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Reviews: Parker’s Tavern feels like the restaurant of a chef who has learned to relax, writes Jay Rayner; while Fay Maschler feels Tamarind is lacking joy and exuberance

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Reviews: Parker’s Tavern feels like the restaurant of a chef who has learned to relax, writes Jay Rayner; while Fay Maschler feels Tamarind is lacking joy and exuberance

Parker’s Tavern feels like the restaurant of a chef who has learned to relax,” Jay Rayner writes of the Cambridge restaurant in The Observer

From the more restless part of the starters list, there is a whole quail, given a seeing-to by a crimson tandoori marinade so good it would get the nod from the Pakistani grill houses down London’s Whitechapel Road. It is a bold punch of roasted spice, garlic and ginger. I eat the bird with my hands until my fingers are stained red. Underneath is a rugged dal, alongside ribbons of cucumber in a yogurt dressing to cool things down.

But then comes a main course of chicken blanquette and now I want to bend the knee. It reads like an old stager but here it is shiny and new. Instead of the stew the word blanquette suggests, it’s a couple of braised legs, scattered with shavings of black truffle. There’s a pillow of mash so soft and luxurious you could put a baby down on it for a nap, and then another stupidly encouraging cream, butter sauce with just the right punch of acidity. And if this meal is starting to sound like it should come with a side order of statins, followed by a gentle chat with a dietician about life choices, it isn’t experienced like that. This is largesse, delivered daintily.

Starters £7-£16, mains £14-£26, desserts £5-£8, wines from £20


tamarind-mayfair

The Evening Standard’s Fay Maschler reviews the reopened Tamarind in London’s Mayfair, but feels the joy and exuberance are missing

Best of the dishes we try is a gajar halwa soufflé, based on reduced and sweetened grated carrots flavoured with cardamom served with bayleaf ice cream. Beaten egg whites cunningly provide extenuating circumstances for halwa’s rich fudginess.

Hyderabadi dal does not deserve the name of that city attached. All the items we choose are served in small grey Staub casseroles and further unified by the same orange hue of the sauces. Lasooni palak based on spinach is a welcome exception.

In what is maybe too much deliberation going into pleasing a diet-conscious cash-rich clientele, joy and exuberance — what is loved about Indian food — has gone missing.

Score: 3/5


caractere

The Guardian’s Grace Dent says Emily Roux and Diego Ferrari’s Caractère in London’s Notting Hill has a character all of its own

[Chef Diego] Ferrari has thrown off the fine-dining shackles and started serving a playful, satisfying bale of cacio e pepe “pasta” formed from celeriac. (So playful, in fact, that I read a great online kvetching session in which one diner moans that his pasta was far too al dente.) Before that, lest I forget, came a pre-dinner, complimentary “snack” of a mock Bourbon biscuit – larger, slightly salty, embossed with the word “bourbon” and piped with sardine paste. It was the culinary exploration that literally no one with tastebuds was crying out for. Not delicious, yet not wholly offensive, leaving one rather proud of one’s inner mettle for finishing it.

I had no such uncertainty about the perfectly sating marsala risotto made with acquarello rice – a type of aged carnaroli – and strewn with pink peppercorns. It’s a pink, wobbly blob on a plate, not dissimilar to something you’d see while flicking your TV remote past a show about surgery but, taste-wise, it’s quite breathtaking, with blobs of almondy praline and sticky, reduced wine.

About £55 a head à la carte, tasting menu £78, set lunch £39 for three courses, all plus drinks and service. Food: 8/10; atmosphere: 6/10; service: 4/10


peking-duck-angle-view-imperial-treasure

Giles Coren deems Imperial Treasure in London’s St James “top-notch Chinese” and “close to faultless”, writing in The Times

First out of the traps were steamed scallop dumplings with asparagus and bamboo shoots (£9 for three) off the new year menu. I thought, as I chewed, that the skin was a little thicker than you’d expect at this end of the market, but Marina (whom I think of as harder to please than me) was already in raptures.
“Oh God, that’s dreamy,” she said. “Yes, I suppose the skin could be a wee bit thinner, but the filling is just wonderful.”

And she’s right; it was. Especially with the chilli garlic sauce that tasted very freshly made, all its component parts just singing of their presence in the jam.

And then … Oh. My. Gosh. Crispy golden net prawn cheung fun (£9 for two rolls sliced into six). The outer layer of rice noodle was so thin and translucent that the leaves of coriander underneath were visible in stark, blue-green relief. Biting in, you came immediately to the fried, crisp, inner skin and then down into the rich, sweet prawns. Unbe-freaking-lievable. Slip, crunch, tangy, fat, gobble, gobble, faint. I have eaten some cheung fun in my time. A lot of cheung fun. All over the world. And none of it was fit to share a table with this stuff. Nine quid for six mouthfuls of genuine heaven. There is no maths to express what good value that is.

Cooking: 9; service: 8; space: 7. Score: 8


host-ilkley

The Sunday Times’ Marina O’Loughlin finds “nice people making nice food for nice customers” at Host in Ilkley, West Yorkshire

The food is mostly terrific: frilliest, laciest fritters of monkfish with malt vinegar mayonnaise, a light drift of vinegar and seaweed powders scattered around, a hugely effective play on the beloved fish supper. Or “scrumpets”: breaded cubes of fatty hogget, tiny things packing an immense, ballsy punch with their vivid mint relish. Duck leg is confit, then turned into a kind of light stew with sesame and salt-baked turnip, rounds of crisp turnip on top, a spritz of blood orange for lightness. Somehow they’ve managed to make this the uber-duck, duck squared, duckiest essence of duck. Impressive.

The kitchen, headed up by the owner and local boy Joel Monkman, can do vegetables too: the inevitable roasted cauliflower tarted into pungent lusciousness with Kashmiri spiced butter and fermented black garlic. Squash, both roasted and pickled, in a puddle of seductive smoked cheese custard, with almond dukka for spice and crunch. The parkin for dessert, gooey, gingery, treacly, is a Stonehenge of a thing, piped with thyme custard — they like a custard here, and fortunately so do I — flanked with great sweet-sharp batons of forced Yorkshire rhubarb. Host is not like a London sharing-plates restaurant where you find yourself eyeing kebab shops on the way home; these are Yorkshire-style sharing plates, where you find yourself needing a darkened room to recover.

Total: For two, without service charge £84.50


pasta-ripiena

The Telegraph’s William Sitwell weeps tears of joy over a plate of filled pasta at Pasta Ripiena in Bristol

It was the mezzaluna of black truffle and porcini that did it. A dish so naturally presented, the half-moon-shaped stuffed pasta with so many gorgeous bits everywhere, like a classroom of children where every one of them has their hand up and each has a good and original answer, and no one – not even the bullies at the back – is taking the mickey: just the right measure of olive oil; the Parmesan shavings gently melting; the truffle present, but not overpowering; rich mushrooms; the tomatoes oozing sweetness; some chopped chives adding bite.

This and a plate of anchovy, parsley and ricotta ravioli were the main courses at Pasta Ripiena, which means ‘stuffed pasta’. How far we have travelled from the days of tinned ravioli. It was as if some unscrupulous person sold these ‘Italian’ products to us ignorant Brits as a way of – successfully – besmirching the Italian food culture.

 

Score: 4.5/5. Price: £55 for dinner for two without drinks and service


“A warmly run endeavour doing fascinating, freewheeling things,” is how The Evening Standard’s Jimi Famurewa describes Moio in London’s Newington Green

A snack of ticklingly peppery Portuguese morcella sausage, served with the fruity jab of a smoked plum sauce and thickly seeded slices of bread, offered a strong if meagre start. Prettily layered foie gras terrine alongside tangy blobs of Roscoff onion sauce and tart pieces of pickled rhubarb, brought a careful balance of whacking great flavours and a paté with that mystical, whipped lightness.

Celeriac vichyssoise with frozen grapes, written down and grouped with other puddingy collisions such as hake and vanilla purée, sounded interesting and slightly El Bulli but also reminded me of that Friends episode with Rachel’s beef-laced English trifle. But when I tasted it? Oh, wow. Finished at the table with a dribble of vivid leek oil it was a warming, deeply creamy hug of a thing, with the joltingly cold detonation of those grapes providing a complementary hit of fresh sweetness.

A dynamite, salty-sweet accord between Iberia and Scandinavia, it was a reminder of Pinto’s crackpot ability, and it sent us back out into the downpour rooting for everyone at Moio. This is cooking that with a few tweaks, I think, deserves time to develop and evolve. Someone apart from N16’s sign designers ought to prosper at this address.

Ambience: 3/5; food: 3/5. Total: £100.50


market-halls-victoria

The Independent’s Ed Cumming finds London’s Market Halls Victoria a weird way to eat

The issue is not the range, or the atmosphere. When we went it was heaving, with most of the tables full. It’s just a weird way to eat. You go up to one or more of the counters, order and pay, then take one of those vibrating square buzzer things. When the buzzer sounds, you collect your tray.

In theory the system lets you sample a few different options, or cater to a big group with different tastes, but the buzzers pile up on your table and then go off at completely different times.

Dumplings came flying out of the kitchen almost at once, but a bowl of daal with roti took 25 minutes. It makes planning the meal difficult and wreaks havoc with conversation. You’ll be on the cusp of some spicy piece of gossip when one of the devices will spasm into life and you’ll have to hare it upstairs like a mother with a baby monitor.


HOTELS

vintry-and-mercer-superior-bedrooms-amy-murrell-2018-61

The Times’ Amanda Linfoot is won over by the sumptuous but small rooms and the comfortable beds at Vintry & Mercer in the City of London

[My room] had floor-to-ceiling carmine velvet curtains with a matching bedhead. The sofa was oatmeal tweed and the cushions gold and eau de nil velvet. Sumptuous is the word. There are free soft drinks and a Nespresso machine, and the green-tiled bathroom features Bigelow toiletries.

They tend to be on the small side — my deluxe suite, the second-largest category, felt like a normal-sized room — so upgrade if you like space. The best is Room 601, which has views of the Shard from its bathtub.

The beds are seriously comfortable, but the bells of the Wren church next door and the hammering of workmen scuppered my plans for a lazy morning.

Score: 8.5/10. Doubles from £175 on weekends and £285 on weekdays

 

 

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