All reader reviews by Jes

Brasserie Zedel

It has a menu that feels real, where a Cafť Rough one feels pastiche. The wine list is large enough and well priced. I liked being offered Pastis 51 instead of Ricard. Not that I can tell the difference, but it felt good.

Zedel is a big place and the kitchen sends out high volumes of good food, well presented and quite soon after ordering. And it is extraordinary value. But the food isn't the star of the show.

The room is stunning, with marble walls and columns, shiny gold bits and plenty of table linen. The clatter of cutlery is matched by the rise and fall of conversation. But the atmosphere isn't the star of the show.

The real stars are the staff. Professional beyond words and yet friendly, welcoming, confident, the whole place runs like a well made watch. They don't seem to have students or resting actors waiting table, but instead have grown-ups, knowledgeable and alert. It made Zedel feel more authentically French than anything else.

Lots and lots of fun. Bon appetit.

Sunday, November 11, 2012
Overall rating 8 stars
Food 5 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 10

The Perkin Reveller

Right next to Tower Bridge, this new restaurant has a few challenges to overcome.

The room is blond modern scandinavian with lots of glass. Perhaps the branding is a little over-applied. Menus and napkins fine: on top of the urinals seems a tad unnecessary. Service was a bit too 'yes sir and thank-you-madam' for my taste but I guess many people like it. Correct rather than affable.

An interesting and fairly brief menu and a good and well-priced wine list.

First the food. It is fantastic. Beautifully presented, cooked with a fine eye to detail and made from top quality ingredients. Some might think the fish stew a bit too seafoody, and the little preserving jars of sauces a bit twee. I did, but never mind.

The challenge is its location. On a Friday evening it should be able to attract more than three tables at 8.30pm. Atmosphere is consequently flat.

I understand that lunchtimes are good and it will be able to rely on the more well-heeled Tower Bridge tourists but this isn't the future for food of this quality (or cost).

So sooner or later Perkin Reveller will probably adapt to where the market is. Which will be a shame.

Eat there soon and enjoy it for its evident strengths. Take lots of friends to make some noise. Otherwise it will feel like eating at an Arsenal match.

Sunday, November 11, 2012
Overall rating 5 stars
Food 8 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 1 | Value for money 5

Langan's Brasserie

The last time I was in Langan's I drank too much, criticised the food and had a row with the guv'nor. Lots of fun.

Thirty years later I tried again. Drank less and didn't have a row with anyone. Still good fun though.

My last visit was fairly typical according to the staff that remembered when Peter Langan ruled his roost.

Not much seemed to have changed. The Venetian Room looked a bit careworn, the menu a little predictable. Overall the food was safe and comfortable, the wine quickly topped up and the staff uniformly lovely. Especially the long-standing ones with a sense of humour and an easy wit.

It set us up nicely for a trip to see Hockney at the RA.

We won't wait so long before returning.

Monday, February 20, 2012
Overall rating 7 stars
Food 6 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 7

The Angel & Crown

At the Angel & Crown old-fashioned English is both its strength and its weakness.

The Saturday night bar downstairs was bustling and boisterous. It doesnít offer a pastis though - far too French - so I settle for a half of Amstel.

The dining rooms upstairs are pleasant, light and open. The large crew of serving staff were all affable.

The wines list is short but reasonable. The first choice French red was unavailable. The second choice French red was also unavailable. Our choice was restricted to a RhŰne at £40 or so or an Argentine Malbec. We settled for an indifferent house red. The house white was better.

From a very English menu we varied our choices. Potted smoked mackerel was massively full of flavour but the black pudding wasnít. Crab was mediocre too while roasted thyme and parsnip were more al-dente than one might expect.

Our plates had evidently been waiting a while: toast under the crab and industrial slab black pudding was soggy while a coddled egg had crisped under the hot lights.

After an extraordinary wait our mains arrived. A mix up between orders and tables was cleared up and we could begin.

Star of the show was ham hock and pease pudding. Generous in size and taste.

Flank steak was well flavoured and not quite as hard work as you might expect. The peppercorn sauce was excellent. A side dish of sprouts was good.

Salmon was overdone; probably waiting too long for a waiter.

My rabbit was good, but served with tough little peas that had been under the hot lights for long enough to shrivel. The sauce was grilled to the plate.

We skipped puddings and coffee.

The Angel & Crown has some promise but is not yet delivering.

Ingredients quality was generally good but cooking and presentation clumsy. The cost was reasonable but the shortcomings of time and lack of adequate wine stocks meant it didnít feel like good value.

Overall it was just a bit too 1970s English.

Monday, January 30, 2012
Overall rating 6 stars
Food 6 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 5


The clue was the elegantly minimal table setting when we arrived. glasses, napkins and cutlery neat and uncluttered by condiments or fripperies. But more of that later.

The short menu has several long, slow-cooked dishes and it just about covers the basics of fish/vegetarian/meat.

The chef does a very credible job of fashioning silk purses from sows ears. Frugal ingredients are cooked with care and skill and presented artfully. Portion control is Ďjust enoughí, with side dishes having a slightly more generous nature.

I could take issue with some of the menu descriptions: brown crab meat in a pot isnít quite the same as potted brown crabmeat. And Iím not sure a single peashoot and a sprig of chive is enough to call a salad.

I like the 300ml carafes of wine. An excellent way to share a couple of glasses without having to share a couple of bottles.

Service is correct, professional, affable and efficient.

So whatís not to like? Well, two things really.

Itís not much fun. Itís all a bit self-righteous, a bit pompous, it takes itself too seriously. Even the diners younger than us (most of them) were behaving is if much older. The ambience is hotel-inoffensive and the music 1987.

But what will stop us going back is much simpler. Salt.

The chef evidently feels that the decision about salt is his and not the diners. And for me, everything was much saltier than I would choose.

In truth I have much sympathy with the chef. Itís a menu that is different, interesting and original. I wish the crab had some white meat, or the lamb came with a slightly more lavish cut than neck, breast and kidney.

Despite all the care and consideration, it didnít quite feel like good value. And the salt did it for me.

Monday, June 20, 2011
Overall rating 7 stars
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 5

Chez Manny

In a surprisingly French corner of Battersea this restaurant offers the kind of country cooking that made Elizabeth Davidís heart glow.

A small-ish menu with big flavoured soups and terrines, confit and cassoulet, rabbit and ragouts with a wine list to match.

The food is honest and confident, but itís not really the story.

Manny dazzles, shines and charms his way around the room. Regulars shake hands and kiss in a truly Gallic way and drink Meteor and pastis, even though they are not all from France. It ought to smell of Gauloises.

A very welcome way to spend a Friday evening without breaking the bank.

Sunday, May 15, 2011
Overall rating 9 stars
Food 7 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 8

Le Chardon (East Dulwich)

Three refugees from The Palmerston sought comfort in Le Chardon. And very comforting it was too.

I claimed birthday extravagance and started with a crab. Fresh and lovely, big and bold. Helen's little fish cakes were equally scrummy. Helen followed up with coq au vin; served in a cute copper casserole it was the real deal, with separate flavours jostling for attention. Betty skipped a starter and sipped a kir.

I had perfectly pink calves liver. Perhaps best of all were the vegetable sides - fantastic mash with chives, almost-crunchy carrots with garlic herb butter, a gratin dauphinoise to die for (or from), green beans and broccoli at the point of just cooked and a side salad that looked like fresh splashes of bright paint. (Betty ordered three sides instead of a main without complaint either way.)

We finished off with pancakes, just to add a few last calories.

All in all a top class meal, served with style. It all seemed very good value too. We'll be back for more.

Monday, April 28, 2008
Overall rating 8 stars
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 9

The Palmerston

An early evening booking. We scuttled into the Palmerston to avoid an April shower and settled into our table.

Spring is the time of year for asparagus and many people think it the king of all vegetables. Other's don't.

Sadly, the vegetarian options were limited on tonight's menu. One of the three veggie starters was asparagus. The only vegetarian main course option was also asparagus, with pancake and bechamel.

The vegetable side dishes were limited in their scope and imagination.

So we left, and went to Le Chardon, two minutes along the street.

The staff were accepting rather than apologetic, but the menu seemed, at best, lazy. Perhaps a damp Monday night doesn't bring out their strengths. So it goes.

Monday, April 28, 2008
Overall rating 1 stars
Food 0 | Service 3 | Atmosphere 0 | Value for money 0

The Restaurant

A bitterly cold Easter Saturday and no will to cook meant we had to trawl the net looking for somewhere we hadn't been to.

"Have you got a table for two?" we asked at 7.35. By 8.15 we were sitting in an otherwise empty restaurant looking at a short but solid menu.

Helen claimed the carrot and coriander soup was better than she'd tasted in a long time and my chilli and chorizo risotto tasted satisfying and deep without owing much to any Italian heritage.

A sea bass was fresh and fleshy with sides of proper brocolli and proper mash. A guinea fowl came with just-right vegetables. All finished off with a bread and butter pudding that looked the business. I was too full to taste.

All this with a decent bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape and a bottle of fizzy water came to a shade under £60. I thought it was fantastic value.

The downsides? No other customers, so the kitchen was slow and the dining room was cold. A Herbie Hancock CD on repeat could drive me to violence and a papier-machť sheep near the cloakroom was a bit scary.

On the plus side, the food was honest, well-cooked and well-presented. The short menu changes each month so we have good reason to go back again.

Ophelia who served us and Michael who came out of the kitchen are lovely people and we could easily have sat and talked for another hour.

The Restaurant will be better for more customers and on last night's showing certainly deserves them.

Sunday, March 23, 2008
Overall rating 7 stars
Food 7 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 2 | Value for money 10

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