The Scotsman, 16 December
Emma Cowling discovers tasty food at competitive prices at the Old Armoury, Perthshire The service here is incredibly friendly. The focus is on good food, cooked well and served up with a smile. I opted for the braised shoulder of lamb wrapped in Savoy cabbage with roast root vegetable mash for my main course. The lamb, which came in its own cabbage-leaf jacket, was beautifully tender and the juices were meaty and flavoursome, while the mash brought the whole dish together. First among equals, however, was [the] roast breast of chicken stuffed with haggis on creamy mash, Savoy cabbage and coarse grain mustard sauce. The haggis was a subtle touch, and the sauce was delightful - the strong, slightly sweet flavour of the mustard complementing the chicken. (Lunch for three: about £50, excluding drinks)
The Daily Telegraph, 16 DecemberCasilda Grigg offsets the misery of driving up the M1 with fine food and wine at the Devonshire Arms, Matlock, Derbyshire It's unusual for pubs to have decent wine lists, but this one is a cracker. Less classy, but tempting nonetheless, is the menu, a mix of the retro and the meat-and-two-veg traditional. Our bottle of Châteauneuf (£28) arrived with a pair of glorious balloon-shaped wine glasses, followed by a wonderfully Napoleonic sounding "cannon" of lamb - the meat sliced thinly, and stacked on mashed potato and a crisp layer of Savoy cabbage. Laced with generous quantities of fresh mint, it was aromatic and well-flavoured. The best was yet to come. I have never tasted a sticky toffee pudding to match chef Alan Hill's version. (Dinner for two including wine £95)
The Independent on Sunday, 17 DecemberIt's hit and miss for Terry Durack as he samples a multitude of Asian cuisines at London's Tamara My meal kicks off with a crisp little pastry cup similar to a Malaysian "top hat", filled with a mix of prawn and water chestnut. It's more crunch than anything else, but is pleasant enough. From Chettinad, we jet off to China for a steamer basket of unexceptional dim sum (£6.50). Next, there is a quick stopover in Bangkok for a crab and pomelo salad (£10.50). It is underpowered, needing more chilli, fish sauce and lime juice to make it effective. Next come rock salt lamb chops (£13.50). I really like the complex, rich curry sauce and garnish of crisp dosai pancake. The lamb is a bit chewy, however. The best dish is a "small plate" of Vietnamese caramel pepper prawn (£8.50): sticky, spicy and scorchy, it has heat, life and sparkle. (Dinner: about £140 for two including drinks and service)
The Sunday Times, 17 DecemberAA Gill scores a miss on the "blind date" menu at Bumpkin, London The dishes are mostly ingredient blind dates, edible consequences that involve little or no technical ability. Take my starter: sprouting broccoli, beetroot, anchovy and chilli. The anchovies were the hideously vinegared ones - like eating strips of soused cashmere. The tough, scrawny broccoli had the metallic flavour of a sucked bike chain, and the little gonadal beetroots would have been nice enough if they hadn't been overwhelmed by the searing embers of minced chilli. Putting these ingredients together on a plate was evidence of a cretinous gastronomic illiteracy. (Rating: One star out of five)
The Observer, 17 DecemberJay Rayner thinkgs that Chris Corbin and Jeremy King's St Alban, London, has some way to go to catch up with the Ivy and the Wolseley Stop the presses! Chris Corbin and Jeremy King are not infallible. The menu is a rather familiar Mediterranean job. Pappardelle of duck was made with excellent pasta and a ragu of long-stewed bird. Deep-fried squid with sweet paprika was crisp and fresh, and a beef carpaccio came with a truffle dressing which wasn't just all truffle oil but a good dice of the real thing. At the end, three soft white desserts - a panna cotta with a slick of coffee, a white chocolate mousse with oranges and a lemon cream - showed a kitchen that knows what it's doing. But in between were mediocre mains. Rare sliced beef came with truffled mash stuffed, rather pointlessly, inside hollowed-out bones. Chargrilled quails for £16.50 were fiddly, and the sauce in a rabbit stew was so strident it completely drowned the bunny. (Meal for two including wine and service £110)
Time Out, 20 December
Guy Dimond finds the heavenly food at Trinity in Clapham, London What at first appears to be a pug pie - a white bowl, topped with a pie crust - contained a translucent, intensely flavoured partridge consomme, with tiny dice of celeriac and apples so perfectly square you wonder if he has teams of elves chopping away in the kitchen. Poached foie gras adds richness to the broth, and a partridge leg pierces the crust. It's based on a century-old dish (dome d'or), probably served at Claridge's several years ago. (Meal for two with wine and service, around £90).