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

20 February 2012
What's on the menu – a round-up of the latest restaurant reviews

The Times
18 February
Giles Coren has a very good dinner at Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles in Scotland but questions the restaurant's high rating in the various eating out guides
We had beautiful caramelised sweetbreads, the pancreas halved on the slant, with wet walnuts and lovely blobs of truffled mash and half a huge smoked lobster with lime butter that was breathtaking mostly because they had been bold enough to smoke it properly, deeply, and not worry about overwhelming the rather dull taste of lobster meat. Only once before, at a Swedish-owned B&B in the Grenadines, had I encountered smoked lobster, and it was dreamy to reprise the experience so much closer to home. Well, not much closer, but without the jet lag. [] It was a very good dinner, considering how much I fear eating in a tourist pleasure dome like Gleneagles (with as many jeweller's and cashmere outlets as it has loos). But the restaurant's recent elevation in one guide to the position of seventh best restaurant in Britain might be stretching it. And the award of two stars when so many staggeringly inventive London restaurants have only one (or none) seems a bit of a stretch, suggesting once again that the French tyre peddlers are talking more and more relatively these days, to encourage provincial book sales.
Andrew Fairlie review in full, available only to Times Online subscribers >>

The Independent
18 February
John Walsh says Matt Gillan's ambitious, sophisticated and original cooking at the Pass near Horsham, West Sussex, is let down by the lack of excitement of the open kitchen
But there's no drama in this kitchen: no flames, no prepping, no knives, no noise, no excitement. There are four or five people bending silently over metal surfaces, 20 feet away. For all the drama they generate, you could be watching five Department of the Environment inspectors testing for damp rot. A pity, because the cooking here is good: ambitious, sophisticated, original, sometimes teetering on the precious (they offer three kinds of salt). If I had to choose between the nine-course tasting menu here and its opposite number at Thomas Keller's French Laundry, I'd choose the Pass. There's also a seven-course tasting menu (costing £60 a head as opposed to £75) and two of our party chose it. That makes 32 courses between four. Early highlights were a Jerusalem artichoke purée with tiny sliced white chestnuts and sautéed mushrooms; a kind of Pina Colada crab with burnt coconut and chargrilled pineapple surmounted by translucent crab crisps; mini-pork bellies like tiny gâteaux sitting on stewed apple, their sweetness fighting the tart zing of "Buddha's Hand", an acidic Chinese citron.
Rating: Food 4/5
Ambience: 1/5
Service: 4/5
Price: £140-£150 per head, including "wine flight"
The Pass review in full >>

The Sunday Telegraph
19 February
Zoe Williams says Loves Restaurant in Birmingham may not be a good looking restaurant but chef-proprietor Steve Love's cooking is almost tear-jerkingly good
Loves, which would look nice and swish next to, say, the sea, here looks like an airport lounge. The dining-room is a bit of a funny shape, which doesn't help, and the carpets have a 1980s pattern. It feels expensive, but not classy. The menu is classic Michelin-bait, though the Loves didn't win a star last year (part of me thinks they should have done, and part of me thinks the whole pantomime of Michelin-ery is absurd. So I'm what you'd call an unreliable witness). The menu isn't long, but the list of constituent parts of each dish is as long as a weekly shop, and, besides, when you would happily order everything on it, no menu is too short. I had the beef carpaccio with truffled pecorino, avocado mayonnaise and a corned-beef croquette, in a half-moon shape, like a deep-fried treat you might concoct for a recuperating child. It was all so beautiful I barely know where to start: carpaccio and cheese is a classic combination, but the cheese was presented as a sort of powder, and was incredibly intense and delightful against the meat. The corned beef was nothing like you'd find in a tin. Rather it was a rich cut - maybe cheek? - cooked with infinite slowness, which shredded when a fork so much as pointed at it. With the mayonnaise, it was almost tear-jerkingly good.
Rating: 4/5
Price: Three courses, £42
Loves Restaurant review in full >>

18 February
What do you get when Russia's restaurateur to the rich and famous opens a pan-Asian and an Italian restaurant at the same flash Mayfair address? A dog's dinner, that's what, says John Lanchester of Novikov, London W1
I said you can get most of the menu somewhere else, but not all of it. Unfortunately, the things you can't get anywhere else are things you don't want to eat. Pork siu mai, a classic squidgy dim sum, are a happy-making thing that don't need to be improved or rarefied, just executed in the version all siu mai lovers already love. The addition of truffle is a subtraction - a costly subtraction, at £9 for four small dumplings. Robata-grilled king crab leg was deeply strange, two decent pieces of crab meat with a "wasabi mayonnaise" on top. The bizarre, faintly sweet, faintly cheesy sauce, which was finished off under the grill, tasted like a mutant béchamel; a really peculiar dish. It was £37. At that price, just be grateful you won't be tempted to order seconds. There's a food counter where you can pick up stuff to take home and cook for yourself, if so moved, but be warned that a single scallop retails for £9.50. There are aspects of Novikov where you can see real professionalism at work: the room is understatedly dark and soothing; the waiters are amiable and efficient (and quite a few of them are Russian, which may say something about the clientele, too). By concentrating and cross-checking the prices, you can get out for less than £200 for two. On a bitterly cold midweek lunchtime, the restaurant was full. In Mayfair today, this is how they roll.
Price: About £160 for twoNovikov review in full >>

The Observer
19 February
Jay Rayner says Novikov, London W1, is massive, expensive and the food is shocking. But what's truly surprising is that it's also full
It takes me a minute to nail the rabbit dish: the small gnarly bits of meat, the heavy sauce that tastes as if it has been thickened with cornflour, the weird hit of chicken flavour I associate with stock cubes. It's a chicken and mushroom Pot Noodle. Without the useful plastic pot. The liver dish has all the same vices. The tragedy is that underneath the wallpaper-paste sauce is some very good liver that has ended its life badly. Zucchini fritti are so much hot, wet, floppy saltiness. We finish with a pile of formless Italian meringue. The hit of sugar feels like a reward. The wine list is punishing and includes bottles which retail in Italy for €8, priced here at £50. Waiters are impeccably Italian in that they will argue with you. Dishes are mispriced between the menu and the bill. And the most depressing thing? It's full; packed to the fake ironwork with the hooting and the depilated, the bronzed and Botoxed. And so my advice to you. Don't go to Novikov. Keep not going. Keep not going a lot. In a city with a talent for opening hateful and tasteless restaurants, Novikov marks a special new low. That's its real achievement.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service, £160Novikov review in full >>

The London Evening Standard
16 February
Fay Maschler says 10 Greek Street, London W1, is an independent restaurant with a gifted chef, benign service, revelatory wine lists and reasonable pricing
When I visited for lunch (the one meal you can book) in the two days of soft opening it turned out that a "pay what you think" policy was in operation. From a disciple of arch tactician Clive Greenhalgh, owner of the Ambassador, putting customers in an awkward position was an odd gambit. If you offer less than the stated prices it seems chintzy. If you pay more you might later feel like a bit of a sap. I paid the eminently fair prices that were already listed for cooking that might be described as Modern European but more meaningfully as of the moment (including in the sense of seasonal) and intuitive. The menu is not obviously divided into first and main courses and, emphasising fluidity, some dishes are served in two sizes. Octopus, caperberries, fennel and chilli, was a meeting of ingredients that quite surprisingly got on famously, the stoic octopus being an accommodating host. Grilled ox tongue, mustard lentils and salsa verde performed a punchy opening act for main course subtlety of a bowl of steamed mussels, squid and saffron at £6 for the smaller size, leaving space for a sensationally good lemon curd and meringue tart in crisp, friable pastry with slices of poached quince alongside.
Rating: 4/5
Price: A meal for two with wine, about £78 excluding service
10 Greek Street review in full >>

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