Price: Three courses (lunchtime) £35, six courses £45, 10 courses £65
Marina O'Loughlin says A Wong, London SW1, is her new favourite Chinese restaurant
But slithery prawn har gau burst with fat prawns and, though I realise all right-thinking people are over foams, a cuckoo spit of yuzu adds citrus sparkle. Pork and prawn siu mai is topped with strands of barbecued pork and a blowsy pork scratching. Xiao long bao - soup dumplings - feature finely pleated dough with the usual ginger-vinegar accompaniments crammed inside: dumplings for the sybarite. Presentation is delicious. A nest of shredded filo cradles slow-cooked tea-smoked eggs dusted with satay powder. If that's not sensory overload enough, a burning stick of cinnamon breathes scented smoke over it. There's a celebration of vegetables - gai lan, bok choy, choy sum, crisped lotus roots - with a burp of pleasingly evil fermented bean curd and nutty shrimp butter. Scotch beef (the quality of ingredients is notable) comes with Yunnan truffle and fat, wriggly ho fun noodles. Even desserts, rarely a Chinese highlight, are showstoppers, particularly a cloud-light meringue stuffed with lime sorbet on lychee granita.
Score: Food 8/10; Atmosphere 6/10 ; Value for money 8/10
Price: About £20-25 a head, plus drinks and service.
Giles Coren says A Wong, London SW, is the first modern British Chinese restaurant he has ever seen
And on you go, eating happily, because sampling things only one at a time, leaving room for a rich, sweet wind-dried sausage and dried shrimp daikon cake with a couple of slices of braised abalone on top (£4.50); soup-filled Shanghai dumpling (£1.30) with ginger vinegar; a salad of shredded chicken in a sort of sesame butter (£4.95); a Yunnan mushroom and pork dumpling rampant with the scent of truffle (£1.75); Zhejiang taro cake with a stegosaur of toasted almonds down its back (£4.95); giant cheung fun of crab and seafood, wrapped not just in the rice noodle but in bean curd, then served in high cross-sections (£3.50); some salt and pepper French beans like an expert tempura (£4.95)â¦
Score: 7/10 (Cooking: 7; Progress: 8; Sustainability: 6)
Potato Merchant, London EC1, has that posh-farmshop-on-a-budget fell but knows its business, says Joe Warwick
But the kitchen knows its business. Tender grilled asparagus comes on a mound of buttery champ, black pudding croquettes and salt cod fritters are both the right side of salty and crispy, while dauphinoise and chunky beef dripping chips (seven other sides of spud are on offer) are both beyond reproach. The only flaws found: the gravy in an otherwise perfectly pleasant steak and kidney pie is a tad too sharp, and lemon drizzle cake gains nothing but starch from the addition of everyone's favourite root vegetable - the latter in contrast to a fine bread and butter pudding successfully gilded with grated guess what. It's reasonably priced and the service is smiley and efficient -shame about the dull décor that cries wannabe rollout.
Price: A meal for two with wine, water and service costs around £60
Guy Dimond has a magical meal at Story, London SE1
The rapid succession of small dishes is playful, evoking childhood memories. The 'bread and dripping' is a loaf served with a lit candle made of beef dripping; as the tallow melts, you dip the bread as if it's melted butter. Tiny 'milk bottles', served in a dolls'-house milk crate, contain a dessert of rhubarb, custard, and a hit of sherbet at the bottom, eaten through striped straws. A second dessert of 'three bears porridge' has one too sweet, one too salty, and one just right. The artistry's not mere gimmickry. Raw scallop is sashimi-grade, cleverly paired with the charcoal-like tang of dill-scented cucumber ash rolled around balls of fresh cucumber. 'Burnt onion' - actually more caramelised on one side - has a juniper-sharp gin dressing poured over it. There are three beautifully drafted, tiny appetisers,comprising bright nasturtium petals, crisp cod skin and rabbit presented like tiny fish fingers.
Price: Set meal £45 6 courses, £65 10 courses
Tracey MacLeod says Plum + Spilt Milk at the Great Northern Hotel, London N1, is a decent restaurant but it needs to work a lot harder to promote itself as a destination
The menu, from head chef Ray Patterson, offers trad Brit dishes - pie of the day, roasted cod with champ, pork loin with cider sauce - with some cheffier Anglo-French fare, and a selection of grills and the inevitable house burger. I remembered enjoying an indulgent smoked haddock soufflé at Patterson's eponymous Mayfair restaurant, and did so again here, albeit a more rarefied version given extra interest by the addition of oozy cheese and whole flakes of fish. Veal sweetbreads in a stickily reduced red-wine sauce were textbook good, although the delicacy of both dishes contrasted weirdly with the chunky Staub cocottes (very 2013) into which they had been pointlessly decanted. Our mains came from the butch side of the menu. Grilled spatchcock poussin from the Inka grill didn't need more than a squoosh from the chargrilled lime that came with it. But slow-braised Jacob's Ladder (aka short rib) in a sweet, lip-sticking reduction, was tipped towards sickly by the parsnip mash. Only a side order of excellent gratin dauphinois supplied some much-needed umami.
Score: Food 3/5; Ambience 3/5; Service 4/5
Price: Around £50 a head for three courses including wine and service
At first Zoe Williams doesn't like trendy Caravan, London N1, but then she can't get enough of it
A beetroot and goat's-curd salad (£5.50) was extremely attractive, gleaming even, with a generous heap of toasted walnuts. I worry that words like ‘earthy' and ‘rustic' don't do justice to the precision of the cooking - everything's prepared very carefully, there's never a spare fleck of skin on a beet, or a scorched corner from a roasting-pan. It's surprisingly perfectionist, given its aspect of laid-back yoof. I've barely mentioned my companion, since I scarcely looked up from my many plates. She chipped in with quail in pomegranate molasses, on top of carrot-tinged hummus (£6.50); it's the best way to eat quail, making the skin an event in its own right, cooked fast and tasting sort of ancient (in a heritage way, not regards the age of the bird). And then my favourite dish of all - seared mackerel on sweet cucumber, floppy and julienned to look like spaghetti, with a sesame dressing and tons of soy (£6.50). I found the combination so surprising, the oiliness of the fish against a classic Eastern dressing that I associate with beansprouts and edamame. Yet it works so well, the fish grounding the other flavours so that they all come together like some fiendish mouth bouquet.
Price: Four dishes: £23.85