Tracey MacLeod, The Independent (Rating: Food 3/5 stars, Ambience 3/5 stars, Service 4/5 stars)
“All three of us were happy with most of what we tried from the three-course menu but the food didn’t set our pulses racing” – another critic echoes the gist of most reviews of Gordon Ramsay’s new Belgravia restaurant. She left, however, “feeling that we had experienced the special evening we'd hoped for”. How come? Something to do with “the smoothness of the operation”, apparently, and – get this – “Ramsay's determination to make a success of it”!
What on earth is the evidence of any particular determination on the part of the (almost invariably absent) Ramsay to make any particular success of his latest London establishment? And, even if there were such evidence, since when did critics award extra marks for trying? It sounds very like a rationalisation of giving celebrities an easy ride. Poor loves.
Bristol Lido, Bristol
Cuisine of “unexpected” quality is found by the critic at an establishment that’s all “about its pool, its spa and the waterside café”. On a “corker” of a menu, “[f]lavours are big and the essentials carefully managed”, with “many of its ingredients from its own kitchen garden.” Ravioli of venison, “a big, paunchy, self-assured dish” of slow-roasted shoulder of lamb, and ice-creams “to make you dream of real summer days” attract particular praise.
Giles Coren, The Times (Rating: 7)
The critic visits an Islington restaurant that’s a “rather dizzying conflation of old and new” – “nestling on a quiet residential street”, the interior is “all very Edwardian”, but the menu reveals “molecular gastronomy gone cosy and local.” With the exception of “grim” roast wood pigeon, the critic enjoys some “wild and crazy and fun” dishes, with “extraordinary” sweetbreads with milk skin (“sort of pointless, but sort of amazing”) a particular highlight. “I’ll be honest: I don’t know what all this stuff – some of which works and some of which doesn’t – is doing on the menu in a tiny local restaurant in Islington, but I’m damned if I’m going to overdo the weirdness thing.”
The Bingham, Richmond upon Thames
Jasper Gerard, The Telegraph (Rating: 8/10)
A review of a Surrey riverside restaurant, in a Georgian townhouse that's “been modernised in a cautiously contemporary design, lending it the kind of grown up yet cool atmosphere where one might be taken to discuss one's trust fund.” “[C]omplex cooking masterfully executed” is served with “precision and pomp”, with main courses offering “a riot of tastes, with lots of tiny offerings of delicious, diverse flavours.”
The Halibut, Buckingham
AA Gill, The Sunday Times (Rating: Food 3/5 stars, Atmosphere 4/5 stars)
The critic visits “a small shop front, with a takeaway fish-and-chip business downstairs and a dining room upstairs” in Buckingham, where the menu is “short and has a flourish of international sophistication.” Alongside seafood dishes, the critic enjoys West African chicken jollof, as well as “wonderful” gbegiri soup from Nigeria, all made with “vibrant authenticity, bright flavours, big smiling mouthfuls” and priced with “exceptional value.” “Halibut is a good restaurant, an exceptional one in Buckingham.”
While the elevated prices suggest that this Reading restaurant should be “mind-blowingly good”, the critic can’t help but feel that “everything came up as ‘nearly’”. Instead of a tomato compote, the critic is served “three tasteless and variably cooked cherry tomatoes”; a confit of duck would have benefited from “[l]ess sticky balsamic covering on the duck and more cream in the potato gratin”, and a crème brûlée feels “a bit bipolar, as if there wasn't quite the right balance between sweet and sour.” A similar sentiment applies to the dining room itself: “nearly convincing in its transformation into a plush restaurant, but fighting the inkling that it might once have been a conference venue.”
Farmcafe & Foodmarket, Woodbridge
Toby Young, The Independent on Sunday (Rating: 15/20)
A review of a “utilitarian and friendly…and very child-friendly” farm-café in Suffolk, where free-range eggs and “fantastic” locally reared pork prove particularly noteworthy.