John Walsh says he feels like he's been being fed mediocre tat with a celebrity name attached to it at Gregg's Table, London SE1
Some of the food was OK. Avocado with prawns looked and tasted good - the avocado mandolined into thin slices, the prawns piled up in a juicy hillock with a genuine Rose Marie sauce. The mulligatawny was tepid but fine, with rice, chicken and an onion bhaji somewhere in the lentilly liquid. The Spam fritters, however, didn't offer Spam, only some pathetic ham-hock fibres deep-fried in a batter and given a much-needed kick with a sharp, homemade piccalilli. My main-course boiled beef and carrots was a tranche of salt-beef, left in its cooking liquid for hours to the point of disintegration, accompanied by thumb-size lumps of potato, carrot and turnip. Just as I was tucking in, the waitress arrived with a teapotful of beef stock and upended it on my plate. The result wasn't soup, it wasn't solid, it was just a watery mess. Angie's Chicken Kiev was better - the chicken moist, lightly breadcrumbed and nicely garlicky, the mash fine if mysteriously sweet.
Rating: Food Ambience * Service *
Price: About £100 for two, with wineGregg's Table review in full >>
The decor at the Empress, London E9, is pleasingly simple and the food, bar a few exceptions, is great at this East End pub, says Zoe Williams
I had the pollack with curried cauliflower and lime (£13.50). The fish was beautifully seared, sprinkled with the mildest combination of curry spices, flaking with freshness and attractively opaque in the middle. The lime was the moment of surprise, and it was a good one; cauliflower can be a bit drainy for my liking, but the citrus bounced off its solid, earthy personality. If I hadn't liked T's guinea fowl fractionally more, I would have loved this. Envy is a corrosive thing, and it happened again with our puds; I had the blueberry and almond tart (£5.50), which was really good in its filling, but the pastry case was too cakey, and didn't strike much of a textural contrast. And this redounded on its taste, since without any contrast it was just a cake next to a less-nice cake. But the whole thing was good, especially with crème fraîche in a simple but effective supporting role. T had ginger panna cotta with rhubarb (£5.50), which was fabulous. The creaminess against the ginger was a revelation, the poached rhubarb was beautifully sweet and sharp.
Price: Three courses: £26.35The Empress review in full >>
John Lanchester says Bistro Union, London SW4, a new neighbourhood restaurant from Adam Byatt is yet to hits its stride
It sounds as if it should be perfect, for a neighbourhood place. It isn't yet, though, and I say that with some surprise, since Trinity is pretty much my favourite restaurant. The execution of the good ideas is competent, but not more than that. The toad in the hole, for instance, is a good quality Cumberland sausage set down on an agreeable batter in a hot skillet; that's all fine, but then a small boat of gravy is poured over, which sizzles to dramatic effect, but makes the batter soggy. Guinea fowl Kiev is a nice idea, on the basis that anything Kiev is so uncool it's swung all the way back around to being cool again. But the dish arrives as a large, sausage-shaped thing in a heavy, breaded coating, and really is so weighty that it isn't all that great to eat. Baked aubergine is served with mint and a cow's curd that, thanks to its dressing, ends up too sweet, without the cooling, sour twist you want. Chips are strong on potato flavour but a tad dry and heavy.
Price: Three courses with wine and service, from £40 a head.
Bistro Union review in full >>
Marina O'Loughlin is not amused by the dreadful food served at MasterChef presenter Gregg Wallace's new restaurant, Gregg's Table at the Bermondsey Hotel, London SE1
Baby, I ain't cracking a smirk. This really is one of the worst meals I've eaten since I was regularly forced to eat leathery custard by a variety of particularly sadistic nuns. Here it comes, laaahvly stuff: mulligatawny soup that tastes like Vesta curry. Chicken Kiev: a worryingly vast, pappy chicken breast, viciously deep-fried in a crumb coffin and stuffed with raw-tasting garlic - its bullying reek perfumes the large, echoey room - and flanked by a turdy, piped sausage of bad mash. Truly reprehensible is beef stroganoff, a clichéd old trouper that, in the right hands (eg at The Delaunay) is a thing of rich beauty. This is boakworthy: stringy meat that smells as though it's been sitting in its own blood for far too long - that charnel-y, dog-foody whiff of wrongness - plopped on waterlogged rice with a dod of paprika-ed sour cream on top. And veg? Surely Greengrocer Gregg can ace the veg? If ‘roast crown prince squash with sage' is anything to go by, overcooked, mushy and entirely unseasoned, no he can't. Only a decent, gooey blue cheese and broccoli flan saves our meal from being an unrelenting parade of embarrassments.
Price: A meal for two with wine, water and service costs about £80Gregg's Table review in full >>
The London Evening Standard
Fay Maschler is underwhelmed by the food and high prices at Cotidie, London W1, the first UK venture from Italian chef Bruno Barbieri
Best of the main courses tried was fillet of gilthead bream with crustacean juice, broccoli and fried garlic. "Simple," said its recipient, "the way you might find it in Italy." Less impressive and £3 more expensive at £29 was sea bass, where fish and accompaniment - aubergine cake and buffalo mozzarella - subsided into a soft and squidgy whole. The "crispy" Bresaola as an adjunct could have put its oar in but Richard doesn't eat meat. Pennoni pasta with seasonal vegetable caponata and Caciocavallo cheese could also be described as oversized, undercooked penne with a bit of ratatouille. Hand-made guinea fowl ravioli was swamped by its Parmesan sabayon, making mouthfuls unduly repetitious. Well-meaning waiters dressed in black swirling about the room, occasionally crashing into each other, were carrying trays of large bowl-shaped dishes with contents that looked tantalisingly more interesting than anything we were eating. Maybe they were items from the tasting menu, although I am sure I remember lobster claws peeping over the edge of a plate and I can't find them there.
Price: A la carte, a meal for two with wine, about £160Cotidie review in full >>
Guy Dimond says La Bodega Negra, a new Mexican venture from London restaurateur Will Ricker and New York nightclub operator and designer Serge Becker, is Soho's destination diner of the moment
For a few dollars more, you can try the basement restaurant. You can reach this via its own black-painted entrance at 9 Old Compton Street, marked ‘Sex Shop'. This is where NY-based restaurateur Serge Becker really shows how he made La Esquina into a cult. The reservations-only room looks sensational, with alcoves elaborately decorated in various themes including Lucha libre (masked wrestling) and Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). It feels as twisted as a Frida Kahlo painting. The menu's similar to the taqueria, though with the addition of pricier or larger dishes such as large steaks, slow-roasted lamb, seafood stews. Just as appealing as the dishes are the tequila-based cocktails (our salt-rimmed Margarita was rough-edged but good), the excellent selection of tequila shots, and ‘aguas frescos' such as the cooling hibiscus, sugar and lime. La Bodega Negra - ‘The Black Shop' - is as much of a bar, hangout and nightspot as restaurant. It's also about as Mexican as ‘The Three Amigos', and just as full of beans. And it's Soho's destination diner of the moment.
Price: Meal for two with drinks and service: around £65La Bodega Negra review in full >>
By Kerstin Kühn
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