Review of the reviews… what the critics say about Les Mirabelles and others

20 September 2006
Review of the reviews… what the critics say about Les Mirabelles and others

Daily Telegraph, 16 September
Belinda Richardson picks a plum of a restaurant deep in the woods of Hampshire's New Forest in Les Mirabelles, Nomansland

The home-made pâté is a thick terrine of mixed meats, mainly duck. Enshrined in a snow-white grease and accompanied by three gherkins, a plump pickled walnut and a sweet Cahors gelée, it turns out to be a good, comforting choice. To follow, a firm but flaky piece of cod in Parma ham for my companion and a titanic serving of guinea fowl for me. This bird has suffered from stiff competition with the chicken and the turkey but, when properly barded and larded and served moist, as it is here, it more than proves its worth. Laquered in a rich tarragon and oyster-mushroom sauce, it is a meal in itself. Neither rive-gauche café nor bourgeois dining room, this is a provincial bistro with nothing to prove. Every good neighbourhood deserves a restaurant like this. (Two-course lunch for two £30, excluding drinks and service)

The Guardian, 16 SeptemberMatthew Norman finds a chef in a hurry and a waitress of few words at Tatler's in Norwich

"The chef," she said, ushering us to a table, "must leave at 2.20pm. He has an appointment." Slightly against the run of play for a man in a tearing hurry, the chef did an adequate job, with a set menu full of those familiar, slightly passé eclectic twists. In fact, he might have shaved a few minutes off the cooking time for my Thai crispy beef salad, the meat being slightly dried out, but the cucumber, mint and chilli dressing was good and authentic. Quick we certainly were, bolting down four prettily presented puds, of which the highlights were a glorious cinnamony cherry Bakewell tart and a terrific baked white chocolate and banana cheesecake. (Three out of 10; two-course set lunch, £14, or £18 for three courses)

Independent on Sunday, 17 September
Terry Durack is in Portugal to check out Lisbon's only Michelin-starred restaurant, Eleven

First courses run up to £26 and main courses to £28. I seek economic refuge in the Menu Eleven, a five-course set menu for £47, and get off to a good start with the first amuse-gueule - a delicate tuna tartare, a mussel with red pepper, and a tiny veal pie arranged on footed Chinese spoons. Even better is a bright little dish of razor clams, served chopped in the shell with a snappy tomato sauce and arranged on a light ginger foam. Next, an "avocado cannelloni" - a tight wrap of spring-green avocado around good crabmeat, served with a light orange syrup and a crunch of crisped bread corralling a small leaf salad - is all very textural, fun and fresh. Everything works - logically, technically and aesthetically -but something is missing, and I think it's something essentially Portugese. (Rating, 15 out of 20; around £135 for two, including wine)

The Observer, 17 September
Jay Rayner tastes the bread of heaven at Y Polyn in Cepel Dewi, Carmarthenshire

I was in bread heaven. This [bread] tasted and smelled like Poilâne, the king of sourdough breads, a loaf of which can cost a tenner. But we're well off Poilâne territory. The menu - three courses for £26 - is well thought-out. No flights of fancy, nothing served in shot glasses, just a bunch of pleasing bistro classics using good produce. A chicken liver parfait, with a plum-and-apple chutney, was what that sourdough bread was invented for; soft and light, without denying its ripe offal origins. The fish soup was both powerful and comforting, with the dense texture of its ingredients. Y Polyn is a model of its kind. (Meal for two, £45, including wine and service)

Sunday Telegraph, 17 September
Zoe Williams thinks the food is so-so at Cotto in Cambridge

A good restaurant in Cambridge will stick out a long way, and Cotto has already got quite a name. Its style is minimalist, modern but not profligate or showy. All its produce is organic, local, etc, etc. My mother had a soup of tomatoes, extravagantly adjectivised (chilled, wood-roasted, plump) but simply dressed with olive oil and basil. It was intensely tomato-y. I had the tagliatelle "rolled to order", with pesto and courgette, which was underwhelming and in need of something to cut through the oil. (Rating, five out of 10; three courses, £25.50)

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