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Ethnic restaurants and 'gastropubs' lead improvement in UK dining out standards

Although London remains the gastronomic centre of the UK, the rise of ethnic restaurants and the evolution of the 'gastropub' have done more than anything else to improve standards and widen choice in dining out throughout the British Isles. Some of the best restaurants can be, oddly enough, found in the most far away places. For example, one of the most remote - the Altnaharrie Inn in Ullapool in the far north of Scotland - is only accessible by boat. Yet it is described as 'near perfect', and 'never less than stunning' in the latest edition of Harden's Top UK Restaurants 2001.

There are also many more decent restaurants in London than there were ten years ago. Even the French now acknowledge that, in terms of variety and quality, the capital has much to offer - even if they do frequently complain about the cost of eating out. It is certainly true that restaurant bills are outstripping inflation. At the top end, many restaurants have hiked their prices by 10 per cent over the last twelve months. It is important to remember though, that it is still possible to find plenty of decent restaurants in London where you can eat really well for under £25 a head.

London's best restaurants used to be packed into a relatively small area of Central London stretching from Covent Garden to South Kensington. The ubiquitous Terence Conran broke the mould ten years ago when he opened the Pont de la Tour (36d Shad Thames, SE1) on the south side of Tower Bridge.

Nowadays you can find some truly excellent restaurants in residential suburbs which until recently were culinary deserts. Lunching in the City - previously not an experience for the gastronomically faint-hearted - has also greatly improved, and there are signs that, lagging its emergence as a financial and business centre, the Docklands are finally beginning to show some signs of developing as a decent place to eat.

Gordon Ramsay and Le Gavroche are probably the only two world-class restaurants in London while The Ivy and Le Caprice are the most perennially 'in' restaurants.

Outside London, Glasgow, Manchester and North Yorkshire are the current gastronomic 'hot spots'. Glasgow has the most complete restaurant scene whereas Manchester has a huge diversity of ethnic choice. North Yorkshire has become renowned for its wide range of reasonably priced pub dining.

There are still, however, some gastronomic black spots, including the Welsh Capital. Although Cardiff's Le Gallois restaurant is 'superb and unpretentious', what remains striking about the city's quality restaurant scene is how little of it there is, either indigenous or ethnic.

Our guide is based on the views of 15,000 'reporters', who submitted 125,000 reports on all types of eating experience - from 'haute cuisine' and country house restaurants to local bistros, pubs and curry houses. This almost certainly represents the most comprehensive independent survey of UK restaurants ever.

46 restaurants throughout the UK have been awarded the top '**A' rating for excellence of food and atmosphere in our latest guide.

The best rated include:


Assaggi; Babur Brasserie; Bibendum Oyster Bar; Bombay Palace; Clarke's; Chez Bruce; Chezmax; Club Gascon; The Gate; The Glasshouse; Gordon Ramsay; L'Aventure; Nobu; Pétrus; Pizza Metro; The Real Greek; J Sheekey; Tamarind; Zafferano and Zaika.


Blue Lion, East Witton; Chaing Mai, Oxford; The Crab and Lobster, Asenby; Fischers at Baslow Hall, Baslow; Glasnost, Bristol; Horn of Plenty, Gulworthy; Lettonie, Bath; The Lime Tree, Manchester; McCoys at the Tontine, Staddlebridge; Merchant House, Ludlow; Mr Underhills, Ludlow; Michael's Nook, Grasmere; Nobody Inn, Doddiscombsleigh; Ostrich Inn, Newland; Rococo, Kings Lynn; Sharrow Bay, Ullswater; Star Inn, Harome; and Winteringham Fields, Winteringham.


Altnaharrie Inn, Ullapool; Mother India, Glasgow; Summer Isles, Achiltibuie; and Three Chimneys, Dunvegan.


Bodidris Hall Hotel, Llandegla; Fairyhill, Reynoldston; Nantyffin Cider Mill, Crickhowell; and Plas Bodegroes, Pwlheli.

Harden's London Restaurants and Harden's Top UK Restaurants 2001 are published by Harden's Limited and are available from all good bookshops, or directly from www.hardens.com.


This article was supplied by www.hardens.com.

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