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Best local Indian Restaurant in Essex 2014
One of the finest Indian restaurants in Essex Caraway Indian Brasserie, in Gants Hill, has won the prestigious Best Local Indian Restaurant Award in the Restaurant Guides

The Hart Brothers
The Hart Brothers, who have made Quo Vadis and Fino into such success stories

10% Discount with Privilege Card from 11am to 7.30pm
10% Discount with Privilege Card from 11am to 7.30pm
50% off the food bill Monday through to Saturday

In an age when Italian-style fast food means having a quick plate of pizza or pasta, Vapiano takes things one step further and makes things fun and well, practically interactive....

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252 High Holborn London WC1 Tel: 020 7829 7000
Cost: about £50/three courses a la carte with wine; Set price lunch two courses £14.50/£18.50 three courses

Restaurant reviewers really would like to be able to say every place is wonderful and enumerate the multiple virtues of their dining experiences, if for no other reason than the fact that it would mean all their dining experiences actually were entirely wonderful. Meanwhile, back in the real world, things just aren’t so perfect.

And so it is with QC, the new restaurant slotted into a rather grand building on High Holborn, the headquarters built by London Electricity (I’m told) so many years ago. It’s easy to see why the Marriott hotel group thought it ideal for their entry into the five-star hotel market, Renaissance. Plenty of heavily moulded stucco outside, lots of veneer-matched marbles inside. And, for the most part, the work of slotting in a new hotel, restaurant and bar has been carried out well and sensitively.

It’s the bits not covered by ‘mostly’ that cause the problems. Moving the focus into the restaurant, there are a few problem areas in this rather grand space. The principal problem is aural rather than architectural, namely Muzak, or its near relation, smarmily reminding you of its existence every time there is a lull in the conversation. Then there is the breakfast bar, reminding you that this is a multi-function hotel dining room. And lastly, a series of room dividers that are rather over-zealous in their purpose of providing privacy, closing the room in too much. None of which contribute towards making QC a destination restaurant.

With a chef of Jun Tanaka’s calibre, this is precisely what the hotel has set out to achieve. Tanaka is a protégé of many of the top-ranked chefs in London, most recently working with two-Michelin starred Eric Chavot at The Capital. Tanaka made a name for himself in his first solo effort as chef of Chives, part of the Red Pepper Group, known for user-friendly neighbourhood restaurants. But from day one it was obvious Tanaka stood head and shoulders above the other chefs in the group and he is a talent to watch out for.

For such classy cooking, QC represents extraordinary good value (especially the set price lunch). Tanaka may begin with a base of comfort food but works his magic to create something stimulating, exciting, unexpected. His starter of belly pork is a case in point. A rather fatty piece of belly pork, roasted crisp, it sits atop almost cassoulet-like white beans with Toulouse sausage and bacon. Equally well, a thinly sliced rump of veal provides the base for girolles, couscous and delectably caramelised sweetbreads, the whole a study in contrasts.

Main courses are equally intelligent and enjoyable. Marinated rump of lamb with moussaka and Greek salad read temptingly, as did whole roast baby chicken with Jerusalem artichoke puree, but fish won out on the night. Whole roast sea bass is neatly split open to contain a ‘stuffing’ of herby risotto, surrounded by a well-chosen beurre noisette, the subtle nuttiness working well between the delicate sea bass and the bright notes of the risotto. Fillet of brill comes very neatly topped with columns and rows of garlic croutons, served with a warm chutney of tomato and red onion, another felicitous combination. I have yet to try a traditionally satisfying dessert from Tanaka: his carpaccio of pineapple with passion fruit and banana sorbet is very high on the tart scale, the pineapple almost attacking the tongue. Papillote of figs and blackberries with rosemary is oven-steamed in its paper case, with yoghurt ice cream on the side and is a very attractive dish, but not really what I call a dessert. My fault and next time will try banana tarte tatin as well as chocolate fondant with pistachio ice cream.