What's on the menu? Marina O'Loughlin says Hix Belgravia is a big fish in a pond lacking personality

14 May 2012
What's on the menu? Marina O'Loughlin says Hix Belgravia is a big fish in a pond lacking personality

9 May
Marina O'Loughlin says Hix Belgravia, London SW1, is a big fish in a pond lacking personality, the food is good but it's served in a restaurant with no perceptible appeal
Designer Tara Bernerd's interior plays on the hotel's 1970s architecture. But the leatherette - Naugahyde? - booths framed by curious little chain mail curtains, copper lampshades and plant-lined "living" walls add up to an effect that's more Alan Partridge than Warren Beatty. Inset spotlights are augmented by those filament lightbulbs now de rigeur in every contemporary restaurant, a spectacularly pointless flourish. Even that Hix trademark - edgy modern art - fails to deliver real personality. "We have had fun with the menu and have gone ‘off-piste'," announces the website coyly. But rather than radical departure, with its "off-piste" red sea prawn and pumpkin curry nestling uneasily beside more typically Hixian pork chops and Hastings Dover sole (£37.50!), it comes across as an attempt at being all things to all wealthy international tourists. Almost everything we eat is good, and some of it - a limpid, wildly fruity ring of red raspberry jelly, studded with golden raspberries like some kind of wobbly coronet, framing a scoop of stellar raspberry ripple ice cream - is wonderful.
Rating: 3/5
Price: A meal for two with wine, water and service costs about £130

The Sunday Times
13 May
AA Gill has a very good lunch at the Ledbury, London W11, where he says Brett Graham's cooking is refined and calm
Pat had a pigeon, another small bird. These are usually a disappointment. Wild pigeon is delicious. The farmed French squab, which most kitchens offer because it suits the chef and has an added epicurean appeal, is usually wan and uninteresting. This one came with a confit leg. When you get round to slow-baking dove's feet in fat, and serving them with rhubarb, you know you're in Michelin two-star territory. I suppose it was worth all the work, just as long as you didn't have to do it. Chocolate pudding with lovage ice cream was interesting, and a brown sugar tart with poached grapes and ginger ice cream was the business. The Ledbury is far better than I remember it. The cooking is refined and calm. It resists unnecessary exclamations or startling contradictions. It doesn't test your palate or demand attention. It just is a very good lunch, at a hefty price. With two glasses of wine, our bill was £212.
Rating: 4/5

The Guardian
12 May
While the cooking at the Granville, Lower Hardres, near Canterbury, Kent, may not match that at the Sportsman, its big brother, there's still a lot to recommend it, says John Lanchester
The cooking is good - not amazing in the way that the Sportsman is, but well above average even for a well-regarded pub restaurant. It makes a serious attempt to fill the customer up, too, which is important in the pub business: it's quite a while since I've seen main courses that are such full-on platefuls. The best dishes were both starters: an oriental crispy pork salad with a sticky but not oversweet sesame dressing, and lots of leaves to add greenery and texture and extend the impact of the sauce. My son said it was the best salad he'd ever eaten - it's close to being the first he's ever eaten, too, which perhaps makes it even higher praise. The other standout was herring roes on a crisp, white bread crouton and dressed with lots of lemon and parsley butter. The key thing here was the absolutely accurate cooking of the roes: they go wrong if even a little under or over, but these had the perfect, creamy, rich softness. The rest was not quite at that level. Coq au vin was a hearty, tasty version of the classic, the sticky, red-wine sauce, liberally spiked with bacon, setting off a good-quality bird. Mussels in white wine was a competent, comforting staple, as was roast pork belly with crackling and apple sauce.
Price: Set lunch, from £12.95 for two courses

The Independent on Sunday
13 May

The chalkboard on which the food is boasted reads, "Beets - £2", which seems pleasing, until you eat them. These are cold, wet, lifeless chunks of fuchsia beetroot in a little ramekin. Suddenly, £2 seems steep. There's celeriac remoulade for the same price, which is also nothing to write to anyone about. Then there is red cabbage, or something like red cabbage, hideous lukewarm shreds of some vegetable that tastes like a victim of bullying. There is a terribly bad rabbit pudding for £10. I think its surface is made of suet, because it looks exactly like suet, but it doesn't taste like suet. Given there aren't many things that bear such a striking resemblance to suet while in fact tasting altogether different, my best guess is that this is suet. That said, I'm not having a second bite, so I can't confirm it. Below what I believe to be suet is a festering mulch of coldness that, were it served in your child's school canteen, would warrant a stern word at the next parents' evening.
Rating: 4/10
Price: About £35 for two, including two pints of ale

The Times
12 May
Giles Coren says Peruvian restaurant Ceviche, London W1, is brilliant because the cooking is super-confident, rare and interesting and the look of the room is great
But here I had eye-popping sea bass, fresh and sweet, in "aji amarillo chilli tiger's milk, aji limo chilli and red onions" (so there), which just sang the glories of not cooking your fish as loudly as any Japanese meal I've had. Speaking of Japanese, the excellent salmon dish was called sakura maru and contained satsumas, mirin and soy sauce, so was basically a Japanese dish. Nobu Matsuhisa revolutionised fusion food after three years running a sushi bar in Peru, don't forget. And I'm pretty sure there are close historical links between the two countries. In fact, isn't it Peru that had a president of Japanese origin for a while? Hang on. Yep: Alberto Fujimori. There you go. Wevs. The fish here is stunning. Most alarming of all was firm, fat, cool, slivers of octopus in a rich olive sauce that was vibrantly lavender in colour and then studded with emerald capers - as pretty a cold fish dish as there could ever be. And with a bulkiness from the olive sauce that could fool you into thinking you were eating fat-boy food.
Score: 7.66
Price: £25/head sans grog

The Daily Telegraph
12 May
Matthew Norman is blown away by the food at Queans, Leamington Spa
Almost the most startling thing among so many was the room's emptiness, because however tough the times, £31 for three courses is a steal for food of this quality.
Nick's main course showcased a chefly amalgam of technical excellence, intuitive flair and imagination: seven thick chunks of ruby red loin of lamb, sharing an elegant plate with a crunchy sphere of goats' cheese and "sunblush" tomato stuffing, and a jug of creamy basil sauce. "I'm already out of superlatives, old boy, so I'll just eat." My thin slices of honey-glazed, pan-fried duck breast came with a rhubarb and ginger compote that might have overwhelmed the duck in less gifted hands, but in these drew it out immaculately. A large bowl of vegetables featured unimprovably good roast potatoes. "I can't get my head around this," murmured Nick once Laura had delivered a cube on whose sides were printed all 16 flavours of her home-made ice-cream, and small wonder he was bemused. We had wandered into a hybrid from Greek myth: halfway between a high-end Michelin thoroughbred and the home of an earth-motherish friend with a passion for inventive cooking and lavish entertaining.
Rating: 5/5
Price: Set menu: two courses for £26, three for £31

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