Amol Rajan reviews
Garufin - 6/10
Sunday, April 07, 2013 - The beef, presumably what most people will come for, is solid and sturdy: you can get rib-eye, sirloin and fillet. But you don't have to be Wolfgang Puck to think it's all a bit so what. One of my companions describes the rib-eye as boring. That isn't my problem: I just think it's over-salted, so that the natural flavour of the meat isn't given full expression...In time, Garufin may well introduce some of you to the delights of the New World. But they could do with the Hand of God in the kitchen.
Assiette Anglaise - 8/10
Sunday, March 24, 2013 - Assiette Anglaise is the opposite of forbidding: open, accessible, affordable, delightful, uncomplicated. In short, a joy...This being a French restaurant, the wine is very good and affordable. Which rather sums up the place, and ought to persuade punters that the French do fun, easy cooking as well as the tough stuff. For that reason alone, and despite the reggae, this slice of Gallic joy deserves to become a famous London institution.
The Three Horseshoes - 8/10
Sunday, March 10, 2013 - This is as close to perfection in a plate as I've had for a long time. The sage is elegantly presented, the pasta couldn't be cooked better, and the chard and ricotta make a deliriously happy union inside it...It's not perfect but at this price, for this food, in a location as gorgeous as Madingley, I should think this easily one of the best restaurants in England today.
Newman Street Tavern - 8/10
Sunday, February 17, 2013 - The menu is short and elegantly laid out on a single beige sheet. Of the starters, hot cockles and laver are fiddly and a little limited for £8, but full of aroma and well seasoned. The coddled duck egg with London chorizo is superb for £6, and comes in a sweet vinaigrette that cuts through the fatty meat beautifully...My mate Francis, meanwhile, has a choice cut of Middle White pig with beer onions, again not cheap at £19, but beautifully done.
The GrEAT British Restaurant - 8/10
Sunday, February 03, 2013 - It's basically a posh workers' café that serves British wine, with black-and-white tile flooring that makes you feel as though you're eating atop a giant chessboard...The starters are magnificent. You can have seared lamb's liver and lamb faggots with bacon and celeriac; white-onion soup with spiced curried fritter; potted salt beef with pickles and sourdough toast; and, best of all, exquisite kedgeree with smoked haddock and a quail's egg of unimprovable flavour and moisture.
Naamyaa Cafe - 7/10
Sunday, January 20, 2013 - The soft-shell crab with curry powder and coconut is a bit 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 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...This place is not startling or revolutionary, and won't disrupt the London food scene. But it shows that Yau has a sharp eye for what your average punter considers good value.
House of Wolf - 5/10
Sunday, January 06, 2013 - There is excellent wild mallard duck with chestnuts, scarlet hawberries, Jerusalem artichokes and melliot; dry beef with under-powered fermented turnips (missing from two of our plates), dandelions, and a lovely oyster emulsion; and finally "textures" of Brogdale apples, quince, sourdough brioche eggy bread, yoghurt curd and buttered black tea. That's a lot going on. Experimental dining indeed. I have huge admiration for the young, ambitious chefs here with brilliant imaginations, but taken together, their menu tastes more like an argument between courses than a conversation.
The Puffing Billy - 6/10
Sunday, November 04, 2012 - On the specials board is a starter of seared River Exe scallops with crispy bacon, poached egg and puree. Perfectly inoffensive, but at £9.95 they're too dear. From the conventional menu's appetisers, Paddy's poached River Exe lobster with saffron arancini, roasted tomato and cucumber frappe merits a similar verdict...This pub, like most pubs, is fine, except for being overpriced.
Caravan (King's Cross) - 7/10
Sunday, September 16, 2012 - The new potato with samphire, duck egg, peas, mint and mustard (£5.50); octopus with shallot, parsley, sherry vinegar and paprika (£7.50); and the scallop ceviche with green tomato, lime, chilli and olive oil (£7.50) are all far too small for the prices being charged. The pancetta, Serrano ham, green olive and Taleggio pizza is lovely; but again, too small for £9.50...Most of the ingredients for a lovely restaurant are in place: a solid menu, excellent architecture, etc. But to be worthy of the glorious piazza it occupies, either the prices need to be smaller or the plates need to be bigger.
The Pig & Butcher - 8/10
Sunday, August 26, 2012 - The batter on the monkfish is a little too greasy, and couldn't be described as light; but the fish inside is moist and muscular and stands up well to the aioli, whose quotient of garlic could be fatal to a post-dinner smooch...The steak is almost unimprovably delicious; and the double-dipped chips come with an excellent parsley sauce whose constituents – parsley, spring onions, cornichons, capers, and Dijon – culminate in a hummus-like texture. The steak knife, by Tramontina, is basically a machete, as if the kitchen suspect the cow could spring back to life.
Redwing Bar & Dining - 7/10
Sunday, August 19, 2012 - 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 honey-glazed duck breast (£17.50) is, by contrast, exquisite: tender and moist with a rich plum sauce. There is an excellent Pinot Noir for £18.95 on a solid wine menu divided by type ('dry, delicate white', 'spicy, peppery, warming red') and the desserts, which are superb, include a lemon tart and a creme brulee.
28-50 (Marylebone) - 8/10
Sunday, July 15, 2012 - The best of the first bunch is a delightful gazpacho with roast tomato, cucumber, sherry vinegar and cumin, poured over a smart little group of roast tomatoes, olives, and iceberg lettuce. The gazpacho is rich and acidic, and its accompaniment is good enough to suggest that there is a point to lettuce after all. A foie-gras terrine comes with an exquisite rhubarb chutney and toast. Thin ribbons of rhubarb are discernible in the chutney, and it manages to be savoury rather than sweet...In the great flowering of Scandinavian cuisine, Sverrisson and 28-50 have a proud and prominent place.
Sunday, May 13, 2012 - The burger - the burger is OK. Served medium-rare in a brioche bun, with big slices of tomato and passable lettuce. The chips are proper, too, skins left on and not too greasy. But those, for me, are the highlights. The rest is dire...Almost certainly for much of the time, before the end of a chef's shift, one might suggest, it's a solid London boozer with solid English food. But I have to write about what's put in front of me, and for all the caveats in Clerkenwell, this was one hell of a missable meal.
Cotidie - 5/10
Sunday, April 29, 2012 - The fish dishes range from an octopus and potato salad, which is unspectacular, to sea bass and aubergine cake with buffalo mozzarella and basil, which is worth about half the 29 pounds charged here. Of the meat dishes, the scrambled egg in its own shell with hazelnuts and Gorgonzola fondue is worth trying, and Dominic's grilled Angus beef fillet with chard and Bearnaise sauce is magnificent...Frankly, I would expect more from the much garlanded chef patron, Bruno Barbieri. At approaching 200 pounds for a basic meal for two, his place isn't worth it. You can get to Florence and back for half that.
Meat People - 7/10
Sunday, April 08, 2012 - This is a steakhouse that does cocktails. It has a short menu; trendy, charming and young waiting staff; stylish decor; excellent beef; better mains than starters; better desserts than mains; fine fish; and superb historic and cultural pedigree...The 225g onglet steak from Ulster is cheapest and probably worth passing over in favour of the 300g grilled rib-eye from La Pampa in Argentina. Remarkable to think: at 18.50, this is actually decent value in our inflationary capital. This fatty, greasy, but moist slab is very flavourful, and when accompanied by the bearnaise, blue cheese or chimichurri sauces, goes down an absolute treat.
Morgan M - 7/10
Sunday, March 11, 2012 - There is a fillet of sea bass with carrot-and-ginger risotto, or, on the vegetarian side, an exquisite mushroom cannelloni with mushroom, garlic puree and broth. This is French cuisine at its halitosis-inducing finest, and the venison fillet with a spot of stuffed hare and quince puree that follows is very distinguished, too...Morgan M has the hallmarks of a potentially great restaurant. The chef is a rare talent, the menu is mostly well-crafted and affordable to City types, and the location should guarantee regular, well-heeled visitors. The decor is a little forbidding, and maybe it will take a bold, lunchtime menu, or a radical discount on the tasting menus, to start drawing in the punters.
Dabbous - 9.5/10
Sunday, February 26, 2012 - The warm egg is tongue-ticklingly smooth; the woodland mushrooms are firm and almost meaty, and the smoky flavour is warming to the soul. For all that, this is neither the best, nor the second-best dish on the menu. Second place, in fact, goes to the roast king crab with buttermilk, chunks of parsnip and Hispi cabbage. The crab is muscular and flavourful, and the creamy sauce carrying it is a perfect match. But victory is awarded to the barbecue Iberico pork with savoury acorn praline, turnip tops and apple vinegar. No pig could reasonably expect a better fate than this, other than to live; and the praline is as good a friend as any slice of meat I can remember has had.
The Nobody Inn - 7/10
Sunday, February 12, 2012 - My girlfriend's cold-beef platter (7.95) contains some exquisitely moist offerings, and comes with a sour pickle that gets the best out of them. There's not a lot wrong with the Dartmoor-sourced sirloin steak (18.95), and plenty right with the aromatic peppercorn sauce it comes with. The fish pie (10.50) has all manner of delights swimming within it, from haddock and salmon to succulent king prawns...The uninspiring pun in its name aside, this inn gets very little wrong. That is probably why the place is nigh-on full, despite being in the middle of nowhere.
Angela's - 7/10
Sunday, January 22, 2012 - The meaty mains are expensive, from 18.95 for a loin of pork to a fillet of beef for 26 pounds. The beef, though, is terrific, and comes with a brandy-and-green-peppercorn sauce - yet even that is not a patch on the duck with a caramelised orange jus, which is much better value at 21.50...All these come with that appalling English appendage: bland, lifeless, steamed vegetables, in this case carrots, potatoes, butternut squash, sprouts and broccoli, with nothing but salt, pepper and butter to rely on.
Hereford Road - 7/10
Sunday, January 08, 2012 - The duck livers with green beans and tarragon are succulent and sweet, as well as good value at 6.20. The deep-fried calf's brain with tartare sauce is - extremely annoyingly - unavailable, even though it's only 9pm, so I can't tell you whether it's worth the 6.80 asking price. But the braised cuttlefish with red onion and rocket is magnificent: inky and peppery and piquant...Properly British, proudly simple, and professionally delivered - through Hereford Road, gastronomic Hendersonism is thriving in west London too.
Copita - 7/10
Sunday, December 11, 2011 - Compared with some other tapas joints in central London - Polpo, Polpetto, Spuntino, Opera Tavern - it's cheap here, but still high in quality. The spiced carrots and crunchy purple-sprouting broccoli with not-quite-enough blue cheese are excellent. The perfectly moist but solid duck-egg yolk with piquillo (a pepper from north Spain) and white truffle looks like a plate of steak tartare, and exceeds expectations...There is a cheeseboard - La Peral, Payoyo, and Ermesenda - which is not hard to get right, and fine for 11 quid; but like many of the other servings, felt about 20 per cent too small.
CUT - 8.5/10
Sunday, November 13, 2011 - The best steak I have ever eaten is not on my plate, but sitting across from me, an Australian wagyu costing 70 pounds. The first thing that strikes me is the rhombus shape; the second is the powerful, gamey aroma; and the third is the obvious tenderness as Dominic takes his knife to it. Inside is glistening, crimson flesh that appears to have led a relatively gilded life, by bovine standards, and on eating it there is a melting flavour that rebounds around the mouth as if it were a pinball...My lingering impression is that a visit to Puck's latest steak house could give you a heart attack; but if it proves fatal, at least you'll have gone out in style.
Petit Mange - 5/10
Sunday, October 30, 2011 - The food is executed poorly, which is surprising given how highly rated head chef Adam Page is. The home-made chive-and-red-onion bread is inedible, oversalted to the point of tasting as if marinated in Persil. The scallops on confit vanilla potato with gazpacho salsa are anodyne, and the manchego cheese parfait with citrus brioche and stewed tomato - glorified cheese and biscuits - is unremarkable. The pigeon breast with shallot confit tartlet, sweet potato and buttered spinach is better, but lukewarm. Easily the best starter is an excellent braised beef cheek tart in a crispy exterior - think spring roll - with beetroot puree, hazelnut and delicate, flavourful pickled mushrooms.
Midsummer House Restaurant - 9/10
Sunday, October 16, 2011 - The Taste of the Market menu is a series of what my wonderful colleague Lisa Markwell calls 'flashes of intrigue'. It starts with a pea foam and succulent, crunchy prawns atop a tomato jelly. The colours are dazzling, and the flavours are strong and earthy. Salmon rillettes follow, with pickled vegetables, lime and wasabi...At more than 140 pounds for food, drink and (excellent) service, this is a meal for a very special occasion. Yet it is an almost faultless parade of beautifully crafted plates, enticingly sequenced and flashing not just intrigue, but ultimately delight, too.
Galoupet - 5/10
Sunday, October 02, 2011 - For reasons I cannot fathom, at the end of the meal we are shown the retail list, so that only then is it clear how much extra we're paying for the privilege of sitting in this long, thin room, with its clinically white upholstery and tilted mirrors...The summer menu has 14 dishes, six of which come in both small and large sizes, and each comes with a recommended wine. It is mostly underwhelming fare; several dishes have ingredients speaking at, rather than to, one another. They give off noise rather than polite conversation.
Four o nine - 7.5/10
Sunday, September 04, 2011 - A foie gras-and-chicken liver parfait is beautifully soft, though it might be better with a slightly more adventurous toast than standard white. Then there's grilled plaice fillets with peas, broad beans, fennel, cinnamon, blood orange and thyme dressing; and a buffalo mozzarella vegetarian option. This is an impressive start, given that two courses are 20 pounds, and three are 24. Moving on to mains, my roast cod with mussels, fresh brown crab, orange, saffron, new potatoes and samphire is magnificent.
Gidleigh Park - 7/10
Sunday, July 24, 2011 - Among the mains there is a wild-mushroom raviolo with perfect poached quails' eggs and mushroom veloute; a lemon sole with ragout of asparagus, broad beans and a white-wine and tarragon sauce; and, best of all, squab of pigeon with pea puree, wild garlic and a Madeira sauce...It's all Michelin-worthy - but the wine list, too, is extortionate. I'm sure that for diners who don't feel the pinch when settling the bill, this is an excellent way to waste money. On food alone, this would score nine out of 10. But a family meal here will cost you more than a standard weekend to, say, Prague.
The Bengal Lancer - 9/10
Sunday, May 22, 2011 - The menu contains some dishes you might not have tried before. The sublime liver hazri starter, for instance, is chopped and fried chicken livers in a spicy, citrus sauce, while the cumin parsnip comes stir-fried with tomato and cucumber...All the usual curries are on offer - it's a long menu - but some specialities have been virtually perfected. A lamb pasanda is beautifully cooked mini fillets in wine and infused with almond and pistachio nuts; the gosht Hyderabadi is cooked on the bone with coconut, cream, and red chilli - almost Thai in its compendium of flavours.
Opera Tavern - 8.5/10
Sunday, April 24, 2011 - The pork belly is wonderful; a lamb leg with pumpkin gnocchi, super-salty anchovies and brown butter and mint is beautifully weighted; hot and crunchy courgette flowers are stuffed with oozing, unrestrainable goat's cheese and drizzled with honey; a braised ox cheek with roast parsnips and puree, thyme, and pickled walnuts throbs with flavour; and the grilled, fatty, lurid Iberico presa (pork shoulder) is cleverly cut through with capers, shallots and lemon...Executive chef Ben Tish and head chef Jamie Thickett have produced a menu that will satiate the luvvies of Drury Lane and tickle the fancy of recession refuseniks.
Alimentum - 6.5/10
Sunday, February 27, 2011 - My pork presse, made from cheek meat, comes with an excellent sweet-and-sour glaze and immaculately tangy spring onions. The main courses are much flatter, however. My braised blade of beef comes with an excellent onion marmalade and serviceable potato puree and kale, but is too dry. And sat on the plate are mini boiled carrots, cooked in such a way as to have drained flavour from them rather than intensified it...Two exquisite desserts begin a welcome recovery. A rhubarb parfait with sorbet is fabulously refreshing and bold, but the highlight of the day is Keerti's olive-oil panna cotta.
Brasserie Toulouse Lautrec - 6/10
Sunday, January 30, 2011 - The food is unexceptional and inconsistent, but the interior gives a lovely light, and the ambience comes easily...Tommy's Welsh shank of lamb really has been slow-cooked for 24 hours, judging by the ease with which it comes off the bone. The sweet redcurrant sauce in which it sits is an able companion, but the absurdly unadventurous sauteed vegetables on his plate are an affront to the French imagination. I have the slow-cooked British pork belly, which is slightly overdone. But it is the focus of a really thoughtful plate - confit apple, pommes puree, a red wine and truffle sauce and, best of all, a boudin antillais.
The Scolt Head - 8/10
Sunday, January 23, 2011 - A grilled Scotch ribeye, with chips, watercress and sauteed mushroom needs the Bearnaise sauce to bring it to life, but what a life it is: the thickly cut chips and medium-rare steak have our eyeballs rolling back towards Highbury. The pan-fried sea bass with crushed potatoes, beans and caper butter is excellent, the fish given a tough, crispy skin against a muscular body; while the roast beef with roast potatoes, carrots, greens, Yorkshire pudding, horseradish and gravy is less distinguished from ordinary pub fare, though not bad at all. But the star of the second course is the cheapest option: a cheeseburger with salad and chips that should send Ronald McDonald back to his drawing board.
Indian Veg Bhelpoori House - 8/10
Sunday, November 28, 2010 - The main attraction is adjacent to the window. Here, kept hot in constantly refilled metal buckets, are rice, curry and dahl. The latter is an excellent, sour mix of seven lentils with tamarind water. There are three curries; the best is peas with paneer - cubes of fried soft cheese, less rubbery than haloumi, and made in-house. This comes in a beautiful coconut cream, but regrettably appears only on Wednesdays and Fridays...Without the option of the paneer, you might feel the curries lack variation. They are not especially hot, are reliable rather than delicious, and have an intense, well-seasoned flavour.
Bingham - 8/10
Sunday, November 14, 2010 - The three-course set lunch is 38 pounds per person, and comes with an excellent amuse-bouche: celeriac and vanilla mousse with poussin (salty and moist) and crispy bits of apple. C has the organic salmon with a very clever courgette-and-basil relish, strips of squid and crispy ginger. There are hints of Tokyo in this. My charming venison carpaccio, with a creamy truffle mayonnaise and tiny pickled cauliflowers, hints more at Taunton. Both are marvellous.
Trullo - 5/10
Sunday, October 31, 2010 - Trullo is a well-intentioned, inoffensive, reasonably priced, iterative error. With a few exceptions, its menu is a series of repeated mistakes. The mistake is to provide dishes that are either over-complicated or simply deficient in strong flavour...The tagliatelle with wild mushrooms is a dullard's delight. The risotto with purple sprouting broccoli, anchovy and chilli tastes of all the things it ought to taste of, but excites little. Jack, a man of extreme intelligence and honesty, whose birthday we are also, incidentally, celebrating, describes it as 'hot but featureless'.