Reviews: 'pescivorous treat' at Barrafina, says critic

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Barrafina Adelaide Street
Giles Coren has a pescivorous treat at the second outpost of Barrafina on London's Adelaide Street, hot on the heels of the original site on Frith Street being awarded a Michelin star.  

Writing in the Times, he describes the two best dishes he has eaten all year: ortiguillas (sea anemone) and the kidneys of milk-fed lamb

"The anemone was breathtaking. It was served as five little deep-fried nuggets in a paper cone and had the consistency, texture and even flavour of lamb's brains, but with a greenish hue and then just a hint, no more than a hint, of the sea. I had expected something more like urchin, but this was nothing like so fishy: a spark from the wedge of lime, salt and crispness from the crumb, and then a mouth full of ozone, the loneliness of the Atlantic, a whole new seafood adventure. 

"The Spanish think we are total fishtards, with our fear of flavour and hankering after the white and bland, and I cannot argue with them."

Michelin Guide New York 2015: Daniel loses a star

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Daniel NYC
Michelin has just released its 2015 Guide for New York, and Great Britain and Ireland can take some solace from the fact that there weren't any new three stars there either.

While The Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare, Le Bernardin, Eleven Madison Park, Jean-Gorges, Masa and Per Se all held onto the top honour, Daniel, a French restaurant owned by chef Daniel Boulud saw one of its three stars, which it had held since 2010, deleted.
Perfectionists' Cafe
Heston Blumenthal's latest airport outpost, the Perfectionists' Cafe at Heathrow Terminal 2, is just the tonic to settle pre-fight nerves, says the Independent's Tracey Macleod, "offering perfect versions of casual classics". 

The everyday staples "painstakingly researched and reconstructed to be as near as possible perfect" include Extraordinary Fish and Chips, which features haddock fried in beer batter "extruded from a syphon for maximum crunch and served with a phial of pickled onion vinegar to spray around" causing Macleod to declare it "the best I've ever tasted".

She concludes: "It's a place a time-pressed traveller could pop into for a beer and a pizza, or kill an hour or two before a delayed flight. We even found ourselves planning a holiday from T2, just so we could come back with the kids. But maybe we won't need to. Given the work that's gone into it, how long can it be before this almost-perfect Perfectionists' Café takes off and lands elsewhere?"

Van Zeller's
The Guardian's Marina O'Loughlin revisits Van Zeller's in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, and is once again impressed by culinary pyrotechnics of a chef she thinks is "up there with the country's finest". 

She writes: "Van Zeller's creations do a high-wire act between thoughtful and playful, while never being anything other than an utter pleasure to eat. And to gaze at. He paints pictures with food, and not in a wanky way that conjures up images of tweezer abuse and a lot of heavy breathing over plates. The flavours he wrangles out of humble ingredients - carrot, onion, salmon skin - are little short of miraculous. What I love most about the food here is that it's of itself. Sure, it's ambitious and complex, but you don't find yourself prodding at overprocessed ingredients or sniffing foams wondering whether they're parsnip or tonka bean. A duck dish is as haute as you like - a slab of perfectly pink breast, the skin seared into crispness, the fatty liver wrapped in a coat of confit leg meat, endive roasted until it has notes of caramel and liquorice, intense, almost chocolately onion puree - but there are also perfect lobes of ripe, luscious greengage, straight off the tree." 

Alain Ducasse by Bruno Cordioli
Alain Ducasse - photo by Bruno Cordioli (Flickr)

Multi-Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse is among a group of four French chefs seeking a waiver on the banned-delicacy ortolan.

The small songbird, when available, was traditionally prepared by force-feeding it until fat, before soaking it in Armagnac brandy and roasting it whole in the oven. The diner would then eat the bird in its entirety while wearing a large napkin over their head.

Some say the napkin custom serves to seal in aromas, while others argue that it hides the messy business of eating it. Another so-called benefit often offered up is that it conceals the diner's greed from God. 

Ortolan has been banned from most European menus since 1999, though in France, the law wasn't fully enforced until 2007. 

The four chefs are set to lodge a request for a waiver that would allow ortolan to be served one day or one weekend a year, according to Le Parisien newspaper.

Former French president François Mitterrand is believed to have feasted on the seed-eating bird as part of his last meal before he died in 1996 of bowel cancer.

Ortolan bunting - by Isidro Vila Verde
Ortolan Bunting - photo by Isidro Vila Verde (Flickr)


L'Anima Cafe
Marina O'Loughlin visits L'Anima offshoot, L'Anima Cafe, in London's EC2 where huge flavours stomp over her tastebuds with "gnarly abandon". Unfortunately though, soul is in short supply.

"We have hunter's stew (alla cacciatora) of rabbit, vinous and super-salty and distinctly autumnal; and unpeeled, roasted red and yellow peppers sandwiching an overbearing dollop of cheese and tomatoes and salty croutons. When a pizza - airy, elastic base, blistered, smoky finish, tomato-free and topped with cheese, coarse-grained sausage and broccoli - is the subtlest dish ordered, there's cause to marvel," she writes in the Guardian. "At 2.15pm on the dot, the place empties - it's the City, remember - and the restaurant's innate canteen-ishness is thrust into stark relief. L'Anima Cafe comes across as something designed by a property developer rather than the committed, passionate chef we know Mazzei to be, more a case of "What can we bung in here?" than "What can we do that's really good?" 

Typing Room
The Guardian's Marina O'Loughlin finds that the food at Lee Westcott's the Typing Room in what used to be Nuno Mendes's Viajante at the Town Hall hotel in east London is, with one dramatic exception, "bloody marvellous".

"The food that issues from [the kitchen] is, with one dramatic exception, bloody marvellous. We don't order the tasting menu, but by the time we've been encouraged to order a dish from each of four sections by a twinkly Russian waiter, we might as well have. Our 'snacks' are choux profiteroles topped with a sultry black olive emulsion and stuffed with a rich courgette and basil mixture that cleverly apes creme patisserie; and a lettuce leaf brimming with gorgeousness - the pungency of smoked eel, the pop of raw peas, a whip of wasabi and the sharp fragrance of a lemon almost-curd. 

"The presentation is as beautiful as a bouquet. I love this. I'm also keen on raw beef, shredded rather than minced, with a forest of sorrel and crunch of panko on top. And I nearly love baby monkfish, with its curious, pungent accompaniments of fermented endive, glossy broccoli puree, bitter orange and curry spicing."
Cafe Football
The Evening Standard's Grace Dent heads to Giggsy and Nevillesy's Cafe Football at Westfield Stratford but finds herself giving the food a red card

"There's nothing I don't love about this concept. Except, that is, the food. I am mystified by what I was fed, particularly as the website gushes of 'great, handmade food' that can be enjoyed by 'football fans and foodies alike'. A starter of The Treble pies was a miserable array of microwaved limp pastry, which we had to cross-reference with the menu to ascertain the filling. The tiny pies arrived steaming in a cardboard frame, fresh from the microwave. Some spindly, chewy, formerly frozen salt and pepper squid arrived lying on a bed of supposed spring onion and coriander dressing. So far this was the perfect storm of bad produce and uninterested kitchen assembly staff."
Midsummer House
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth on Food

Midsummer House scores a perfect 5/5 from The Telegraph's Matthew Norman, discovers a series of highly wrought masterpieces of taste, presentation and sheer theatre at his second visit to Daniel Clifford's two-starred Cambridge restaurant.

Four years after he reviewed Midsummer House for the Guardian, Norman finds that even if he had a word count of 9,000, he still wouldn't be able to do justice to his complex and theatrical lunch.

"A 10-course meal sandwiched between the best sourdough bread I have tasted and a range of exquisite amuse bouches at one end, and an array of gorgeous chocolates at the other, leaves no space to dwell on each dish. So take on trust that those which go unmentioned were great, and leave me to concentrate on the simply superb," he writes. "Confit jowl of pork, with iberico ham in a buttermilk reduction, topped by the crispest of crackling, was staggeringly melty-sweet. A sautéed scallop of a size to put you in mind of mutant shellfish after a thermonuclear war was sweeter still. The notion of serving that with something as potentially overpowering as black truffle shavings seemed outlandish: in fact the combination, leavened by apple jelly, worked sublimely so that each ingredient drew out the flavours of the other."

He adds: "It pays testament to Clifford's remarkable lightness of touch that, despite a lavishness that puts other tasting menus to shame, we managed to put away his chocolates; and then to reach the car without any need for an air-sea rescue helicopter and its winch."
RotorinoStevie Parle, The Observer's young chef of the year in 2010, has a lot to live up to at his new place, Rotorino, in Hackney. But does he manage it, asks Jay Rayner?

"Pig's head croquettes are too much underseasoned jelly, not enough meat and way too much casing. These have been egged and floured as if in preparation to be used as projectiles. We take refuge in a pleasant watermelon and tomato salad with a hit of blue cheese. When you nod approvingly over a bunch of things on a plate you know there's a problem.

"And then you get to the sunny uplands of the middle dishes, and there is Parle's familiar spark and twinkle. A pasta dish of tiny shells with long-braised ground sausage, a little chilli and crisped breadcrumbs is what carbs were invented for. There is a thick, starchy broth that binds every shell to the next. We chase the last fabulous crumbs about the dish and feel nurtured. A special of seared veal kidneys, speared on a rosemary twig with cubes of deep-fried bread, the lot blanketed with a brilliant salsa verde, bright with the salty hit of capers, is a simple joy. A burrida of white fish and clams in a chickpea broth is another glorious thing, and a reminder of why we all took Parle to our overfed hearts in the first place."

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