Score: Food 6/10; Atmosphere 8/10; Value for money 7/10
Price: Three courses with drinks and service, £50-plus a head.
John Walsh has a perfectly OK, simple, down-home Italian supper at Mozzarella and More in Chelsea, London SW3, but the bill seems to have strayed in from another establishment The menu is printed on shiny recycled brown wrapping paper and promises lots of homemade stuff - stone-baked focaccia, Malfatti pasta, home-rolled arancini. I've never encountered a ‘mozzarella bar' before, so I insisted we try it; Luca, our waiter, offered to regale us with a selection of dishes. Burrata with aromatic ricotta, Parma ham, walnuts and fig reduction was fine, the burrata supple and not too milky. Grilled octopus salad with cannellini beans was pretty average, the octopus velvety in texture but on the hard side of al dente. Parmigiana with aubergines (surely a north-Italian classic?) lacked density of flavour. A seafood melange of calamari and mussels was yelpingly fresh-tasting and lifted by a squish of lemon. After the cold starters, we ached for some warmth. Two of us tried the evening's special dish, chicken stuffed with pancetta, breadcrumbs and herbs. It was the last word in Italian home cooking - rather short on presentation, a little pale and as-made-by-your-grandmama, but amazingly rich and toothsome. I've had sage-and-onion stuffing a million times but never thyme-and-bacon, and it was good.
Score: Food 3/5; Atmosphere 3/5; Service 2/5
Price: Around £100 for two, including wine
The Independent on Sunday
Lisa Markwell says Manchester is a lucky, lucky city as it now boasts Simon Rogan's latest restaurant The French A Rogan favourite - hogget - is a meltingly soft tranche with a crisp sweetbread, a cloud of frothed sheeps milk and wilted ramsons. On the point of wilting myself, from sensory overload, I allow Mr M my next dish, Reg's duck with mustard and beetroot. A humble description of a galactic-looking ensemble of discs swirled with sauce.
I recover in time for the prettiest plate of all, a vivid pink ensemble of rhubarb as a crisp, poached, and in gel form, with toasted oats and a creamy ice made from sweetened marscarpone cheese. And finally, on slate (my least favourite of all serving surfaces, but oh well, if any one canâ¦) a tender pear with buttermilk sorbet and a rye crisp. But that ox. If I had eaten it blindfold, I would have sworn it was a world-class piece of meat that had been cooked on a barbecue but - puzzlingly - had managed to keep extraordinary tenderness. In fact, it was raw, diced and dressed in charcoal oil to give it that smokiness, and with small rounds of kohlrabi and a scattering of pumpkin seeds for crunch. An immediate entry into my lifetime top-10 dishes.
Price: About £210 for two, including wine
Giles Coren says Master & Servant on Hoxton Square, London EN1, is a terrific little restaurant
The A5 menu sheet of seven starters and six mains in tiny print with names such as "Hake and pickled salsify", "Ox cheek, celeriac & horseradish," and "Devilled duck hearts" instantly screams "St John!", which is exactly where the chef here has landed from. The duck hearts were terrific, battered and deep-fried with something tangy inside, a splash of Lea & Perrins maybe, couldn't say, and a lemony watercress salad. Then also wide thin strips of Middle White back fat cured by the house and draped over hot sourdough toast with a couple of caper leaves, so that they melted like piggy polythene over the bread, the sour slice and the mild fat making a great and delicate mouthful. Then we had the horse sausage, grillottes and white beans. Sorry, "house sausage". I swear I read it as "horse" the first time, what with the weeny 6-point font, and truly thought this was a typically St Johnny response to the winter's big food scandal. But it was just pig sausage, and very good, with sweet beans and fibrous, pungent onions.
Score: 6.67/10 (Cooking: 7; Hipness: 6; Sustainability: 7)
Price: £25/head sans grog -
London Evening Standard
Fay Maschler dines at the Ritz Restaurant, where in her final years Baroness Thatcher would take a regular seat near the window Beth and I talked about Margaret Thatcher for most of lunch. As we ate canapés of yoghurt biscuit with smoked salmon and prawn cracker with lobster mousse, I remembered interior designer Nicky Haslam once telling me that when Lady Diana Cooper grew old and her sense of taste dwindled, she liked food that crackled or made a noise - as these did. Our first courses of crab roll with avocado and Charentais melon and slender white asparagus with langoustine and peas - each pea peeled of its skin - were feminine and well dressed, like some of the customers among the fascinating mix of age, gender and type that has always distinguished this singular restaurant. We probably should have drunk whisky but I was impressed by head sommelier Tobias Brauweiler's choice of wines by the glass, particularly Egon MÁ¼ller Riesling 2011, from Mosel in Germany, with the asparagus, Domaine Tollot-Beaut, Chorey-les-Beaune 2009 with the chicken and Klein Constantia 2007 with dessert. I thought about Reg. Although in almost no discernible way like Denis Thatcher, he provides, as Denis so obviously importantly did, the love of a good man.
Price: Three-course menu £47. Les Arts de la Table £75. A la carte, a meal for two with wine, about £190
Inconsistent quality and obnoxiously loud music make John Salt more of a miss than a hit, says Matthew NormanAll">http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/9990165/Restaurant-review-John-Salt-N1-London.html)All three starters suggested a cook trying too hard to impress, and sacrificing flavour for novelty. Crab and fennel on pork skin, in which the crispy skin doubled as a makeshift spoon with which to scoop up the crab, was artful, clever and pretty, but peculiarly feckless. So was octopus with lardo (rosemary-cured pig fat). A medley of ham, egg and bacon dashi (a Japanese stock) looked gorgeous, with the soft-boiled egg perched on a ring of ham and garnished with egg-white shavings: aesthetically, at least, it packed more of a punch than the others. The contrast in presentation and flavour between the starters and the main courses that succeeded them suggested that, in the moment it took another waitress to deliver our plates with a cheery, "There you go, darling!", we had slipped through a culinary wormhole and been transported from the outskirts of Michelinland to a Louisiana truck stop. "This is much more like it," said my friend of a pork hash in which chunks of sweet belly mingled with sweetcorn, new potatoes, apple and black pudding. Equally impressive was green chilli poussin, which benefited from a weirdly brilliant Sino-American flavour combination of star anise and mesquite.
Price: Three courses with beer/wine and coffee: £35-£40 per head
Oriental Dragon may sound like the name of a cheap Chinese takeaway but Jay Rayner eats very well indeed at the London restaurant
From the seafood specials we chose razor clams, which came diced with ginger and spring onion and fresh chilli, all of it then returned to the shell. They had the zing and bite and spring only found in seafood that was alive until the unlucky moment you ordered it. As dish descriptions go, braised dongpo pork hock with brown sauce is never going to win a literary prize. Mind you, it was accurate: a large lump of animal on the bone arrived under a blanket of something brown and sticky. But oh, what brown stickiness. It was umami central, a huge slap of something intense and deep and savoury and powerful and, to be more precise, thoroughly yum. Into this, the meat collapsed, as if recognising it had been offered a righteous resting place. A sharper hit of flavour came from barbecued jewels of lamb and pig kidney, on skewers, showered with ground salt, chilli and cumin, to be eaten within seconds of arrival, as the fat was still running.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service: £60