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Review of the reviews: January-February 2013


The past couple of months have proved that sometimes the nation's food critics reach a consensus about the capital's new restaurants. We've seen a lot of love for The Shed and Gail's Kitchen, bafflement at Bodo's Schloss, and a collective shrug for Ten Room Lounge.

Bodo's Schloss, Kensington

bodo's schloss 2013 - Bodo's-Schloss_resized.jpgThey said: Alpine cuisine is not a concept to make you high-five strangers in the street... [and Bodo's Schloss] was thinly realised... Where were the skins, rugs and furs? Why weren't the log fires lit? Why were all the girls so thin? Anyway, the food. There's not a lot to say... Main-course 'Austrian Classics' was as plain and boring as an alpenhorn. My veal goulash was hot, though the casserole dish in which it came was tepid. The chunks of veal came with spätzle – Austrian pasta. The combination was neither a visual treat nor a taste sensation.
John Walsh, The Independent

We said: It’s squarely aimed at a posh-dosh demographic who are happy to scoff serviceable goulash soup, schnitzels, spätzle, speck and strudels. Meanwhile, Von Trapp wannabes dressed in gingham dirndls and cream lederhosen serve steins of beer, and free shots encourage a party vibe, as does an oompah band blasting out YMCA and other camp classics... Suitably lubricated, try your Lonely Goatherd impersonations on the dance floor.

Coya, Mayfair

Coya_2012_-_Scallops_with_aji_amarillo.jpgThey said: Ceviche of sea bream with Amarillo chilli, crispy corn and coriander, and a punchy tiradito of yellowtail with green chilli, coriander and lime were thoughtfully assembled and pretty as pictures... Although we were urged to order beef fillet and Chilean sea bass, the £32 price for each acted as a deterrent and even without them the bill jumped energetically upwards, emboldened by stiff prices for mineral water, wine by the glass, coffee and tea. A cost worth incurring is £3.50 for Crocantes to share at the start – corn chips and shrimp crackers served with a version of guacamole and a dipping sauce based on smoked tomatoes.
Fay Maschler, London Evening Standard

We said: The aim here is a celebration of Latin American culture, with sumptuously distressed native overtones, ethnic colours and modern metallic finishes - comfortable and attractive, if a touch 'vulgar'. The kitchen offers ceviches, tiraditos, fiery anticuchos and offerings from the centrepiece parrilla and Josper grills. The cheapest things are the best - corn chips and shrimp crackers with salsas, grilled chicken skewers, and plates of succulent pork ribs.

Gail's Kitchen, Bloomsbury

Gails-Kitchen-Restaurant-2012-2.jpgThey said: The menu of small plates is strong on vibrant non-meat cookery: there's polenta chips with Gorgonzola; battered herbs with fresh goats’ curd and honey; roasted beetroot with lentils, soft cheese and flatbread; Spanish rotolo with ricotta and wild mushrooms. But of course, something had to die for our lunch. It was long-braised oxtail, with a baked Ratte potato. It was deep and rich and sticky... The dishes turn up in a random order, and the tables are far too small to accommodate them. But for thoughtful, big-boned cooking like this, I can forgive them that.
Jay Rayner, The Observer

We said: Bread naturally underpins much of the menu, from Taleggio and truffle-cream toasties to satisfyingly rich smoked-mackerel rillettes served with wafer-thin slices of toasted rye, but also expect meatier dishes such as slow-cooked oxtail with baked Ratte potato. Prices are a touch high, but don’t leave without trying the show-stealing desserts.

Perkin Reveller, Tower Hill

Perkin Reveller - Perkin_Reveller_2012_-_perkinreveller_067_1.jpgThey said: A clever starter of venison 'cottage pie' - tender chunks of juniper-scented meat topped with creamy potato purée foam arrived in a glass teacup... A vanilla cheesecake was bold in flavour and light in texture, balanced well by a berry sorbet... The Perkin Reveller may not be able to compete with the conviviality of the 14th-century taverns of Chaucer's time, but its worth a pilgrimage if you're looking for quality cooking among the tourist-trap options around the Tower.
Celia Plender, Time Out

We said: The menu honours British seasonal produce and the food is surprisingly good for the touristy Tower Wharf location – think tender baked scallops spiked with apple, fennel and cider, smoky grills and a deliciously warming Cornish fish stew with saffron potatoes. There’s also a lovely summertime terrace with sweeping views of Tower Bridge.

Ten Room Lounge at Café Royal, Soho

ten room lounge at cafe royal 2013 - TEN_ROOM_001.jpgThey said: Occupying what would have made sense as the hotel’s lobby... [it’s] bathed in energy-efficient lights so bright that the tea lights on the tables are a waste of wax. The menu would need to perform miracles to make Ten Room palatable. An underseasoned tuna tartare, served on an aggressively sweet wafer-thin slice of pickled radish, comes with the unwelcome addition of deep-fried shallot rings... a simple piece of Cornish skate with capers, lemon purée and a Champagne sauce is the hard-to-fault highlight.
Joe Warwick, Metro

We said: A thickly carpeted, marble-heavy dining room that feels rather staid and soulless compared to the humming, absinthe-themed drinking den next door. The menu offers a hotchpotch of mainly European-inspired dishes: skip starters such as flavourless goats’ cheese with pappy beetroot and head straight for more satisfying mains such as boned, rolled skate wing served with rich Champagne cream and dots of tangy lemon purée.

The Shed, Notting Hill

the shed 2012 - imageThe-Shed-2012.jpgThey said: I said to bring everything on the menu... The cumulative effect was not bad. You could choose badly... but if you had the Brussels-sprout salad, the goats' cheese, the ox tongue or the gurnard, then you would have eaten very well. There is a confidently committed amateurishness about all this. It's like eating a production meeting for Hugh's River Cottage. It's short on technique and subtlety, but long on enthusiasm and appetite... a fun and tasty local restaurant.
AA Gill, The Sunday Times

We said: Devised and run by three brothers – a chef, a restaurateur and a farmer – The Shed (formerly popular Italian The Ark) packs all sorts of cheery locals into its convivial bar and long, colourful dining room, which mixes the urbane and the rustic with an arch eye for detail. Top shouts included tender grilled lamb leg with a carapace of crisp fat and a splodge of flavoursome chestnut pesto; miniature baked pumpkin with a creamy almond, leek and garlic filling, and bracingly fresh gurnard with tender cockles and zesty sea purslane – all brought to the table by friendly staff.

This feature was published in February 2013.

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