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Serge et le Phoque - Monkfish with cesign raddichio and bottarga

Grace Dent reviews the “luxurious” Serge et le Phoque in the London Evening Standard

This is how you whip through £300 in a luxury, French-influenced, Euro-elite magnet like Serge et le Phoque. The water is Nordic Still and costs £9, although, to be fair, they did not charge us for the large squares of dry-looking focaccia. We shared a bottle of the most cost-friendly Pinot Grigio at around £45, and quickly, as the starters appeared, realised we’d need another. A ceviche of Sicilian red prawn and turbot with passionfuit was genuinely delightful. Sharp, meaty, welcome. Another starter of a pale Cévennes onion soup lacked any meaningful trace of onion, but definitely boasted several assertive olives. The foie gras starter was as life-enhancing as tiny cubes of liver diced into a clear broth, poured from a white china teapot, can possibly be.

We ordered a main of pigeon with arroz negro and boudin noir, a small plate of darkly umami protein and carbs that left my guest wondering why I’d spent 24 hours fighting for his seat (to which the answer is: ‘Shut up and eat your tiny bowl of grilled broccoli with sesame’). My monkfish was delightful, because monkfish is always delightful. It came with radicchio, which we can’t hold against it. Small suggestions of trimmed lamb sat close to puddles of pommes purée and slivers of smoked eel. We left two puddings — a rejigged rhum baba and a titivated crème brûlée — largely abandoned.

We had spent £300 including £33 pounds service. It all felt so luxurious.


The Kitchen Inverness

Following a disappointing lunch at Boath House, the Observer’s Jay Rayner finds solace in dinner at the Kitchen in Inverness

A few weeks ago Boath House, a handsome grey stone hotel and restaurant 20 miles outside Inverness, announced it was abandoning the six-course tasting menu which had helped it keep a Michelin star for a decade. Maintaining the aesthetic demanded by the tyre company was just too expensive… All I can say is that if this is informality, I would not have been psychologically equipped to cope with the previous regime.

That night, back in Inverness, I grab a late supper at the Kitchen restaurant, a tottering modernist brasserie overlooking the river, and thank God for it… Is it artful and striking? Is it surfing the wave of newness and pushing the culinary envelope? Is it hell. It’s dinner.

There are long-braised beef cheeks glazed with an intense seafood bisque in a way that shouldn’t work but does. All that shellfish reduced to its essence brings a huge umami boost to these glossy balls of fragile meat. It’s a true surf and turf. A little grated horseradish stops the whole affair from tipping over into cloying.

There are slices of venison which are a perfect bloody pink at the eye, and roast potatoes that demand your attention. At the end there is an Orkney fudge cheesecake, which are surely three words that belong together. We are told it is made by the Kitchen’s general manager, that she often makes the dessert of the day. As we’re leaving we thank her for it and she blushes. The Kitchen does what a good restaurant should do: it really does send you out feeling better about the world than when you went in, possibly helped by a list of utilitarian wines most of which are available by the glass and half carafe.


The Coal Shed One Tower Bridge first floor

The Evening Standard’s Fay Maschler is surprised to find that the menu at the Coal Shed in London is a festival of the potential in vegetables

The Coal Shed’s menu turns out to be an unpredicted festival of the potential in vegetables. A prime rib shared (700g at £56) is a treat and a great piece of meat — especially when dragged through charcoal Béarnaise — and venison two ways with salsify, Roscoff onions, figs and happily undetectable chocolate is much liked, but just as seductive and naturally much cheaper are side dishes of coal-roasted carrots mashed with crème fraîche and sumac; creamed spinach bolstered with three cheeses and garlic; a salad of butterhead (aka English or round) lettuce and chives with a Dijon mustard dressing and exemplary chips fried in beef dripping, sprinkled with smoked salt. Adding in the side not tried of mash with burnt ends and bone marrow (£5) you can see the makings of an alternative meal — one perhaps not so attractive to the management.

Doing our duty by protein we also discover pleasure in Norfolk quail accompanied by merguez sausage, quince and soured cream; a DIY veal tartare with a sprinkling of coal as well as the more usual asides and condiments to stir in; a luscious octopus tentacle running through a gamut of textures dependant on girth reclining beside aubergine and kombu (seaweed).

Here is a savvy kitchen, maybe even a millennial kitchen, open to global influences but not overcome. Within the general encouragement to share is Moroccan spiced smoked goat with flatbreads, aubergine, tahini, chickpeas and harissa yogurt and on Sundays a 35-day dry-aged roast sirloin of beef with the traditional accoutrements.


Home Elizabeth Cottam

The Guardian’s Rhik Samadder wonders just how much like home Home in Leeds can be and while it scores highly with some dishes, the batting average isn’t great. Oh, and stay away from the potato foam

Behind a discreet door on Kirkgate, Leeds’ oldest street, stone steps wind up to a grey-walled bar with parquet floor, 70s pastiche furniture and nana plates on the walls. It could be a home but looks more like a shoot in Wallpaper* magazine. My companion A, a south London rudegirl somehow turned CEO, captures its slightly precious chic: ‘It’s the lounge of a rich, fortysomething man who works in the creative industries and doesn’t want his girlfriend to move in.’

The reception can’t be faulted, though. We’re presented with nicely peppery (and nicely complimentary) G&Ts and ‘snacks’: local caviar, truffle-y cauliflower cheese tartlets, lozenges of duck terrine. It’s a nod to a domestic dinner party – drinks and nibbles on the sofa before the main event – and we love it. In the dining room itself, wicker ceiling shades float like a balloon race over live edge plates and genuinely elegant sofa seating. It is, in a word, nice.

Yet one holds food this ambitious (a 10-course tasting menu is the standard dinner offering) to a higher standard, where nice won’t cut it. Brown bread with beef butter and rib scratchings over-promises, being dripping on a mini-roll. We get into it with suckling pig beignet, an unctuous parcel with a little Asian tickle from turmeric-pickled apple dice. It’s good, but – and this is a persistent issue – tepid as a third-hand bath. A bland mushroom jumble follows, featuring a tarragon sponge that’s hard, green and chewy, like a washing-up scourer dried on the side of the sink. Carrot and celeriac cubes with radish, chaperoning a cheddar-topped, tepid eel, are gussied up coleslaw with nowhere to go. I’m in Leeds, I wail, I want something hot. But we’re yet to reach the nadir. That comes with beef short rib and blow-torched shallots. Both fine, but accompanied not with a mound of buttery mash, but – hold me – an urn of creamed potato foam. This is gastromolecular Smash, potato divorced from its natural texture; the tongue chases the sadistic cloud around the mouth, failing to find some comfort on which to alight. I weakly argue for its playful dissonance, but A, already piqued by the absence of gravy, has reverted to her roots: ‘Sorry, but that looks like spunk.’ It’s a body blow.

But just as in the myths, once hope is lost, hope stirs. The kitchen must have warmed up, because lemon sole poached in beurre noisette is the first hot thing we eat: it’s extravagantly rich, despite the lemon finish. The wild mallard that follows is better again, gamey and unpredictable, spiced with coriander and mustard seeds, sitting on marmalade, with a duck leg sausage wrapped in ribbon potatoes. Now we’ve got a game.

The puddings are a home run, but the batting average isn’t great. Still, I like Home and its emphasis on the seasonal and local, with much of the produce from nearby Harewood House. So far, this is no place like home, and if my mother served me that potato foam, I’d have her up before the Hague.


Cub Hoxton

The Sunday Times’s Marina O’Loughlin is left feeling peckish after a meal at Cub in London’s Hoxton

In his [Doug McMaster’s] cooking, too, ‘by-products’ turn into stars: ‘Parsley root, redlove apple, turbo whey’ features the crisp, unusual vegetable topped with slivers of a pink-fleshed apple arranged like petals, the whole thing bathed in whey left over from Neal’s Yard Dairy’s cheesemaking process, reduced until it has all the nutty caramel of brown butter. Only lighter, fresher, more savoury: I could drink this like soup. There’s cauliflower cut into a ‘steak’ and surrounded by a purée of fermented black garlic — a juggernaut of flavour — under shavings of English feta; it’s hoary old cauli-cheese reinvented by maniacal goblins. In a good way.

I’m aware that a lot of this sounds like I’m making it up simply to enrage the kind of restaurant-goer who’s not comfortable without club seats, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and a nice-steak-with-the-chicken-for-the-laydee. But you’ll just have to believe me. Cub may be curious, but it’s also rather magical.

After an exquisite dessert — silky ice cream in which the barley used for whisky-making has been steeped and removed, so only a fleeting smokiness remains, slicked with intense fig-leaf oil and hiding a mulch of apple purée — we’re still a bit peckish. And, despite five of their ‘good things to drink’, not in possession of even the mildest buzz.

Cub is exhilarating and inspiring; they say they’re ‘blurring the boundaries’ and I guess, in their deliciously head-scratching way, they are. I loved McMaster’s work at Silo, but here he’s taken it beyond — waaaay beyond. I recommend it for anyone interested in the direction that food is going, and as a lesson in how we can create less waste in our lives. But I can also heartily recommend hitting up Monty’s Deli and a fat, juicy reuben for dessert.


Rowley Leigh is one of Tony Turnbull’s favourite chefs of all time, but Parabola on the top floor of the Design Museum in London’s Kensington High Street is let down by poor service and an inhospitable setting, he writes in the Times

We were in Kensington High Street. Or at least I was. In Parabola, on the top floor of the Design Museum, which has just been put under the stewardship of Rowley Leigh, one of my favourite chefs of all time, the man by whom for many years all other restaurants were judged.

When Parabola first opened a year ago, it had a roster of guest chefs of whom Rowley proved the most popular, so I guess they are hoping the big beast can pull it off one more time, drawing the punters into what is, in the evening, a remarkably inhospitable space. You sure as hell can’t rely on footfall to fill those tables. The trouble is, you can’t help feeling Rowley is cooking with two arms tied behind his back. Perhaps they are not allowed to tamper with the lighting, but the poor service is entirely self-inflicted. It shouldn’t be difficult to get attention in a half-empty restaurant, but we spent a full 15 minutes trying to catch someone’s eye to get the drinks list. Then, when they did bring it, it was missing the page with all the wines. Twenty minutes with no drinks, no bread, just the bright lights for company, was no way to put us in the mood for an evening out. Service did pick up as the meal went on, but the damage had been done.

Highlights included a starter of raw tuna with ginger, which is as voguish as Rowley gets: nine slices of good fish with a dressing that was full of zing but well-mannered enough not to talk over its escort. Rosy pink slices of wild duck draped over dandelion and blueberries was a textbook exercise in bitter and sweet (and the accompanying croutons were the only bread we saw all evening – whether by design or because they forgot to offer us any, I don’t know). A bowl of ribollita was not quite at River Café levels of simple comfort, but it was good enough to provide succour on a November night, and scallops with girolles and persillade was majestic. Rowley’s always known how to get the best from a scallop and he hasn’t lost his touch.

For mains there was a fillet of wild sea bass with sweet and sour Swiss chard; rib of beef with radicchio and a slick of valpolicella reduction (if this is starting to sound like a simple listing, it’s because Rowley’s food is like that – it tastes precisely of what it says, nothing more, nothing less, with no embellishment necessary).

Then it was back through the echoing silence of the museum, and time to reflect on how Rowley may still be cooking the kind of food I want to eat; he’s just doing it in a restaurant I have no wish to eat it in.




Sherelle Jacobs of the Sunday Telegraph finds Bedruthan in Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, to be more hippie than hipster, with a slightly frayed charm

Interiors look like some something conceived by a psychedelic knitting class: patchwork purple sofas; candy-striped armchairs; more shades of hot pink than the Mac counter in Selfridges. Cushions are snitched with the kind of groovy patterns that Elton John cuts his suits with.

The building – a sprawling compound with fraying carpets – has the slight whiff of a shabby university complex. Retro touches – a jukebox here, a Twenties radio there, are less self-consciously cool in effect, more charming curiosity shop. As a Tooting-dwelling 20-something who has to deal with more exposed hipster-style brick than your average builder, I loved Bedruthan’s vibe, It was a breath of fresh air.

Locally sourced grub was pleasing. Juicy scallops the size of goldfish with smoky horseradish puree; and pigeon breast with lusty blackcurrant reduction and nuanced sage granola particularly impressed. The trendy bar delivered rhubarb gin cocktails to the soundtrack of Eighties music.

Doubles from £156 per night, including breakfast