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Review of the reviews: October 2011

(menu)

Big-name chefs have been busy with major London launches over the past couple of months. Gordon Ramsay’s juggernaut Bread Street Kitchen garnered praise from The Independent’s Tracey MacLeod for its groovy vibe, while Casa Batavia drew scorn from The Times’ Giles Coren – and Square Meal – for its budget choice of petits fours. Meanwhile, Fay Maschler’s experience at Cut was sizzling, even if her steak wasn’t.

Bread Street Kitchen

Bread street kitchen - Interior_2.jpgThey said: Gordon's place is bigger and buzzier than Jamie's, positioning itself as a Wolseley for the City … This isn't a restaurant, it's a small town, with its own microclimate. The menu reads like a synthesis of influences from other people's restaurants, all leavened with buzz-word ingredients and concepts –burrata, meatballs, macaroni cheese as a side dish. Nearly everything we ate was good… but our lunch lurched forward in fits and starts, with one starter arriving a full 15 minutes after the other… the response from the managers was to ignore us. Unless they bring a little uptown courtesy to their new downtown operation, I won't be dropping in again to say hello anytime soon.
Tracey MacLeod, The Independent

We said: Don’t be deceived by the cosy name – Gordon Ramsay’s latest venture is a vast two-level space in the One New Change development, overseen by his right-hand man Stuart Gillies… The menu offered upstairs is split into ‘raw bar’, ‘hot kitchen’ and ‘wood stone’, with earthy dishes ranging from Herdwick mutton and potato pie to spot-on braised pork collar with a mustard glaze. There’s also a decent selection of cocktails.

Casa Batavia

casa batavia int3 - JOS2011021D00043.jpgThey said: The only decent thing was a monkfish soup, but everything else was mimsy and ill-seasoned, from the slightly tangy breaded sardines on burrata to the dreary grilled squid on mashed potato... for petits fours we were served Haribo sweets in a posh box. I mock you not: cola bottles, gummi bears, even a couple of flying saucers. So, at the last, this average-to-poor restaurant revealed itself actually to be stone-cold mental.
Giles Coren, The Times

We said: Nicola Batavia’s new venue on Kensington Church Street seems to lose something in translation… portions are small and the kitchen didn’t seem to be totally focused when we dropped in, with poor timing, sloppy technique and promised ingredients failing to appear in some dishes. On the plus side, proper, hand-made pasta with sweet, plump mussels and clams is textbook stuff, and bread comes with wondrously fruity Umbrian olive oil; though the bill arrives, perversely, with a box of Haribo-style sweets.

Cut at 45 Park Lane

CUT at 45 Park Lane - Roasted_Baby_Beet_Salad.jpgThey said: The steaks are billed as being grilled over hardwood and charcoal and then finished under a 650-degree broiler. They are then obviously dutifully rested as they arrive at the table with no scent and no sizzle. Advertising agencies used to say ‘you sell the sizzle not the sausage’ and there was something man-in-a-pinny-fearlessly-confronting-elemental-fire lacking in these otherwise tender and reasonably flavourful slabs of meat. Cuts are a bit on our minds at the moment and these prices seem egregious even given glitzy decor, loud Seventies’ pop music and swarms of staff.
Fay Maschler, London Evening Standard

We said: Prime beef is the kitchen’s heartbeat and the menu is big on top cuts from international sources, grilled over hardwood and charcoal then blasted in an American-style broiler. The results may lack that primal, lip-smacking quality, but Cut really scores with its brilliant sides and non-steak offerings; desserts are also all you’d hope for in a high-class American eatery. It’s undoubtedly very expensive, but if your pockets are deep enough, this is a tremendously fun import based on the sort of professionalism and can-do cheerfulness that Brits associate with dining in the US.

Meatballs

Meatballs_2011_-_Outside_2.jpgThey said: A direct copy, er, homage to The Meatball Shop in the Lower East Side. The balls are pretty good: organic meat from actual butchers. They’re served straight, or with ‘underneaths’ such as buttered pappardelle or decent pearl barley ‘risotto’, or in mini-brioche buns… The wine list has intriguing, often natural wines at gentle prices. It may be the result of a business brainstorm but Meatballs looks like the acceptable face of fast(ish) food.
Marina O’Loughlin, Metro

We said: The gorgeous Grade II-listed interior of the defunct Quality Chop House is now home to an on-trend outlet inspired by New York’s Lower East Side. Despite the new order, the place still has a romantic Victorian ambience – although the food is a world away from Brit nostalgia. As the name suggests, the menu promises five variations on the ‘ball’ theme, plus a weekly special. Not everything hits the flavour target, but Meatballs is a clever, fun addition to the Farringdon scene.

Suda

suda2011 - downstairs.jpgThey said: The classic 'som tam malakor' had glistening shards of the green papaya that is the essence of good som tam. The other flavours - fish sauce, chilli, the sour note of tamarind - were very muted compared to the many versions you can now find all over Thailand. But there's the nub: Suda's not in Thailand, it's in the shopping and tourist hub of Covent Garden. And most of this catchment area would rather not risk the hair-raising tuk-tuk ride that is real Thai street food… this is the sanitised, Westernised version of Thai cooking, decontextualised; the Thai beach resort with yoga and meditation rather than the Patpong bar.
Guy Dimond, Time Out

We said: Suda is a welcome addition to the stylish St Martin’s Courtyard development, with the added bonus of a rare alfresco space in the West End. Inside, the contemporary design includes quirky touches such as carved animals on each table, though clunky wooden stools aren’t the most comfortable perch. Thankfully the food provides plenty of distractions – notably the som tum bar serving variations on the emblematic hot and spicy green papaya & peanut salad: our lemongrass and chilli lamb chop version tasted spot on, with a satisfying blast of spice.

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