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Monthly Round-up of National Critics’ Restaurant Reviews by Oliver Thring (June 2012)

06 July 2012 by Oliver Thring

Greg Malouf


Marina O’Loughlin found Greg Malouf’s food ‘very good’ at Petersham Nurseries. Duck pastilla had 'immense' flavours and halibut with borlotti beans was ‘excellent’. Service, however, was slow.

She also went to the new branch of The Gate, a vegetarian place in Clerkenwell. ‘Much of the food has an Asian/Middle Eastern flavour.’ Risotto cake was ‘creamy’ and ‘retained bite’, while aubergine with chermoula and cheese was a ‘success’. ‘The Gate isn’t a good vegetarian restaurant, it’s simply a good restaurant.’

John Lanchester also visited Petersham Nurseries, deeming it ‘a Lebanese-Australian take on the River Café’. Spiced beef fillet tartare with mint and bulgur wheat was ‘complex and subtle’, and wild sea bass ‘crisp and moist’. But it’s expensive: ‘There’s a reason they call it Richmond.’

Lanch quite liked the Tramshed, Hix’s new place that only does roast chicken or steak for main courses. A starter of yorkshire pudding with chicken livers was ‘a bit dry’, and steak ‘wasn’t particularly exciting’. ‘I don’t really see the point.’

Giles Coren visited the same place: ‘the steak was fine’. He also went to Donostia, a new tapas place in Marylebone whose food is 'mostly forgettable but occasionally brilliant’.

However, Giles found Mari Vanna ‘the pleasantest of surprises’. A ‘melted cheese pie thing’ was ‘delicious’ and beef stroganoff ‘not as good as mine … but still quite excellent’. But ‘mostly I sat trying to observe the smoking hot ladies’ in the room.

Susy Atkins went to the Masons Arms in Devon. The ‘menu … focuses mainly on French and British classics, with leanings towards rich nursery food’. Salmon with soy, mirin, yuzu and radish ‘made a palate-cleansing start’ and monkish wrapped in prosciutto was ‘carefully timed’. It’s a ‘smart, well-run restaurant’.

Matthew Norman visited Hiatt Baker Hall, a ‘sprawling mass of Sixties red-brick blocks’ at Bristol University. Carrot and coriander soup was ‘well-textured’, blade of beef ‘tender and hot’.

He also went to One-O-One, Pascal Proyart’s excellent fish place at the Knightsbridge Sheraton. Halibut with langoustine dumplings, cassoulet and sauce bisque was ‘incredible', a rum baba ‘gorgeous’.

Guy Dimond liked Brasserie Zédel: it’s ‘cheaper and more accessible’ than Corbin and King’s other places (The Wolseley and The Delaunay). Choucroute Alsacienne ‘would put a smile on the face of a Strasbourg eurocrat’ and steak haché was ‘a stunner’. Service might have been ‘a shambles’ but ‘this is a retro experience we can all afford to relish’.

‘Prices are frequently staggering in their fairness,’ says Fay Maschler at the same venue. Cârrottes rappées were ‘well-dressed’ and steak haché had ‘a kind rosy heart’. ‘You will eat better here than in comparable establishments in Paris.’

And Tim Hayward also visited Zédel. ‘The onglet was excellent’, though chips were ‘rather chilly and far fewer than they should have been’. ‘I’m just baffled by a new London tourist attraction themed around something that even the Parisians have largely given up on.’

‘Pretty dazzling’ was Lisa Markwell’s verdict on The Cube, Electrolux’s high-end popup on the Royal Festival Hall. Sat Bains was cooking on the day she went. ‘Meltingly soft’ lamb came with blackened leek purée and lemon blobs. ‘If you save up, you’re in for something unusual and exemplary.’

Zoe Williams was at Bistro Union in SW4: 'its mustard and teal interior is quite casual and likeable'. Although gem salad with anchovy and berkswell cheese was ‘really good’ with spatchcocked quail, the place is 'patchy'.

John Walsh enjoyed a ‘stunningly light’ version of taramasalata at Mazi, a new Greek place in Kensington. Meatballs ‘exploded with flavour’ and saddle of lamb with mint, potato and baklava was ‘imaginative, original and delicious’. ‘You must try it.’

Bruce Palling visited the same place. ‘The food itself is innovative, with changes more in the texture and format than the flavours.’ That lamb saddle was ‘bold and appealing’; this is an ‘interesting new establishment’.

Amol Rajan found the food at the River Café in Hay-on-Wye ‘mediocre’. Chorizo was ‘oozingly greasy’ and paired with ‘rather poor’ scallops. Rib-eye was ‘nothing to write home about’. ‘A lovely establishment [but] the food isn’t delicious’.

Jay Rayner went to Whitelock’s in Leeds, ‘a ludicrous confection of Victorian and Edwardian leather plump and brass polish’. He had crab with mango and chilli salsa: ‘I liked it very much’. Pork belly ‘could have done with an extra hour in the oven’, but ‘pricing is exceptionally keen’.

Karpo, Jay argues, ‘looks like a self-consciously hip Dutch youth hostel’, but ‘it serves the kind of food we really want to eat’. Palourde clams were ‘soft and sweet’, veal chop with asparagus and anchovy sauce ‘fabulous’. Despite a burnt tarte tatin, the place is ‘a welcome arrival’ near King’s Cross.

Gee’s menu is short and portentous,’ says AA Gill in Oxford. Risotto was ‘porridgey’, asparagus ‘adequate and uncomplicated’. But the kitchen screwed up his order, and ‘by the time the food did come, all appetite and expectation had been eaten by the clock’.

About The Author Oliver Thring

Oliver Thring writes about food and other subjects for a range of national titles, particularly the Guardian. He lives in London.

You can follow him on Twitter @oliverthring.

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