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

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

The Observer
18 December
Jay Rayner says Aurelia, London W1, is a place where you can eat very well. But it's not a good restaurant
If I had been true to my own advice I would, within minutes of arriving at Aurelia, have made a dash for the exit; instead I stayed, for I am here to serve. I'm glad I did, because you can eat very well at this new Mediterranean-influenced restaurant from the people behind the glossy Japanese fusion of Roka and Zuma and the Provençal fancies of La Petite Maison. But boy do they make a meal of it. Aurelia is a good place to eat, but only in spite of itself. There was the irritation of phoning to confirm my booking only to have them phone two hours later to confirm my booking. There was the offer of a crappy table in the upstairs room, which we declined, demanding something in the main downstairs space; the attempts to fill our wine glasses despite being told we'd do it ourselves; the refusal to give me a rosé by the glass because the wine they serve that way was finished (10 days after launch) until I suggested they just open a different bottle; a failure of basic maths in calculating a split on the bill.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service, £150Aurelia review in full >>

The Independent on Sunday
18 December
Tracey MacLeod says Mishkin's, London WC2, Russell Norman and Richard Beatty's take on a Jewish deli, is just what London has been crying out for
Portions are generally small, and will probably strike American visitors as risibly so. What kind of meshuggener would apply the small plates concept to Jewish comfort food, which is all about abundance and appetite? Still, prices are low, and the sandwiches are a decent size. You're given the option of "supersizing" the burger; a succulent patty which is steamed, rather than fried, over the vapour from cooking onions, along with its bun, and larded with stringy Swiss cheese and a smudge of sweetly caramelised onion. The salt beef sandwich was less successful, thanks to nose-clearing amounts of Colman's mustard which made every mouthful a battle. Our waiter asked us whether we want it "with or without fat", a rather unappetising borrowing from Bloom's, and we opted to go lean, which was probably a mistake. Another important lesson learnt from our Sunday brunch was that when booking, make sure you get a booth. We were tucked away at the back of the room, in a brick and plaster cubby hole that might recently have been a chimney.
Rating: Food 3/5; Ambience 4/5; Service 4/5
Price: About £25 a head before wine and service
Mishkin's review in full >>

The Sunday Telegraph
18 December
Zoe Williams is pretty impressed by the food at the relaunched Rib Room at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel, London SW1, but can't help but wonder if it's really good enough to justify those prices?
I had the foie gras (£15) and A had the prawn cocktail (£13), and if you think we're ordering as if trying to go back in time and dine in the 1980s, that wasn't us, it was the menu. There was only one dish that didn't sound as if it had been written by Alan Ayckbourn - the pumpkin and Sussex crumble soup. I know that's a cheese, by the way, but I couldn't shake the image that it was a pudding, liquidised into a starter. Anyway, back to the past: A's prawns were fat and attractive, but I found the marie-rose too tangy and couldn't properly taste them beneath it. There is no way they were anything less than fine quality; you could tell by their shape (not that uniform, compact, supermarket shape - something much more expansive, as if they were exploding out of their skins). But that just made me think it was even more of a waste to smother them in impenetrable sauce.
Rating: 2/5
Price: Three courses, £51.40
Rib Room review in full >>

The Times
17 December
Giles Coren says the food at Mishkin's, London WC2, may not be authentic but the place is a hoot and worth a visit
There's the old joke where the Jewish waiter comes to the table and says, "Was anything okay?" and I knew I would be in the frame for some kvetching. We've had a lot of, "That's not a knish!" and, "You call this a matzo ball?". And he got it from me, too. The dish he dares to call a cholent? Oy, I don't know where to start. A cholent you make with a nice piece fatty beef, barley, beans, water, salt, pepper, some marrow bones and a pinch sweet paprika, if you have, and that's it. Then you leave it in the shtetl baker's oven overnight, to pick up in the morning if you haven't been killed in your sleep by Cossacks. But here it's all fancy-schmancy with the taste of wine, herbs and the sweetness of a mirepoix at the heart of it. And the meat is an oxtail, which you'll never find in a Jewish cookbook because, while it is just about possible to de-vein (and thus render kosher) the hind quarters of a cow, finding a shochet (kosher slaughterman) skilled enough to remove the sciatic nerve and blood vessels from the tail is well-nigh impossible (though I'll give it a go for laughs after a couple of beers). It's tasty though. As is the chicken soup with classy fresh veg in it, and fluffy, well-seasoned kneidlach that most Jews, used to the usual cannonballs, will barely recognise.
Score: 7.33
Price: £20 is enough for food and drink. Complaining is free.
Mishkin's review in full - available only to Times Online subscribers >>

The London Evening Standard
15 December
Fay Maschler is underwhelmed by the food at Mishkin's, London WC2
None of what we ate was unusually good, but probably wasn't designed to be. When I used to make chopped liver for the father of my first husband I used to mince the sautéed chicken livers with onions gently cooked in chicken fat and hardboiled eggs, which gave a light, mellow result. Chopped liver at Mishkin's is murky and compact with a slightly bitter edge to it. It was gratifying to be asked whether I wanted the Brick Lane salt beef with fat - I did - but the sandwich was somehow unco-ordinated and lacking in mustardy bite. The Brass Rail in Selfridges does them better. Beets tartar, cooked al dente and finely chopped, is a clever concept and provided a suitable bed for pieces of pickled herring, but the fish lacked verve. Tiny latkes served with smoked eel were more like Swiss rösti but none the less likeable for that. Duck hash, fried egg and liquor (aka gravy) was more like scraps of duck with sautéed potatoes. Hash implies a mashing action. For dessert we tried rice pudding with gingered pears and also Nancy Newman's soggy lemon drizzle cake, the latter an irresistible confection. Who knew Nancy had it in her?
Rating: 3/5
Price: A meal for two with wine, about £70
Mishkin's review in full >>

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