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Reviews: Restaurant Interlude, Decimo and more

04 November 2019 by
Reviews: Restaurant Interlude, Decimo and more

The newly Michelin-starred Restaurant Interlude in Lower Beeding, West Sussex, has a stagy atmosphere “at odds with the dynamism, skill and creativity of its young team”, writes Kathryn Flett in The Telegraph

Stand-outs included a puffy mouthful of rabbit-encased carroty-dumpling served on a mini lawn, a playfully smoked “cigar” filled with South Africa’s fermented milk, amasi. I loved the ash-suffused crackling ghost of a chicken’s foot with homemade fire salt, and the melt-in-the-mouth 120-day-aged Sussex cross wagyu beef bite with gorse flowers. Kudos, too, to the oyster cream, Exmoor caviar and nettle combo, and a surf-n-turf charred pork chunklet with a spoonful of scallop served with birch-sap syrup.

You’d expect a lot of mushrooms at the moment. However, they popped up just once – a “risotto” in which rice was replaced by a pile of riced potato atop a smear of venison biltong jam. It was all very seriously playful.

If there is a major criticism, it’s that there is little light-and-shade; even the prettiest, most delicate-looking dishes packed punches above their weights, while veg were treated mostly as rinky-dink accessories rather than stars in their own right; pretty much a protein fest. My palate eventually disengaged.

Price: 14-course ‘garden experience’ menu £90; 19-course ‘estate experience’ £120

Decimo
Decimo

The Evening Standard’s Fay Maschler says the menu at Peter Sanchez-Iglesias’ Decimo at the Standard hotel in London’s King’s Cross is “eye-poppingly expensive” – but the food is impeccable

Although the investment is blatantly huge and the resulting sensory wrap-around a delight, items such as one tiny fish taco at £6, croquetas de jamón £3.50 each, one chargrilled leek – beautiful, by the way – with romesco sauce at £8, three not very thrilling carrots at £6, a suckling pig shoulder lacking the crisp carapace anticipated at £45, a minimum spend on two minimal desserts £11, mean anything less than an impeccable result is disappointing.

My two meals let me suggest that the following come into that positive category. Under the heading “aguachile” – a Mexican twist on the same “cooking” of fish in lime juice as ceviche – crab with jalapeño is lush and octopus à la Gallega style a whole new way of looking at and enjoying tentacles; tacos, if you can swallow the pricing, are best kept selfishly to oneself; mushroom bomba rice is a thing of beauty, visually and in one’s tum; lettuce and herb salad is dressed in couture; lamb chops are rewarding as lamb chops almost invariably are; turbot seeming almost a bargain at £24 benefits from the “finish” with Mexteca, a sort of glaze of pork fat flavoured with oregano; the dainty dessert of set cream polished with Arbequina olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and accompanied by a roasted fig is a kind of perfection.

Rating: 3/5

Guests go to Bistrotheque at Cultureplex in Manchester to be seen rather than for the food, writes Grace Dent in The Guardian

Service within Bistrotheque itself, however, is friendly and diligent; I’m just not certain the food is very good. A starter of a generous lump of cured salmon with beetroot tartare and horseradish came scattered with sea salt and capers. The fish sat in a puddle of green and burgundy jus. The plate looked like a Van Gogh. It was too cold, tasted sharp and was not wildly delicious.

A potato and Comté pithivier – that’s a pie by another name – was far too heavy-handed with the Comté, much of which hadn’t been given a chance to melt. The flavours of the pastry and the spud were given even less room to breathe by a thick, green mustard sauce and a fistful of crisp, fried sage. Desperate Dan could not have finished this pie.

A chunky steak tartare with a neatly placed, wobbly yolk looked pretty, but was jam-packed with capers that quashed any subtlety of flavour in the meat. Sea trout was rather overcooked and came in a pool of largely forgettable, miso-laced, tomato sauce. Soft, delicate plum frangipane tart with crème fraîche, however, was glorious.

Price: About £35-40 a head, plus drinks and service. Rating: food: 4/10; atmosphere: 4/10; service: 8/10

The Spinn serves “messy, fingers-dirty, stack-of-napkins-required bar food, done well,” writes Emily Heward in the Manchester Evening News

We order a portion of brisket tacos (£6.95), imagining sticky, slow-cooked, pull-apart beef, not the grey diced meat that arrives cradled in three discs of corn tortilla. They're a hit, nevertheless, helped along by a daubing of guacamole, a sharp tomato salsa and a pile of pink pickled onions.

Battered halibut tacos (£6.95) are less of a success. The fish has the fibrous texture of a fillet that's been knocking around in the fridge a day too long, and a listless bed of red cabbage and a drizzle of a mayonnaise-based sauce do little to revive it.

Bloody Mary prawns (£7.45) have plenty more oomph, crusted in a Cajun-spiced panko crumb and plunged into a pot of hot sauce that prickles with Tabasco and celery salt.

We smell the fried chicken wings (£6.45) before we see them, wafting over from a nearby table. We steal jealous glances until ours arrive, piled high and glistening with a sticky coating of rhubarb and scotch bonnet sauce. The skin's lost some of its crispness from its roll in the glaze but the fruity, lip-stinging heat it imparts is worth the trade-off. Beneath it, the meat is soft and juicy thanks to a bathing of buttermilk.

Mikaku Glasgow
Mikaku Glasgow

The Observer’s Jay Rayner is glad he stopped in at Mikaku in Glasgow

We have a large portion of their chicken karaage for £6.50 because, like any sane, properly brought up, interesting person, I am powerless in the face of thigh first dumped in a soy-based marinade then given a dusting of seasoned cornflour and finally deep fried. It is that ludicrously compelling combination of crispy and salty; of soft, tenderised meat steamed in its shell, and crumbly bits that mustn’t be allowed to escape. There’s a dollop of sweetened chilli sauce on the side and some mayo. It’s a subtle, understated dish in the way that Rylan Clark-Neal’s teeth are subtle. But the rain is still coming down, and the wine is still flowing, which means this fried chicken is necessary.

There is an attempt at self-care courtesy of a well-made wakame salad of slippery ribbons of seaweed, with just the right bite, in a soy and sesame dressing. Then it’s on to the chicken wings, presented unjointed, with the awkward geometry of pointed tip to drummer. They are tricky and messy to eat like this, but the staff are watching. They chuck wet wipes on to the table as if they are life preservers thrown to the drowning.

The sweet soy and sesame versions with their crisp shell are worth the mess and very much worth the price at £2.90 for two.

Price: All dishes £4.50-£9; wine £12.95

The Evening Standard’s Jimi Famurewa says there is “commendable ambition” at Mama Fuego in London’s Greenwich but overall finds the experience dispiriting

Pea pancake brought a thin fritter, capably fried and stacked with smooshed avocado and poached egg, but buried beneath a watery hedgerow of leaves and cucumber ribbons, and strewn with pointless rubbled pistachio. ‘Big Dippers’ (a dense chilli and tomato soup with accompanying thick, quartered cheese toasties) was fine in a ‘most reliable order at a park café’ sort of way. Brisket Cubano was more like a stodgy patty melt; enormous twin bricks of bread, wadded shreds of slightly grey beef, melted cheese and an unpalatable quantity of wholegrain mustard.

Some moist, characterful cakes offered partial respite. But Mama Fuego currently feels like it needs to drastically simplify its offering, and rein in the wearying attempts at photogenic distinctiveness. It is fussy, joy-free food in the manifestation of a lively ideas meeting run amok. And all neighbourhoods, even the ones that happen to have their own 20,000 capacity arena, deserve better than that.

Price: £62.70. Rating: ambience: 3/5; food: 2/5

E&O Chelsea
E&O Chelsea

The Telegraph’s William Sitwell is disappointed by E&O Chelsea in London

The prawn and chive dumplings were lovely. But the chilli salt squid came as flattened, teeth-breaking tempura, dried out so one needed more a chisel than chopsticks to hand. There were several pieces that were just dull bits of batter – call it tempura of concrete.

And there was an avocado chopped salad, as well as my beloved watermelon and duck salad. The latter was a messy dollop on a plate: four bits of watermelon, tiny pieces of cashew and dried duck, all mixed with a sugary sauce so cloying and sweet as to ruin any semblance of flavour and subtlety.

A good hour later, and with a flurry of apologies and promises of dishes being removed from the bill, came another old favourite, the shrimp tempura.

The 2019 version comes with truffle aïoli, a match as inappropriate as wearing a mankini in church on Christmas day. It was a pointlessly trendy wrecking ball of a sauce. No shrimp should die for this. There was also a piece of overcooked sea bream drenched in a thick and gloopy Szechuan sauce, which we ate holding our noses with a competent bowl of egg-fried rice.

Price: Dinner for two £80 excluding drinks and service. Rating: 2/5

HOTELS

Lime Wood Pavilion
Lime Wood Pavilion

Fiona Duncan of The Telegraph celebrates the 10th anniversary of Lime Wood in Lyndhurst, Hampshire, a hotel, she says, “does what all hotels should do: make their guests feel good”

I didn’t love it at first. I suppose my appreciation of Lime Wood has grown at just about the same rate that it has gained in unruffled, calming confidence as every year has passed. Back in 2009, with its showy David Collins interiors and its glacial atmosphere, the hotel felt like an alien spaceship that had landed at the centre of the New Forest, Hampshire’s 145-square-mile ancient heath and woodland where ponies, donkeys, pigs, cattle and deer still freely roam.

Jim Ratcliffe, the chemicals billionaire, had bought the Georgian country house-turned-hotel and lavished £4m on its refurbishment, but he needed a guiding hand to give it direction. It came in the form of Robin Hutson, who had sold his Hotel du Vin mini-chain. The two met because their children were at school together; now their Home Grown Hotels include Lime Wood and six Pig hotels, with two more on the way.

It was a fortuitous union. Hutson, who has a gift for knowing what guests want, quickly made changes, creating a laid-back yet glamorous Martin Brudnizki-designed restaurant, inviting delightful, down-to-earth Angela Hartnett to join head chef Luke Holder, and overseeing, down to every last detail, the creation of the spa. More recently he has employed designer Susie Atkinson to add yet more warmth to public rooms and bedrooms, including the two fabulous new Pavilion suites.

Price: Double rooms cost from £395 per night; breakfast from £18.50

Sopwell House
Sopwell House

For a good out-of-town hotel offering attentive service, Ben Clatworthy of The Times recommends Sopwell House in St Albans, but is disappointed by the restaurant

The imposing whitewashed Georgian mansion has a stylish lobby with an open fire and a cosy bar with snug sofas. The big draw is the Cottonmill Spa, which has saunas, relaxation rooms, an indoor-out hydropool and a high-tech gym.

All 128 rooms have a boutique feel, with smart interiors, statement wallpapers and king-size beds. Bathrooms come equipped with spacious rain showers, Espa products and huge fluffy towels. The 16 mews suites, in a former stable block, are the best rooms (from £359 B&B a night), with their own hot tub and hydropool within the manicured garden, designed by Ann-Marie Powell, an RHS Chelsea gold medallist.

There are two dining options: a formal restaurant (open Wednesdays to Saturdays) and a brasserie. The former is rather austere and lacking atmosphere, although the food was good. I kicked off with the duck liver parfait with green-apple shavings, pistachio and brioche croutons (£12), before the Hertfordshire beef sirloin with oxtail, braised onion and a globe artichoke (£29.50). However, I would still opt for the brasserie, which had a better feel and was better value (mains about £15).

Rating: 8/10. Price: B&B doubles from £154 a night

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