With the taste of the gastro-palaces of Paris at the price of your local Café Rouge, Brasserie Zédel, London W1, feels like a gift to London, says Jay Rayner
The menu is an homage to the great gastro-palaces of Paris; to Bofinger and La Coupole, albeit without the gastronomic flourishes. Instead, it's celeriac remoulade and snails, frisée with lardons, and pâté de campagne. It's steak haché and boeuf bourguignon, duck confit and choucroute. They even serve that gloriously stinky sausage-of-death, andouillette. Are better versions of these dishes available in London? Perhaps. The pissaladière, that killer tart of flaky pastry, caramelised onions and salted anchovies, may be more finessed at La Petite Maison, but you'll pay almost double. The remoulade could have had more of a mustardy punch, but at £2.95 for a serious heap, I am not complaining. The fish soup, though, is exceptional, and the snails swim in deep, savoury pools of garlic butter. I have eaten choucroute, that glorious Alsatian dish of sauerkraut and salty piggy things, here and at the Wolseley. The difference? None that I could see save that it costs £4 less at Zédel.
Price: Meal for two, including drinks and service, £75
The Daily Telegraph
Matthew Norman eats at chicken chain Nando's and, to his surprise, finds a lot to like
Peri-peri (the Swahili for "pepper-pepper") is the southern African bird's eye chilli plant, so nice they named it twice, and with my half-chicken I went for the extra hot. They must have toned it down since I last indulged such exhibitionist bravado, because this time the water cannon was not required to deal with the rivulets of sweat streaming down the forehead. In curry terms it was barely a Madras, but the meat was well seasoned and juicy. "A bit unsubtle to the eye, but you don't come to Nando's for chicken Caesar salad," said Nick of his main course, "and I only chose it to find fault. I can't. Very, very good." So was a side dish of spicy rice. We didn't bother with chips, which are OK but nothing about which to write home, or even to Leeds. A slice of chocolate cheesecake was cloyingly sweet, but that and the lemonlessness were as far as the whinging went in this one of some 300 branches of a richly impressive chain famed for being a good employer (hence the lovely staff).
Cost: Half a chicken and two regular side orders, £9.85
The Independent on Sunday
Amol Rajan says Redwing Bar & Dining in Exmouth, Devon, is nearly a fine restaurant and certainly could be fully soon
Barely a year old, the clue is in the name: this is not just a pub you can eat in, but two quite distinct entities. In the front is a local bar, with local people; further back is a restaurant full of foreigners such as me. And full it is: on this, a pre-school-holidays Saturday night, there aren't too many spaces going. A chasm seems to separate the locals from the foreigners, in comportment and clothing as well as distance. They don't mix at all. There is an extremely charming maître d', and an extended menu and specials board that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the menu on the website. The seared scallop and smoked salmon with a caper-and-parsley dressing is good but not worth £9.95. The deep-fried poached egg with asparagus and black pudding salad, at £7.25, is infinitely better: the sunset-coloured yolk has an ideal consistency, and the black pudding is suitably salty in a well-dressed salad. I'm afraid my bugbear of "seasonal vegetables" - a ubiquitous euphemism for flavourless, boiled vegetables that are knocked off without a hint of fanfare - appears with terrible regularity alongside the main courses here.
Price: £80 for two with a bottle of wine
The real star of SushiSamba atop the Heron Tower, London EC1, isn't the design, or the service, or the food. It's London, says Marina O'Loughlin
From the robata section, we order loose-grained flank steak - this cheapish cut is the beef du jour in the capital; it's well cooked and flavoured, what we can taste of it through its salty and vinegary (and recherché) hatcho miso dressing. There are teeny tacos, stuffed with yellowtail, its delicate flesh trampled by "aji panco miso", lime and lemon grass. These are delicious, in entirely the same way that salt'*'vinegar crisps are delicious. I don't quite get the point of wagyu beef outside Japan. And I'm not sold on ladling it with salt and wrapping it in pastry for gyoza. And then glueing it on to the plate with a blob of puréed courgette - "needs more salt'*'vinegar", says the Glaswegian. Sasa samba roll: I've never met a shrimp tempura roll I don't like but using quinoa instead of rice is as dimwitted as it sounds. Special sushi, ie accessorised with extra salty, vinegary foofery, loses sight of the fish, and costs between £4 and £6 each. Yes, not for two: each. We've stuck to small plates, had a couple of cocktails, no wine or sake and our bill comes to £160.
Price: Dinner for two with wine, water and service, costs about £170
The London Evening Standard
Garnier, London SW5, is a discreet French debut, says Fay Maschler
Each constituent part in the assiette of crudités - beetroot, leeks, artichokes à la barigoule, celeriac remoulade and marinated cucumbers - was carefully, even laboriously prepared but the overall impact lacked the friskiness and crunch you want - well, I want - from crudités. Warm goats' cheese salad with warm aubergine caviar was worthy and if it was a slightly dull choice, well, you could try blaming she who ordered it. The snails alarmed Reg - he loves snails - because they arrived naked, out of their shells and tossed with chopped radicchio and lardo in a bright green parsley velouté. The thrum of garlic, which somehow validates the creatures, was absent. Roasted cod with broccoli, bacon and beurre blanc and lamb cutlets (two) with sauce Paloise (Hollandaise flavoured with mint) were fine if rather crisply priced at £18.50 and £18.90 respectively. Calves liver with sauce Soubise (béchamel with onion purée) garnished with fried sage leaves was remarkably well cooked. The chips placed in the centre of the table also deserve special praise - some of the best chips ever.
Price: A meal for two with wine, about £115
By Kerstin Kühn
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