Score: Food 7/10; Atmosphere 7/10; Value for money 7/10
Price: Meal for two with drinks and service, £90-plus.
Jay Rayner says the Three Mariners near Faversham in Kent is far better than the average gastro pub and has a clear sense of self
The food is better than fine and it's a far better than the average gastro pub, as it's a little rough hewn and ready. It avoids a clichéd menu and keeps a sense of place, namely proximity to the nearby north Kent coast. Fish soup here is a serious, deep rust-coloured liquor heaving with marine life and the crack and soothe of garlic and tomatoes. Too often we dismiss fish dishes as solely for the warm breezes of summer, but in the right hands they can be something else. They become as comforting as any dumpling-mined winter stew. Sweet, dairy-fat-rich potted crab was served the right side of room temperature so you could taste the crab rather than the metallic tang of the fridge. Both were £7.50. Perhaps more remarkable was £4.50 for a soft, silky potato and cep soup. Think of it as a moisturiser for the soul. I wanted to dab it behind my ears. There were more ceps in a special of braised ox cheek. I can't pretend. This was one of the ugliest plates of food I have ever seen, the Arthur Mullard of the culinary world. However, if you closed your eyes and ate, it became a thing of beauty.
Price: Meal for two, including drinks and service: £80
John Walsh says the Royal Oak in Chichester, West Sussex, offers bags of comfort food and some ambitious ideas that don't come off hut he'd go again tomorrow for the warmth and the welcome
My seared scallops weren't as fresh as I'd have liked ("Those definitely weren't fished out of the North Sea today," said Sophie, whose family owns a Scottish island), but were only half my starter - the rest was a tranche of pork belly in a piccalilli sauce. The pork was utterly delicious, cooked for ages in duck fat, then rolled, cut into long pencils and re-cooked until its juices caramelised - but I couldn't see how the scallops gained anything by being cooked in the pork fat. It was dish of two halves, in which only one half worked. The piccalilli was a dream of spicy sharpness, involving cumin, cardamom and turmeric amid the white-wine vinegar.If I seem unusually knowledgeable about the cooking process, it's because the chef told me. Not just that, he wrote me three pages of notes. This has never happened before. Usually, if I ask a waitress to ask in the kitchen what went into a sauce, she'll return with a curt one-line summation of the ingredients, tactfully shorn of the maestro's effing and blinding. In the Royal Oak, I got long pencil messages, with a cheery sign-off ("Enjoy! Thank you, Stephen Small"). Hence the five stars for service, although the attentive charm of the pub's patron, Charles Ullmann, didn't hurt either.
Score: Food 3/5; Ambience 4/5; Service 5/5
Price: Around £120 for two, with wine
Independent on Sunday
All Lisa Markwell wants for Christmas is another dinner at John Salt, London N1, where former Roganic head chef Ben Spalding currently dons the whites Then that salad - mercifully presented with a colourful shopping list of ingredients. Each mouthful explodes with a different flavour combination, as the pretty little ensemble features miniature slices, squeezes and segments of everything from red kale to raspberry to purslane. Sweet, sour, crisp, soft - it is delightful. Rattling on: the hen of the woods is a rich mushroom dish with a 'ketchup' that speaks of many hours' prep. The scallop is presented like a burger (god knows, restaurants aren't complete without one these days). The two halves of the large, caramelised scallop act as the bun around a wedge of kiwi fruit and a sliver of culatello (Spalding dashes from the kitchen to administer truffle shavings over the top and sings the praises of this, the best ham in the world in his opinion.)
All is hoots of pleasure and 'wows' until the wild salmon with rotten mango juice. The pungent fruit tone is clever, but I can't love it. Similarly a first pudding of salted cucumber juice with peanut butter, yoghurt and muscat grape jam is glamorous, but troubling in (horrid term) mouthfeel.
Price: From £19 for Sunday lunch; £28 for four courses; £220 for two, for 12 "portions" including wine
London Evening Standard
The menu at the Electric Diner, the latest outpost from Soho House Group in Notting Hill, London W11, offers too much of a good thing Richness, oiliness, fattiness, let's ladle on more melted cheese and mayo mother-lovin' excess is the leit - no heavy - motif of the menu where sharing is encouraged and dishes brought out when they are ready by friendly cheerleading staff. If something isn't deemed unctuous enough in its own right - eg roasted bone marrow - then several slices of fried white bread are served too. Chopped salad has its virtue compromised by maple-sweet bacon and ranch dressing hollering soured cream and dill. In place of being a version of pÁ¢té, chopped liver is simply bits of livers fried in lots of fat with added melted chicken fat (schmaltz) served in a bowl alongside. And I think there was fried white bread with that. The single/double burger for £10/£13 (add bacon £2, French fries £4) was a good burger, blushingly grateful not to be served in the dumb Borough of Westminster, but I am ill equipped to say whether it is the best in Britain. Brioche bun sandwiching homemade finely ground bologna (aka baloney, polony and similar to mortadella) laboured under a cheese whizzy sort of topping. Three of us picked at it. One person would have been felled.
Price: Lunch or dinner for two with wine, about £88
http://www.timeout.com/london/restaurants/venue/2:31583/electric-diner" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">Guy Dimond says the Electric Diner, London W11, offers US-style comfort food with a few French flourishes and will no doubt become a neighbourhood hit
The new menu has been created in collaboration with the chef of a well-regarded diner, Au Cheval, in Chicago. It's mostly US-style comfort food, but with a few French flourishes. You can watch your food being prepared if you sit at the bar; the kitchen's quite a production line. An open grill is used to sear meats, while a steel griddle is used for the burgers. Our cheeseburger was served in a glazed (brioche-style) bun, speared with a perpendicular knife that helped hold the two 4oz beef patties in place (that's the ‘single'; the ‘double' contains three). There was little other wow factor about this burger ($10 in Chicago, but £10 in London); there are many better in the capital right now. The fries were excellent, though: crisp, light, golden. A green salad was generously portioned in the American way. A breakfast and brunch menu is served until noon; an omelette with blue cheese, spinach and onion was exemplary. Electric Diner is already very popular with a moneyed and well-groomed crowd. The queue may be offputting for many, but it's unlikely to stop the place being a neighbourhood hit.
Price: Meal for two with drinks and service: around £70
The Daily Telegraph
At the Ubiquitous Chip in the heart of Glasgow, Matthew Norman finds a tropical paradise serving imaginative Scottish fare - with few fries in sight
As the meal went on, and we set about a decent Sicilian house white from a fat and sparkling wine list, minor signs of the self-satisfaction that inevitably afflicts restaurants venerable enough to be known as "an institution" became apparent. A generous portion of slow-cooked ox cheek (£4 supplement), with dauphinoise potato and sautéed cabbage and bacon, was flaky and flavoursome, but the lukewarmness suggested a long journey to the surface from a distant subterranean kitchen. The same froideur attended a chicken breast, grilled to a crispy-skinned finish and served with a purée of squash and a Parmesan-infused polenta, but swamped by a sherry gravy reduced for too long so that it became overbearing. Ordinarily, the 25-minute hiatus before the arrival of the puddings - a perfunctory crème fraÁ®che and honey mousse with poached pear, and a lovely, gingery treacle sponge with custard - would have propelled our hackles into geostationary orbit. But such was the novelty of the surroundings that we were glad to have time to take it in. Everywhere you look, the eyes find something fresh. Waxen stalactites embedded into the walls by decades of candle burning, wrought-iron gangways attached to the mezzanine floor above, showcases full of whisky bottles, water splashing into a fishpondâ¦
Price: Three course Á la carte with wine and coffee: about £60 per head