What’s on the Menu? - A round-up of the latest restaurant reviews

by Janet Harmer, Monday 1st February 2010 15:39

The Daily Telegraph, 30 January
Jasper Gerard enjoys hugely impressive cooking by Brett Graham at the Ledbury, London W11, which has just won a second Michelin Star

My guest is seduced by a winter warmer: chestnut and truffle soup. I fear the worst when I spy it in a white cup frothing in that foamy way Michelin inspectors love more than British diners. But it tastes powerfully of its core ingredients, bolstered by a toast soldier under mushrooms. Tricky to eat but scrumptious. My friend continues with loin of Sika deer, shot on a Berkshire farm where Graham often blazes his Purdey, baked in hay with root vegetables, chocolate malt and homemade sauerkraut. There is a lot going on here, most of it good. The venison is "so, so tender" with little chunks of veg presented "like planets". It comes with potatoes shaped like bonbons. If anything, my breaded brill with creamed potato, cauliflower and buttered shellfish from the pauper's menu is even tastier. It hides under a crispy top that could so easily have been overcooked but is perfect. The texture of silken, smooth sea-fresh fish is cleverly contrasted by choppy, crunchy mushrooms. (Lunch for two, £96.16, including service, but no wine)
The Ledbury – review in full >>
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The Guardian, 30 January
Matthew Norman is delighted to find in Midsummer House, Cambridge, a Michelin-starred restaurant which is driven by a desire to please the punters rather than the inspectors

Oh God, no," I heard myself hiss at Midsummer House, a Victorian villa on the Cam, as a chatty Frenchman ¬produced a soda siphon to splash a distillation of pink ¬grapefruit and champagne into cups. Even the act of typing "amuse bouche" makes me queasy, but this one was magnificent enough to justify attempted manslaughter.  Frankly, I was perplexed. Sitting in a pleasingly simple conservatory while snow fell on the garden of somewhere named after the summer solstice was the least of the oddities. The majesty of the bouche aside, another major Michelin irritant was absent: where phalanxes of waiting staff usually hover unnervingly, here they leave you in peace. The problem with so luminous a start to the meal was that the only way was down, albeit the decline was gentle and there were further signs of brilliance. My friends both had scallops to start, one from the set menu with pickled cucumber, ¬radish sorbet and miso soup, which drew a rapturous, "Wonderful.” The other, from the à la carte, came with celeriac, ¬truffle, Granny Smith apple and ¬caramel. "Beautiful food," said its recipient. "Everything complements everything else." My roasted monkfish with caramelised chicory, pork belly and much else besides was memorable for providing the first occasion on which one of those ¬catsick foams (a gorgeous essence of onion and bay leaf) didn't inspire a fantasy involving a meat cleaver. (£80 per head)
Midsummer House – review in full >>


The Independent, 30 January
John Walsh says Shay Cooper, chef at the Bingham restaurant, Richmond, Surrey, is a whizz at modern British, cooking despite his over enthusiasm to impress

My starter of organic salmon with braised octopus was wonderful, the fish so meltingly soft, it wasn't so much cooked as minimally changed from being raw. It sat in a purée of white beans with a ragu of baby squid. The combination was combustive, salmon and squid playing off each other like Reinhardt and Grappelli. My date's fillet of brill was beautiful: a heavenly tranche of fish, joined by a golden scallop, held in place by a lattice of rye. The brill was crispy outside and tender within, lying on a light bread sauce. Our mains were full, perhaps over-full, of heterogeneous excitements. I've become used, over the years, to chefs who throw on a plate nine or a dozen ingredients that have nothing much to say to one another, like a gathering of strangers on a traffic island. My glazed veal cheek was a bit like that. The cheek, glazed in red wine, was voluptuously rich, sticky and curiously light in texture, but they'd similarly glazed two cigarette-sized stalks of salsify to go with it, and they tasted of pickles. Sweetbreads lightly cooked in batter tasted fine, but seemed an odd counterpoint to the veal. Crisp veal tongue resembled a slice of Bakewell tart but tasted good, with a gribiche of cornichons, shallots and egg whites. Interesting – but did I need all this stuff rubbing shoulders in my oesophagus?  (About £150 for two, with wine.  Rating: food 4.5, ambience 3/5, service 3/5)
The Bingham – review in full >>


The Times, 30 January
Giles Coren believes the Dean Street Townhouse, London W1, could be the best restaurant in London

I am on my Back off on Meat (Boom!) jag just now, so I called for the separate vegetarian menu and gave the table impeccable duck eggs on wild mushrooms and toasted brioche; beautiful macaroni cheese; baked spinach and Pennard Ridge tart and a beetroot and goat’s cheese thing that has not stuck in the mind (as goat’s cheese and beetroot things so rarely do). And then also some great scallops seared on the shell with three-cornered garlic (whatever in the world that is) and crumbs of bacon; smoked haddock soufflé; grilled squid on some spiced chickpeas; good fish and chips (identified as “Ivy” chips – which is no surprise, I suppose, since Townhouse is the first new opening by the Soho House group since Richard Caring of the Ivy group swooped in and bought most of it); and some very sweet, succulent salt beef with caraway dumplings and pickled cucumber. So, ten out of ten, you might think. But, in fact, no. The dish I was looking forward to most of all, the caramelised sweetbreads on a Lincolnshire onion tart, arrived quite horribly over-salted. Like, top-fell-off-the-salt-cellar over-salted. Enough to kill seven or eight toddlers. Inedible. And I am very, very glad about that. Because, frankly, I have been so unequivocally enthusiastic about everything Soho House founder Nick Jones has done recently that I’ve been screaming for him to screw up, just so I can say so, and show how unbiased and unbiddable I am. (£30 per head without wine.  Rating: Boom 8/10. cooking 8/10, fun 10/10. Score 8.67/10).
Dean Street Townhouse – review in full >>

By Janet Harmer

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