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The Modern Pantry

Tracey MacLeod, The Independent (Rating: Food 4/5 stars, Ambience 3/5 stars, Service 3/5 stars)

The setting may be “bare”, but the critic is seduced by some “perfect” starters at this Clerkenwell newcomer. Her main courses were a little more up and down, but she will “definitely be going back” when the more formal dining room upstairs shortly opens. “Too often these days, a restaurant meal tends to be interrupted by elaborate introductions from waiters who insist on talking you through every ingredient on your plate. At the Modern Pantry, it’s the food itself that stops the conversation, a reminder that in skilled hands, this kind of fusion food can transcend passing fashion to be a design classic.”

Richard Vines, Bloomberg

The critic is “happy to be able to write about a new London venue where the prices are as low as the standards are high”. Even though it’s backed by the sometimes rather “corporate”-feeling D&D group, the establishment has an informal feel “more like a seaside eatery than a Clerkenwell restaurant”. “The starters and small plates set high standards that the rest of the menu does well to match… It’s the boldness of the combinations, the balance of flavors and the mix of textures that works so well in dish after dish… and you can eat three courses and have a drink or two for 30 pounds or so.” “In London, for cooking of this standard, that's almost giving it away.”

Number Twelve

Giles Coren, The Times (Rating: Meat/fish 8, Cooking 7,

Flopsicality 6, Score 7 )

The critic spends most of his review informing us – or not – about the identity of the “random flopsy” who joins him on reviews. Naturally, we’re not really much wiser by the end. Nor do we really know quite why he’s suddenly happened on this place “sort of in the lobby of a hotel off the Euston Road, just south of Camden Town”, which is neither long-established, nor in its first flush of youth. Anyway, he likes the food, which displays “a light Italian touch combined with the sort of thorough source acknowledgment more often associated with new British, more gastropubby restaurants”.

The Canteen at River Cottage, Axminster

Belinda Richardson, The Telegraph (Rating: 7/10)

“Although almost every table is full” as the critic walks into this eatery next to a deli, “the atmosphere is calm… [feeling] more like walking into a chapel packed with food evangelists than a restaurant”. The air is a touch “uninviting”. She samples two starters, of which one is an “out-and-out hit” and another is “not good”. The main courses are similarly rather up-and-down, and the puddings don’t even look worth trying. Quite how this is all worth 7/10 is not entirely clear.

Purnell’s, Birmingham

Zoe Williams, The Sunday Telegraph (Rating: 8/10)

“What comes first”, muses the critic, “the winning of a Michelin star, or the desire to poach an egg yolk without the white and put cornflakes on it?” We can somersault over the rest of the piece, and move straight to her conclusion on the much lauded spot: “This is ambitious, at times inspiring, food; like all ambition, sometimes it looks – or is – a bit silly. But I don't mind that”.

The Three Horseshoes, Madingley

Matthew Norman, The Guardian (Rating: 9/10)

“That this appears to be the first national newspaper review of The Three Horseshoes says rather more about the metrocentric indolence of my so-called rivals than it does about the quality of [the ex-River Café chef’s] work”, says the critic. “[T]his place is all about the food, and from the gorgeous focaccia at the start of our meal to the delectable puddings at the end, everything sang melodically of an owner-chef who palpably cooks for the sheer love of it… If you were served a meal as brilliant and ideally balanced as this one at, say, Zafferano, Locanda Locatelli or the ceaselessly splendid River Cafe itself, you would be content to pay twice as much.”

The Ginger Fox, Albourne, Hassocks

Jay Rayner, The Observer

The critic visits the rural outpost of Brighton’s Gingerman empire. He ends his meal with “the kind of warm glow that comes from having expectations exceeded, appetites satisfied”.

Bar Boulud, New York

Terry Durack, The Independent on Sunday (Rating: 15/20)

The “biggest trend of all”, says the distant critic, is that “New York dining goes ever more casual”. “Even the Lyon-born chef Daniel Boulud, who first opened the grand, high-end Daniel in 1993, has gradually lightened up – first with the chic, contemporary Café Boulud in 1998, then the Franco/American DB Bistro Moderne in 2001, the first to give the burger gourmet status with foie gras and truffles. Now, with Bar Boulud, he returns to his Lyonnais roots with a charcuterie-strong menu of down-home bistro classics. But don't expect red-checked tablecloths and wobbly tables. This is New York, honey, so designer Thomas Schlesser has turned the long narrow space into a vaulted tunnel of blonde wood, with seating mixed up over long bars and stools and sought-after booths.” The star of the show turns out to be “the dedicated charcuterie kitchen”. Cheese are good too, but main courses tend to “yawny”.

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