Reviews: Mark O’Flaherty finds Chris Simpson’s food at Gidleigh Park matches up to the location while Grace Dent says Roganic is already a place for chefs

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Gidleigh

Mark O’Flaherty of the Sunday Telegraph says the food from newly arrived chef Chris Simpson at Gidleigh Park, Chagford, Devon, matches up to the location, architecture and interior design of the hotel.

I slept in the Drago suite (from £505 per night) with a river-facing balcony, a fabulously comfortable bed and a complimentary decanter of Madeira wine. Downstairs, (Chris) Simpson (formerly of Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Port Isaac, Cornwall) was a few weeks into his stride. By all accounts, he’s doing his own thing, creating something rustic and rooted in the culinary traditions and produce of the South West, Much of it struck me as refined gastropub stuff – just the kind of thing you’d want, perhaps, somewhere like this, And an indulgent weekend on the country might be the last bastion of the £145, seven-course, three and a half hour tasting menu. I rarely eat this like in cities anymore, but in the wilds of Devon it was a holiday in itself.

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Reviews: Marina O’Loughlin is baffled by the ‘bizarre’ Beach Blanket Babylon while Grace Dent is ‘trolled’ by Another Place

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Beach Blanket Babylon

“Our meal is so grim that I’m baffled it still exists at all,” says Marina O’Loughlin reviewing Beach Blanket Babylon in London’s Notting Hill in the Sunday Times.

I’d eaten at this bizarre restaurant in the past and vowed never again. It may have wowed the younger me with its daft decor: dank brick chamber after chamber, linked by chained mini drawbridges; fireplaces in the shape of lions’ mouths; faux-rococo furnishings. But even then I knew the food was bad. Today, the undeniably handsome Georgian townhouse feels less “sexy count’s exquisite torture dungeon” and more “1990s video game”; we’re plonked right beside that loud, large party in an otherwise deserted restaurant: do we now have to beat level two?

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Reviews: Grace Dent visits Indian Accent in her first review for the Guardian and Marina O’Loughlin reviews struggling restaurant Norse

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indian accent

Indian Accent, London W1: ‘Curry sauce as an aperitif? I bloody loved it’ Grace Dent says in her first review in the Guardian.

If you find yourself in Mayfair drubbing through someone else’s expense account, well, I cannot recommend Manish Mehrotra’s teensy-weensy blue cheese naan enough. His style of naan, smaller than a Farley’s rusk and thinner than a slice of Mother’s Pride, appears as an amuse-bouche with a Lilliputian pewter jug of curried coconut sipping sauce. Pinky in the air. Glug, glug. It is a cutting stereotype that all northern women love gravy, but at this, Mehrotra’s third opening (after New Delhi and New York), I drank curry sauce elegantly, as an aperitif, and I bloody loved it.

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Reviews: Giles Coren has the best mouthful of his life at the Bell Inn while Fay Maschler explores a new take on Indian food at Indian Accent

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Bell Inn

“On the final day of 2017, I had not just the best mouthful of the year, but the best mouthful of my life” Giles Coren of the Times says about the Bell Inn, Oxfordshire.

The pub is old and small and cosy. Sixteenth century, in fact, so built halfway between the foundation of the church (called St Matthew’s, Langford) and now. In fact, very possibly by the same guys who put the two flying buttresses against the north side of the north aisle at the behest of some long-dead Tudor benefactor.

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Reviews: Kathryn Flett raves about the rice pudding at Llewelyn’s while Hattie Garlick expresses concern for “adult” art at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

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Llewelyn’s

In search of a locals restaurant the Telegraph’s Kathryn Flett heads to Llewelyn’s in London’s Herne Hill where she finds sublime rice pudding.

Llewelyn’s is double-fronted and airy, all blonde wood and white walls and, on our visit, clearly a destination of choice for the daytime buggy-wielding brigade. It’s been a while since I’ve visited Herne Hill, and with a menu ¬including “clementine and cranberry fizz” at £7 and grilled plaice and chips at a gulp-making £16.80, it appears that the local gentrification process is now well under way.

My starter of deep-fried squid and aioli delivered the three necessities – springy squid, crunchy batter and a garlic sucker-punch – entirely successfully, while my partner’s cold roast beef on duck fat toast with horseradish and watercress was apparently “bang on”. The tender and delightfully gamy braised rabbit with bacon, pumpkin mash and salmoriglio (a punchy ¬Sicilian, garlicky, mustardy, olive-oil-based vinaigrette with bells on more usually served alongside fish) made for at least one very happy bunny – aside from supermarkets’ collective aversion, I have no idea why we don’t eat more of it.

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Reviews: Grace Dent visits the new yet “eerily” similar Joe Allen while Giles Coren falls in love with Westerns Laundry

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Joe Allen

Grace Dent of the Evening Standard reviews Joe Allen in Covent Garden, London: “it’s still up to its old tricks” she says.

Put that theatrical person together with their acting buddies in a restaurant and it’s safe to say that five dancers from The Lion King, picking at Waldorf salads between performances, could make more noise than a Hawker Siddeley Nimrod landing at Farnborough Airshow.

Luckily, if you love, or loathe, these sorts, they’ve always been easy to find, or avoid, in London at dinner time. They’re in Joe Allen. Well, they were in the old Joe Allen on Exeter Street — an American-style brasserie that had been indulging them for 40 years. Joe Allen, I shall explain for Londoners who’ve never eaten a burger downwind from Christopher Biggins, Sheridan Smith and four French peasants from Les Misérables, is a sort of thespian TGI Fridays. And I mean this with love. It serves comfort food — chicken parmigiana, lobster roll and calf’s liver on mash — to board-treaders, their agents and all other mill and chaff of this business we call ‘show’.

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Reviews: Jay Rayner can no longer love London’s Simpson’s in the Strand while Tony Turnbull enjoys his time at Mr Hanbury’s Mason Arms

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mason arms

Tony Turnbull of the Times very much enjoys his time at Mr Hanbury’s Mason Arms in Witney, Oxfordshire, which has recently been taken over by Artist Residence.

It’s certainly more welcoming than it was in its previous incarnation, as Gerry Stonhill’s Individual Mason Arms. “We don’t like children, mobile telephones or media restaurant critics. We do like our guests to arrive by Hispano-Suiza, Bugatti, Ferrari, in a Helicopter or on an MV Agusta,” the cigar-toting owner wrote on his website.

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Reviews: Jay Rayner says Gul and Sepoy “isn’t quite as clever as it thinks it is” while Giles Coren enjoys one of the best lunches of the year at Ikoyi

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Ikoyi

Giles Coren of the Times enjoys one of the “most interesting, original and super-delicious” lunches of his entire year at Ikoyi in London’s SW1.

Okay people, we’ve got a bit of a mission on here. We have a restaurant to fill. A secret destination to blow wide open. A business to save. Because I just ate one of the most interesting, original and super-delicious lunches of my entire year, in a restaurant that was getting on for empty on a bright Friday afternoon at the start of the holiday fun season.

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What’s On: Christmas in London

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Whether you are looking for classic Christmas fare, festive cocktails, or are already bored of turkey, Guide Girl has you covered. Here’s the low down on Christmas in London this year.

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Bluebird Chelsea

From the 24th November, the Nutcracker comes to life at Bluebird. At the Rococo Hot Chocolate Bar you can have the Nutcracker – made with Rococo chocolate, hazelnuts and amaretto.

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Reviews: Fay Maschler heads to Club Gascon; Michael Deacon says Noizé is pleasantly low-key yet unmistakably French

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Club Gascon

The Evening Standard’s Fay Maschler heads to Pascal Aussignac’s revamped Club Gascon in London EC1 where she finds an attractive attention to detail in the stripped back surroundings

Attack and invention are palpable right from the start with the presentation of MIAM which apparently stands for “mon invitation à manger” or, in other French words amuses-bouches, brought unbidden to the table. They are dramatic — one like cubes of coal balancing on a piece of coal — and mostly delicious, especially the thin biscuity truffle sandwiches, grapes in a glaze that traps chopped nuts and fennel seeds and slender pastry console tables topped with shellfish tartare.

An eye for colour, delicacy and transfiguration proves a constant hallmark of the kitchen, resulting in small but perfectly formed assemblies such as marbled foie gras, fig and argan oil; roasted sturgeon, leeks, crispy bone marrow and craster (smoked fish) sauce — a particular favourite of Philip Leigh; braised veal sweetbreads, lobsters and and cuttlefish tagliatelle; mallard consommé, chestnut pulp, white truffle and aromatic pears.

These are chosen from three fairly self-explanatory sections on the à la carte titled Gascon, Season and Garden where prices ranging from £15 to £39 and order of appearance indicates whether a dish is designed as a first or main course. Daintiness is a watchword. Foams are not resisted and in tweely described Dover sole, crab and friends billows of bubbles contribute to a not-altogether-welcome retro feel. At the same time, Delia would reel away from the dots of sauce that spatter some plates.
I would love to give Pascal Aussignac four or five stars almost as much as I suspect he would like the Michelin Guide to give him a second after 16 years of holding just the one, but at present there is too much anachronistic folderol.


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