Roy Brett's cooking at Ondine in Edinburgh is simple and classy and in service of some excellent ingredients, says Jay Rayner
Certainly it's hard to imagine a seafood restaurant in the city without cullen skink, that great gut-filling fish soup, on the menu; crowds would gather on the Royal Mile with pitchforks and tartan-pimped tins of shortbread. Here though, it is less a classic soup than something to be eaten with a trowel, a stew of cubed potatoes and smoked fish and just enough cream to fur the arteries. It is served from a terrine and we are offered seconds (which I'm sure happens to everybody; if anybody has missed out on this pleasure they will doubtless tell me). Ribbons of tempura squid with a bowl of something fish-sauce-heavy to dip them in is the usual cheery victory of the deep-fat fryer. There are diver-caught scallops on the half shell, with lengths of fine pork sausage plonked above them and sticking out. It is a diverting presentation. If you are, like my companion, entirely juvenile, you might say it looks like something phalli-centric an adolescent boy would doodle on his exercise books. I, however, am more than willing to celebrate the artlessness of it. Plus, it was scallop and pig.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service: £125
Score: Food 4/10; Atmosphere 4/10; Value for money 2/10
Price: Three-course meal, £50 upwards, plus drinks and service
Tracey MacLeod says Balthazar, London WC2, Keith McNally's famous French brasserie has that touch of mystery and magic that characterises all great restaurants Things got a little more French with the main courses. From the daily specials, a glossy, lip-sticking oxtail bourguignon, served with fresh pappardelle, achieved the perfect balance of slow-cooked beef, smoky lardons and caramelised onions. A gigantic double lamb chop, or T-bone, as the menu has it, was explosively juicy, its sweetness enhanced by a cassoulet-ish mix of flageolet beans, Merguez sausage and carrots. Only a marginally undercooked and over-nutmegged gratin dauphinois fell short of superb, in a meal which satisfied right through from the bread (Balthazar has its own bakery) to our shared pudding, a shimmering, silky rhubarb soufflé. The staff - a full Chorus Line of them - have apparently been through intensive training to get them up to snuff, though the service feels unobtrusive; mercifully, no one tries to introduce either themself or anything you're about to eat. And our waiter didn't blink when we established squatters' rights at our early-evening table, managing to stretch our meal out from pre-theatre to post-theatre and cheekily catch the whole show. Our bill came to around £45 a head for food; the all-French wine list offers a vast number of ways to push it up much higher. But all-day opening means that Balthazar should get more accessible once the initial hype has died down.
Score: Food 4/5; Ambience 5/5; Service 4/5
Price: Around £45 per person, not including wine
Giles Coren says the great room and excellent service make Balthazar the best restaurant in London. But, he adds, the food is some of the worst in Europe I had the brandade de morue, which might have been terrific hot, but lukewarm was like eating a bowl of fishy laundry. And Fiona had some lukewarm sardines on lukewarm toast. Richard ordered the prawn cocktail hoping for nostalgic fun, but got eight big prawns from thousands of miles away on an ice platter around a bowl of mayo - which struck me as a typically American sort of pretentiousness. In the middle we had a lukewarm lobster risotto to poke at, which my powers of guesswork told me would have been quite delicious hot. Then I had an overcooked piece of pork belly, black at the edges, the fat gone, the flesh chewy, with some nice lukewarm sprouts. Martin had the famous lukewarm duck shepherd's pie, Richard had a good Dover sole, and in the middle, to share, we had the burger. You've got to assume the burger at an American place is going to be good, haven't you? Especially at £16. And it was. If by "good" you mean cooked through to black (when asked how I wanted it I had said, "However the chef thinks it's best") so that it fell apart in the mouth like a clod of topsoil, served on sugary brioche with fries that in striving for the house standard lukewarmness managed only to get just above cold.
Rating: Room: 9; Service: 9; Food: 0; Score: 6/10
Price: Richard and I ended up doing £500 because the wine list is a bit tasty. -
The Daily Telegraph
Matthew Norman advises the owners of dismal restaurant Ten Room at Café Royal, London SW1, to demolish it and start againThe">http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/restaurants/9915477/Restaurant-review-Ten-Room-Cafe-Royal-London.html)The main courses were served from trays, in a touchingly optimistic stab at Michelin elegance. A fillet of sea bass came with a medley of braised fennel, smoked red peppers and black olives. "The fish is OK, although this crust is in danger of piercing the roof of my mouth," said my friend. "But I can't eat any more of this other stuff. Revolting." When I pointed out that my suckling pig stew lacked the advertised crackling, the waitress stared quizzically at the plate, much like Basil Fawlty on removing the dome to find not roast duck but trifle, and seemed on the verge of rifling through the stew with her hands before thinking better of it and nipping off to fetch it from the kitchen. Although the pig was slightly dry and chewy, the dish would have scaled a pinnacle of mediocrity had it not been depth-charged with more nasty chunks of mandarin. "Oh God, it's full of fruit," yelped my friend on being press-ganged into trying it. "It tastes like a dessert." One of the puddings tasted like a starter. "Just horrible," was the snap verdict on my custard tart. "Nothing custardy at all. It's just scrambled egg. With cinnamon." Coconut sorbet, with roasted pineapple and an overpowering chilli and rum sauce, was a nostalgic delight. "A total Proustian moment. I'm straight back in primary school. We had tinned pineapple on Wednesdays."
Price: Three courses with wine and coffee: about £70 per head
Joe Warwick says the Clove Club, London EC1, offers both style and substance Welcome snacks - radishes with sesame seeds and a Korean-spiced mayo; fried buttermilk chicken with pine salt; and cheese biscuits with curds - get us under way. The first course proper is a combination of warm, soft perfumed fennel served with pungent dulse seaweed, crème fraÁ®che and walnuts. That's followed by poached leek, served up roots and all, cleft and filled with juicy mussels in a light lemon balm sauce. Next up are slices of rare buttery ruby beef rib, served with potatoes that are the beautiful lovechild of a chip and a croquette, the accompanying sauce sexed-up with tiny crispy squares of fat. A warm cider and ginger mousse cleanses the palate before the one and only properly wacky-looking dish of the evening arrives - a delicious crunchy honeycomb of sheep's milk cheese served with blood orange and ribbons of blood orange jelly, topped with wild fennel granita. Chicory tea cakes arrive with our coffee. It's early days but there's a confidence to everything here - from a kitchen that's delivering comfort via modern techniques as opposed to experimenting for the sake of it, to front-of-house staff who are warm, professional and care about what they are serving.
Price: Set menu for two with wine, water and service costs around £150
Guy Dimond says the Clove Club's menu is a masterpiece of contemporary aspirations A pattern emerged: dishes seemed destined to be photographed and talked about, possibly more than savoured. The best dishes tended to be the ones that weren't trying quite so hard to impress. A dish of Ruby Red beef, ramson and potato comprised a generous piece of slow-cooked beef, very tender and moist; the ramson (wild garlic) was barely discernable, but it helped tick the 'seasonal' and 'wild' boxes. Nine courses are a lot to get through, but the desserts might include another highlight: blood orange segments dried like prunes, then studded into a sheep's milk mousse. Blood orange reappears in the same dish as a 'fruit leather' garnish, amid slivers of ewe's milk cheese.
The Clove Club's cooking is intentionally avant-garde. Everything about it screams 'look at me': the location, in the former Shoreditch Town Hall, the austerity of the décor, the open kitchen, and the other diners, many of them scenesters. Yet Clove Club is above parody, mainly because what it does, it does very well indeed. Take it with a pinch of artisanal salt, because it's one of the restaurants that will define this year.
Price: Set dinner £46 5 courses