Joe Warwick says Ten Room at Café Royal, London W1, is a sorry, soulless misfire
Given the setting, the menu from executive chef Andrew Turner, an itchy-footed veteran of luxury London hotels, would need to perform miracles to make Ten Room palatable. Turner’s last post was at posh nursery food-peddling institution Wilton’s. Here, he’s gone in the opposite direction, making everything, at what’s supposed to be an all-day brasserie, as complicated as possible. An under-seasoned tuna tartare, served on an aggressively sweet wafer-thin slice of pickled radish, comes with the unwelcome addition of deep-fried shallot rings. Another starter of barbecued quail gains nothing by being paired with pomegranate, orange and fennel.Of the main courses, a simple piece of Cornish skate with capers, lemon purée and a champagne sauce is the hard-to-fault highlight, while suckling pig stew, served with a side of chicharrónes-style crackling and crispy breaded ribs, suffers from a heavily reduced stock.
Price: A meal for two with wine, water and service costs about £160
Marina O’Loughlin says Central Market in Glasgow offers food and hospitality, with its heart in the right place
The open kitchen is in sure hands: chefs hail from Urban and Malmaison, both highly rated locally. The brief menu covers all bases from breakfast – jugged kippers and bacon sarnies – to bedtime, and is wholeheartedly dedicated to things you'd like to eat. There are decorative assemblies: shallots roasted into luxurious, sweet petals and partnered with golden and purple beetroot, anya potatoes and soothing clouds of goat's curd with a spritz of balsamic for acidity. Warming ribstickers: ox cheeks, slow-stewed with roots collapsing into the clutches of the gravy. And playful novelties: "crispy beef brisket salad", pleasingly chewy, crumbed meat with mustard-dressed and vinegar-soused veg – like a reinvention of crispy shredded beef, but with decent produce. Steak tartare is a belter, rich with the mineral notes of well-hung beef, properly chopped rather than minced. Although billed as a starter, it comes with a full serving of fries, like the Italian restaurants of my youth that gave me chips with lasagne and lifelong carb issues.
Score: Food 7/10; Atmosphere 7/10; Value for money 8/10
Price: About £25 a head plus drinks and service.
The food at Alan Yau’s latest venture, Naamyaa Café, London EC1, doesn’t impress Jay Rayner much but he concedes it could work as a chain
One of the best dishes was a snack of cashew nuts tossed in a hot wok with chilli and friable basil leaves. There is something compelling about hot, toasted cashews when the oils are just starting to run. Tea-smoked ribs had a great texture, the meat falling off the bone as if it was only loitering there until a better offer came along. But almost all grace notes were lost to a massive hit of sugar. Grilled Goan prawns came smeared in what would have been a great mix of ginger and coconut, were it not – again – for the sweetness. By the time the sugar-boosted seafood laksa turned up I was thinking of throwing a tantrum like a toddler who's been at the Fanta. It was lots of prawns and rice noodles for £9.70, but was heavy and cloying, rather than the bright fiery bowlful it should have been. Like much of what we chose, it remained unfinished. We ordered the bacon burger to see if it made an argument for itself, and while it was fine, it really didn't. Worst of the savoury dishes was a papaya salad. This should be the last word in fresh and zappy; instead it was flaccid, dull and far too heavy on the fish sauce.
Price: Meal for two, including drinks and service: £70
The Independent on Sunday
Naamyaa Café, London EC1, is not startling or revolutionary, and won't disrupt the capital’s food scene. But it shows that Yau has a sharp eye for what your average punter considers good value, says Amol Rajan
The menu is elegantly designed with helpful pictures. More menus should have pictures. It's split into 10 sections, ranging between one and nine options in each of Naamyaa set (noodles with soup and boiled egg – better than it sounds), snack, small plate, rice set, soup set, noodle and pasta, burger and sandwich (now obligatory in London), salad, suki, and grilled. The most you'll pay for anything is £24 for the suki – and that's for two. Some of this is positively a bargain. The banana chips (£3) snap deliciously and have reasonable flavour, and the baby cucumber wedges (£3) come with a tangy and fresh coriander, basil and chilli soup, as well as separate sprigs of coriander, mint and basil. The stir-fried soft-shell crab with curry powder and coconut is a bit, well, meh: the crab lacks punch, is overly soaked in sauce, and too limited in size, given the large bowl of rice that accompanies it. The Naamyaa goon (£9.50) is better: a spicy coconut prawn curry with rice noodles, that boiled egg, and Thai herbs, which have a kind of all-spice zing about them.
Price: About £60 for two, including drinks
AA Gill enjoys his breakfast at Dishoom, a Bombay-inspired café in Covent Garden, London WC2
The Blonde and I took the twins, as they’ve rather taken to food criticism, and if I say it’s a review, they’ll eat everything. We started with porridge, my childhood and therefore eternal favourite breakfast. The children repeated loudly to the waiters that I said if porridge is made with milk, the Scots call it puppy sick. This is puppy sick, cooked with dates and raisins, and served with blueberries. The kids cleared their plates. I must say the fruit sweetness was a good addition. The main selling points of this short menu are the naan rolls: these are bacon, sausage or egg. They come with a mildly spiced tomato jam and cream cheese. The sausage was cumberland, the bacon what Americans call Canadian and what we call smoked back. There is fire toast, bread cooked on a grill with butter and jam, and akoori, spiced scrambled egg that is almost identical to what the Americans know as ranch-style or Mexican eggs, with chilli, coriander and tomato. We drank very good chai, the spiced milky sweet tea that is India’s national drink. The naan rolls were all excellent: sausage with chilli, tomato jam and cream cheese is an unimpeachable breakfast with sweet tea, as is two runny eggs in a spiced roll. Each of these come for an agreeable three and a half quid.
Score: Food 3/5; Atmosphere 3/5
London Evening Standard
Fay Maschler is not sold on the no-choice menu at Nichlolas Balfe's debut Salon at Brixton Market, London SW9
Salon, where ex-Brunswick House Café head chef Nicholas Balfe is cooking, is a small rackety restaurant — seating about 26 — above the British deli Cannon & Cannon on Brixton’s Market Row. Having noted rosehip fizz (I’m sure the hippest fizz there is), razor clams with sobrasada, “mad flavours and unknown vegetables”, when three of us were presented with six endive spears cradling strips of cold cured mutton and slivers of pear, I thought, “Well, it’s a difficult time of year”.
“Two each,” barked the waitress and then grudgingly acceded to a request for butter for the few slices of bread. The next course of mussels with smoked pig’s cheek and fennel — two garnishes that were to pull their weight on another day — was cooked so briefly that lots of the mussels hadn’t opened. A closed mussel can also signify a dead one. Consequently we didn’t eat very many, just in case. Some professionalism was apparent in snowy slices of halibut with notably crisp skin accompanied by capers and celeriac purée. It was noble fish well cooked. I don’t want to say that bergamot posset with an unrolled brandy snap was a dinner party dessert, but bloody hell it was.
Price: A la carte lunch (Tues-Sat) about £50 for two with wine
Scotland on Sunday
Richard Bath has an enjoyable meal in great surroundings in Edinburgh gastro pub the Caley Sample Rooms
Bea’s filo pastry was good, and the haggis was moist without being cloying. This time there was no shortage of sauce, although the taint of whisky which she’d been promised was so faint as to be almost undetectable. A half- decent starter for a cold January Sunday afternoon, but judgment was still being reserved. Her main course of ‘Piggy Black’ sausages from Crombie’s, which were served with black pudding mash and sauerkraut, was more impressive. The sausages had a curiously sweet yet pleasant taste, and combined with the mash and the sauerkraut to make a great comfort food dish. So, too, did my excellent sun-blushed tomato and polenta stack, which was served with a glazed goat’s cheese, pesto and parsnip crisp – this turned out to be nice and light, yet packed with flavour thanks to the collision of the goats’ cheese and sun-blushed tomatoes.
Price: Starters £3.95-£5.50. Main courses £8.95-£17.95. Puddings £4.50-£4.75 (cheese £5.95). Set menu (Mon-Wed evenings) two courses £10.95, three courses £13.95
By Janie Manzoori-Stamford
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