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The last couple of months have seen a couple of big-ticket openings, as well as local launches. Metro’s Marina O’Loughlin reached nirvana by way of sherry bar Capote y Toros, while Nick Curtis from the Evening Standard considered sharing plates with a wry eye at Riding House Café. In other news, The Independent’s John Walsh was underwhelmed by Bennett Oyster Bar, and The Observer’s Jay Rayner expected more bang for his buck at The Savoy Grill.
They said: Along with the oysters, [Bennett] offers a dozen seafood dishes and a further dozen
standard-issue meat 'n' fish dishes suggestive of an upmarket gastropub. This seems to be asking a lot of the kitchen. It also has a special store, selling wine (which you can drink at your table
for a small corkage fee), fruit and veg, and flowers. I'm surprised they haven't thrown in a multiplex cinema, a bouncy castle and a boutique, as well. The Uncertainty Principle extends to the
food. Unsure of whether to leave classic ingredients alone or add something to them, Bennett's unerringly goes for the latter option.
John Walsh, The Independent
We said: A special of perfectly cooked, yielding fillet steak came with a seasonal hat-trick of crushed Jersey Royals, morel mushroom sauce, & more asparagus, while a huge bowl of fat mussels had fries crisp & salty enough to soak up the creamy sauce. Desserts were the weakest point of the meal: the stiff cream & strong flavours of a ‘traditional’ sherry trifle (apples, sultanas & a heavy dose of nutmeg) were not to our taste. That said, it took the well-heeled gentleman on the next table all his willpower not to snap up what we couldn’t manage.
They said: Marcus Wareing's menu is a good read, with dishes which sound Olde Worlde in the Heston Blumenthal way. They are inspired by historic British recipes, yet the dishes we tried were modern
interpretations… [But] it is the building that had the wow factor, not the meal. And if you just want to admire some Gothic arches, the appealing Gilbert Scott bar, next door, allows you to do just
Guy Dimond, Time Out
We said: Wareing has tapped into the zeitgeist for historical dishes, and the Mrs Beeton-esque dishes on the menu (such as tweed kettle, and soles in coffins) are a good fit, considering the location. A starter of Dorset crab with pear and toasted hazelnuts was incredibly light on its feet, the sweetness of the ingredients complementing each other well. From the selection of fun, nostalgic puds on offer, we ordered a chewy slice of Bakewell tart covered with thick layers of icing and intense raspberry jelly. Despite its lofty setting, The Gilbert Scott is, on the whole, keenly priced, and staff provide attentive, warm, but discreet service.
They said: [This] all-day brasserie,
where the breakfast menu of eggs Husard and chorizo hash browns segues neatly into bar nibbles and snacky suppers, [has] enticing food at properly low prices… they've found a pretty fine balance of
quality, cost, portion size and atmosphere… Doubtless we'll look back on the fashion for mixing and matching mini-portions one day with half-ashamed hilarity... [But] when the small plate backlash
starts, it won't start here.
Nick Curtis, Evening Standard
We said: The house cheeseburger came with toppings on the side, encouraging positive discrimination of the divisive gherkin – in this case, a crunchy, briny addition to what was a textbook burger. Dessert was another success: sticky gingerbread with nuggets of zingy stem ginger, topped with dense, creamy caramel ice cream. Despite a few service glitches (we were regularly presented with delicious-looking dishes that, sadly, belonged elsewhere), it looks like a smooth road ahead for the RHC.
They said: A pork, veal
and pistachio pie with pickles is a glorious, bronzed and burnished block of a thing. It's the sort of item you want to install in your living room as a piece of furniture. Not only does it look
good, it's also a great pie. Desserts disappoint. A rum baba is dry. And those are five words I hope never to have to type again. Service is merely OK. They don't always recall who ordered what.
That side dish was forgotten. And at these latitudes – a euphemism for prices; starters are mostly a tenner or more, mains nearer £30 – OK is nowhere near good enough.
Jay Rayner, The Observer
We said: In its glory days, this was the epitome of glitz, and there’s plenty of glamorous star quality in the lavish new art-deco design. The menu is a no-nonsense evocation of flavours past: a starter of foie-gras torchon comes with a bijou baking tin of brioche slices, while roast partridge is served with a moreish partridge turnover & bacon sauce, plus a sweet pumpkin purée. In all, a slick delight for Ramsay fans.
They said: My
trick in Spanish joints is to ask for a glass of delicious Palo Cortado, the rarest of all sherries. If they have one, they get a big tick. Here, the handsome waiter looks at me pityingly and hands
me a memorable wine list – with a whole page of Palo Cortados. Even if you have never experienced the nirvana of the finest acorn-fed ham, the way the nutty sweetness floods your mouth and the
ambrosial fat coats your tongue, it’s worth coming here for the booze alone.
Marina O’Loughlin, Metro
We said: 2011 is sherry’s moment, it seems. Although the hitherto-ignored tipple is on the menu at sister restaurants Cambio de Tercio and Tendido Cero, it is by no means brandished with such fervour and aplomb as here. The concise menu changes regularly; many of the dishes incorporate sherry, and treasures such as slithers of mouthwatering charcuterie, quivering ham croquetas and pulpo alla gallega are permanent fixtures.