The Sunday Times
7 OctoberAA Gill says Jamie Oliver's Recipease in Notting Hill, London W11, is an object lesson in how to fail
After five minutes, I managed to order a drink. After 10, a waiter wandered over to take an order. The menu concept is finger food and trendy bits - none of it very demanding for a kitchen. All of it seemed to come as a surprise to the waiter. We ordered a burger, a pizza and a sort of compendium Middle Eastern salad, and, as we waited for another age, I watched the café unravel. There are masses of staff, aimlessly turning in circles, looking without seeing, like the first day at drama school, miming a wind farm. One of the secrets of judging how well a restaurant is running is to watch how many staff are walking without something in their hands. Waiters, like drug dealers, should always be carrying. Finally, a cook popped out and hissed for service. A waiter, not quite comprehending, floated over like a curious carp and came back with a tepid, congealing pizza that Flora said tasted like old pasta sauce on bread, and a burger. Nobody asked how I'd like the burger cooked, so they'd gone for the compromise of incinerated and cold.
Score: Food 1/5; Atmosphere 1/5
6 OctoberJohn Walsh is unimpressed after lunch at the Portobello House Hotel Bistro, London W10
My pork belly came in two tranches that resembled burnt mille feuilles, with long wilted carrots and a trace element of mash. No chainsaw in the world could penetrate the iron-clad crackling, but the pork itself was chewily delicious in its Granny Smith purée. Angie's salmon fillet with crushed new potatoes and orange hollandaise was well cooked, nicely un-slimy - "but basically, it's just salmon and potatoes and it needs something else". Alison's butternut squash and goats' cheese risotto was creamy on the tongue with a tangy aftertaste, and happily reeked of truffles. Chris's onglet steak was heftily charred on the outside and red as a rooster's rump in the middle, and therefore just fine. Neither of us believed the chips were "triple-cooked", so much as McCained. A pudding of chocolate mousse with salted honeycomb sticking out of it reminded everyone of a Crunchie bar; the tarte tatin was fine, apart from being burnt on the bottom. It brought to a close a meal distinguished by its provincial, slapdash quality in a pub that quivered with pretensions to being something else.
Score: 2/5Price: Around £80 for two, with wine
6 OctoberGiles Coren says the food at Chrysan, a new Japanese restaurant from the Hakkasan Group in the City, London EC2, is eye-poppingly, stomach-shrinkingly, death-cannot-come-too-soon terrible
But then they brought the mains we had chosen, which in my case was "Scotland meets Kyoto", an OK lobster, scallop, mussel and yellowtail broth that they had inexplicably filled with orange peel, like a mistake with the kitchen compost box. It just tasted of pith. Whether you lisp or not. It was a hideous combination. As if the meeting celebrated in the dish's name involved Jimmy nutting Kyoto San after a couple of Exports, and then stamping on his head for larks. Far worse, though, was a "Chicken Stew Volcano" which I'd brought in off the à la carte for a bit of bird. It was the sort of thing they used to play football with in the Middle Ages to settle disagreements between villages: a package of leathery chicken flesh filled with rice, some little grey turds I took to be edamame beans (although they tasted tinned) and absolute armfuls of orange peel. Why? Why all the orange peel? Is Chrysan sponsored by Tropicana?
Price: £388 for two
7 OctoberJay Rayner says the Factory House, London EC3, is one of the most irritating London restaurant launches of the past five years
You could excuse the posturing if the food was a genuinely bold attempt to do really something a Victorian trencherman might excitedly get up to his armpits in. Instead it is a grim mix of cack-handed and prissy. I watch a cook spray a pre-cooked loaf of bread with water before shoving it in the oven. It arrives sliced. Some is warm. Some is cold. Some is both. Some is dried out. We order bacon and thyme-flavoured popcorn as a nibble. It tastes of neither but is so grossly over-salted that we give up. Then my starter arrives completely devoid of flavour: a dull, fridge-cold piece of poached trout with "brown shrimp fritters" that don't taste of brown shrimp. Or anything else. Not everything is dismal. The pastry in a fig tart that's part of a starter may be limp, but the accompanying wood pigeon is accurately cooked. Likewise with the roasted partridge and the guinea fowl that held up the main courses. But both are let down by the same overly sweet, envelope-sticky jus, and too much faff.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service: £90
3 OctoberAfter lunch and dinner at the Factory House, London EC2, Joe Warwick wishes time travel was possible
A return trip at dinner to sample a steak from its "Grillsmith" begins with a fussily presented piece of poached sea trout that is close to raw in the centre. A 200g "butler's steak" - the British name for the cut taken from the shoulder that the Americans call a "flat iron" - follows. Despite the fancy Argentine-style charcoal-fired grill visible in the open kitchen, it appears without any char. Not only that, but it has the strong liverish stench that comes with over-ageing. Not a good advert for Donald Russell, whom the pink paper proudly credits with supplying all the restaurant's beef. Had the grill been hot enough, it wouldn't have mattered so much but the combination makes it close to inedible. When the manager later asks if I enjoyed my steak, I couldn't tell a lie. She kindly takes it off the bill. The one star here is for her and the front-of-house team, who are charming, friendly and efficient.
Price: A meal for two with wine, water and service costs about £100.
By Kerstin Kühn
Looking for a new job? Find your next job here with Catererandhotelkeeper.com jobs