The Daily Telegraph, 9 January
Jasper Gerard is no hurry to return to Sharrow Bay, Ullswater, Cumbria, as he finds the décor and the atmosphere are stuck in a time warp
I have steamed fillet of plaice with fricassée of wild mushrooms and scallop velouté, but I find I have no notes on this. I think I was so preoccupied by the fake coal fire and porcelain figurines that this dish passed in a period blur. I'm still not certain I didn't dream up the entire lunch and restaurant. We finish, according to my notes, on "icky sticky toffee sponge", made to the same sweet recipe for six decades. It's splendidly sickly, oozing cream and toffee sauce. Oh, and we are also served deconstructed summer pudding. Anywhere else this might be considered novel for deep winter, but this is a place lost to time. The restaurant is not for me nor, I suspect, the majority of readers. But a minority will love it. Now it's owned by a hotel chain I can only assume it is a condition of Coulson's will that it is preserved, pink swirly carpets and all. Part of me wants a stick of dynamite and then a budget to build by this lapping shore the greatest country hotel Britain has seen. (Lunch for two: £50 plus wine and service. Rating: 2.5/5).
Sharrow Bay – review in full >>
The Independent on Sunday, 10 January
Lisa Markwell is disappointed that although the newly-opened Lime Wood country house hotel in Lyndhurst, Hampshire, looks good, it does not live up to its potential
We move into the Scullery, a pretty room tricked out like a vintage kitchen – faux dressers with plate racks and jars of preserves line the grey, painted walls and a large fireplace at one end looks inviting. You can almost imagine Mrs Bridges bustling about. Unfortunately, what follows is a catalogue of errors, some of which I'd charitably call teething problems – Lime Wood had only been open three weeks at our visit in mid-December. Off the plate, having a pianist play relentlessly and loudly just outside the doorway to a room in which there's piped muzak is a schoolboy error: we struggle to hold a conversation over the clashing sounds. Meanwhile, offering enormous – almost serving-size – spoons with which to eat soufflé or, later, a modest two scoops of ice-cream, is just daft. More worryingly, no one thinks it necessary to tell Claire that her mixed beets salad has no beetroot in it, as chef hasn't got any. No one asks if I want a giant gloop of unadvertised caper-y mayonnaise with the lobster; it kills the flavour of the delicate flesh and once I scoop it aside, it slides greasily around on the wooden block my dish is served on. (£75 for two, excluding wine. Rating: 12/20).
Lime Wood – review in full >>
The Observer, 10 January
Jay Rayner describes Made by Bob in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, as much like its name, a straight-up place serving straight-up food
There's nothing flashy here, just a lot of very precise cookery. You can even sit at the blonde wood bar and watch them doing all that precise cooking. A salsa verde with still warm bread was lots of fresh green herbs, capers and anchovies with hobnail boots on. A salad of finely sliced ox tongue came with chicory and slivers of beetroot and a mustard dressing which didn't overwhelm any of its parts. A fillet of halibut, alongside a dome of mash and oven-roasted tomatoes, had been introduced to both a searing hot pan and enough butter to give it a beautifully nutty and well-seasoned crust without over-cooking the fish. Most surprising of all was a grilled chicken curry. I didn't want to order it, not least because it looked out of place, but once I'd crossed off the linguine with seafood and bouillabaisse sauce, because we'd been there with the fish soup, and turned my nose up at the red pepper, fennel and green olive risotto because, well, I would, wouldn't I, that left only the steak which is just a steak. (Meal for two, including wine and service, £75-90).
Made by Bob – review in full >>
The Sunday Times, 10 January
AA Gill says that it is not right that the Hind’s Head in Bray, Berkshire run by Heston Blumenthal “the most thoughtful, exacting and generous of chefs”, is serving mediocre food in an atmosphere redolent of misplaced nostalgia
A prawn and crab cocktail was served in a glass that was too small, was entirely bereft of crab and had an acidic marie-rose dressing that was the flavour of the 1950s; the prawns tasted of nothing at all. It was perfectly in keeping with the aspirations of this room. Oxtail and kidney pudding was made in individual dariole moulds, which give you way too much stodge and not enough dried-out filling. My rare fillet on the bone had the texture of rump and came cooked medium; its bone-marrow sauce was small nostril-picks of fat dropped on top. A beef salad was carpaccio that was sinewy and under-hung, the triple-cooked chips smelt of tired fat. All the savoury dishes had imprecise and clumsy flavours — they were made well enough, but as if by someone with a cold. The Blonde pointed out that the flavours weren’t clear or clean enough. A dirty, smudged lunch. The treacle tart had too much lemon and an overcooked ginger crust; quaking pudding was a grey custard, overdusted with nutmeg. (Rating: 2/5).
Hind’s Head – review in full >>
By Janet Harmer
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