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Mother

Writing in the Telegraph, Kathryn Flett is disappointed by the soggy-based pizza made with Italian seawater on offer at Mother Battersea Power Station, London.

Underneath a railway arch – a slice of blessed Victorian artisanal integrity – we find Mother, the first UK outpost of a hip Danish pizza chain – a (forgive me) Scandizza joint. Why it has chosen to open here, in Shanghai-on-Thames, via Copenhagen and Napoli, I cannot fathom but it looks kind of groovy: a vast vaulted space with huge folding doors, a curvaceous bar and two big pizza ovens.

Apparently, Mother likes to add seawater to its dough. This sounds like trendy nonsense – and where does the water come from? Should I be popping down the road to my local beach and stocking up? “Oh no!” says Nick, appalled. “This seawater comes from Italy, and it’s filtered and purified.”

Call me stupid but isn’t another word for filtered/purified seawater “water”? And the addition of un-doctored seawater would presumably be a) horrible and b) bad for you. Whatever, maybe it will redefine sourdough and, as a result, rock my flatbread world?

Except it doesn’t. Of his margherita, my son observes: “It’s really burnt on the bottom and the top is too wet and stringy and there’s not much flavour. It looks nicer than it tastes – and it just tastes of burn.” I do marginally better with my choice, texturally, and the sausage is fine, however the base is also burned and there’s no escaping an all-round lack of taste. I slather it with (excellent) chilli oil, so that it tastes of chilli oil.


Two weeks into the grouse season, Fay Maschler of the Evening Standard heads to the Don in the city of London to experience the game bird prepared by executive chef Frederick Forster.

We are here for the grouse or — at £36, down from an initial £38 — one of us is. The description of accompaniments — celeriac, blackberries, parfait, Hermitage jus — suggests that a not egregious amount of fiddling around with the creature (always a hazard) has been going on.

Reg draws the long straw and he loves the grouse, which is cooked to just the right side of rare — the more so since a jug of bread sauce is also provided. My sister, who had her eye on a grilled half-lobster, noting that at £25, apart from the vegetarian option, it is the cheapest main course, chooses instead lasagne of rabbit with a roasted cep velouté, a sauce that also features strongly in my dish of hand-rolled linguine with sautéed wild mushrooms.

My recommendation based on this outing is start with crab — brown and white meat — and caviar, where the constituents are presented on shiny scallop shells accompanied by very pleasing tiny blinis, and follow that with grouse. Then summon the cheese trolley further to plunder the notable wine list.


Oystermen

Giles Coren of the Times revises his opinion of Xu in London and also visits newly opened the Oystermen in London WC2 and finds himself yodelling for more cooked oysters.

I went to Xu and carped a bit. I went with a very pregnant Camilla Long of The Sunday Times (who has since had the baby – hurrah!), who was somewhat boaked out by a few of the dishes, which I possibly allowed to influence me too much, without making adequate allowance for her condition. I promised I would return. This I did last week with a couple of friends and had as good an Asian meal as I think you can get in this town. Or country.

Standouts were the bak kwa, little chewy rectangles of pork, lamb and beef jerky with condiments; six chilled clams with a basil and chilli marinade, fresh as little fishy daisies; a baby tomato salad spruced with little cubes of smoked eel; crispy sweetbreads on fermented mustard greens; a wonderfully juicy shou pa chicken with crispy skin, dense flavour and incredibly soft breast meat; char siu ibérico pork much better than the first time I had it here, incredibly silky, rich and surrendered.

Restaurants I have previously razzed on opening and later fallen in love with include such stars of the London firmament as Locanda Locatelli and the Wolseley. And to them I now humbly bow and add Xu.

But I want to get the Oystermen right from the start and declare immediately that it is a cracker. It wasn’t oyster season, obviously, so there were no natives on offer. But this was the season in which they had chosen to open, so here I was. To make up for it, they had four different rock oyster options available and we ordered six Kumamotos that, to be fair, were pretty much as small and firm and sweet as a native, and I speak as one who doesn’t much go for rocks, all big and gobby as they tend to be, and at this time of year often so rich and milky as to feel like you’ve put a fresh duck egg in your mouth and bitten in.

They offered lemon slices, shallot vinegar, a couple of exceptional shop-bought hot sauces and a homemade chilli vodka, of which I poured myself a large shot in a glass grabbed from another table and threw it down my neck, which rendered me unable to speak for fully half an hour.

Then we had cooked oysters: two gorgeous hot buffalo ones, two au gratin with pancetta and fennel that gave a captivating salami flavour, and two tempura with caviar on top and a supersexy “champagne aïoli” underneath. These last were magnificent beyond the dreams of gluttony and I instantly yodelled for more. “And keep em coming, buster, if you know what’s good for you.”


Marina O’Loughlin of the Guardian marvels at the cheapness of the India Club on London’s the Strand and even though it isn’t “overwhelmingly great”, she wants to go back again and again.

Up two flights of what look like flophouse stairs, accessed via an easily missed entrance at the Aldwych end of The Strand, is a restaurant that has no business existing in the centre of one of the world’s most rapacious cities. Since 1946, The India Club has lived in the Hotel Strand Continental, an accommodation where you can rent four-person dorms “from £20 per bed per night”. Formerly a haunt of civil servants and diplomats from the nearby High Commission of India (including the Club’s founder, VK Krishna Menon), this unreconstructed canteen, with its mustard walls, wood-laminated tables and scab-coloured linoleum floors, was formerly a hotbed of political machination.

We’re encouraged to order the set lamb meal by our handsome, doleful waiter, bringing a succession of stainless-steel dishes: fresh, crisp poppadoms with little bowls of coconut and mango chutneys, a strident lemon pickle and sliced raw onion; onion bhajis and vegetable pakora; a mini masala dosa. Then rice, dhal, lamb curry, butter chicken and vegetable curry: there’s not much by way of messing around with fancy names here. This largesse costs a derisory £15 each.

We order an extra prawn bhuna, but it verges on nasty: the prawns with the translucency of the long frozen, the sauce both syrupy and harsh with green peppers. Their greatest culinary crime is naan, clearly recently liberated from its supermarket plastic shroud. So no, not overwhelmingly great.

Still, I go back again and again: once, due to non-specified “works”, the kitchen offers only vegetable curry; once, after a day spent entirely alone, for a solitary meal that might come to define “melancholy” in my mental filing cabinet of memories. I go back because I marvel at its cheapness bang in the centre of London. But mostly I go back out of deep affection. I love it in the same way I’m drawn to the novels of Anita Brookner or EM Forster.

The India Club is a curio, a living, breathing museum piece, a pearl: even the bill arrives yellowing at the edges. Stick to the lamb.


jean-georges

The Observer’s Jay Rayner enjoys Jean-Georges at the Connaught in London Mayfair – but baulks at the prices

One starter, tuna tartare on avocado with a spicy ginger sauce, is a Vongerichten classic. In New York the tuna comes as ribbons. At Spice Market they seemed to have put it through the blender. Here it’s a halfway house. There is bite to the tuna. What matters is the broth: a liquor full of depth and acidity, fire and vivacity. It is all there. By contrast salmon sushi ‘improved’ by deep frying the lozenges of rice is no improvement at all. It’s all kinds of wrongness in four easy mouthfuls.

We order the fontina cheese and black truffle pizza as a kind of mid-course. It is small; Domino’s still win the ‘feel the width’ contest. But it is also rather beautiful on its metal frame. There is a blistered crust, a shade of granite that co-ordinates nicely with the other guests’ pallor, and then there’s the hot cheese, drawing out to ribbons as you lift each piece. The truffle comes in waves. It’s preposterous, of course, the item I will be eating as western civilisation collapses. But ask me if I could image eating it again and sheepishly, I would say yes: if I was drunk enough in Mayfair, I would come here and drop the stupid money. And in the morning, I would hate myself. But we’ve all been there, eh?

The £25 hamburger would make me hate myself more. It’s served medium rare if you wish, despite Westminster Council’s threat of legal hellfire should you do so. There’s black truffle mayo, because any amount of black truffle justifies a price tag. There’s a slab of stinky Somerset brie and some pickles. Pull out a bit of the beef and it turns out to have something to say for itself, but it’s silenced by the haughty, bellowing company. By comparison a dish of two fat fillets of John Dory, with a fiery ginger chilli dressing, almost feels like good value at £28. It isn’t.


Lisa Markwell of the Sunday Times says Magpie in London Mayfair has enthusiasm and some terrific cooking, but isn’t entirely convinced by the concept.

So, we don’t know what the food is, how much of it there is, how much anything costs or how long the meal will take. And yet, and yet. Much of the cooking is alluring. By stealth, my chef friend finds a printout of the full, frequently changing menu, so we all immediately relax. Everyone feels better when they know what they’re eating.

Of all these, the standouts are fried chicken coq au vin, Japanese Caesar salad and beef tartare with taleggio. We’re told everyone is raving about the prawn toast with lardo and a jalapeño coriander ketchup, but it’s a bit grease-on-grease-on-frogspawn for me.

That chicken, richly marinated in a wine sauce before a blast in the fryer, is so good we call for two more while eating the first — who shares a saucer of fried chicken? The salad looks a bit, well, plonked down, but has thick slices of smoky Parmesan, confidently smoked eel and deeply savoury nori crisps that work beautifully with the dressing.

Bread is a punchy £3 a slice but, oh, the brown butter with it almost emolliates the price. Blissful, as are pork-trotter black rice arancini. But the little bits of this and that arriving every few minutes require lengthy explanation that stop any semblance of conversation stone dead. Our catch-up is decidedly staccato … and I still don’t know what kosho, ice plant or pepitas are.

In the gap between my visit and this review appearing, Magpie may have adjusted its MO. In fact, I really hope they do. There’s an enthusiasm to the enterprise and some terrific cooking. But they’ll need to turn it around quickly, or the food crowd will move on: next month, the brilliant Nieves Barragan, of Barrafina fame, opens Sabor on the same street.”


Another place

Will Ashworth, who has transformed the previously old-fashioned Watergate Bay hotel in Cornwall, into a trendy “ski resort on a breach”, has brought the same level of cool to Another Place, the Lake overlooking Ullswater in Cumbria, says Fiona Duncan of the Sunday Telegraph.

Another Place was previously Rampsbeck, like Sharrow Bay a traditional hotel on the shores of the region’s most stunning lake. Since they had only recently been lavishly redecorated, the 20 bedrooms in the otherwise revamped Georgian house have been left as Will found them, a nice nod to the past, though judiciously deswagged and upgraded.
In two sympathetic new wings, there are a further 20 bedrooms, cool, calm and seaside chic, including brilliant family suites and many rooms that are dog-friendly. Clasped between the two wings: a fabulous 65ft indoor pool, spa and gym.

There are also two restaurants, the slightly formal Ramsbeck and laid-back Living Space, plus a sitting room so cleverly designed that all ages feel instantly at home.
The London families who currently flock south to Watergate Bay will surely now turn north and flock here too, even if “fun in the rain” is more likely.
Rain or shine, activities at Another Place come first and no one seems to mind getting wet, There’s a great indoor/outdoor kids’ club for the children and kayaking, sailing, wild swimming and stand-up paddle boarding for all.

It’s early days for Cumbria’s first “lifestyle” hotel, Certainly the food needs to improve, and breakfast is not my bag: a nightmare of self-service waffle machines and tasters best suited to 25 to 50-year-olds. But I loved my stay, even though I’m way out of that age range (and so did my son, who isn’t).


Tom Chesshyre of the Times is impressed by the “brilliant food and comfortable rooms” at Hurley House, in Hurley, Berkshire, but warns that the rates and there is some road noise at the former pub which has been transformed into “a palace of indulgence”.

The bedrooms are very comfortable, decorated in neutral colours and with underfloor heating, air conditioning, fancy bathrooms (with Floris toiletries) and designer lights. All rooms have well-stocked minibars and slick little espresso machines. The king-size beds come with Hypnos mattresses, 1,000-thread count cotton linen and two types of pillow — one slightly thicker and good for reading in bed. The cheapest standard rooms start at £190 B&B midweek (or £230 B&B at weekends).

The restaurant is just off the bar, with green leather booths, tan leather chairs and star-shaped ceiling lights. This is discreet, opulent dining with the feel of a gentlemen’s club on Pall Mall in London. [Michael] Chapman’s menu is unfussy, with half a dozen starters, main courses and desserts. Expect, for example, wood pigeon with savoy cabbage, shallots and pickled blackberries to start, or rack of lamb with lamb broth and sheep’s milk curd as a main course.


© Giles Christopher - Media Wisdom Photography Ltd

Top quality food and décor at the Laura Ashley-owned Belsfield hotel in Bowness- on-Windermere, Cumbria is let down by a lack of restaurant staff, says the Independent’s Olivia Blair.

The decors of all 62 bedrooms are, unsurprisingly, designed by Laura Ashley – from the silvery velvet sofa to the large square mirror – and as such are all abiout the richly-textured, understated yet luxurious soft furnishings. The quality of the food is a definite selling point too, served in the main restaurant, which is strategically placed so guests can gaze out over the lake while dining. A five course a la carte menu is served; I’d recommend the scallops to start, while either the beef or blackened garlic arancini with artichoke make for an admirable main course.

Unfortunately, what the hotel boasts in quality of food and decor it lacks in service. Not because of the attitude or enthusiasm of employees, but owing to what appeared to be an incredibly short-staffed waiting team. Breakfast is only available for two hours at the weekend, which already jam packs everyone together, and a 10-person queue to be seated for a buffet breakfast did somewhat spoil the vibe of the plush interiors and chilled lakeside feel.


The Daily Mail’s Hotel Inspector can’t wait to disembark from the “faux-poshness” of the Sunborn Yacht hotel, berthed at the Royal Victoria Dock in London E16 disembark from the is a novelty that wears thin.

From its stern, there are terrific views of Canary Wharf, the Emirates Air Line cable car (hardly anyone on it), what was the Millennium Dome and, in the distance, the Shard. The staff are pleasant and it’s clean. But, my goodness, it’s an acquired taste. Blingsters will like the golds, the brass, the flashy chandelier above the spiral staircase, the cream panelling and sweet-and-sour shiny wood.

If you’re big on novelty hotels then this might do the business. For us, the novelty wears thin as soon as we enter our cabin and step up and over a tin skirting to reach the tiny shower room with its heavy, clanking door that never can be left ajar. Fair enough when you know you’ll be waking up in Santorini, but not great when you’re stuck in the Royal Victoria docks and planes are landing and taking off from nearby City Airport. And not when you’re paying £175 room only.


Hafod hotel

The previously “exhausted” Hafod hotel in Devil’s Bridge, Credigion, is in the process of being improved for the better, says Dixe Wills of the Guardian.

The renovated bedrooms have been transformed beyond recognition. Mine, the Duke of Newcastle, is light and bright, with contemporary furnishings, shutters on sash windows, black-and-white photos of local landscapes and an en suite wetroom with rain shower. There’s an exposed stone wall and a view of miles of greenery all the way to the Plynlimon peaks, source of the Severn, Wye and Rheidol rivers.

Dinner is in the Hafod’s fully refurbished high-ceilinged bar, with high-backed wooden chairs and a metal sign from a previous age claiming that Handel was inspired to write the Hallelujah Chorus while on the Hafod Estate. The bar is abuzz with local diners: though it must be said that we aren’t blown away by the food. To be fair, a message that I’m vegan hasn’t got through, so although a meze starter is good, my main of stuffed aubergines, skewered vegetables and grilled corn-on-the-cob is bland and my companion’s locally caught trout is disappointingly dry.