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

by Janet Harmer, Monday 1st March 2010 16:39

The Daily Telegraph, 27 February
Jasper Gerard loves the friendly informality and the food from new head chef Russell Plowman at Gilpin Lodge, Windermere, Cumbria

The lamb is best end from a local flock of Herdwicks, which – if you want some really useless information – was saved as a breed partly thanks to Beatrix Potter, who owned 2,500 of them and became the first female president of the Herdwick Sheep Breeders’ Association. Tonight it is braised, with sweetbreads and a lovely garlic potato purée with sautéed ceps, rounded off with vigorous, rosemary-infused gravy. But Plowman likes to be clever, too. Particularly picturesque is twice-baked goat’s cheese soufflé, well matched by a deconstructed Waldorf salad and red wine reduction. Here the grape and apple add necessary sweetness and sharpness. Perhaps inspired by a dish at nearby L’Enclume, Plowman serves halibut with crust of chicken skin, lifted by chicken gravy. Sage and mushrooms add earthy, Cumbrian flavours. Roasted breast of corn-fed Goosnargh duck is very punchy, almost like venison, and waddles along delightfully with buttery celeriac and potato gratin. Rather than a sweet accompaniment such as orange, Plowman uses faintly sour Bramleys, softened only a notch by cider sauce. A good idea as citrus fruits can make duck too rich. (Rating: 8/10. Five course dinner for two, plus wine: £132)
Gilpin Lodge – review in full >>


The Guardian, 27 February
Matthew Norman highly recommends the Dean Street Townhouse, London W1, as the first eaterie to crack the combination of the perfect French brasserie and delectably simple English food

It mingles the bustle and slickness of the grand, all-day Parisian brasserie with a ¬determinedly anti-Michelin English menu and a room cunningly designed (distressed mirrors, grand bar, wood panelling) for that ultra-voguish, modern media Soho clubland feel. The lighting and acoustics are flawless, the service lavishly attentive without being oppressive, and the food, with a couple of minor quibbles, was exceedingly good. Twice-baked smoked haddock soufflé was "wonderful and savoury" with a "lovely, buttery sauce… although I can't work out what this green stuff is. Possibly ¬sorrel?" I wasn't sure myself. When it comes to identification, ¬sorrel seems to be the hardest herb. My other friend could no more fault his onion tart with caramelised sweet¬breads than I could my grilled squid, enlivened with that chargrilled twang and served with spiced chick¬peas and a gutsy, Portuguesey tomato sauce. (Three course meal with wine, aroun £40-50 per head)
Dean Street Townhouse – review in full >>


The Independent, 27 February
John Walsh says the food and welcome makes the Kitchen W8, London W8, the ideal restaurant for anyone in Kensington with something to celebrate

The waiters knew their stuff, service was fast, the maitre d' beamed, the wine waiter offered us glasses of Malbec and Carmenere to try, gratis. Everyone who came near us seemed to have a degree in Being Nice Without Trying Too Hard…There was nothing girly about my main-course Pork cheeks with black pudding. It was mildly disgusting to think I was eating both the face and dried blood of a pig – but the cheeks were cooked to a densely flavoured succulence, the quartet of puddings offered a sultry counterpoint and a bed of pearl barley, cooked in pork stock with a mirepoix of celery, carrots, onions and bay leaf, was damned good (and damnably masculine). The only trouble was a spoonful of pumpkin in the middle of the barley, which seemed to have strayed in from another dish. Sarah's John Dory was less successful, surrounded by apricot-hued slabs of pumpkin. "The fish is delicious, perfectly well cooked, but this plateful is too sweet," she said. I had to agree. Pumpkin purée doesn't do a thing for this kind of white fish. As though recognising it was a rather bland plateful, the chefs included a curious vol-au-vent, a pastry bullet containing some concoction of shallots. It came and went, a little pointlessly. The puddings, at £6.50, were wonderful. Rhubarb fool came in a large tumbler stuffed with goodies, surmounted by crushed amaretti biscuits and blood-orange sorbet, nicely combining tartness and sweetness. My crème fraiche tart was a little characterless, but a wallop of lemon curd cream left me sated. (About £110 for two, with wine. Rating: food 4/5, ambience 3/5, service 5/5)
Kitchen W8 – review in full >>


The Times, 27 February
Giles Coren enjoys terrific cocktails and sushi at Aqua Kyoto, London W1

The sushi was first class. Scallops were polar fresh and buttery, split and twisted on to warm sticky rice – there is no better mouthful on Earth. The hamachi was in great condition and so, no doubt, was the tuna, although I didn’t have any because I’m thinking of giving it up. The only tuna species not in danger now is skipjack, and as far as I know they don’t make sushi with that (but I’ll ask next time). Kowtowing to Boom! (my campaign to have everyone “Back off on Meat”), I went mostly veggie. I had some really excellent spinach rolls with toasted sesame dressing, then vegetable sushi rolls with mango sauce, and deep-fried agedashi tofu – which is a very decent substitute for the traditional chicken version (although no less environmentally unsound, according to a piece in The Times the other day, because of the ecological pressures created by tofu farming. I ask you, what is a well-meaning girl to do?). I also had a lot of excellent, sticky, grilled eel teriyaki because eels are basically sea bananas – especially under nightclub lighting. And then some sea bass with shiitake mushrooms and a truffle and garlic dressing, reminiscent of the crazy dishes I love at Dinings in Paddington. (Around £60 per head. Rating: 7/10)
Aqua Kyoto – review in full >>


The Observer, 28 February
Jay Rayner finds smart, but unshowy food, served with a minimum of fuss and bother at Maison Bleue, Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk

The starters on that menu included the bargain-basement mackerel, but it was prepared with uncommon care. Usually kitchens like to spank this fish within an inch of its life by the application of fierce heat. It's meant to be the only language mackerel understands. Here the rolled fillet had been slow cooked, lending this king of cheap oily fish a distinctly regal depth. It came on spinach and a pitch-perfect beurre blanc, a boilerplate sauce any piscine restaurant ought to be able to ace, and which this one did. A crisp galette of minced pig trotter crusted with hazelnuts, a starter from the main menu, proved this was a kitchen which could do land as well as sea, even allowing for the inclusion of a tiny bit of bone. Sensitively cooked seared scallops with a single rustic gnocchi (or gnoccho, there being only one of them) were only diminished by a slightly overseasoned seafood sauce. (Meal for two, including wine and service, £100).
Maison Bleue – review in full >>


By Janet Harmer



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