10 SeptemberJohn Lanchester wants to eat everything on the menu at the Butchers Arms in Eldersfield, GloucestershireThe menu is perfect: five choices per course, and all things you want to eat - at least, you do if you're me. I took some friends who live locally, which meant we could try pretty much everything, so I'm in a position to report that the menu contained no duds and several outstanding successes, in particular a fish soup that was a single-handed attempt at creating a new British soup to rival the French classics. It was made of smoked cod, red mullet, crab and scallops, and was intensely flavoured, but not in that tomato-oriented, saffron-flavoured Mediterranean manner we expect from fish soup. There was a lot of parsley, which sounds wrong, but it worked, and it no doubt helped that the day-boat fish from Cornwall was of such high quality. A brilliant dish, and if Mr Winter invented it, he's a genius. Seared squid, perfectly charred, was served with a rich square of pork shoulder and a beetroot relish. I ordered this as a challenge because I don't much like beetroot, so am always curious about what good cooks can do with it. Winter spikes it heavily with cumin, a brilliant idea that gave it real kick and cut the sweetness while also emphasising it. He can really cook, this bloke.
Price: Meal with drinks and service, about £30 a head.The Butchers Arms review in full >>
Tracey MacLeod finds the Brasserie at the White Lion Hotel, Market Cross Place, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, is child-friendly and serves good food
Our food followed speedily, with just one point deducted when the grown-ups were served before the youngest child. Every parent knows that each second spent sitting with a cooling plate of food in front of you while your child waits is the equivalent of a full week of normal time. The cries of WHEN'S MINE COMING? soon threatened to drown out the carnival PA system. But finally, condiments dispensed and chip wars resolved, silence descended, just at the point when I needed them to say something useful. What do you think of your fish and chips, Alec? "Nice." What's your burger like, Spike? "Nice." David, who had ordered fishcakes and sauce gribiche from the adult menu, felt they were marginally underseasoned and too biased in favour of potato. Just kidding. He said they were nice. Charlie was the only dissenting voice, expressing reservations about his baked salmon with buttered samphire, also from the adult menu. "The fish is quite… strong," he ventured. "Yes, we're by the sea, they like to make it strong," explained David knowledgably. Charlie's samphire went down better: "Salty, but enjoyable," according to his notes. In a town with a famously good fish and chip shop, The White Lion's cod and chips stood up well, the chips so crunchy they might have been triple-cooked.
Rating: Food 3/5; Ambience 4/5; Service 5/5
Price: Around £30 a head for three courses before wine and serviceThe Brasserie at the White Lion Hotel review in full >>
The Independent on Sunday
Lisa Markwell enjoys her meal at Joe's, London SW3
The room is equally sleek and cleverly divided by open-sided display shelves, so when the restaurant isn't full, it doesn't look cavernous. Elia, the executive chef, is Anglo-Greek and already has a profile thanks to regular appearances on the foodie programmes which now proliferate on TV. She has also done the obligatory season at El Bulli, and the "trendy gallery" stint with both Delfina and the Whitechapel Gallery restaurants. Apart from that strawberry risotto, there are other flashes of intrigue on the menu, such as textures of peas and Cornish mackerel two ways. There are also several protein-high dishes, such as haddock carpaccio and char-grilled rib-eye for Dukan disciples. Over a few glasses of decent Malbec, we debate who's going to eat the risotto. Since none of us can commit, we ask for a starter-ish size that all three of us can sample. I fear it may have blown my cover, but I can't bear being the dismal one with a plateful of stodge I can't eat (after a very unhappy experience with a Champagne risotto at 5 Pollen Street a few months ago). We needn't have worried - of course. With Elia's deft touch the dish is both rich and light, radicchio lending a depth of flavour that gives the berries something to shine against. And despite me balking at the idea of cheese, somehow it works.
Price: About £120 for three, including wineJoe's review in full >>
Tony Turnbull finds tiny portions, huge flavours and a big bill at Hedone in Chiswick, London W4
Dorset lobster - a claw each and a couple of small pieces of tail scattered across the plate - is a bit of a mess, slashed with a slick of bright orange coral sauce as though torn limb from limb by a predator in the depths. The taste is spot-on, though, with tendrils of black-as-night cavolo nero providing a chlorophyll hit to highlight the lobster's sweetness. I don't know about you, but I always expect the main course to be somehow, well, bigger, size-wise, than the starter. It's kind of the way not only meals but also the English language works. Not here. You could easily have missed the change of gear. Two dominoes of 45-day-aged Black Angus beef are sensational, all charred and grizzly on the outside, juicy and rosy in the middle. It takes huge skill to cook meat like that. The single leaf of endive is nicely caramelised, but again it's a three or four-mouthful course. An alternative of two slim tranches of John Dory with fennel, sea aster and a slick of beurre blanc also disappears in a trice. Sea aster is having a moment right now, thanks to gourmet foraging, and its creamy, salty leaves add a whisper of the estuary to the ensemble. It's a dish for those who like to feel the spit of the ocean in their face and the sea breeze in their hair, but it's also a dish for those who aren't very hungry.
Price: £240 for two.Hedone review in full >>
The Sunday Times
The chef at the Lido Restaurant in Bristol is doing his own thing, freestyling with big flavours, and coming out on top, says Kate Spicer
The wine list is short - most of it comes by the glass, 500ml carafe and bottle - and is sourced from Mediterranean Europe. The bread arrives immediately with unsalted butter and olive oil. It is bread as the Spanish have it, as a portion of sponge for the plate, and it has a thick, crunchy crust, the product of a wood-fired oven. Much of the menu is cooked this way or over charcoal. This smoky heat worked given the eastern drift towards Moorish, Lebanese and Turkish flavours and a Mediterranean influence. Unsurprisingly, the chef, Freddy Bird, is ex-Moro. New-season garlic made as deep and sweetly flavoured a soup as you could imagine from alliums, and had a perfectly poached orange egg yolk floating on it. The Old Relative and I disagreed about his mussels. I like mussels small, firm and orange, like snails or a Towie girl; he prefers them plumper, unlike his women. These were the former. We agreed that the broth full of shellfish flavour, sherry and chorizo was epic. Given the menu, a few ingredients are far from local and come, like the wine, from the sunnier parts of old Europe. But the really fresh produce is proper job West Country, and it ticks all the food-trend boxes: seasonal, sustainable and even foraged, in the case of a side order of orache, aka saltbush, which is a salty cousin of spinach. I like to think it was picked by Devon pixies.
Rating: 4/5Lido Restaurant review in full >>
The Sunday Telegraph
Fresh-off-the-boat fish, and chips you'd actually be proud to put in a butty, Kerbisher & Malt, London W6, is like a good old-fashioned chippy, only better, says Zoe Williams
I almost want to write a love poem to the chips (£1.60). Again, the fashion is for chips that are incredibly crunchy, so people devise all kinds of fiendish ways to pimp their crunch, thrice-frying them, or drenching them in flour, or cooking up some other complex manoeuvre. Here, they've returned to first principles: what was wrong with just making chips, of a regular chip shape, in a deep-fryer, so that some of them were crunchier than others? What was wrong with making the kind of chips that you'd put in a butty? When did we turn into a nation of princesses, who aren't happy until we've got vegetables you could break teeth on? They've made chips that remind me of being a kid and going to the chip-shop after swimming - chips from before the era of McDonald's, from a time when greasy spoons made their own, instead of getting them frozen and oven-baking them. They're everything you would have wanted from an old-school chippy, without the week-old fat and the weird black bits that might be potato but could be insects.
Price: One course: £7.05Kerbisher & Malt review in full >>
The London Evening Standard
Fay Maschler finds great cuts of meat at large prices at Cut, Wolfgang Puck's first European restaurant, London W1
The heart of the dinner menu is steak - from the USA, England, Australia and Chile. Cuts of meat wrapped in black napkins were brought out for inspection. Some people, I am sure, are fascinated by seeing lumps of flesh wrapped in swaddling clothes and like exclaiming over their marbling and seaming and their sweet little dimples, but I am not one of them. Martins chose rib-eye steak, USDA Prime Black Angus beef from Kansas, aged 35 days at £42 for 14oz. Reg went for New York sirloin from Casterbridge Angus in Devon, aged for 28 days at £27 for 10oz. The steaks are billed as being grilled over hardwood and charcoal and then finished under a 650-degree broiler. They are then obviously dutifully rested as they arrive at the table with no scent and no sizzle. Advertising agencies used to say "you sell the sizzle not the sausage" and there was something man-in-a-pinny-fearlessly-confronting-elemental-fire lacking in these otherwise tender and reasonably flavourful slabs of meat. From the list entitled Add to the Cuts, wild mushrooms at £9 and bone marrow at £6 took the prices skywards - and that was before Cavatappi pasta "Mac & Cheese" at £5.50 and baby spinach with garlic at £4.50 were chosen from On the Side. Cuts are a bit on our minds at the moment and these prices seem egregious even given glitzy décor, loud seventies pop music and swarms of staff.
Price: Dinner for two with wine, about £225Cut review in full >>
7 SeptemberMarina O'Loughlin says Hedone, London W4, is nirvana for food nerds
But good dishes are sensational: mackerel, flame-grilled with subtle and judicious hints of (I'm guessing) sesame and umami paste and a barely dressed slice of little gem lettuce. Bosky Scottish girolles with an egg yolk slow-cooked almost into jelly, with creamy "chantilly" scented with Banyuls vinegar (a favoured ingredient) and one single blade of wild rocket. Sorry but this kind of thing turns the best of us into appalling spods. There are lacy, savoury tuile biscuits sandwiching sweet, white crabmeat; amazing sourdough bread and artisan butter; a wine list bursting with spendy but not greedily marked-up rarities; and an English blueberry tart featuring the butteriest puff-pastry ever. We're sent off into the night with just-baked madeleines and insanely wonderful salted caramels. This is the kind of place where diners debate how the grouse was killed - strangled rather than shot, if you're interested, guts left intact. It's served in a grayish, ripe sauce of its own offal, a green sludge of cress and Bramley apple, and a whole-clawed leg stretching across the plate. It's also fabulous. Hedone is from the Greek word for pleasure and for your food nerd, this is close to Nirvana. Regular punters? I'm not so sure.
Price: A six-course tasting menu plus wine, water and service costs about £180Hedone review in full >>