After weeks of trying to bag a table at Balthazar, London WC2, Jay Rayner finds the London outpost of the famous New York brasserie doesn't quite live up to the hype
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service: £120
Guy Dimond finds former Almeida chef Robin Gill's dishes at his solo venture the Dairy in Clapham, London SW4, surprise and delight Seasonal British ingredients are treated with a level of finesse that would be the envy of many Japanese restaurants. You realise this from the very start. A robata grill is used not just for grilling meats, but for smoking the butter (using applewood chips). A pat of this butter is served on a big beach pebble, with some of the Dairy's wholesome own-made bread.This sort of attention to detail permeates the kitchen's menu. Beautifully crafted rustic plates are used to present simple dishes such as a warm salad of new potatoes, sorrel leaves and a generous amount of fresh truffle, grated at the table. A fillet of mackerel is charred on the grill then placed on fennel, with its complementary hint of anise flavour; the plate decorated with a smear of cucumber and a fresh dill frond. Beef short rib is slow cooked for 24 hours before being served with grilled spring onions and bone marrow.This is fancy cooking: not what you expect in a neighbourhood restaurant.
Price: Meal for two with drinks and service: around £60
London Evening Standard
Fay Maschler is satisfied rather than wowed by Beagle in Hoxton, London E2
A blackboard hung high - hard to see and never referred to by the staff - listing daily specials provides our main courses of Highland wing rib of beef to share served with duck fat chips and, what is designed as a first course, grilled quail with smoked aÁ¯oli. The beef is startlingly handsome, precisely cooked to a rosy rare interior and served in slices fanned around the bone, but neither texture nor flavour makes you sad to see the last slice go. The chips, however, are masterful. Dishes to share seem the province of specials - bream with wild garlic is also on offer. Braised meatballs and lentils, which I tried on the first outing, has stayed on the main menu, as has lemon sole with monk's beard and brown shrimp. The kitchen has a heavy hand with salt and it is a fault line running through the meal from the bread - better the second time - onwards. It makes dessert all the more tempting. Poached rhubarb with set cream (the stiffly British pronunciation of panna cotta) and chocolate and praline tart do their stuff most satisfactorily.
Price: A meal for two with wine, about £100
The GuardianMarina O'Loughlin says Ametsa with Arzak Instruction, London SW1, comes across like yesterday's idea of a good time
The dishes that follow are good, but not great. At £105 a head, I would like great. Another signature dish is "From egg to chicken": one of those low-temperature eggs, with a crackly "paper" made from yolk, surrounded by crisp crumbs of chicken skin with a whiff of truffle. A rich, clear bouillon is poured on top, so the paper collapses into something the texture of sunburnt, peeling skin after a dip in the Med. Monkfish comes with a red onion paper, lamb with a "macchiato" paper. You get the general idea. Even an exciting Lustau sherry previously unknown to me - Pedro Ximenes grapes but without the syrupy sweetness - turns out to be stocked by our local Waitrose. There's a tendency towards the overwrought. Scallops with "beta carotene"â¦ er, do they mean carrot? The vegetable is combined with a seaweed derivative until it turns into something like a Fruit Winder. But it makes a nice "vase" for some super-fresh micro salad accessorised by flawless seared scallops.
Score: Food 7/10; Atmosphere 3/10; Value for money 5/10
Price: Meal with drinks and service, £100-plus a head.
Tracey MacLeod says the Ambrette in Rye, East Sussex, doesn't quite fulfil the genre-bending promise of the menu If we hadn't known that the Ambrette doesn't serve curries, we would have described both our main courses as such. That breast of Kentish pheasant came diced in a tomato and ginger sauce that forensic analysis would surely reveal to be a close relative of tikka masala. South Indian-style beef stew, mild and aromatic, featured notably tender meat, but came with the same masala potato mix as made its debut in the dosai starter. Sides were good, including fresh, puffy naan breads, and crunchy ‘chips' of fried Jerusalem artichoke. Puddings were both a considerable notch up from your average Indian restaurant. We particularly liked the chocolate samosas, crisp little mouthfuls filled with melting chocolate of superior quality, and served with a cardamom-scented sauce. Passion fruit and pomegranate srikhand was blousily floral - imagine crème brÁ»lée flavoured with Glade air freshener - but oddly moreish. With a couple of glasses of wine each, our lunch was good value at £40 a head, and we enjoyed it well enough. But we really wanted to love The Ambrette, and couldn't.
Price: Á la carte around £30 a head before wine and service