Alex Harper, Andre Garrett, André Garrett Restaurant, Butcher, chef, Cliveden House, Farmer, Goodwood Estate, James Ramsden, Jean-Georges at the Connaught, Magpie, Mark Jarvis, Neo Bistro, Picture Fitzrovia, Sam Herlihy, The Connaught, The Ox Club, the Royal Oak, Tuyo
The real scandal at Cliveden in Taplow, Berkshire is that André Garrett Restaurant has not yet won a Michelin star, says The Times’s Tony Turnbull
“It’s a spectacular room, walls the palest duck-egg blue, sunlight bouncing off gold-framed mirrors and massive chandeliers, and lots of velvet banquettes. I love a banquette. They add a touch of fin-de-siècle loucheness, especially when, as here, they are arranged throughout the room and not just pressed up against the walls like in a dentist’s waiting room. And in André Garrett, the room and the hotel have found a chef worthy of the space, as over the next two hours we enjoyed as faultless a lunch as you could wish for. Forget that Profumo business: the real scandal here is that Cliveden hasn’t won a Michelin star.
“We started with a girolle mushroom soup, rich and bosky and full of the forest floor; Loch Duart salmon, which was as pretty as a picture and fresh and sweet with fennel, avocado and orange; and a glorious ox tongue and foie gras salad, the tongue sliced so thinly you could savour all its gamey richness without the gag reflex you sometimes get when you place another animal’s tongue on your own. There was a mackerel salad as well, lozenges of lime-cured fish buried amid heritage tomatoes and gooseberry purée, but I’m not sure the sardine dressing wasn’t a piscine element too far.
“For mains, thick, sweet fillets of Cornish plaice with seafood bisque and pomme purée like liquid gold won out over sea trout with broad beans, peas and seaweed, but the chateaubriand was the star of the show. Sunday roast is always a tricky thing to pull off at this level. There’s the logistical problem that roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings can’t be cooked to order but equally don’t like to hang around, and then also the unspoken competition with every diner’s memories of childhood lunches at home. All I can say is if your childhood included roast beef like this, you were very lucky indeed.”
The Evening Standard’s Fay Maschler finds that small dishes soon add up to a mighty total at Magpie on London’s Heddon Street
“A synopsis of the culinary approach might be a small amount of a lead ingredient, a blob of smooth emulsion and something gritty for contrast. An example is beetroot/goat yoghurt/palm sugar and carrot vinny/roasted rice/fennel pollen. Squeezy bottles and the Tupperware boxes stacked high above the open kitchen facilitate plating. The temperature is almost invariably, of necessity, tepid.
“Offerings change, so I will mention the ones that for me ‘work’ reasonably well and just about survive being divvied up — as is the expectation. Beef tartare/taleggio/ French’s/shallot/yolk/truffle crisps at £7 possesses likeable zip and zing and instils longing for more.
“Fried chicken coq au vin (‘love in a lorry’ — Victoria Wood) at £7 points to a red wine marinade of the flesh beneath its dark crisp crumb coating. What is nicer than eggy bread? Well, maybe pain perdu/époisses/truffle/fried Brazil nuts at £10, which is royally rich and fragrant and has a defensible theory behind it.
“As well as the trolley and tray a few larger dishes under the heading ‘kitchen’ can be ordered separately. Lamb neck/kombu/broccoli/miso polenta at £17 jests with us in terms of quantity — two cubes of lamb, two branches of broccoli — and also the use of a thrifty cut that arrives tasting of nothing much.
“Rents are high in London W1 and staffing here is copious but these little dishes ticked off as if on a dim sum menu add up to an unconscionable total, bolstered, it must be said, by tempting cocktails and the nifty facility of wine on tap. ‘The lunatics have taken over the asylum,’ is my first text to a friend in the business. ‘Emperor’s new clothes,’ follows not long after.”
The Evening Standard’s Grace Dent falls for a glorious mishmash of flavours at Broadway Market’s Tuyo in London
“Tuyo is a new, gorgeous, neighbourhood-style sort of tapas bar. It is open all day. It takes reservations. It is reasonably priced. These are all notions that bring tremendous cheer to people not in the hospitality industry who simply want somewhere to go. I say it’s sort of tapas as Tuyo is a glorious European, Middle Eastern mishmash of small plates and pinchos, charcuterie and larger offerings such as sea bream with puy lentils.
“Expect small, utterly desirable sweet and salty croquetas made of northern Spanish Picos blue cheese with dates, but also, on the same list, a pretty dish of dill- and lime-cured salmon with beetroot served with raspberries, blackberries and yoghurt. Yes, fish with fruit. The chicken thighs come with honey-poached apricots. Stick that up your bodywarmer, Aunty Sheila from out of town, who doesn’t hold with this foreign food. This is London: we like our menus to be unashamedly, deliciously mongrel.
“My abiding memory of Tuyo is that everything arrived with an extra oomph. An oily seductive puddle. A blob of something curiously sweet and sour. Those croquetas, of which I could consume a dozen, appeared with cumin aioli and roasted walnuts. A humble sounding plate of falafel arrived in a gooey mess of black olive and piquillo tapenade. I didn’t expect to love Tuyo, or really to want to review it, but it sneaked into my heart because London is full of chefs who cook with no heart, making an opera of their meagre talents.
“We ordered tiny Bellota burgers; sliders dripping with agri-dolce onion and manchego. The salt cod was rather lovely, too, arriving with a garlic potato puree and festooned in coconut.”
Mark Jarvis and Alex Harper’s Neo Bistro in London Mayfair shows the Guardian’s Marina O’Loughlin that the bistronomy movement might have something going for it after all
“The bistronomy movement was one of the biggest revolutions to hit restaurants in recent-ish years. Hotshot young chefs, chafing against the tyranny of the toque and the dictatorship of the mainstream guides, ditched starched linen, lobster and foie gras, and launched stripped-back ateliers where they could wreak wizardry with le wasabi, turning everyone on to trotters and terrines. In Paris, that is. Here, it was less revolution and more ripple.
“It’s Harper in the kitchen (open, natch), and his menu is deceptively simple, often just two or three elements to a dish. Deceptively is the key word there: a starter of ‘baked beetroot with duck ham and cherries’ features several beetroot varieties, a bed of cherry puree painted on to the plate (not smeared, splatted or swooped: hooray!), the duck a sophisticated sibling to prosciutto, and the whole anchored by a resonant, unbilled bass note from blobs of duck liver parfait.
“Harper loves adding unexpected bursts of fruit: maybe melon and pineapple weed with prawns, or orange and elderflower with cured sea trout. Blueberries with parmesan gnocchi sounds just wrong, but is rather magical: fluffy-sticky-cheesy dumplings, the milky crunch of cobnuts and charred corn work surprisingly well with the pursed-lip sharpness of those berries.
“I wasn’t a massive fan of Jarvis’s rather austere Anglo, and while the Harwood Arms is impressive, well, it’s the full braying, red-trousered Fulham. This association has brought out the best in both of them: relaxed, approachable environment, beautifully assured cooking.”
Lisa Hilton reviews Farmer, Butcher, Chef at the Goodwood Estate in West Sussex, “a brilliant restaurant and a brilliant reason to visit Goodwood”, she writes in the Sunday Times
“Mamma’s main course of spiced lamb with tomatoes and runner beans was a little less pink than she would have chosen (our otherwise faultless waiter had neglected to ask about the cuisson), but the snappy freshness of the vegetables, also grown on the estate, set off the scented meat so well that it hardly mattered.
“I went for a more delicate choice, whole roast quail with sweetcorn, bacon butter and romaine lettuce. Quail can be underwhelming, decorative rather than sturdy, but this had gumption — juicy and almost honeyed.
“Although the restaurant’s focus is on meat, the vegetables are equals rather than sidekicks, singing through Bunn’s compositions as part of the whole rather than as a merely virtuous garnish. We tried crisp courgettes with a garlic dressing and a hash cake of potato and salt beef, both of which would have made a delightful lunch unadorned.
“Farmer, Butcher, Chef is a brilliant restaurant and a brilliant reason to visit Goodwood, even if you care nothing for cars or racing. ‘Locally sourced’, ‘organic’ and ‘hand-reared’ have become terms so fashionable as to be almost meaningless, but this food is made by people who don’t merely pay lip service to the effort and difficulty of its production, and their commitment and exuberance show on every plate. It’s sophisticated without fussiness, the simplicity and clarity of the flavours belying the elegance of the kitchen’s technique.”
The Observer’s Jay Rayner accidentally stumbles on Picture Fitzrovia in London and discovers a calm, quiet and understated restaurant with dishes that call to you loudly
“A piece of pork belly has been roasted and smoked, to produce a flavour halfway to bacon, without being bullying. There are green beans and then, to cut through the fat, pieces of pineapple and pickled red onion. I know all of these things are involved because it says so on the menu. On your fork, it’s just a bunch of flavours making sense together. It’s gammon and pineapple re-engineered for people eating behind picture windows.
“Caramelised onion ravioli in a sweet-sour tomato sauce, with some bitter leaf greens and lots of salty pecorino, is comfort food that doesn’t quite want to give you the full hug. True comfort food lulls you into the rhythm of eating it; this throws in the occasional brassic punch to keep you staring at the plate with pleasure. Of the fish courses, the most soothing is their own salt cod, whipped into mash, with a soft yolked egg, first boiled then breadcrumbed and deep fried, sitting on top. Broccoli is also involved but I barely notice; it’s the merry dance of the leaking yolk and the salt cod potato that detains me.
“Roast chicken has the kind of crisp golden skin you want to rip off with your fingers. It comes with a serious jus, the very essence of roasted chicken wing, girolles mushrooms and the sugary hit of seared sweetcorn. It is complex food, but not mannered; it’s the kind of cooking you both want to admire and eat.”
Writing in the Telegraph Kathryn Flett finds the informal gourmet dining on offer at Jean-Georges at the Connaught comfortable and beautifully executed.
“I fancied the truffled cheeseburger with Somerset brie, black truffle mayo, yuzu pickles and chips. Meanwhile, Dad took to the warm shrimp salad with tender lettuce, avo, tomato and champagne vinegar. We both liked the look of the mocktail mojitos.
“It was all very fine. The burger was as good as it ought to be and the chips were better. Dad was impressed by his salad – inasmuch as it is possible to be impressed by a salad – and we were united in admiration for the mockmojis. Service was perfect, the room filled up with many people a great deal younger than us for whom it was fun to create implausible backstories (something we’ve enjoyed doing together since about, ooh, 1967).
“And then came a fur-coat-and-no-knickers dessert of quite divine silliness – peach candyfloss with “redcurrant ginger juice”, peach sorbet, almond mousse and fresh and roasted peach – which arrived looking like Diana Dors but then – pouf! – melted away, after the application of its hot juice, to Shy Di nothingness. I’m not sure what culinary surrealism it is that Vongerichten is in the business of ‘fusing’ these days (my father had tapioca and summer berries); but like its hotel setting, it’s comfortable, beautifully executed and it works.”
Michael Deacon, writing in the Telegraph, is in two minds about the Ox Club in Leeds
“The menu is varied and changes daily. As usual, I asked the waitress what her favourite dishes were. She was only too happy to help. To start, she recommended the squid. It duly arrived, topped with sweetbreads, and floundering in a slick of black ink.
“Now, I’m not against squid ink per se. I remember having a terrific squid-ink risotto when I reviewed Oldroyd in London last year. This, though, I hated. It was foul. Sour, sullen and spitefully sharp, tarring the tongue like boot polish. Such a malign, grimacing bitterness. It was like licking the inside of a smoker’s lung.
“Don’t get me wrong. She was a great waitress. Warm, welcoming, friendly, helpful. It wasn’t her fault I didn’t like the squid. Nor was it her fault that I didn’t like the next dish she raved about, either: the cod collar, served in a hot sticky gloop full of ferocious chilli peppers. It tasted like angry jam. Angry, fishy jam.
“I don’t mean to make Ox Club sound like a terrible restaurant, though. It isn’t. I tried another main, the Iberico Secreto (a favourite of another waitress, said the first waitress). I loved it. Salty, punchy slivers of pork, with charred cider onions, hazelnuts and sorrel. Delicious.
“Tough one, this. The chefs at Ox Club definitely have talent, or they wouldn’t have been able to make something as lovely as the Iberico Secreto.
“On the other hand, I couldn’t stand the squid or the cod, and the cauliflower was a mystery to me. Still, the menu changes all the time, so maybe if I went another night I’d have a completely different selection of dishes, and love them.”
Tom Chesshyre of the Times describes Royal Oak in Bishopstone, Wiltshire, run by Helen Browning, chief executive of the Soil Association, as “a well-run, good value, down-to-earth pub with comfortable and stylish new rooms”
“What are the rooms like? They are in a building at the back of the pub’s gravel car park, beyond a pretty garden with roses and a small chicken coop. This was once another village pub, but it had gone into decline and Arkell’s bought it to turn into guest rooms. They are smartly decorated with interesting corrugated metal and reclaimed wood headboards, arty pictures of local scenes, cow-pattern wallpaper (in some rooms) and green velvet chairs.
“What is the food like? It’s organic, of course — and most of it is from Browning’s farm. The menu changes daily, depending on what is available. Expect dishes such as spiced lamb’s liver with tzatziki, grilled red onion and chilli butter; baked omelette with goat’s cheese; or strips of grilled rump steak with garlic butter and salad. My barbecue ribs with a rich, smoky sauce came with a side salad that had a good vinaigrette. My main of roast pork belly with couscous, smoked aubergine and grilled leeks was substantial without being too fatty. And I can recommend the vanilla panna cotta with raspberries.”
B&B doubles from £85