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

Welcome to Oliver Thring’s monthly round-up of national critics’ restaurant reviews.

10 Cases Covent Garden

The 10 Cases, Covent Garden. Photo: Martin Pope

Matthew Norman is at the 10 Cases in Covent Garden. ‘The wine was delicious. The food was generally good as well’; octopus was ‘supremely fresh’.

He’s also keen on Quo Vadis. Hare soup was ‘miraculously delicate’ and chicken ‘beautifully roasted to a crispy finish’. The ‘theatre set’ (£20 for three courses) is ‘quite a steal’.

Ceviche’s ceviche is a ‘punchy, citric explosion of flavour’ according to Tracey Macleod. But the room is ‘cramped’. It’s the place for ‘a drink and a bite, rather than … a long, lingering evening’.

And she went to the great Fitzbillies, with its ‘fine balance of delicacy and generosity’. ‘To find a restaurant as good as Fitzbillies anywhere would be heartening. To find one in Cambridge, notoriously the UK’s worst “clone town”, is inspirational.’

‘Some of the food was OK,’ says John Walsh at Gregg’s Table. Mulligatawny soup was ‘tepid but fine’ and boiled beef with carrots ‘a watery mess’. ‘A miasma of gloom’ covers this restaurant.

Marina O’Loughlin also loathed Gregg’s Table, a ‘travesty of a restaurant’. That soup was like ‘Vesta curry’ and beef stroganoff was ‘boakworthy’. ‘One of the worst meals I’ve eaten’.

But she loved 10 Greek Street. Cornish sole with butter and shrimps showed the ‘beauty of simplicity’, and there was an ‘excellent house-baked bread’. ‘We’re lucky to have the likes.’

Jay Rayner suffered the ‘sheer lunacy’ of crab risotto with passion fruit sorbet at Incanto, Harrow-on-the-Hill. The presentation of this and other dishes was ‘profoundly irritating’.

But he too enjoyed Quo Vadis, if not its ‘infuriating and depressing’ time limit on tables. ‘[Jeremy] Lee is the god of pies’; pink grapefruit, orange and campari sorbet was ‘the sort of thing to make you sit up straight and pay attention’.

John Lanchester is at Brovey Lair in Norfolk, which is a room in the private home of Mike and Tina Pemberton. It’s a ‘very good’ fish restaurant, though prawn and monkfish curry was ‘more like exceptional home cooking’.

Lanch found Bistro Union ‘not yet perfect for a neighbourhood place’. Guinea fowl kiev was ‘heavy’ while toad in the hole had ‘soggy’ batter.

‘Cooking like this takes a lot of human effort,’ says Zoe Williams at Restaurant Tristan in Horsham, west Sussex. Chicken parfait with beetroot was ‘drop-your-fork tasty’ and passion fruit soufflé with blood orange granita had a ‘perfect balance of tartness and sweetness’.

She also visited The Empress in Victoria Park, for a ‘totally lovely’ pig’s ear and ‘moist, gamey, firm’ guinea fowl. ‘If it were my local, you’d have to hose me out.’

And, finally, she went to My Sichuan in Oxford. Shredded hot and spicy tripe was ‘wonderful’ and fried cumin lamb ‘very hot but incredibly smooth’. ‘It’s great in here’ despite the ‘B&Qish dark wood chairs’.

Giles Coren enjoyed Colchis on Chepstow Place. Bazhe, a dish of chicken in walnut sauce, was ‘staggering stuff’, and lobio (a bean and bacon stew) ‘salty and mouth-filling’.

Provender in east Wanstead is a ‘stylishly decorated … bourgeois brasserie’, according to Anne Faber. Chicken ballotine is ‘excellent’, steak haché ‘decent’.

Grace Dent loves 34. ‘Summer 2012 is looking more burkini than bikini’ thanks to it. 

‘There is something old-fashioned’ about Cotidie, says Fay Maschler. ‘Best of the main courses’ was gilthead bream with crustacean jus, broccoli and fried garlic, but the restaurant ‘shouldn’t cost so much’.

She adds that The Jugged Hare, Tom and Ed Martin’s new place on Chiswell Street, is ‘admirably effortful’. Pea, broad bean, radish and dandelion salad was ‘a lovely response to the weather’.

AA Gill: Cotidie ‘tastes of fawning and mumbling and monotone’. Tortellini were ‘wan’; the place has a ‘phony etiquette’.

He also went to Chisou, a Japanese in Chiswick. Dumplings tasted of ‘bad breath’ and maki rolls ‘like rolled-up Pret a Manger sandwiches’.

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