7 JulyFor his farewell column, John Lanchester dines at L'Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria, and has a meal to remember for all the right reasons, but criticises the lack of prices on the menu
There were so many highlights that all I can do is pick out a few. Kohlrabi dumplings in a monkswell Cheddar sauce, garnished with fresh peas and apple marigold, was a stunner of subtle umami flavours. Scallops with spiced strawberry and a wonderful sauce of caramelised cauliflower for, again, a lovely umami note. Guinea hen is served with a textured sauce of offal that's full of small chunks of the bird's unfashionable bits. A great idea, heavy on flavour and interest - not easy to do with guinea hen. All of this - and I'm leaving out much more than I'm describing - had a balance and cohesion across the courses, with none of that sense you sometimes get that the cook is trying to jump from one high spot to another, to make an incoherent CD of greatest hits. This menu flows in a mellow sequence, with no abrupt changes of direction and a lovely sense of accumulating effect.
Price: Tasting menu, £89 at dinner; wine and service extra
The London Evening Standard
6 JulyFay Maschler finds excitingly cheap food that is better than in comparable establishments in Paris at Jeremy King and Chris Corbin's latest venture, Brasserie Zédel, London W1
These are less than high-street chain prices and come with predominantly correct preparation, educated formal service, pretty customised china and cloth napkins in that patterned soft salmon pink often found in French markets. Perhaps even more thrilling is the fact that the prix fixe, at £11.25, delivered almost the best meal of the seven - taking my various companions into account - tried. A well-dressed cârottes rapées was followed by fiercely grilled steak haché with a kind rosy heart, a nostalgic sauce poivre and greaseproof paper-wrapped pommes allumettes in a silver cup. To follow was coffee served with chocolate friandises; perfectly judged. Other highlights included escargots (six) au beurre persillé; saumon Belle-Vue et sa macédoine, which resembled home-made Russian salad; copious choucroute Alsacienne; garlicky sauté potatoes that came with confit de canard, and fine emerald haricots verts.
Price: A la carte, a meal for two with wine, about £70
4 JulyThe Petersham Nurseries café in Richmond serves up some excellent food but it is sadly spoiled by slow service and high prices, says Marina O'Loughlin
We clink Prosecco laced with rose liqueur and crystallised rose petals, admire a salad of burnished golden baby beets, clouds of buffalo ricotta, purple basil and the finest shreds of lemon peel, all slicked with ambrosial Zisola olive oil, and pretend it's our birthday. But then, nothing. We've plenty of time to question Petersham's popularity. Perhaps it's because an Italian owner and two Australian chefs have managed to create a fairy-tale land, a sanitised evocation of the English upper-middle class pipe dream in the way only non-natives can do. At first, we're powerless to resist its charms. But after being ignored, we're left with the distinct impression that they feel they're doing us the most enormous favour. Main courses, when they finally arrive, are also excellent: a slab of pearly halibut with borlotti beans and - I think - freekeh grains, plus whole datterini tomatoes that burst their sunshiney sweetness over the dish. Bistayeea, or b'stilla, that vaguely debauched Moroccan pie: crisp, sugar-dusted phyllo pastry stuffed, in this case, with cinnamony duck instead of the traditional pigeon. The pastry is limper than I'd like but the flavours are immense.
Price: A meal for two with wine, water and service, costs about £170
7 JulyTracey MacLeod says the Bricks restaurant at the Legoland hotel in Windsor is the perfect place if you're under 12
If you've ever holidayed in an all-inclusive family hotel, you'll know how the buffet works: there's a carvery, a pasta station, a salad bar, and some other options I've blanked out. But here's the twist - at Bricks there's also a special, low-rise kids' buffet, offering a wider than usual selection of healthy, non-fried foods, including salad (untouched), veg batons (scorned) and individual Yorkshire puds filled with mashed potato and a little sausage (are you kidding?). To be honest, I can't quite recall what anyone else in the family ate. It was every man for himself in there. After a nasty jostling incident at the wok station, I retreated to the counters with the smallest queues, which is how I ended up with a plate holding vegetable curry, piri piri chicken, a Yorkshire pudding and chips shaped like Lego bricks. It was all pretty decent. The chicken was Nandos-worthy, the curry seemed prepared from scratch rather than snipped from a bag, and the brick-chips tasted fresh. The great thing about the buffet system is that the kids don't have to sit patiently until the food arrives.
Rating: Food: 2/5; Ambience (adults): 2/5; Ambience (kids): 5/5; Service: 5/5
Price: Buffet: £19.95 (adults), £9.95 (kids). Under 3s eat free
7 JulyGiles Coren says Verru, London W1, is like someone took Noma and left it alone in a room with Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, then abducted the child and set it up in a local Café Rouge
This was food so pretty, so distinctive, so charmingly served that I found myself more than tolerating the sous-vide-ing of meat and fish (which I normally hate) and taking my hat off to smears and smudges, possibly because the food managed also to be piping hot and full of soul, two things that are usually lost in all the buggering about. It is also, for this sort of caper, reasonably affordable. The puddings were poor (out of season fruits, awful watery strawberries, missing ice-creams), the red wine was ruined by being stored in the dining room and served at practically human body temperature, the music was depressing and they shouldn't put an Estonian vodka cocktail on the day's menu and then be out of the vodka, because it makes the menu look as if it never changes (which I am assured it does almost daily). But otherwise, Verru is a triumph.
Price: About £45 per head, but with great lunch and early supper deals
The Sunday Times
8 JulyAA Gill says the hospitality at the Milestone in Sheffield is put together with real heart and hope
Home-made bread came with butter and dripping. We started with a pea soup that was so fine and straightforward and elegant, it shut me up. I put a spoon in my mouth and completely forgot what I was talking about. There's nothing like enough soup on menus. This was the best seasonal one I've eaten north of Rugby. A plate of home-cured salmon was nattily served, and there was a home-made black pudding with pickled vegetables and apple. Who takes the time to make their own black pudding? This was warm and deep and rich and morbid. Main courses were not quite as confident or exciting. Pork belly managed to be everything we've grown to expect from pork belly. The trouble is, it's just too familiar, one of those cuts that needs to be given a menu sabbatical. And a beef brisket was a collapsing brown study of slow patience. But the best dish turned out to be the vegetarian option of pearl barley with wild mushrooms. Not a hospitable afterthought, but a cleverly conceived and well-made main course that wasn't a second choice to anything. Pudding was an orange cake and exceptional coffee. The ingredients are, as far as possible, local, and of a superior, home-reared quality.