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Christmas is coming – but which restaurants were a gift to the UK’s reviewers and which deserve a lump of coal? The Observer’s Jay Rayner wasn’t impressed with the new-look Rib Room, while the Evening Standard’s Fay Maschler criticised Russell Norman for dropping the ball with the little details at Mishkin’s. The 10 Cases fared better during a visit from Metro’s Marina O’Loughlin, who didn’t want to leave.
They said: Perhaps people of a jaded disposition might be disenfranchised by The 10 Cases’s pared-down approach, but it works for me. The mark-ups on those cases are small and there’s no service
charge, although staff are engaging and on the ball. How utterly refreshing… I like it so much that after our meal we sit outside wrapped in scarves, sipping a lemony, delicate Badajo Rueda
Verdejo, vaguely fretful that once its 10 cases are drunk, that’s the end of it.
Marina O’Loughlin, Metro
We said: This smart little metropolitan bistro is a real draw for wine lovers, thanks to a policy of fair mark-ups that even extends to fine wines and fizz: £37 for a bottle of Moët & Chandon NV is the cheapest we’ve found among the tourist traps of Covent Garden… with everything available by the glass, why not indulge in a spot of food matching with the day’s dishes chalked up on boards?
They said: Our lamb chops were well marinated, delivering a triumph of tenderness and robust flavours. Equally tasty, the palak paneer was a faultless rendition… Service might benefit from being
warmed up a bit [but], minor gripes aside, the cooking was top drawer. You might have to pay a maharaja's ransom for a meal here, but it rivals feasts served by upmarket West End competitors.
Roopa Gulati, Time Out
We said: Andy Varma’s plush Indian draws on India’s 19th-century palace kitchens for inspiration, but keeps things contemporary: adventurous starters might feature outrageously creamy burrata served with pickled vegetables and a dusting of spice, while full-flavoured sides include zingy pomegranate raita. Prices chime with the affluent neighbourhood, but additional, mid-course surprises add value for money, and service is endearing and prompt.
They said: Some joints are so obviously designed for couples in the early stages of courtship that, should you go along with the intention of securing a table for four, you can immediately feel the
soft stigma of social exclusion. This is us in Copita. Barely two months after opening, it is heaving with thirsty, smart young folk, the sort who spend all day asking clients what their
social-media strategy is or advising on brand optimisation… And what of the food? Ah, yes. Mostly, it is excellent.
Amol Rajan, The Independent
We said: Teeny-weeny Copita is as warm, unaffected and bustling as any Spanish tapacería... The short, daily menu is cliché-free, with piquant, home-cured boquerones and gutsy homemade butifarra sausage proving the kitchen’s confidence and commitment. The ajo blanco – already a house classic – gets its thick, smooth texture not from lashings of cream, but from a tricksy Pacojet; inspired desserts also delight.
They said: Under the heading ‘Sandwiches’, the offer of ‘all pork Big Apple (hot) dog dragged through the garden’ signals that this is not a kosher or even mildly observant Jewish establishment,
but one that is fashion (schmatte) conscious. Russell is known for his attention to detail. Why did he not import Hebrew National frankfurters? When menu vocabulary like schmear, schmaltz and knish
is used, you have got to get it right or you could seem like a bit of a schmo.
Fay Maschler, Evening Standard
We said: Blending New York’s Lower East Side with a dash of East London, this ‘Jewish deli with cocktails’ is pure Russell Norman: think small plates, diner-style banquettes, high decibels and a hip vibe that leaves punters clamouring for more… early feedback suggests the kitchen still needs to settle: a rich satisfying dish of meatloaf in a dinky tin with a soft egg in the centre has been more impressive than ‘tasteless’ pastrami, although retro bananas Foster is a buttery, rum-laced treat.
They said: The famed Rib of Beef, an inch-thick hunk of Aberdeen Angus served with gravy and a Yorkshire pudding, is listed online as costing £40… the meat was completely underseasoned and was so
much dull, wet cotton wool. I left at least 15 quid's worth of it on the side of my plate, because I simply couldn't be fagged to carry on dragging it through my teeth. The gravy was like an
episode of Downton Abbey: it looked all right, but had absolutely no depth.
Jay Rayner, The Observer
We said: The new-look Rib Room channels 1960s’ razzmatazz, with its low-lit bar manned by sharp-jacketed staff, plus a robustly luxurious dining room. The menu puts on a bullish face and the kitchen invariably delivers (a good job considering the prices): long-standing favourites such as the dictionary-thick rib of beef are big enough for two... It may come with bags of retro swagger, but the Rib Room isn’t stuck in the past – witness its early adoption of an iPad wine list.