What's on the Menu? – A roundup of the latest restaurant reviews

by Kerstin Kühn, Monday 31st October 2011 16:14

The Observer
30 October
Jay Rayner says the dysfunctional service and food that's largely not good enough make him question the value of dining at Bread Street Kitchen, London EC4
Too many other things weren't good enough. Sticky tamarind chicken wings had the thrill of being dirty food served up by the classy Ramsay, until we realised they were no better than the sort you'd buy when completely bladdered from some gnarly KFC knock-off joint in Dalston. And the mark-up! Five small second joints for £8. I asked my (bloody expensive but very good) butcher, who supplies restaurants, how much five free-range wing joints like this would cost from him: 41p. Let's assume Ramsay is getting a bad deal and paying 50% over the odds. Throw in some pennies for the marinade and work on 80p a portion. With VAT off and service on (stay with me here) that's a gross profit of almost 90%, as against an industry standard of 70%. A side dish of Brussels tops with smoked bacon which amounts to barely more than a heaped dessert-spoonful cost £3.95 and raised the same thoughts. The issue is less the exact numbers, but whether you end up looking at a dish and questioning the value. Here you do.
Price: Meal for two, including drinks and service, £120
Bread Street Kitchen review in full >>


The Times
29 October
Giles Coren says Lussmann's in St Albans is everything a modern restaurant should be

To my greedy eye, the free-range chicken schnitzel and the woodland-reared, free-range pork from Sussex, also available schnitzelled, were the most appealing-looking mains. And if I'd known when I ordered how good the sprat-frying would be, I'd have gone that way. But I went a bit healthier and got a good, grainy bouillabaisse in a wide, flat bowl with a strong stock, small, sweet mussels, a nice fat piece of grey mullet, fried first, and a lovely sweet piece of pollock poached in the stew itself. People will bang on about ancient recipes, and the importance of rascasse and any old nonsense you'll listen to, but a well-balanced, heftily flavoured stew of available, sustainable local fish is what I want, and this was it. Neil had big, fresh, muscly hake on wilted Baby Gem lettuce from the specials menu and a brilliant, light, fluffy "berry Eton mess". I had excellent artisanal ice cream (ginger, rum and raisin, maple and pecan). The coffee was top-notch and came simultaneously with the desserts, which restaurants so rarely manage to do (it's the small things sometimes).
Rating: 8/10
Price: £64 for two, plus £33 for a bottle of Sancerre rosé

Lussmann's review in full >>


The Sunday Times
30 October
AA Gill leaves Hedone, London W4, with a rounded sense of satisfaction and replete wellbeing

Cox apple and coconut tart with chestnut ice cream: the only flat note. I don't think chestnuts lend themselves to ice cream. The texture is too farinaceously worrying. A plate of the most perfectly sourced and chosen cheeses. Everything about this kitchen implies an unrelenting and committed hunt for idealised ingredients, prepared with an intensely cerebral and emotional attachment to true flavours and sound combinations. The craft of cooking here trusts in the warm somnambulance of the sous-vide. Ingredients are encouraged rather than bullied. There is no smoke, no panegyric fire in the kitchen. This is, above all, gentle, romantic food - cuplets of ardour. The chef, Mikael Jonsson, a Swede (no relation), is someone I suspect you will be hearing a lot more of. This dining room gave me such pleasure and left us with a rounded sense of satisfaction and replete wellbeing, without self-conscious fuss. It is as much the things it leaves out. There's no hyperventilating service. No showing off for the vanity of the kitchen. No demanding concept. No patronage. And nobody in the whole city that night was eating better than we were.
Rating: 5/5
Price: £100-140 for two

Hedone review in full >>


The Sunday Telegraph
30 October
The interior but definitely not the food at Busaba Eathai in Bicester Village, Oxfordshire, dazzles Zoe Williams
The menu is surprisingly limited - no starters or picky, pre-starter type things, no puds - so just to give it a fair hearing we ended up ordering more than two people would normally eat, though luckily we had a toddler with us and she threw a lot of it on the floor. So I had the som tam (£6.90), which was a green papaya salad with dried shrimp and cherry tomato. It scored high on its fiery, Thai dressing (the fish sauce made a dramatic splash, while the chilli was well judged), but, seriously, if you'd asked me to put money on when it was assembled, I'd have said any time over the past three days, but most probably not in the past 12 hours. It was all very limp, and the tomatoes had that oxidised over-chewiness that is the dead-giveaway of a salad prepared too long in advance. I also had the pat king talay (£8.50), a prawn, squid, scallop, Thai pepper, wood-ear, chilli and ginger stew. In case you're wondering, wood-ear is what you get if you cross a mushroom with a dishcloth; in taste, it leant more towards the dishcloth, and in texture it was so slimy it was almost like seaweed. Only in its gills did it resemble a mushroom. Don't get me wrong, I can take or leave mushrooms and wasn't disappointed by the absence of their flavour, but as a rule I would prefer to leave cloths.
Rating: 1/5
Price: Two courses £16.43

Busaba Eathai review in full >>


London Evening Standard
27 October
Fay Maschler doesn't enjoy her lunch at Assemblage, London E1, but applauds former TV star from the Restaurant with Raymond Blanc James Knight-Pacheco for opening up on his own
Our amuse-bouche, or what the Taster Menu calls Primer, was described as "James's take on pumpkin pie". A spoonful of mousse, dessert-ready in its sweetness, sat in a spoon-sized dimple in a rectangular white plate with a flat, narrow stick of pastry laid on top. Both Beth and I took one nibble and stopped. It was an appetite killer. "Have you finished with your amuses, ladies?" trilled the waitress as she removed the almost untouched potential pie filling. Duck and pheasant terrine was a small dark cube of pâté crouching on a path of a partly floral garnish, bringing to mind the sort of thing that, when I was a child, I used to enter into the East Horsley Flower Show in "Garden on a Plate" class. Toffee popcorn, prune purée, pine nuts and something like lemon curd were dotted and spread about. The terrine itself was sweetened with either figs or prunes. The title Almonds & Egg introduced a duck egg poached sous-vide with a mound of nubbly almonds and pieces of the Somerset ewe's milk cheese Fosse Way Fleece. The glaucous appearance of the egg white was not much of a come-on. The following day I had to fry an egg hot and fast in lots of olive oil to get a bronzed crinkly frill and a reminder that I do like eggs.
Rating: 2/5
Piece: A la carte, a meal for two with wine, about £135

Assemblage review in full >>


Time Out
2 November
Guy Dimond enjoys the tapas at Copita, London W1, so much, he eats his way through the entire menu

With a name like 'copita' you might expect a huge sherry list, but the list isn't massively long - though it does have good representatives of all the styles, from crisp, dry fino to raisiny, dessert-like Pedro Ximénez. There's also a properly Spanish selection of other drinks, such as pacharán, the sloe-flavoured liqueur. The tapas portions are correctly Spanish-sized - that is, tiny nibbles. The plates are so tiny, in fact, I could cover one with my hand, so you'll need at least three dishes per person even for a light lunch. The cutlery is also airline-meal sized, to scale. Which is all fine, except that the Soho prices suggest much larger portions. We were so impressed with executive chef James Knight's dishes, though, that we went back, and ate our way through almost the entire menu. And we can recommend everything. Baked duck egg was served with aromatic girolles, smoky peppers and tiny shavings of summer truffles; simple, but perfect. Own-made 'botiffara' - the Catalan sausage - was unctuous and faggot-like, but lip-smacking and luscious, the fattiness of the pork cut with big caper berries.
Rating: 4/5
Price: Meal for two with wine and service around £60

Copita review in full >>


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