Welcome to Oliver Thring’s weekly round-up of national critics’ restaurant reviews.
The Riding House Café
‘I wanted to order about two thirds of the things on the menu’, says Zoe Williams at the Riding House Café. Starters were ‘timid’, but a rack of pork with lentils and smoked sausage was ‘gorgeous’. ‘I’m already very fond of the place.’
Ducksoup’s dishes are ‘impressive for their simplicity, quality of ingredients and big flavours’, says Matthew Norman. Quail with sumac was ‘immaculately grilled’ though smoked trout with lentils and caluletto was ‘fine, if forgettable’. But Norman has ‘a gnawing sense of being too old for the place’ and ‘I wouldn’t come back’.
‘The food is dire’, says Lisa Markwell at Union Jacks, the first branch of Jamie Oliver’s new pizza chain. An ‘Old Spot’ (roast pork shoulder, quince and apple sauce, stilton, crackling and watercress) worked best when she ate the pork and quince separately. ‘I’m left with vaguely slimy stilton on chewy bread.’
Tracey Macleod is at Aurelia in Mayfair; the room is ‘pretty enough’. Macleod – presumably tongue in cheek – is unhappy that her lamb came sliced (‘we’re ladies – we can’t cut our own meat!’). This was ‘a meal characterised by careful good taste, rather than exuberant explosions of flavour’.
‘I’m not even sure it’s the best beef on Cadogan Place,’ says Jay Rayner at the revamped Rib Room. ‘The meat was completely underseasoned and was so much dull, wet cotton wool’; duck with figs was ‘a big plate of blah’.
‘The happiest lunch I’d had in ages,’ says Giles Coren at One-O-One, Pascal Froyart’s fish restaurant at the top of the Sheraton in Knightsbridge. Roast Norwegian halibut with langoustine dumplings, coco [sic] beans and truffle was ‘wonderfully refined’.
David Sexton is at Soif: ‘the menu is short, often changed, butch as hell, seasonal and right on trend’. Felino salami was ‘faultless’ and black pudding and squid ‘very good’, but skate wing with artichoke barigoule was ‘swimming in oil’. Nonetheless, ‘Soif is obviously a great addition to the neighbourhood’.
Bob Tyrer visits Apicius in Cranbrook, Kent. ‘I nip to the loo to make secret notes, scribbling: “Delicate tracery of leaves, redcurrant rubies, pigeon’s subtle flavour heightened by sharp currants, lardons, hot peppery sauce and candied grapefruit skin.” I’ve never been so entranced by food.’ AA Gill is certainly away.
And a good piece by John Lanchester on the ways in which London restaurants seem resistant to recession.