Lisa Markwell reviews
The French - 9.5/10
Sunday, April 21, 2013 - At the end of the meal, my mouth felt as if it had been on a magic carpet ride - from the richness of that black pudding to the last whisper of buttermilk. Nothing had jarred, or felt tricksy, or fiddled with. It was simply outstanding – a testament to the devotion of Rogan (at the stoves here for the time being, before he moves on to resettling Roganic in a new home and then back to a newly expanded kitchen at L’Enclume)...Manchester is a lucky, lucky city.
The Clove Club - 8/10
Sunday, March 31, 2013 - A stellar start is a trio of little sharing plates: radishes with sesame and a mayo spiked with gochuchang (a Korean spicy soybean thing – the menu could use some footnotes); crisp little cheesy pastry squares topped with more curd; and a basket packed with pine fronds and a pine cone – and within, two chunks of buttermilk-fried chicken with pine salt. Super-soft inside, crisp exterior and that faintly cleansing hint of pine. This last element is the best – it's no surprise to hear that it's a hit on the bar menu.
A. Wong - 7.5/10
Sunday, March 17, 2013 - That sweet-and-sour corn-fed chicken also works – I'm not sure whether to be disappointed at the lack of batter, but there's pineapple (yay) and the tender pieces suggest decent poultry and a chef with a spot-on palate. Andrew Wong is within chopstick distance, eyeballing every pretty pottery dish as it leaves the pass...So perky is the cooking and so warm the welcome that I feel I might become a regular.
HKK - 7/10
Sunday, February 24, 2013 - A crisp fashioned from sweet potato and orange-stained water chestnuts are a great foil for glossy Wagyu beef. Lovely and, like the pillowy scallop in the next course, reassuringly expensive to source. The scallop is deftly garnished with garlic and chilli that takes it to the edge of nuclear...When it's right, the flavour-balance is oh-so-good. Go if you want to try on "moneyed", to see how it feels.
Parlour - 7.5/10
Sunday, January 13, 2013 - A hunk of smoky gammon, a thick cake of herb-spiked salmon and potato, a heap of bubbling, burnished mac'n'cheese and, best of all, a vast meltingly soft beef pie with a bone-marrow chimney, all dark-brown pastry and juices escaping at the edges. These are crowd-pleasers, just right for a neighbourhood place...I'd lose the "chucklesome" puns and punctuation on the menu. Parlour doesn't need trends and tricks: at its best, it already feels like coming home.
John Salt - 9/10
Sunday, December 16, 2012 - I would walk a long way to eat a bigger bowl of that risotto – rich with vacherin cheese, cut through with a vinaigrette made from the juices of a cucumber roasted for four hours, and the heel of beef with kimchi, a carrot puree and a heady gravy is rightly the dish most diners beg for more of. It’s like a roast on ecstasy; every taste is heightened...So, Santa, how about it? If you can’t run to the full 12-courses, I’d settle for four, or a long, leisurely Sunday lunch (a steal at £19, it seems to me).
Sushi des Artistes - 4/10
Sunday, November 18, 2012 - We get the giggles trying to negotiate Je t'aime – lobes of foie gras on top of a quivering Jidori hen-egg omelette – with chopsticks. Like us, this is not an entirely natural marriage on paper but it tastes rather fabulous. (Jidori hens are Japan's most pampered poultry.) Likewise the Madison rolls, where crustacean extremities poke out of rice. A bit of a mouthful, but a pleasing crisp-and-sticky combination. So much work has gone into Sushi des Artistes...but I cannot imagine ever coming back here.
The Road Hole Restaurant - 7/10
Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - A chicken-and-black-pudding terrine sounds terrifyingly close to a silly-billy combination, and it comes looking like a crazy-paving tile, but the chicken is succulent and the earthy pudding is a good foil for it. Mercifully none of the dishes comes on slate, or any other novelty arrangement. The large, square white plates showcase the Scottish ingredients beautifully. Next up, salmon from Loch Duart with baby beets, fennel and cucumber jelly. Another foam, another slick across the plate. But the cucumber jelly is outstanding, and the beet puree as intense in flavour as it is in colour.
Chicken Shop - 7.5/10
Sunday, September 23, 2012 - It's sticky and tender, skin slathered in salty, herby juices. There's hot sauce (again, no Nando's, this stuff creates beads of sweat on the brow at first bite) and smoky sauce. The excellent, although super-salty, crinkle fries come with ketchup and garlic mayonnaise...I'm struggling to find much fault with Chicken Shop except the frequent interruptions by staff. I don't mind most of the time, because it's to proffer sauces or more chips – yes, we went there – but it's all a bit eager beaver. It might be new-gaff nerves, or it might be part of the technique to keep things moving along.
Duck & Waffle - 8/10
Sunday, September 02, 2012 - Like the duck and waffle (two classic waffles stacked with a big old confit duck leg and a fried duck egg and a jug of mustard maple syrup), D&W goes the extra mile in high-energy, wham-bam flavour combos. That foie gras on brioche is topped with bacon, a dinky egg and a thick slick of chocolate spread. Roasted beetroot with goat curd has great shards of honeycomb (the Crunchie kind, not the bee kind) over it...The food at Duck & Waffle is not faultless, but the experience is; and there are plenty of enticing dishes I didn't try (a whole roasted chicken beckons).
Feng Sushi (West Hampstead) - 7/10
Sunday, August 12, 2012 - So, to recap – big portions of planet-friendly food at reasonable prices. And the verdict: some of it is tasty and some of it is really not...Sushi, by the way, can be ordered with white or brown rice, which gives a waft of health over proceedings, as does that deluxe sashimi, which is beautiful: pearlescent cuts with microherbs, all tasting very fresh and very of itself. But a fusion salad of chilled ramen noodles with cherry tomatoes, prawns, tamago and wakame with a squirt of creamy dressing is misguided.
FM Mangal - 7.5/10
Thursday, June 28, 2012 - Mr M needs little persuasion to have the FM Mangal Special: a meaty feast of lamb cutlets, spicy minced lamb shish, diced lamb, a chicken thigh and a spatchcocked quail. The heap of blackened delights is accompanied by a grated carrot salad, some juicy pickled red cabbage and a citrussy slaw, as well as a modest scoop of rice, which is fluffy and buttery. Everything is seasoned beautifully, the meat the ideal marriage of charred exterior and tender insides; the quail just edges the prize. If my son was here he'd say they've got mad skills (or something...).
The Hampshire Hog - 7/10
Sunday, June 17, 2012 - Claire's chorizo-stuffed chicken breast with red-pepper puree and roasted kipfler potatoes veers back into standard-issue pub grub, but a hearty sirloin steak with piquant Cafe de Paris butter and chips is a fine cut, well prepared (as it should be for 21 pounds). Living the cliche, we get the sharing-plate pudding with four spoons. At 12 quid, it's a bloody good deal...There's nothing remarkable about the Hog - and therein lies its appeal. You could happily visit at any time of the day or night and feel at home. It has a daytime pantry section up front for, say, a posh fry-up or an afternoon cake; the inside is bustling and boozy in a good way for returning workers to sink a pint.
Tom Aikens - 4/10
Sunday, May 06, 2012 - A plate of beige arrives. 'It's very Donna Karan,' announces Tina. The fish is borderline dry, the cauliflower with cumin rather fragrant and good, but the layers of white matter over the plate are perplexing. We catch the waiter toss the words "milk skin" over his shoulder as he retreats to the gloom. She won't touch it; I do. It's crisp and tastes of curdle...The low score reflects the experience rather than the food. It's clever without being intelligent. There's plenty of accomplishment in pure technique - but wouldn't a better accomplishment be empty plates and happy smiles?
Smoak Bar & Grill - 6/10
Sunday, April 22, 2012 - By sticking to the standards, I've done best: my rib-eye steak is superb. The cut is excellent - marbled and thick - and they've not messed it about, just Jospered it so the exterior caramelises and the meat inside is tender and a deep pink. Could have done without the slightly charred and greasy bone marrow on the side, though...Archie appreciates the size of the fried buttermilk chicken, but once past the heavyweight batter, the meat is, says Archie, underpowered and almost dry. He's a fan of the paprika skinny chips, though, so that's all right.
Mele e Pere - 7.5/10
Sunday, February 19, 2012 - Spaghetti alla carbonara is a dish many think they can make, but to make it well is rare indeed. This one is sublime - rich with egg and cheese, soft strands of pasta and generous chunks of salty bacon. Nothing fancy, just a perfect, comforting bowl of goodness. I'd have licked it clean; Mr M restrains himself...Our slow-roasted shoulder of lamb is silky soft and full of flavour, a nubbin of gristle on one slice the only distraction. A side of borlotti beans is cooked well but with no heat from the chilli. The roasted fennel is excellent - oil-slicked chunks with charred stripes.
Quo Vadis - 8/10
Sunday, February 05, 2012 - Mr M, unusually, has been allowed his own choice, and saves me only a tiny forkful of his zingy fennel, watercress and sardine starter. When his beef pie arrives, he looks a little crestfallen that it's quite mannered (for which read small and neat), but what it lacks in Desperate Dan qualities, it makes up for in taste - rich, very short pastry, a layer of garlicky, buttery sauce and unctuous gravy, with clods of meltingly soft beef. We fight over some Pink Fir Apple potatoes to soak up the juices.
The Modern Pantry - 7/10
Sunday, January 15, 2012 - Mr M chooses seared king scallops with Jerusalem artichoke mash, keta, sorrel and a shallot and Cabernet Sauvignon vinaigrette; it is a stellar combination of textures and flavours...My main course is disappointingly mis-sold, I think. Beef featherblade, miso and Chantenay carrot stew, winter greens, toasted poppyseed and buttermilk dressing sounds soft, unctuous and hearty, but what arrives is a ginormous chunk of beef in a little dab of sauce, with separately cooked carrots on the side, and a drizzle of dressing. The beef is top-quality, but needs hewing apart with a knife, as it's dry.
Granger & Co - 7.5/10
Sunday, December 18, 2011 - The full Aussie breakfast is stellar; the silkiest scrambled eggs I've ever eaten, delicious piggy chipolatas and two giant slabs of sourdough toast with lashings of butter. (There's also roasted tomatoes, mushrooms and bacon.) It's 12.25 well spent. But then, oh, the ricotta hotcakes with fresh banana and honeycomb butter (and an unadvertised but very welcome jug of syrup): sweet pillows of joy...There are a few creases to iron out (dinner portion sizes much smaller than breakfast ones, but no less expensive; one or two slightly less than razor-sharp waiters) but I predict that it will settle into being a favourite foodie destination for the locals and visitors alike. Bravo Bill.
Union Jacks (St Giles) - 5/10
Sunday, December 04, 2011 - I fail to notice the friend who ordered a Margaret has abandoned it after one slice. What could go wrong? It is, after all, cheese on toast with posh cheese and posh toast. I try a bite. Boak. My Old Spot works best when I eat the shards of crackling piece by piece, followed by the meltingly soft chunks of pork, and slivers of quince. I'm left with vaguely slimy Stilton on chewy bread...I'm sorry, Jamie. But why not put pizza on at Jamie's Italian, then start a chain of British-themed restaurants with ploughman's and sandwiches and pies?
Roti Chai Street Kitchen - 8/10
Sunday, November 20, 2011 - I've eaten bhel pouri everywhere from a back alley in Mumbai to a backstreet in Euston, and this one is the best, hands-down. Fresh, crisp and with a zingy tamarind sauce - little flecks of onion, ginger and spices have elevated it quite some distance from street food. Then there's dahl and roti combo. Three piping hot breads - plain, brown and chilli - are stacked in a bowl; all are exemplary. The chilli kulcha has that 'beads of sweat on the brow' feeling without being overpowering, and works brilliantly with the yellow lentil dish that puts my local to shame. It's vibrant in colour and flavour.
The Balcon - 7/10
Friday, November 11, 2011 - We're directed by friendly, textbook-French staff towards the items in bold on the large-format menu; these are chef's signature dishes. No argument from me - the pike custard with King's Lynn brown shrimps, crustacean veloute and sourdough toast is both pretty and delicious...The star of the show, if rich brasserie food is your thing, is Mr M's Scottish beef and foie gras cottage pie with chanterelle mushrooms, which must be the pinnacle of Anglo-French gastronomic marriage. A sturdy dish arrives with - can it be? - three slabs of foie gras atop the mashed potato, while dark gravy oozes out around the perimeter.
Joe's (Draycott Avenue) - 7/10
Sunday, September 11, 2011 - My main course, spiced slow-braised lamb with rainbow chard and chickpeas, is a disappointment (too pappy a texture and unappealing in a barrel formation)...Claire's thrilled with monkfish, cauliflower, pistachio, mint and preserved lemon cous cous, declaring it one of the finest balances of flavours and textures she's eaten in years. A fantabulous cherry variety pack of clafoutis, cherry and chocolate rice pudding and cherry ice-cream is pretty and toothsome and just right for sharing. Joe's deserves to be for ladies who breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is delicious, pretty to look at and satisfying without heft.
Behesht - 7/10
Sunday, July 31, 2011 - Mains follow fast: there's little variation (unless you come on a Friday, when Special Iranian Stew makes an appearance). It's all about the kebab: lamb or chicken. Rice and salad, or bread and salad. Edited choice is great when it works and at Behesht, it works. The chicken, whether on or off the bone, is succulent and tender; the lamb, minced or cubed, likewise. Each dish comes with white rice and a cursory salad, plus a flame-blistered tomato that mushes up nicely with the meat and rice...So Behesht proved worthy of the recommendation. It's never going to win any haute cuisine awards but it's very good at Persian food.
Roganic - 9/10
Monday, July 18, 2011 - One stand-out dish is Kentish seawater-cured mackerel with Regent's Park elderflower honey, broccoli - dehydrated and pureed - and shallots, which is a triumph of textures and flavours that plays on the tongue. The other savoury stand-out is heritage potatoes with onion ashes, an ensemble imported from L'Enclume. My goodness it's divine...The skill of the perfectly judged menu ensures that I feel sated but not stuffed. Roganic is not perfect, but for palates jaded by the procession of 'it'll come when it's ready' tapas-style concepts and uncomfortably formal stellar cheffery (with waiting lists to match), it offers a delightful diversion.
The Gilbert Scott - 7/10
Sunday, June 19, 2011 - We have baked onions, soft and fragrant, with spiced, herby, nutty flavours, and mushrooms on sippets where slippery nubbins of bone marrow add more density to an already earthy dish. A rich Dorset crab salad has pear and hazelnut shards for contrast and is delicious. Main courses are where the train runs out of steam (sorry)...So, when it's good, The Gilbert Scott is v. good. But the arrangement of the tables (too close), the menu (too long) and the judgement of some of the dishes (either too bland or overpowering) do spoil things.
Squires - 7/10
Sunday, May 29, 2011 - Haddock - from a sustainably fished array - is plump, pearly white and very fresh indeed. The patriarch reports that the 'award-winning' cod is similarly good. Chips are chunky and deliciously fluffy inside and crisp without. The vast table-top quickly becomes covered with little dishes of mushy peas, pickled onions, gherkins and home-made (excellent) tartare sauce - they're all just as quickly emptied...Squires has given us memorably good food with excellent service in a perfectly nice room. I would pay handsomely for that, though on this occasion I don't need to.
The Riding House Cafe - 6/10
Sunday, May 15, 2011 - I'm in the restaurant bit, about to plunge a steak knife into today's special, a 6oz fillet with Bearnaise sauce, thin-cut crisps and a cursory grilled tomato - it's more than decent. Mr M, slightly sour-faced at being steered away from beef, perks up considerably on the arrival of his hash browns. A hefty white frying pan is placed in front of him, with a mound of soft potato and chunks of sausage, oozing their rust-coloured oil. A tangle of mushroom sits alongside, and also on ooze patrol, a perfect poached egg. It's a handsome dish, packed with flavour and definitely an imaginative take on a short-order classic.
Pollen Street Social - 7/10
Sunday, May 01, 2011 - The food is wonderful. Our first starter, cauliflower and squid with clear roasted-squid juice, is a sensation - a small arrangement of risotto-like nubbins of squid with shaved cauliflower and an intensely flavoured stock that takes pale and interesting to a new dimension. Full English breakfast is a jammy tomato confit on which sits a perfect slow-cooked egg, shards of bacon and truffle shavings...It's been a slow-cooked curate's egg of a meal. I want to come back to sip a cocktail and eat Dingley Dell pork cheek tapas at the bar. But if the menu causes anxiety rather than freedom, then things need a tweak.
Brunswick House Cafe - 8/10
Sunday, April 17, 2011 - Berkswell, fennel and bloodcrumbs gets us very fired up: the cheese matched with wafer-thin slices of the fragrant bulb and black pudding cooked then crumbled to give an earthy, rich edge. Pollock with dill and candy beetroot ceviche is also a complex and knockout-good mouthful - the meaty fish and sweet varieties of beet mingling to perfection...What with the blaring tunes, the uniformly twenty-something staff and the achingly hip surroundings, it's easy to see this becoming a haunt for whatever the SW version of a Shoreditch twat is. But it's got the potential to be far more.
Bluebells Restaurant & Bar - 7/10
Sunday, April 03, 2011 - When it comes to mains, the pretty dishes tip towards fussy. My braised belly and pan-roasted tenderloin of Sussex pork has rhubarb chutney and splodges of pale-pink foam dotted around it, which is mildly off-putting. It tastes superb, though - unctuous and flavoursome, topped with curls of crackling. Across the table, I barely have time to register the pastry-wrapped beef with molasses-glazed baby onions, porcini-mushroom puree and confit potatoes before it vanishes.
MEATEASY - 7.5/10
Sunday, March 20, 2011 - Of course, it's all about the meat. Philly cheesesteaks, burgers: cheese ones, bacon cheese ones - plus the eye-popping 'dead hippie'. This delight is two mustard-fried patties with lots of cheese and special sauce - I never do discover what they put in it, but I want another straight away. We also try chilli cheese fries, mac and cheese, buffalo wings and onion rings. Almost everything has a mustardy tang that makes it moreish. The chicken is sticky and spicy, and they're generously fleshy wings. The mac and cheese is crusty on top, with a molten swamp of mature cheddar and Parmesan-enriched sauce. It's a meal in itself.
NOPI - 8/10
Sunday, March 06, 2011 - There are so many 'wow' moments that to detail each would take up pages. So, from a stellar line-up, the scallops are just so, with a crisp, tangy salad - we could have eaten double. The chicken is succulently moreish, while the lamb is wonderfully tender and pink, complemented perfectly by the smoky accompaniments...The buzzing atmosphere, dazzling food and attentive staff make Nopi a very attractive proposition - but dinner has cost us 182 pounds. For food at this level of cooking, the price is not unreasonable, but it does elevate it to an occasional, special occasional, treat
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal - 9/10
Sunday, February 20, 2011 - My pork chop is quite the most tender, rich bit of pig I've eaten (as it should be for 28 quid). As elsewhere, the excellence of the food's provenance is clear. The deeply savoury, reduced Robert sauce tinges each slice of pork beautifully but makes the more-butter-than-spud potato puree redundant. Mr M's 72-hour slow-cooked short rib of Angus with smoked anchovy-and-onion puree and little cubes of ox tongue is, for me, rather too earthy, but he likes it.
Kopapa - 7/10
Sunday, January 16, 2011 - If you like fusion, this is the place for you. Less successful is the shoehorning in of the sharing-plate phenomenon. It all requires a great deal of concentration and clear views on how hungry you are going in...Kopapa is an all-day place, so whether or not I ever get the urge for mutton and quince stew, I'll definitely come back to try Gordon's breakfast concoctions, and for more of the sweet stuff with a cup of tea in the afternoon. But if you're the adventurous type, there's much to tempt you here.
Brawn - 8/10
Sunday, December 19, 2010 - Mr P's red mullet and chanterelles is a symphony of flavour and texture that soothes, while caillette de Daniel Thierry with carrots and potatoes is a faggot that's pungent and earthy - not entirely my dish of the day, but Mr M loves the meaty melange. Braised venison with soft polenta and chestnuts is pretty, powerful and like being wrapped in a warm cashmere blanket...If this sounds gushing, it's meant to. Food of this quality at this price is rare indeed. I hope there's enough buzz to draw diners all through the week. Brawn is the result of brains and beauty (and I don't mean the pig's).
Les Deux Salons - 8/10
Sunday, November 21, 2010 - Mr M has ravioli of veal with fresh goat's curd and cavalo nero; I have traditional fish soup. The former is meltingly soft and savoury, the meat itself forming the parcels. My soup is somewhat oversalted, but that's the only bum note. The slow-cooked ox cheek with parsnip puree main is perfect - glossy and dark meat, smooth-as-silk puree and a side order of gratin dauphinoise that requires protection from the other diners with a sharp knife...We pool pudding resources with Paris-Brest with praline cream, glazed lemon tart and bitter chocolate mousse and come away deeply satisfied.
Giant Robot - 5/10
Sunday, September 19, 2010 - The crostini are a bit flabby but the tomatoes are obviously not freighted unripe muck, and the mushrooms are meaty with a hit of garlic. The risotto balls are piping hot and accompanied by a herb aioli, there to counteract the rather chalky texture of the rice. Any self-respecting Milanese pavement cafe would produce something with more flavour, sadly. This is good grub for soaking up alcohol, rather than stand-alone gastronomy...There isn't going to be a next time. The food wasn't good enough to merit it.
Koffmann's - 8/10
Sunday, August 08, 2010 - Koffmann's food - particularly from the three-course set menu; a steal at 22.50 - doesn't disappoint. My tuna carpaccio with celeriac remoulade is dazzling - translucent discs of very, very fresh fish with deftly judged seasoning and a punchy, creamy spoonful of root vegetable at the centre. I'm in love. Mr Higgins gets all misty-eyed over cassolette d'escargots et girolles: a dear little pot filled with bright green, garlicky foam and buttery mash, with a generous helping of snails and mushrooms - interchangeable in shape and size but delivering different taste bombs.
Chipotle (Charing Cross Rd) - 5/10
Sunday, July 25, 2010 - It's built for speed, not for comfort - metal-topped tables and chuck-away plates and cutlery. In fact, it's quick-casual...My bowl of barbacoa beef (stringy, but not unpleasant) comes with rice, beans, salsa, sour cream and chillis, which is what all the dishes on offer seem to be - just the meat (there's also pork and chicken, which look unnervingly similar) and delivery method varies. Mr M has the pork version wrapped in a tortilla and it arrives sealed in tinfoil, looking like a bomb. With a beer, lemonade and shared side order of chips and surprisingly zingy, fresh guacamole.
Sunday, July 11, 2010 - Mr M chooses bull's heart tomatoes with sumac, za'atar, lemon and herbs (6.50), because he figures to charge that for a plate of toms, they must be good. And they are - soft texture, er, bullish flavour, and scattered with pretty little edible flowers. I'd have happily eaten nine toasts, 12 even. They are simple ingredients at their peak, allowed to shine. Griddled salt-marsh lamb chops with smoked green wheat, aubergine and tahini packs a punch, the aubergine soft and cinnamon dusted, the lamb tender and juicy. The wheat, which Parle later tells me is known as frikkeh in Middle Eastern shops, is frikking good (sorry, can't resist)...Once front of house is up to speed, Dock Kitchen will be unmissable.
Guerilla Burgers - 13/20
Sunday, May 09, 2010 - My 'new yorico jumbo all-beef hot dog' is as much of a mouthful as its title. The attendant fried onions are melting, the bun is nicely, unhealthily soft and white and, once it has been dressed with the ketchup and mustard from a heap of tabletop condiments, it does taste pretty authentic...And so, with regret, to the burgers. The buns are small, seeded and a bit flimsy. The crispy bacon on the BLT and Rodeo burgers is anything but. The size, modest. The taste, meh...Nevertheless I like this place. The staff are genuinely helpful and the menu does have range beyond what's expected of a fast-food joint.
Petrus - 15/20
Sunday, April 25, 2010 - On to roast-beef fillet with braised shin, baked celeriac and Barolo sauce, which is tender and perfectly cooked. I lean over for a shard of crackling from Mr M's pork fillet with Bayonne ham, black pudding, cream cabbage and Madeira sauce ensemble - so light it's as if inflated rather than cooked. But there is something so mannered about the dishes that we can't get excited - head chef Sean Burbidge is clearly talented, but it feels as if he is following a generic posh-food template...I can't find fault with Petrus, but I can't find it in my heart to recommend it either.
The Fountain Restaurant - 11/20
Sunday, April 04, 2010 - Deborah's twice-baked goat's cheese souffle is on the meagre side, and bland. My smoked salmon, by contrast, is offputtingly enormous, served with a not-juicy-enough lemon half and some stale bread...Main courses aren't any better. Grilled pollack with cauliflower puree, savoy cabbage and bacon is at once too salty, too limp and resembles the kind of dish that fails to get a contestant through to the quarter finals of Masterchef. But it's the 28-day aged rib eye steak that's the real howler. At 24.50, we expect a plump, soft and flavoursome tranche of beef. This is greyish, tough and with an inexcusable lump of fat in its centre.
Bistrot Bruno Loubet - 17/20
Sunday, March 21, 2010 - How better to test the bistro-ness of a bistro than by eating a daube? Loubet's is advertised as the classic - stewed beef with Provencale flavours, accompanied by mousseline potatoes. It arrives in Staub cast iron (the Rolex of casseroles), correctly spoonable beef with soft tomatoes, courgettes and peppers. This is seriously high-class comfort food...I want to give Loubet, still stationed anxiously at the pass, a thumbs-up, but he scarcely needs it. He's back, in every way, and London is the richer for it.
Le Relais de Venise (Marylebone) - 13/20
Sunday, February 21, 2010 - Other reviewers have grumbled about the provenance (or lack thereof) of the steak and the thinness of the 'famous sauce' covering it, but standards must have improved since it was slated back in 2005. The steak is tender and well-flavoured, and the chips crisp and thin. The buttery, salty sauce is a tad heavy on the herbs (basil seems to be prevalent) but it is piquant and seems authentic. We're just mopping up the last of the sauce with some baguette when our waitress hoves into view at top speed, bearing a tray with more steak, then more chips. "Seconds!" cries Mr M with pleasure.
Sunday, October 18, 2009 - The table furniture is elegant and the menu reads similarly smoothly. There's a lot to choose from, 16 mains, but then Hix is an accomplished chef with a wide repertoire...The fillet of gurnard with cockles and Morecambe Bay shrimps is wonderfully rich and complex. Mr M informs me that the mutton, kidney and oyster pie is melting with stringy- in-a-good-way mutton and a terrific pastry crust, but why - he asks - don't modern pies have sides?