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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

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Vapiano

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Review

The Oak Room

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21 Piccadilly London W1 Tel: 020 7437 0002

The excitement now generated by dining out in London means that reviewers need to get in there seconds after a new restaurant opens its doors. This is understandable, and certainly preferable to the moribund restaurant scene of a decade ago. And the point can be made that as soon as an establishment is taking money for services provided, it should be able to withstand critical scrutiny. Mature diners out will, however, understand that a new establishment needs time to bed down and that, in exchange for the excitement of being first in, elements of food and service may not be as well-rehearsed as they are further in to the run.

This is all by way of saying this is an ideal time to review The Oak Room Marco Pierre White. The great man has long since relinquished day to day control to his very capable former No. 2, Robert Reid, removed his splendid art collection (its loss is felt) and brought down the prices, making for good value upper end dining. Three courses a la carte is only £38 and the menu gourmand is just £48 (although three dishes carry supplementary charges) - not cheap but for the level of cooking and service it is a bargain. The offering is extensive and classically oriented – there are few of God’s creatures which do not appear on the menu – and nothing which you would not be perfectly happy to eat if it were the only choice.

Grilled lobster with herbs and garlic, béarnaise mousseline is ostensibly a main course which we shared as an appetiser (this carries a £10 supplement). This crustacean was not a leviathan of the deep, but was tender and sweet with all its delicious parts extracted from and returned to its shell. Good lobster’s natural briny sweetness was so accentuated by the garlic, tarragon and chervil that the dish delivered twice as much flavour. Gigot of Pauillac lamb printanière, jus gras with herbs is only served for two. This small leg of lamb was every bit as juicy and full of flavour as the more well-known drink from this Bordeaux commune. It was carved alongside the table, the crackly-varnished skin giving off aromas from finishing over a barbecue of herbs, the flesh just pink and perfect. A generous amount of sautéed wild mushrooms and a separate small dish of pommes dauphinoise – both of which were ideal specimens – provided the right setting for this little gem.

Desserts were equally wonderful but not as much appreciated after the very generous lamb. A tarte tatin of plums achieved balance between caramel-stickiness and tartness, while apricot soufflé was suitably lofty, but lusty in equal measure. The wine list is biblical in length, but the sommelier can quote chapter and verse, so give him a price indication and put your faith in his choices. This is not a cheap meal, but I came away with a renewed appreciation of the standards a restaurant in top form can achieve.