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

by Janet Harmer, Monday 15th February 2010 14:07

The Guardian, 13 February
Matthew Norman experiences some of the laziest, sloppiest cooking he’s had in year’s at Gregg Wallace’s new restaurant, Wallace & Co, London SW15

The problem is the food. If not quite Wallace & Vomit, cooking (to adapt Gregg's catchphrase) doesn't get rougher than this. You see the appeal to a green¬grocer of ribollita, the Tuscan soup made from leftover veg, but this horrendously thin, weedy, olive oil-free, pink liquid appeared to have been made from leftover washing-up ¬water. Smoked mackerel pâté was all right, but it was too sweet, looked ¬unnervingly like coffee ice-cream and the chef hadn't conjured up the zeal to toast the bread as advertised on the menu. And the rendition of that culinary hero du jour, the scotch egg, was peculiarly bland. What Gregg would say on meeting my Lancashire hotpot I cannot be sure, but I'm guessing that, granted immunity, he'd want to say it with a meat cleaver. This doughty favourite should come with pickled red ¬cabbage, the piquancy of which works so gloriously with the comforting blandness of the lamb. Here it came with unpickled white cabbage and a lump of mash, which was a bit belt and braces when the hotpot came with a dry, overcooked slab of sliced ¬potato on top.  (Three courses with wine: £25-30 per head)
Wallace & Co – review in full >>
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The Independent, 13 February
John Walsh enjoys his return visit to Rick Stein’s The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall, but says the prices make it once of the most jaw-droppingly expensive eateries in the country

It takes a bit of nerve to charge £34 for a Dover sole, even if it has just been bought in Padstow harbour that day and is lepping fresh. You know you're not paying for sophisticated cooking, since the whole point of sole is to do as little as possible to it. Angie's sole was char-grilled with sea salt and lime. It was fat and full of roe, and looked fantastic in its charry brown shroud. "The first mouthful," said Angie, "is firm, fat, hot, succulent – but just not very interesting." Then she tried the butter sauce, which was "transforming and absolutely gorgeous". It was a harmony of chicken-and-fish stock, shallots, parsley and butter, and lifted the sole to spiritual heights. My Indonesian seafood curry featured three of my favourite things, monkfish, squid and tiger prawns and coated them in a subtle sauce involving cumin, ginger and lemongrass. I absolutely loved it. It was a fish-curry dream from which I hoped not to awake. From a limited pudding menu, we shared a wonderful pavlova: the meringue so sticky it clung to my teeth like a ravening pit bull, while the crème anglaise and little pools of passion fruit left us both feeling cleansed and healed. (£160 for two, with wine. Rating: food 4/5, ambience 4/5, service 4/5)
The Seafood Restaurant – review in full >>


The Observer, 14 February
Jay Rayner says it may be fun to include dishes from your 100 year history on the menu, but his experience at the Goring, London SW1, does not make for happy eating

Being selfless, I chose solely items that were marked as significant. And so from the "Thatcher years" came fillets of soused herring which, like the woman whose name they took, left a nasty aftertaste. This was food for people who had lost all their own teeth and then misplaced the replacements. They were mushy and dull and the cure was insipid. For my main course I had, from those marked "War years and rationing", the steamed oxtail pudding. All I can say is that you can take a theme too far. A thick suet shell gave way to not very much at all, and certainly not the luscious, gravy-slicked strands of meat I had expected. The war has been over for 65 years. I didn't need to re-experience the privations in a luxury hotel dining room. A shamefully tiny number of curiously pink nuggets of slightly tough meat clung to the doughy enclosure as if for safety. I finished in the Edwardian era, with jam roly poly and custard. To resurrect that great old Jewish joke, the dish was lousy and the portion so small. In the middle of a custard lake sat a tiny roll of more suet, enclosing a smear of jam, as if they hadn't restocked since King Edward was on the throne. And all this for £47.50. (Meal for two, including wine, £180)
The Goring – review in full >>


The Sunday Times, 14 February
AA Gill says eating at The French Horn, Sonning-on-Thames, Berkshire, will give you a stronger sense of your grandparents’ England than any history show or movie

I began with oeufs en meurette, a rare and endangered dish, an egg poached in a reduction of red wine with a duxelle of mushrooms, onions and crispy bacon. It’s paedophile coq au vin. It wasn’t bad, though not actually perfect. There was something sweet in the reduction, like boiled lip gloss, and it hadn’t been reduced enough to a vinous syrup. The Blonde had the potage du jour — pea soup, honestly made but served far, far too hot. It’s a terrible sin with soup, you don’t want to be Goldilocks. Soup should always be warm and edible immediately — just right, not right in five minutes or five minutes ago. Then I had the tournedos of beef in another wine reduction with a slice of foie gras, nearly Rossini, but without the strings. Actually, it did have the strings — the liver hadn’t been deveined. It was like fighting with meaty knitting. I wouldn’t get in a fist fight about what cut of meat it was, but I doubt it was actually a fillet from the eye of the sirloin. My guess is that this was a strip steak or a shell steak: it was rougher and more open-textured than I would have expected, and it was underhung. The Blonde had the duck accompanied by garnishes of apple sauce and gravy, exactly as I remembered them 40 years ago.  (Rating: food 3/5, atmosphere 4/5)
The French Horn – review in full >>


By Janet Harmer


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