http://www.timeout.com/london/restaurants/balthazar" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">Guy Dimond is impressed by both the food and the service at Balthazar, the new London outpost of Keith McNally's famous New York brasserie
Price: Meal for two with drinks and service: around £110
Marina O'Loughlin says the new custodians of the Quality Chop House, London EC1, are gleefully aware of the treasure on their hands
Apart from anything else, they have a pedigree as luminous as their premises: Will Lander is the son of wine maven Jancis Robinson and food writer Nicholas Lander; business partner Josie Stead, a total charm-pot, is ex-Heston's Dinner. It would be hard for chaps with this kind of lineage to come up with a minger, and they haven't. This, with its newly padded benches, is a place of stout, lugubrious beauty. As is the food. Unfancy, ungarnished, school of St John bruisers arranged on vintage, mismatched crockery, it's a mix of smaller plates (served in the wine-bar section, though available in the boothed dining room, too) and set meals in the evening, delivered family-style - if your family is the kind who might employ retainers. I could go into food-porny recollections of what we eat on repeat visits, or I could just type some recent menu items while drooling over my keyboard. Hell, I'll do both. How about these babies? Jellied ray with gem lettuce and pigskin; longhorn beef faggot with beer onions; rabbit loin with pearl barley and wild garlic. There are plates of Basque charcuterie, and lardo strips, linen-white in their porky purity, that melt on to toast like a memory.
Score: Food 7/10; Atmosphere 9/10; Value for money 8/10
Price: About £50 a head with drinks and service.
Giles Coren says the Quality Chop House, London EC1, is his favourite restaurant in London The menu is on a blackboard and offers just three starters, three mains, three puds. Then on another blackboard, nothing but the words "chop and a glass: £15". There is also a bar menu with such things on it as "ox tongue, chicory, chickweed", "lamb ribs", and "game bird, trimmings". When I asked about the bird, I was offered pigeon, mallard, woodcock, red-legged partridge, grey partridge. I fell on the grey like a wolf, for it is rare (though not endangered). It was a revelation: sweet, tender, wintry, delicate, small and served on dense, crispy, fatty toast with a smear of liver and some fresh, still warm crisps. I think also some watercress. My plate of the decade (by the time you read this, alas, I suspect most of the birds will be out of season and gone). Before that I had rich, light soft roes on toast. There is no better way to eat sperm. As far as I know. The thick, wobbly milt of the herring is as close to eating brains as you can get without going into a mammal through the ears. And then also a truffled poached egg on toast spread with dripping and plastered with high, tangy black pudding. And a longhorn faggot that was perfectly formed and full of filthy offal notes. Also roasted Jerusalem artichokes tangled up with broccoli and shallots and assorted leaves.
Price: £35 will get you a great lunch and wine.
Jay Rayner says like its home country, Argentine restaurant GarufÁn, London WC1, does a few things really well
Of the small plates, we most liked shreds of long-braised leg of lamb on a pile of creamy polenta under the kind of sweet, dark sauce you mop at for hours, and a salad of quinoa with pumpkin and mushrooms. Steaks are sold by the 100gm: £7 for the ribeye and sirloin, £10 for the fillet. Each is cut proper thick and given a serious charcoal char. Ask for it medium and they'll send it out medium rare. Ask for it medium rare and you'll get something velvet-plush red. Presumably if you ordered it rare you would only need a defibrillator to get the animal up and running about the dining room. The point is they take their meat seriously here, not in the tiresome way of the new wave steak restaurants which perv over provenance and ageing, but in the way of a kitchen that understands that there are things which must be done properly. There is a little bit of fish on the menu, but really, why would you?
Price: Meal for two, including drinks and service: £90
The food at Langan's Brasserie, London W1, is background music to a convivial social occasion, rather than the main reason for being there, says Tracey MacLeod We gave both sides of the menu a run-out; neither emerged victorious, over the course of a meal which ran the gamut from adequate to disappointing. From the progressive tendency, I ordered that duck salad, which sounded like it came straight from the Ottolenghi cookbook, but disappointingly turned out to come straight from the fridge. If the shredded duck in this generous bowlful of sharply-dressed slaw had been hot and crisp, rather than cold and tough, it would have been much the better dish. Spinach soufflé, one of the menu's old-stagers, suffered from the opposite problem; it tasted wonderful and airy, but looked dismal, "like a deflated Muppet", as my guest put it. A main course escalope of veal Holstein was overfacingly enormous - two continents of breaded meat, topped with overlapping fried eggs, capers, crosshatchings of anchovy, and served with a jug of gravy. Definitely blokes' food. For the ladies, pan-fried seabream with crushed potatoes and rouille was decent, unexciting, gastropubbish fare.
Score: Food 3/5; Ambience 4/5; Service 5/5
Price: Around £40 a head for three courses before wine and service.
London Evening Standard
Fay Maschler says the menu at the Portobello House Hotel, London W10, is full of temptation
The chef, who has Italy in his history, puts together canny combinations such as a salad of blood orange, avocado, mint and dandelion; smoky grilled cuttlefish with barley risotto steeped in its ink plus a whoosh of green gremolada; supple cold roast beef with artichokes, caciocavallo cheese and truffle oil (admissible in this instance); homemade tagliatelle with oxtail ragu and Pecorino; pan-fried cod with Swiss chard, anchovies and chickpeas.All were well prepared, as were more straightforward assemblies such as onglet with potato cake, watercress and aÁ¯oli and a chicken, bacon and leek pie served with sprout tops. As ever, the gospel of St John provides holy guidance in the kitchen. St Giovanni comes in handy too.Momentum is kept up in the desserts. Blackberry and apple crumble was a grown-up engagement with not too much sweetness. Profiteroles with hazelnut ice cream and chocolate sauce were indulgent but I wish I had chosen prune, quince and almond tart, another instance where the chef knew who to introduce to whom at the party. Random wallpapers, mis-matched furniture, chandeliers, local drinkers and fairy lights add to the jollity.
Price: A la carte, a meal for two with wine, about £80
Gaby Soutar says Field in Edinburgh is the kind of restaurant she likes. It's informal and friendly, while the food manages to be homely, yet much better than you could ever actually make at home There is one menu for lunch and dinner, and, if you choose asterisked dishes, those on tighter budgets can eat for £11.95 for two courses or £14.50 for three. Our starters were part of that deal (but we segued into pricier options later on, so didn't qualify for the knock- down rate). Both were neat terrines, with interiors like polished ammonite. Mine (£6.25) featured marbled strata of confit duck and sweet potato, picked out by dark arteries of spinach and parcelled-up in a Parma ham skin. Lovely - like luxe deli food. On the side was a rust-coloured bread-crumbed bon-bon, filled with a warm, liquid and livery parfait. Our other, similarly presented choice, was even better, with a kind of mackerel rilette mixture (£4.95) and slivers of clementine-coloured confit butternut squash, as well as an outer membrane of chargrilled aubergine. This plate's accessory was a crab bon-bon, which was soft and fluffy inside. Swallow. Pause. "Knock-knock". I glared outside. "Bother those kids, banging on the window". It took me at least until our main courses to work out that Chef bangs on the inside of the kitchen door for service.
Price: Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £47