Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Divided Britain: A tale of two restaurant reviews

Here is a tale of two restaurant reviews:

From the Guardian; Hedone in Chiswick, West London.

From the Gainsborough Standard; The Coffee Station, at Lea Road Train Station.

The Guardian's John Lanchester tucks in at Hedone. "A starter of mackerel with little gem lettuce had subtle Japanese inflections in the super-fresh fish that were set off by an amazing dressing of sesame oil and white Banyuls vinegar. The next course was even better, an egg slow-cooked and served with pickled girolles that contained a dollop of apricot jam so subtly used that you'd never have guessed what the complex note of just-sweetness was. Grouse came with a sauce of its own offal, and a non-traditional but very interesting bramley apple accompaniment; 55-day aged beef had great flavour but was on the chewy side – that made me like it, because it showed the beef had been cooked in a pan, rather than by the boringly predictable technique of sous-vide – or, as it used to be called, "boil in a bag".

"The restaurant's ingredients-first approach leaves things to speak for themselves, which is good, but there are moments when they speak a little quietly. Scallop sashimi with radish and a dollop of squid ink was exquisitely fresh – Hedone really is a masterclass in sourcing – but could have done with a kick of sharpness or acidity. Top-quality lobster and cep coexisted politely on the plate without creating any synergy, much like Lampard and Gerrard in the England midfield. Quetsch, a posh plum, made a delicious tart and came with an ice-cream made out of its pit – a lovely, witty idea, but the ice-cream's faintly almond-like flavour was so subtle, you had to concentrate hard to detect it."

The cost: £50 for four courses, £70 for six.

The Gainsborough Standard's Andrew Trendell admires the "bright, breezy, clean and contemporary decor" of the new Coffee Station at Lea Road train station and orders - a cup of coffee and a packet of crisps.

Adding a bit of detail for his Eating Out column, Trendell writes: "I opted for a large cappuccino and a bag of hand-cooked vinegar crisps."

His review of the food and drink is refreshingly spare: "It may have not been much, but it did the trick. The freshly brewed coffee was rich, flavoursome and really hit the spot, and the crisps, well, I'm sure you've all had crisps before."

Commendably he still manages to fill the column, and concludes: "There's still more work to be done, but this cheap, cheerful and simple little cafe is a welcome smile on the face of Lea Road Train Station."

The cost: Trendell doesn't say, but I guess he got change from a fiver.

London and Gainsborough, in the recession hit East Midlands, are only around 100 miles apart. Sometimes it seems more like a million miles.

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