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

23 January 2012
What's on the Menu – a round-up of the latest restaurant reviews

The Times
21 January
Giles Coren reviews London newcomers 34 and the Delaunay and says the latter will without question be a massive London institution for years to come
I dunno. Poor old 34. It's just not in a place that I or anyone like me is ever going to be walking past when they happen to be hungry. And it's damned unfortunate to have opened the same week, more or less, as the Delaunay, which will without question be a massive London institution for years to come. The Delaunay is the Sliding Doors version of 34. It's the path not taken. It's what 34 would have been if Corbin and King had never left. I don't know what the difference is, because I don't know squat about running restaurants, but it just is.
Score: 6
Price: hard to get out for less than £75 per head.
The Delaunay
Score: 7.5
Price: a shade cheaper than 34 - say, £65 per head.
34 and the Delaunay review in full, available only to Times Online subscribers >>

Sunday Times
22 January
AA Gill says Roti Chai, London W1, is trying to take Indian food out of the after-pub ghetto but it may be the end of something we will miss after it all becomes McCurry
Here, you can order the aloo tikki chaat that became the McDonald's, the pork ribs from Nagaland, Bengali fishcakes flavoured with cardamom, a Malai chicken tikka that was a welcome variation on an overfamiliar dish. The manager insisted we try the butter chicken, though I thought it was overwhelmed by its sauce. There were minced-meat kebabs, hot and nicely made. Upstairs in the street-food restaurant, there was a fresh and hot selection of breads, and one of the most addictively delicious of all Indian dishes, idli, soft puffed rice cakes, eaten with sambar, a Tamil vegetable stew from southern India. There was chilli paneer and bhel puri - the moreish bites (chaat) that were once served on railway platforms, and literally mean "licks" - chickpeas with yogurt and tamarind chutney. There is an underseasoned chai, the ubiquitous Indian tea, spiced with ginger, cloves, cardamom and black pepper, that everyone has a family recipe for. The street-food dishes are served small, to be shared, and come in at about £3-£8 each. The restaurant dishes go up to about £17.
Rating: 3/5Roti Chai review in full, available only to Times Online subscribers >>

The Guardian
21 January
John Lanchester says that, aside from the fact that it's designed for rich people who don't want to be distracted by what's on their plate, 34, the latest venture from Caprice Holdings, is very good
Take the Dover sole. Granted, this is never cheap. Here at 34, you can order your fish and still have change from 40 quid - one pound change, to be exact. Actually, you can't, because there's 12.5% service and a £2 cover charge, so a meal consisting of nothing but that sole will set you back £46.13. That's a lot for a portion of fish. But this is Mayfair, so if you're thinking like this, you're in the wrong place. These allowances made, 34 is, in its unobtrusive way, very good. You notice the food only if you consciously choose to pay attention - it doesn't raise its voice - but if you do, you'll see that the cooking is bang on target. Ceviche, for instance, the marinated raw fish dish that is Tahiti's one contribution to global gastronomy, is all about sourcing and seasoning: the best possible fish tweaked with citrus and flavourings. The 34 version was superb, a blend of white fish and scallops given a lift with the highly un-Tahitian but seasonally appropriate addition of finely sliced radishes. Brilliant - I'm going to nick that idea. The other starter was very different but just as good: a tart of caramelised onions and sautéd sweetbreads. The trick here was that the onions were cooked just enough to bring out the sweetness of the eponymous sweetbreads, but not so much that they took over the show.
Price: Meal with drinks and service, from £60 a head.34 review in full >>

The Observer
22 January
What the Butley Orford Oysterage in Suffolk lacks in frills it more than makes up for with its flavoursome, no-nonsense cooking, says Jay Rayner
And then the mains. Stand back. Clear a bit of space. Something large is coming. There is a special of cod with a herb crust, flavoured with lemon grass. It is so big it looks like a sofa. If you couldn't get a bed for the night this plateful would do. (And don't send me cross notes about the sustainability of cod; have a look at what's happening in the Barents Sea.) Perhaps inevitably, with such a big piece of fish, the ends are a little overcooked, but in the middle the flakes fall gently away from each other, as if that had always been their purpose, and they had only been hanging out together to pass the time. I have a skate wing in a pond of hot, acidulated brown butter with capers, and the flesh also pulls away from the cartilage with no effort whatsoever. It is there to serve. There are boiled new potatoes. There is bread and butter. There is contented chatter. And that's about it. The wine list is serviceable and, like all the pricing here, ungrasping. The cost shown here is only for those who insist upon gluttony. We order a slice of their warm chocolate cake with pistachio ice-cream plus two spoons, more out of a desire to show willing than anything else. It is light and uncloying and completely unnecessary. We have been bathed in butter and good seafood. We have been fed well and, it feels, we have been fed often. No, the Butley Orford Oysterage is not pretty. But it is good, and that's what matters.
Price: Meal for two, including drinks and service, £70Butley Orford Oysterage review in full >>

The Independent21 JanuaryTracey MacLeod says 34 in Mayfair, London W1, is all about expensive comfort rather than excitement
From the moment you check in (turn left for the most desirable seats, as on a plane), there's a sensation of being in safe hands. A team of fluffers descends, one to arrange your napkin, a second to tweezer lime into your water, while another circles, waiting to proffer bread. Buckling up for the smooth ride ahead, I could have asked for a magazine, a massage, possibly even a dressing gown and fold-down bed. The dining room is masculine and clubbish, with such low lighting that even on a bright day, it feels like the in-flight movie is about to start. It's tasteful enough, but bland; the muted retro-styling falling short of the see-and-be-seen glamour of Scott's, but not quite evoking the buzzy intimacy designer Martin Brudnizki achieved with the Dean Street Townhouse. In one respect, though, 34 does offer something special. The steaks. Cooked over charcoal on an Argentinian parrilla grill, the meat here is as good as it gets. My bone-in Scottish rib eye was up there with the best I have ever eaten. And I ordered one of the less pricey cuts, at £33.
Rating: Food ; Ambience ***; Service *Price: About £150 for two including wine and service34 review in full >>

The Independent on Sunday22 JanuaryAmol Rajan says Angela's in Exeter is a wonderful local restaurant
The menu is short and thankfully free of painful childhood memories. There are eight starters, eight mains (one fish, five meat, two vegetarian), six desserts and a cheese selection. The starters range from a French onion soup (£6) to disappointing Brixham scallops with mixed leaves and balsamic dressing (£9.50). The leaves are over-dressed and far from fresh, and the scallops lack flavour. This is also rather steep for a scallop starter. Fortunately, there are several other good options, including a baked goats' cheese (£6.95), a game terrine of rabbit and pheasant (£7.50) and warm confit duck leg (£7.50). The meaty mains are expensive, from £18.95 for a loin of pork to a fillet of beef for £26. That's getting on mega-pricey, given we're closer to Land's End than London, and I imagine a majority of locals would be more than perturbed by it. The beef, though, is terrific, and comes with a brandy-and-green-peppercorn sauce - yet even that is not a patch on the duck with a caramelised orange jus, which is much better value at £21.50. There is - alert! nonsensically long description coming - a guinea fowl and ballotine of leg filled with chestnut of cranberry stuffing finished with a madeira jus (£19.50), which tastes of all the things it's meant to. And the loin of venison on puréed parsnip, with a smooth red wine, rosemary and dark chocolate sauce is exquisite, but, alas, £25.
Rating: 7/10Price: About £100 for two, including wineAngela's review in full >>

Sunday Telegraph22 JanuaryDinner at 34, London W1, certainly isn't cheap, but it's worth it for the fabulous grilled meats and devil-may-care luxury, says Zoe Williams
Mainly out of a sense of social duty, I had the Scottish bone-in rib-eye (£33). I actually wanted the burger, but it is of their steaks that the restaurant is most proud. Tough job but someone's, etc. It comes with nothing but a sauce (I had a mild but likeable peppercorn), and at this point it rather makes sense of the clientele. I can't swear they all ran hedge funds, but it looked likely. With some onion rings (£4.25), this was the most lavish plate I'd had in a while. In no particular order, here are some properties of steak that I believe make it tastier: feeding the beast on grass, rather than the ridiculous American tendency to use corn from a profit-motive then have the brass neck to show off about it; leaving the bone in; dry-ageing. This scored on all three, and as a consequence was so delicious and tender that I nearly finished the thing, despite its being as large as my face. JJ's lamb mixed grill (£23) was the more adventurous choice. There were two gorgeous chunks of top-end lamb luxury (some loin and some neck fillet), and they were both meltingly smooth, which was particularly impressive seeing as she likes her lamb well done.
Rating: 4/5Price: Three courses: £46.4834 review in full >>

Metro18 JanuaryAndy Lynes says although the cooking and service at Alyn Williams at the Westbury is faultless, he's unsure he'd go back
Williams's version of French onion soup is like no other I've ever tried. In a martini glass, brown crab meat purée flavoured with paprika is topped with white crab meat, mixed with slow-cooked onion, which in turn is capped by a disc of jellied beef and onion consommé and a small lump of braised beef cheek. The waiter completes the dish at the table by pouring over a tiny jug of the soup. On the side are baked potato and Gruyère squares sandwiched with cream cheese. Vegetarians are particularly well served here, with separate à la carte and tasting menus. Dishes such as a whole poached egg smoked over oak chips, served with truffled brioche soldiers, crème fraîche, celeriac remoulade and Jonagold apple, have been lavished with no less time and effort than their fish and meat counterparts. With its rosewood panelling, cream velvet chairs and glass walled private dining room, the restaurant is suitably luxe, although we're not sure about the sparkly carpet, which looks as though it has recently suffered through a particularly boisterous reunion of the Glitter Band. However, being sat at a table opposite the open entrance to the dining room feels like eating in a corridor and we quietly pine for one of the spacious and discreet corner booths.
Price: Dinner for two with wine, water and service costs about £140Alyn Williams review in full >>

The London Evening Standard19 JanuaryFay Maschler says the combination of Jeremy Lee and the Hart brothers at Quo Vadis in Soho, London W1, is the dream team of which her nights are made
Smoked eel and horseradish sandwich fittingly has a box of its own. It is, I can assure you, an ace creation and one perhaps to try while composing the rest of a meal. We used a rich, smooth chicken and duck liver paté with cornichons and a little pot of bloater paste sealed under clarified butter, plus the notable sourdough bread for this purpose. The cocktail of the day made from Campari, orange and pomegranate - a great combination - also lent a hand. I am surprised that beetroots are on sale to the public, so enthusiastic are chefs about this elemental vegetable. Ruby red and golden, they were partnered here with eggs a bit less than hard-boiled, watercress and vinaigrette; delicious. Sea kale, served with butter sauce, what the French call beurre blanc, makes fewer appearances on menus so it was all the more welcome for that, although its somewhat fugitive personality might take time to grow on you. Oysters, rocks and natives served for £2 and £3 respectively, are presented with due ceremony. That day's pie was beef served in deeply savoury gravy, in which I thought I could detect that excellent overlooked ingredient, mushroom ketchup. The crust was thin and waxy. Teal, the perfect bird for portion control, was offered at £12.50 for one, £22 for a brace. Cooked to just the right point of pinkness, bolstered with prune and bacon, just the one was champion for calorie-conscious January. A side salad of orange and fennel was a judicious accompaniment.
Rating: 4/5Price: A la carte, a meal for two with wine about £100 including 12.5% serviceQuo Vadis review in full >>

Time Out24 JanuaryGuy Dimond says the meaty menu and unfailingly friendly and smiling service make the 30-minute queue at Pitt Cue, London W1, worth the wait
So what's the attraction? Slow-cooked and grilled meat, often paired with tangy, sour slaws, pickles and a dash of heat. The flavour combinations are hard to resist. Pulled pork, beef brisket, beef ribs that are dry-rubbed and smoked for hours, over charcoal or wood, in Pitt Cue's tiny kitchen (which contains two smokers and one grill). The texture is also key: St Louis ribs are slathered in sticky barbecue sauce, while the side dishes such as the slaws or pickles add crunch. If it all sounds a bit messy, that's because it is. But there is attention to detail, too, such as the firm brioche rolls used for the take-away pulled pork or beef brisket - taut and pert, rather than saggy or flat, they're the Jennifer Lopez of filled buns. The eat-in meals are served in oblong enamel dishes suggestive of prison ration plate. But a death-row last meal never tasted this good: baked beans made using black turtle beans in a hammy stock, braised sprout tops with the kiss of garlic, or a side order of shiitake mushrooms which had been pickled in cider vinegar, then given a panko crust and crisply deep-fried. Desserts might include a stout glass tumbler of ginger-poached rhubarb with peanut meringue and a rich, lemony ice-cream.
Rating: 4/5Price: Meal for two with drinks and service: around £50Pitt Cue review in full >>

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