Marina O'Loughlin says Sushi des Artistes, London SW3, the London outpost of the cabaret-inspired Japanese-European fusion restaurant, is ludicrous Sushi des Artistes is heroically ugly: dark and moody but sheeny-shiny, red-and-black stripes everywhere, huge TV screen belting out Yo-Yo Ma or the Bee Gees, light fittings either bowler hats or the kind of coloured chandelier usually found in teenage girls' bedrooms. It's the absolute antithesis of the calm, serene Japanese restaurant model, like eating inside a migraine. And who wrote the vast menu? A Chuckle Brother? Sashimi assemblies are called things like "Salmon and Garfunkel" and "Love for sale"; appetisers "A kiss with edamame" or "Love me tender". If an item can feature truffle, wagyu or foie gras, it will. Prices cause me to lose all feeling in my fingertips. The food is equally absurd. There are big flabby prawns wrapped in a mummy's shroud of impenetrable noodles doused in sweetish goo. A polished tile balances a red wineglass draped with slices of yellowtail, all foofed with strawberries, slivers of lemon, barrels of cucumber, microherbs and lashings of flavourless white truffle. If Pee-wee Herman went into catering, he might come up with something like this.
Score: Food 4/10; Atmosphere 2/10; Value for money 1/10
Price: Meal for two with drinks and service, about £180
The Independent on Sunday
Lisa Markwell says despite some genuinely imaginative flavour combinations and such enthusiasm from the staff, she cannot imagine ever coming back to Sushi des Artistes, London SW3
Price: About £150 for two, including drinks
Jay Rayner says the new Hawksmoor Air Street, London W1, delivers everything you would want it to be and quite a bit more What really matters is the menu. There are still their superb steaks, available in cuts from "reasonable", through "bring a friend" to "bigger than your head", seared by a kitchen that understands the ways of meat. There are the glories of bone-marrow gravy, a proper frothy béarnaise served still just warm, and that absurdly good anchovy hollandaise. Their triple-cooked chips are all snap and crunch and sigh. But what lifts this Hawksmoor is the fishy element, put together with the assistance of Mitch Tonks (of the OFM award-winning Seahorse in Dartmouth), who has helped them to negotiate the rapids of sustainability. The result is everything you would want it to be and quite a bit more. There are queenie scallops, lightly battered and deep fried and served with a coarse tartar sauce. This is pimped finger food: the £8 serving is generous, but I could still have devastated another bowl full. Brixham crab on toast with their own mayonnaise is fresh and sweet and shell-free. We find ourselves humming happy tunes at our starters.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service: £150
The Daily Telegraph
Matthew Norman has a mixed experience at seafood restaurant Ondine in Edinburgh. While fellow diners bemoan the service, he is disappointed with the food So it was that we heard of an interminable wait for drinks. "It's our second visit," said one of the men, a hotelier, "and both times it's been the same. Good food, dreadful serviceâ¦" Rotten luck, as I said. Seldom does a national newspaper reviewer travel to Edinburgh, despite its emergence as one of Britain's livelier eating cities. A clutch of well-regarded places have opened in recent years, and none more lavishly welcomed than this, the Good Food Guide's 2011 Scottish Restaurant of the Year. In its three years, every other punter may have been as impressed with the staff as we were. Ultimately we came to a conclusion diametrically opposed to that of our neighbours: great service, mediocre food.
Price: Three courses with wine and coffee: £50-£70 per head
Despite being stone-cold sober, Giles Coren has a great time at the Guinea Grill, London W1 Xander's sirloin was a beauty: charred black outside, hunting pink within, and with all the smoke and earth upon it of its long dry-ageing up the road in the special room. Grass-fed, proper, British, grainy and sweet, like the old roast beef of England that Hogarth ate and painted, and none of your jammy, grain-fed American Wolfgang Puck at CUT muck. The perfect accompaniment for the clear and pale old claret of France, of which I had a glass to look at while I ate my pie. The pies are grand here, totally top-hole - you can tell because there is a photo in the loo (alongside endorsements of the place from Vera Lynn, Bing Crosby et al.) of Eddie Large cutting into a 10ft x 10ft one which was in its time a world record breaker ("Largest pie ever eaten in one sitting by a reactionary comedian"). There's a steak and mushroom for lightweights, but mine was steak and kidney, its suet top greenish with parsley and sticky with cow fat, thick gravy, lean meat, hefty kidney giving it depth and a hint of gunpowder, and then on the side creamed spinach, chips, ginger-buttered carrots and an "onion medley", which was three different types of onion, fried, and served by Rebecca Adlington walking backwards.
Price: oysters and steak will set you back about £50 a head before the wine
Moreno, the first London restaurant from two-Michelin-starred Italian chef Moreno Cedroni at Baglioni Hotel, London SW7, has flashes of brilliance but lacks atmosphere, says Andy Lynes A selection of eight sushi and susci make up an over-large, overwrought and overpriced starter, served in a posh glass version of a TV dinner tray and with foot-long cutlery that makes my lunch guest look like Edward Scissorhands. On the plus side, the fish and shellfish are wonderfully fresh and some of the decidedly un-Italian combinations, such as amberjack with leek and lemon grass sauce, pansy, basil and fried amaranth, are successes. Octopus, served as a salad with steamed vegetables, jelly bread (described by our waiter as 'dried bread in jelly' - thanks for that) and 'its mayonnaise' (another mysterious element that either means it helpfully bought the chef a jar of Hellmann's or, more likely, the delicious emulsified sauce was made with the stock the octopus was cooked in) is as tender as it is pleasing. Quail, from the excellent value set menu, has been carefully prepared, with the breasts braised to soft pink perfection and the legs expertly fried so the skin is crisp but the delicate meat isn't overcooked. Foie gras, poached artichoke and monkfish turns out to be a winning combination but the dish is crying out for more texture than a pureed artichoke sauce can provide.
Price: A meal for two, including wine, water and service costs about £140.
London Evening Standard
Argentinian chef Diego Jacquet is cooking from his hearth and heart at Zoilo, London W1, and Fay Maschler is eager to book a return visit The menu, which over a dinner for two followed by lunch for two the next day my companions and I were able to mine almost in its entirety, revealed thoughtful, playful, deft and daring preparation and glimpses into gastronomic pastures new - new to me anyway - implied by the adjective Argentinian. Flavours are emphatic, spanning a spectrum from the purse-lipped sourness of an escabeche featuring bodice-busting fat mackerel to the louche, enveloping sweetness of dulce de leche which, with good sense, has been used not only as a starting point for crème brÁ»lée but as filling, coconut dusted, for a sandwich of airy maize flour biscuits (alfajores). Textures keep you on your toes throughout. Crispness is often supplied by fried or toasted slices of the irresistible cheese roll called chipa. At the first meal thinking "Okay, anything but the obvious steak", we loved the cubes of moody pork head cheese (queso de chancho) deep-fried in crumbs and served with a quince sauce of oriental clarity; empanadas filled with juicy chicken and grilled peppers flavoured with cumin in pastry so layered you could riffle through it; sweetcorn and crab soup of sweet innocence married to intensity; perfectly grilled sweetbreads piqued with lemon and onion and banana split ice cream to accompany that crème brÁ»lée.
Price: A full meal for two with wine, about £90
By Kerstin KÁ¼hn
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