Nothing fails to impress at Silo in London's Hackney Wick, writes Marina O'Loughlin in the Sunday Times
The menu is projected onto a wall, currently six-course tasting only. But it gives only a fraction of the scripture, so I wind up doing something unprecedented and tape them. Here's just one description: "Besides the potatoes and the kale, it's entirely made from waste: the sauce from whey, a by-product of cheesemaking, thin, watery and acidic. But we reduce it right down so it starts caramelising to make a sweet, sour, slightly salty sauce — addictive! The blobs on top of the potatoes are the solids from our homemade sourdough miso. That's emerald kale, smoked and grilled till crisp, and on top you've got a veg treacle made from offcuts and leftovers, trimmings, leaves, whatnot, cooked down until they release all their natural sugars and become earthy and sweet and delicious." My summing-up: bloody gorgeous. Never were plebeian veg so rich, so surprising, so … edifying.
Nothing fails to impress throughout the whole performance. Not "badger flame" beetroot, specially grown to breed out the root's bitter muddiness, on cow's milk ricotta, sourdough tamari, Mexican marigold oil, shoyu and molasses made from the "large, ugly" regular beetroot. (Summing up: a powerhouse of bright, sparky flavours.) Not Jerusalem artichokes, grilled, then plunged into the hearth's glowing coals till crisp and smoky, in a pool of Cashel Blue cheese and a hummock of prettily pink cabbage "kraut" (Summing up: the world's most glorious, cobnutty, perfumed baked potatoes with cheese.)
Price: For two, including 12.5% service charge £164
The Lookout in Edinburgh is serving up "simple ideas, well executed, using great ingredients in the service of big flavours", according to The Observer's Jay Rayner
The star of our starters is a cuttlefish risotto made night-black from the ink. On top are the very freshest of cockles still in the shell, which are salty and sweet and bright. Cockles are the equal of any poulard clam, but most of them get ripped from their shells, pickled and sent away to people with more taste. We suck at the meat then use the shells to scoop away. There are a few bitter leaves on top wilting gently in the heat. By comparison a frothy bowl of pumpkin soup, the surface sprinkled with pumpkin seeds, seems almost demure. But glancing up at the rain slapping the glass like a cat demanding to be let in, this soup suddenly makes it feel as if the food and weather have been matched. Bouncing around in the bottom of the bowl are squeaky, fresh beechnuts. Both of these dishes are £8. It's a lot for the soup, and very good value for the risotto.
A chunk of pearly hake, the flakes sliding away from each other, sits atop an unmanicured mess of gently sautéed leeks, nutty new potatoes and melon-bellied mussels, which are a warming shade of tangerine. It is described as coming with "curry", which in this case means the puddle of buttery broth bringing it all together has been spiced lightly with a garam masala.
The darkness to this lightness is a perfectly grilled and glazed beef fillet, with roasted and charcoal-grilled pieces of Jerusalem artichoke. There's also a jug of a luscious onion broth to pour over it all.
Price: Lunchtime à la carte: starters £8-£14; mains £16-£25; desserts £5; wines from £29. Set lunch £25. Evening tasting menus £50 and £70
San Carlo in London's St James' gets full marks from The Telegraph's William Sitwell for "some near-perfect vegan-pandering"
Waiters swirl around San Carlo delivering dishes with an almost genuflecting flourish. I was whetting my appetite with a beefy red wine – Brunello di Montalcino (miraculously vegan) – as the first of some five dishes arrived, a porcini carpaccio. The raw mushrooms sat on crispy flatbreads – Sicilian carasau, which were flecked with rosemary and sea salt – with shavings of white Alba truffle. It was a beautifully assembled plate of texture and seasoning, where the scent of the truffle wafted over the mushrooms.
Next up was a crispy artichoke in a dressing of sweet agave. So far, so vegan – and I was aching for some actual food. A dish of warming lentils and spelt, which seemed infused with rosemary, helped to fill a gap, and flashes of crisp deep-fried sage leaves added melody to this autumnal tune.
Then I got a plate of spaghetti with little slices of asparagus and some more truffle shavings. ‘Asparagus!' you cry. ‘In winter!' Yes, naughty Signor Zilli is shipping in such ingredients, without us vegans having a care in the world for the planet. But the pasta was beautifully, boldly al dente – and there was a drizzle of deeply rich and unusually fresh-tasting olive oil.
Price: Vegan tasting menu for one: £45, excluding drinks and service. Rating: 4/5
The restaurant at the Boulevard theatre in London's Soho shows "a commitment to serious, assured modern cooking ", writes Tom Parker Bowles in the Mail on Sunday
We eat a soft, spongy twice-baked Wookey Hole Cheddar soufflé, afloat in a flood of creamy chive sauce. And gossamer slices of kohlrabi, draped atop chunks of celeriac, scattered with roasted hazelnuts. A sharp salsa verde gives it welcome edge.
Whole curried cauliflower is magnificent, charred and still firm, with a hefty chilli kick and a pot of good dahl at its side. They take their plants very seriously here indeed. So much so that any non-vegan dish is marked with v (vegetarian), m (meat) or f (fish). But it's all discreetly done. No grand standing or finger wagging here. Just a commitment to serious, assured modern cooking where all tastes are welcome.
Mushroom arancini balls are well made, and hide an oozing nugget of Taleggio. There's a Percy Pig pink ham hock terrine, with thin veins of luscious jelly, a robust succulence and a scattering of pickled vegetables. ‘A serious terrine,' says Vic Jr, a fine chef himself. Sumac chicken, lustily spiced, is rolled, coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Chicken Milanese, by way of the Middle East. A thick, juicy, well brought up pork chop has everything you can desire from a pork chop. Including a thick ribbon of good fat. Only the whisky-cured mackerel is a disappointment. A touch overcooked, and little sign of the booze.
Price: About £30 a head. Rating: 4/5
The Times' Giles Coren is not impressed by the theatre at Davies and Brook at Claridge's in London's Mayfair
Conversation at our table died as we awaited the denouement. Time to reflect on the dingy oversweet aubergine starter with coriander and roasted garlic that Esther had barely touched and the caviar that had been served in a warm squash for no reason on earth I could possibly see – is it for people who've eaten so much caviar they need it served in a hot fruit to blow away the tedium? Or is it for those with such a glut of squashes up the allotment that they'll fill them with anything to get them sold? The flavour combination wasn't actively horrible (Esther quite liked it) but it improved neither ingredient…
There were good things. Such as the free chopped raw scallop served in the shell with wonderful warm bread and a magical scallop butter and dark scallop consommé. And the lobster was very good despite its squash bisque. (Enough damned pumpkins already!) But the main course duck (for which I'd ordered the red wine), though a lovely piece of dry-aged meat, served with a nice little pat of braised red cabbage full of Christmas scents, was coated all over with whole or crunched coriander seeds, cumin seeds and Sichuan peppercorns that filled the mouth with peppery grit like something dredged through spicy cat litter.
Rating: Cooking: 5; room: 6; trolley: 0; score: 3.67. Price: Hundreds and hundreds of pounds.
The Guardian's Grace Dent says Allegra in the Stratford hotel in London offers "elegant yet hearty, jolly and wholly delicious dinners"
This is food that seeks to make you fat, and hooray for that. Artichoke velouté with shaved chestnuts arrives with a heavenly brioche. The soda bread, incidentally, is the most sumptuous in London, and comes with a green sauce, a sort of salsa verde by way of Killala, Co. Mayo. That venison loin, which Charles raved about, came with an extra mini-cottage pie made from the deer's braised shoulder. One dish I've thought of many times since my visit was a side of pink fir apple potatoes with chives and sweet-and-sour onion. Yes, it was just a plain old plate of new potatoes and onion, but at the same time it was also an orgasmic hit of pickle vinegar, soft spud and creamy, crunchy caramelised onion ring.
We ranged across the menu, eating one of those dinners where by the midway point we were already making plans about when to come back. Because what is the pain perdu with confit egg and wild mushrooms? And shouldn't we try the turbot cooked in sake with congee? A main of perfectly judged monkfish with sweet crown prince pumpkin, shiitake and glazed pumpkin seeds was as pretty as it was adorable. I ate a slice of sticky, warm treacle cake for pudding with a highly likeable caramelised pastry ice-cream. There was a confit apple millefeuille with salted caramel that my stomach pleaded with my eyes to order just to take home for bedtime snacking.
Price: About £60 a head, plus drinks & service; set lunch £24 for two courses, £29 for three. Rating: Food: 9/10; atmosphere: 7/10; service: 9/10
Kathryn Flett of The Telegraph is charmed by Anglo@Trade in London's Soho
My friend Georgina and I were charmed by the small carte – "steak and caramelised onion pita melt" for £10, ox cheek, mash and sour carrots for £16 – but agreed to share the set: six courses for £55. From the pretty fermented cauliflower puddle with its giant buckwheat dipping crisps at the top, to the gorgeous fermented – yes, there's a bit of a theme here, but it doesn't intrude – Granny Smith and meadowsweet dessert, via blow-torched mackerel made moreish with egg yolk, black garlic and carrot, an outstandingly tender venison chunklet with – mmmmm – bread sauce and crisped kale, it was joyous.
Most memorably, perhaps, were the parsnip as a parfait pudding, with ganache, smoked meringue and caramel miso, and the melty Tunworth (a camembert from Hampshire) cheese pot with puffed rice topping, sitting on a base of smashed raisins.
Overlooking the fact that in the barely-lit basement the "ricicles" looked a shade maggoty, this was a great dish.
Price: Lunch for two: £150. Rating: 4/5
Jenny Coad of The Times finds in the newly opened Treehouse London "a trendy, tree-themed eco-warrior in a 1960s office block"
[The bedrooms are] nostalgic. Ours had a Magic 8 Ball for fortune-telling, yellow cuckoo clock, sloth cuddly toy and mushroom-shaped cushion bringing fun to the stripped-back palette of raw plaster walls and wooden floors. The silver birch trunks in the bathroom continued the bark-based look and the shower was fitted with a Crittall-style window to let the light in.
The restaurant, Madera, is Mexican-style; fresh, tangy and on trend, with a vegan menu, including ceviche made with hearts of palm and coconut. Dishes are for sharing so we tried a pizza "pan plano", skirt steak sizzling on a hot rock, guacamole and enchiladas. You'll feel you're at a party; there's a DJ (Tuesday-Sunday) and it's lively, with the waiters lighting flaming cocktails like tealights.
Rating: 8/10. Price: doubles from £279 a night
Debbie Lawson of The Guardian describes the setting of Isle of Eriska on its own 300-acre island in Argyll & Bute as "truly magical"
You may never want to leave the comforts of your room, but the grand oak-panelled hall with its roaring fire is perfect for tea and freshly made scones; or grab a whisky and a volume of the Waverley novels from the cosy book-lined bar. Staff are attentive and discreet, providing top-notch service.
Borrow a pair of wellies and stroll down to the beach (an amateur geologist's dream), past the rickety pier for an afternoon of wildlife spotting – otters, cormorants and seals are regular visitors. Or hike from the heronry up to the cairn for a longer walk.
The main restaurant is renowned for its cuisine – the cheese trolley being a particular talking point. For fabulous views towards the loch, the bistro above the spa offers more informal dining.
Price: doubles from £189 a night