Giles Coren says the Jugged Hare, London EC1, the 10th outlet from the ETM Group, is a very good addition to a good chain of pubs
The non-availability of jugged hare at the Jugged Hare meant I was free to have the fish: a marvellous muscular tail of monkfish grilled on their big-deal rôtisserie and served in a beurre blanc with cockles scattered like little orange jewels. Excellent. Monkfish costs as much as turbot these days (I have dropped down by a tenner a kilo to gurnard when I shop for myself) and that's probably fair - it's just as delicious as the more celebrated fish when treated with rough heat like this, rather than chunked in the "poor man's lobster" fashion, when it tends to go tight and squeaky. My pal Tony had the - wait! I haven't told you what this place is yet. Damn me. It's a new gastropub on the site of an old brewery just by the Barbican in the City of London, owned by the Martin brothers, Tom and Ed, who must have about 10 places by now, all pretty popular, but none of which I think I have ever reviewed. It has a nice cosy old-skool pub frontage and then down some stairs at the back there's a huge restaurant on what was presumably the brewery bit. It's all very open-kitchen, modern gastro roll-out in style, and was buzzing nicely on a sunny spring Wednesday. They make a thing of how groovy the red bar stools are at the pass.
Price: £75 for two with a couple of glasses
John Lanchester finds excellent Franco-French cooking at Morgan Meunier's Morgan M, London EC1
A main course of spring lamb had immense impact: the shoulder was served confit in an elegant, tall disc, the saddle roasted in a flatter, wider disc, with shredded courgettes underneath and a smear of artichoke to the side. The sauce was lip-smacking, deep, with a well-judged dash of balsamic vinegar that I'd feared might tip it over the top but instead brought out a meaty sweetness. Seared loin of monkfish was very different in impact, all light spring flavours, with asparagus and broad beans and peas and the lightest imaginable cream sauce setting off the perfectly cooked fish. That was probably the best dish of the meal, though the mango soufflé with mango sorbet came pretty close, being both ethereally light in texture and zingingly bright in flavour. Mind you, having said that, the chocolate moelleux with a raspberry sorbet and raspberry sort-of-milkshake was excellent, too, as was a rhubarbtastic orgy of glazed rhubarb, rhubarb and jurançon ice-cream, rhubarb and grenadine sauce, and a rhum baba of rhubarb with a skewer of rhubarby sugar on top. A lot of cooking going on there, all technically impeccable.
Price: Dinner tasting menu, six courses for £52, and à la carte for about the same.
Tracey MacLeod has a terrific lunch at the Gunton Arms in Norfolk, where Mark Hix's influence is all over the menu
Our lunch, eaten in the Elk Room, the larger of the pub's two dining rooms, was just terrific. Pert lamb sweetbreads in a complex, Marsala-sweet sauce; a generous platter of dressed Cromer crab, smaller and more toothsome than its south-coast rival, with a mustard-sharp mayonnaise; beef flank and ale pie, the meat meltingly tender under a golden dome of suet-rich pastry; a crisp patty of bubble and squeak; a delicate little herb and leaf salad, complete with that Hix trademark, the pea shoot. Only a red-deer burger didn't quite hit the mark. Venison is just too lean to provide the proper, messy, juices-down-the chin burger experience. Served in the lightest of buns, this was a bit too posh, though the chunky fries had an authentic touch of the chip shop about them. The kitchen does dainty as well as hearty, judging from the finesse of our puds - a shot of mandarin jelly with a little kick of gin, and a silky buttermilk pudding with rhubarb.
Rating: Food 4/5, Ambience 4/5 , Service 4/5
Price: Around £30 a head for three courses before wine and service
The London Evening Standard
Fay Maschler finds Greg Malouf's modern Middle Eastern cooking at the Petersham Nurseries, Richmond, deeply enticing
At this point in the year, a risotto with peas and broad beans from the à la carte was irresistible. Lemony with shredded rind, it didn't really need the folds of prosciutto di Parma that came on top. In retrospect, I think I should have bypassed the rites of spring and chosen spiced rabbit with chorizo, parsnip skordalia (brilliant idea) and grumolo verde (chicory). Weighing up duck bisteeya against roasted spring lamb, I was again swayed by seasonality. Large pieces of knife-resistant pink meat had the excellent accompaniments of freekeh (roasted green wheat) "bahara" spices, which include the five Cs - coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cumin and cardamom - tiny carrots pulled untimely from the soil and a bowl of labneh gilded with the amazing olive oil. We shared the set menu dessert of an arrestingly sharp and light crème fraîche ice-cream dusted with crushed pine-nut praline. Coffee, as we have come to expect from Australians, was extraordinarily good.
Price: A la carte, a meal for two with wine about £150
Marina O'Loughlin wishes no one else would go to the excellent 40 Maltby Street, London SE1, so she can have it all to herself
You have to have some kind of confidence to offer egg mayonnaise as a starter. But how lovely it is: just-oozing eggs, draped in yellow, home-made mayo, a criss-cross of anchovy for punch and a quarter of dressed baby gem lettuce for crunch. There could be a genius combo such as sopressata simply dressed with orange rind, the fatty, pressed pig's head sparked into porky life by the citrus. Or earthy, vegetable-heavy braises: chard with chickpeas, given texture with crisp, buttery breadcrumb. Here's one of the best salade Niçoises I've tasted: proper, with excellent tinned tuna, more of those lovely eggs, beans with freshness and snap. Chicken livers, as rich and molten-centred as chocolate fondant, fried with artichoke hearts and ladled over sourdough. As you would expect, there's a boozy slant to many of the dishes, cooked fast and deglazed with excellent wine. What I like most about this unassuming place is its demonstration that you can create a really good restaurant from the most unlikely of ingredients.
Price: A meal for two with wine, water and tip costs about £70
The Times, 28 April
Tom Chesshyre said that although it doesn't pitch itself as such, Gravetye Manor in West Hoathley, West Sussex, must be the best airport hotel in Britain
Gravetye's 35 acres of garden were (William Robinson's) masterpiece and were one of the highlights of staying at this 17-bedroom hotel, just a dozen miles from Gatwick Airport (there was no noise as the planes take off and land in a different direction). But there were many other highpoints of the elegant Elizabethan manor house, which was refurbished last year, bringing in a clever mix of modern touches to its traditional style. We stayed in a ground-floor room called Chestnut and had a good view of the splendid garden through mullioned windows. The room was a decent size and featured an enormous bed with a red acorn-patterned bed cover, gold-framed pictures, a well-polished writing desk, and a bathroom with posh toiletries. There was nothing fuddy-duddy about the design. It had the feel of an English country house that had been given a very well-judged overhaul. Price: B&B doubles from £240; three courses about £55.