried in Turkey, not having the texture of bus tyre. The main courses are equally solid, down to the side dishes of buttery rice with vermicelli noodles, the pickled red cabbage and the raw-onion salad sprinkled with sumac, the ubiquitous citrus-flavoured spice. A mixed grill brought more than serviceable lamb and chicken sheesh and a particularly good adana kofte, the highly spiced meatball formed on a flat iron skewer before grilling.
Sheesh review in full >>
John Walsh says Chez Bruce, London SW17, is a jewel in the gastronomic wasteland of Wandsworth Common
The £45-a-head set dinner menu seems at first sight a stolid array of classic French favourites - foie gras and chicken liver parfait, ceviche of scallop, bream with cod brandade, lobster and scallop mousseline, navarin of lamb, côte de boeuf - until you notice how many other foreign colours are represented: Italian (fontina and truffle arancini), Spanish (half-grilled sardines with gazpacho vinaigrette) - and, good heavens, Indonesian. I had no idea what beef rendang was doing in such a comfortably Eurocentric menu - it was like finding a Gurkha standing in the bar of Boodle's club - but I decided to try it. It was delicious. The secret of rendang is that the beef should be cooked extr-eee-mely slowly in a spicy paste (ginger, galangal, chillis) and served with a light herbal accompaniment. The beef here had been braised, rather than cooked, to the point just before disintegration. It was unbelievably tender and subtly prickled with chilli, and came with a fine vegetable salad involving carrots, bean sprouts, peanuts and tamarind sauce - an unexpected treat. Angie's ceviche of salmon and scallop was also a big success, the salmon cut in chunks rather than wafer slices, the accessories (coriander, pine nuts, lime and chillis) fabulously zingy. "Absolutely delicious," said Angie. "Is this Wandsworth? I could be eating this in a beach bar in Mexico."
Rating: Food 4/5; Ambience 3/5; Service 4/5
Price: About £150 for two with wineChez Bruce review in full >>
The Sunday Telegraph
The restaurant at Massimo, London WC2, is surely the best-dressed room around, and the food isn't exactly shabby either, according to Zoe Williams
The dining-room here is magnificent, with great globular chandeliers that beam with luxuriousness. It nevertheless didn't feel like a place heaving with people for whom money was no object, but rather with people for whom food was of such vivid importance that the bill was simply a necessary sacrifice. This is the holy-grail atmosphere for chefs who tend towards the artist, and it put me in a hopeful mood. My hope was mainly met, and at one point exceeded by the loveliest octopus dish I've had. My most fashion-forward friend, A, has a list of things she won't eat as long as a baguette (which she emphatically will not eat); as a result, I can impart that the staff are friendly and do not give you a load of foodie attitude, where you are expected to do the chef's bidding or else. She started with the mackerel with caponata, with a cheeky sardine garnish (£13). It rang with Italian simplicity. There is a certain confidence, call it an act of faith, unique to Italian cooking - its mission statement would be, "This here is a wonderful, fresh piece of fish, and you are going to like it whatever I do." It's like a Hippocratic oath of cooking: "First of all, do no harm."
Price: Three courses: £49.76Massimo review in full >>
Machiavelli's basement restaurant Dining Room, London WC2, with its cold atmosphere and irritating staff, is understandably almost deserted, says Marina O'Loughlin
It's haunted by a charming if over-anxious and under-employed waiter. Lord preserve us from under-employed Italian waiters: we're barely given a moment's peace. I was hoping for some seasonal home-made pastas from the menu on its wooden board but, apart from crespelle and a bog-standard lasagne, there are none. What we eat is, with the exception of some amateur dinner party-standard peaches with amaretti, poor. "Italian tomatoes" - I know, I know, but a tomato salad is as good a way to judge a kitchen as a burger or carbonara - is disastrous: what appear to be flavourless, woolly, mammoth beefsteaks, utterly pedestrian cherry and Tesco Value. I have a similar dish the next day in Brawn in Columbia Road and get a riot of sweet-tasting heirloom fruit, including (I think) Green Zebra, laced with slivers of red onion and anchovy, each mouthful a riot. This is shameful by comparison. There's a tartare of flabby, farmed-tasting salmon in thin lemony dressing with capers and an impenetrable forest of prickly, undressed French endive lettuce. My seared carpaccio of yellowfin (again, with a curiously cotton-wool texture) comes with the identical accessories. Better is a dish of two stout Tuscan sausages of rough-hewn, fennel-scented meatiness; but they're plonked on a cannellini mixture with as much allure as beans recently released from the can.
Rating: 3/5Price: A meal for two with wine, water and service (Dining Room) costs about £90Machiavelli's Dining Room review in full >>