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."


The Palomar Interior450.jpg



















Zoe Williams of The Telegraph is not impressed either by the sharing menu at the Palomar (pictured above) in London's Rupert Street, nor by the 'strange' site in which it sits.

With her companion comparing the look of the restaurant to that of a "converted newsagent", Williams, who says she left unhappy and hungry, criticises it for ungenerous portions and high prices: "Either up the prices and serve proper amounts, or drop the prices and make genuine "small plates". This halfway house, nothing quite large enough to share, everything feeling much more expensive than its ingredients could ever warrant, is not on."
Fischer's
Chris Corbin and Jeremy King have brought the Golden Age of Austria back to life at Fischer's restaurant in Mrylebone, according to The Independent's Amol Rajan. 

Himmel und Erde (heaven and earth) is a rich black pudding on apple sauce "making the name only half-right: this is pure heaven, as long as you're not one dose of cholesterol from heart failure" and the wiener "is spot-on: thin-cut, coated in a crisp but non-oily batter, and generously portioned". 

"As ever with Corbin and King, the attention to detail is all," adds Rajan. 


The Guardian's Marina O'Loughlin also visits Corbin & King's new venture Fischer's, which she finds is that rarest of things: "cool and timeless". 

"Despite being spanking new, it looks like a grand 1920s Viennese cafe: it'll make ancient me feel right at home. Corbin & King just get better and better. Their fetish for Mitteleuropa continues, the food as much of a homage to old Austria as the decor. There are schnitzels and fat, smoky sausages, sauerkraut and strudels. It's all delivered with their trademark, almost maniacal attention to detail: solid flatware and monogrammed crockery; silvered serving dishes and tea strainers; lemons wrapped in muslin. As ever, it looks as though they've ransacked a mythical grand hotel." 
Dysart
Anyone who is sniffy about the suburbs is missing a trick when it comes to the Dysart in Petersham, Surrey, where Marina O'Loughlin enjoys Kenneth Culhane's cooking in this "bloody good posho restaurant".

"That it's no common or garden boozer is evident in, well, the garden. From this lush exuberance chef (and former Roux Scholarship winner), Kenneth Culhane gathers herbs and leaves and edible flowers for his meticulously presented dishes. You can gauge the poshness by the freebies," she writes in The Guardian

"Canapés: buttery parmesan shortbread topped with leaves of piment d'espelette jelly. Amuses: peeled cherry tomatoes in a relish made from cornue des Andes (chilli-shaped tomatoes of sweet intensity) with blobs of olive oil "jam". And petits fours: squares of vivid fruit jelly and salted caramel truffles. This has destination dining writ large over the flagstones and heritage colour charts." 
Barrafina
The new Barrafina Adelaide Street is a fabulously good place to have a vivacious, ambrosial and, incidentally, healthy meal. The Evening Standard's Fay Maschler urges diners to queue patiently.

"The crushed tomatoes and the seasoning of them exhibit the perfect simplicity -- or deceptive simplicity -- that underpins the whole meal. It is a rare and rousing quality seldom experienced in big city restaurants, more often furnishing the stuff of holiday nostalgia. Tranche of turbot occupies the minute window of opportunity between too rare to bow to a knife and too done to capitalise on its opalescent imperviousness. A slug of ajillo (olive oil, garlic, flat-leaf parsley) given a kick with chillies coats but doesn't muffle the bold burnished piece, plenty  for two to share -- although I did slightly regret not taking the "big half" for £24.80."

Time Out's Guy Dimond also heads over to Barrafina Adelaide Street where the list of sherries, cavas and other wines by the glass are as much of a draw as the food, and perfect for experimenting with as you nibble. 

"Escalavida con pan de coca combines a firm Mallorcan bread base (the 'pan de coca' bit, like a flatter, chewy ciabatta) with a topping of chargrilled aubergine, peppers, onion and garlic, the smoke from the grill permeating the vegetables. The grill is still a core part of the Barrafina formula, for example in pintxos morunos, little pork kebabs which were tender and very moist," he comments. "These little snacks are tempting and delightful, but watch out if you're properly hungry, as the bill adds up fast. A solitary courgette flower, stuffed with soft white cheese and drizzled with honey, was a seasonal treat and winning combination of savoury and sweet, but is no bargain at £7.80."  


Ham Yard
Tim and Kit Kemp's Ham Yard hotel in Soho might be "a pleasure palace complete with roof garden, theatre, screening rooms and even an original Fifties bowling alley" but it's restaurant doesn't impress the Independent's Tracey Macleod. 

The menu features "distinctly clean food, short on carbs and long on salad", with mains that were "subtle to the point of being forgettable", though a starter of minestrone "was a fine thing, the broth slick with grassy basil oil".

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