The Compleat Angler reviewed

Saturday, July 17th , 2010

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The Compleat Angler has a pretty riverside setting not far from Marlow. It is actually within a hotel with two restaurants, of which the Aubergine is the serious one. This delivered a meal with some inconsistency but some excellent dishes at best, such as a pretty dish of scallops and pea puree and a fine main course of chicken with morels. Overall it was a very enjoyable experience. So often places with a view trade on this and forget about the food, but this is not the case here.

The Capital Hotel (pictured) lost Eric Chavot last year as head chef, and with it its two Michelin stars. The kitchen is now in the hands of Jerome Ponchelle, who was head chef at Wiltons before Andrew Turner took over there. There were some very enjoyable dishes during the meal, especially a starter of scallops with lentils and curry sauce, but there were also dishes that were some way below this standard. My main issue was with the prices rather than the cooking, which were very high indeed (my pair of scallops cost a little matter of £18, so those must be some expensive lentils). Main courses were all over £32, which implies something pretty special is going to arrive. Although ingredients were of high quality, the cooking just didn’t match the price in my view.

The Victoria notionally has Paul Merrett as chef, who cooked at the Greenhouse amongst other places and knows his food. Sadly he was absent this evening, and the meal showed why chefs should be very careful what happens when they take a night off. Three of the four savoury courses were simply bad, with two being sent back to the kitchen; what came back at the second attempt idn’t inspire confidence either. The meal was nearly rescued by a pair of very nice desserts, but this sort of strike rate of dishes just isn’t acceptable.

The Brilliant continues to produce excellent Punjabi food, and doesn’t have off nights (at least not in my long years of coming here). This week, chicken tikka was spot on, while aloo tikki and methi chicken were also up to scratch; a new dish was a starter nibble of sweetcorn bhajia, an interesting idea that worked well enough. It is nice to be able to eat romali roti, as this is pretty much the only Indian restaurant in the UK I am aware of that still serves it.

Michelin seems to be reshuffling the deck in its US operation. After having dropped the Las Vegas and Los Angeles guide after disappointing sales (it is unclear whether this is a temporary move or otherwise), it is planning a Chicago guide starting next year. This should be interesting, since in recent years the Chicago eating scene has been transformed by the advent of Grant Achatz’s Alinea, and newer ventures such as L20 and Moto. When I was in Chicago many years ago it could only offer me a disappointing meal at Charlie Trotters and some mediocre pizza.