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LONDON INTRODUCTION FOOD & COOKING ARTICLE

We have been given permission by Harden's Restaurant Guides to reproduce the following article which was taken from the pages of UK Restaurants 2002, published in October.

UK Restaurants 2002 is edited by Richard and Peter Harden

London today is incomparably a more interesting city to eat in than it was a decade ago. Not only are restaurants opening at a faster rate than ever, but this activity is being complemented by a diversity of cuisine, style, scale of operations and location without equal in the city's history. For quality and range, London now has only one serious competitor in the world, New York City. So great is the diversity that the choice can be rather daunting for the newcomer or occasional visitor, and this section is designed to be give you a few orientation points from which to navigate what follows.

A good starting point is the results from our London survey. On page 13 you will see which are the restaurants which Londoners themselves think are most worth talking about. Nowadays (it wasn't always so in recent years) it tends to be quality that gets a restaurant noticed, and if you're making a special dining visit to London you will probably want to include one or more of the places on that list.

If your ambitions are more local the area overviews (starting on page 56) will help you pick out the best places in any particular quartier. One of the joys of London nowadays is that there are few areas which do not have several restaurants well worth seeking out. We hope that the following answers to some Frequently Asked Questions will also assist.

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Which is London's best restaurant?

'Best' in this sense still usually means 'grand French', and there are still relatively few truly world-class restaurants. Arguably, there are only two - Gordon Ramsay (modern) and Le Gavroche (traditional). Pétrus, however, might reasonably now be said to be beginning to establish itself in that class, and the Capital Hotel has an impressively consistent record over a long period, if perhaps one just short of the very first rank. As we go to press, Mr Ramsay is opening a second restaurant, at Claridges, which may well turn out to be a contender. Two restaurants which seldom make the gossip columns, but which score highly in our survey include Pied à Terre - a low key, foodie temple in Marylebone - and the City's Tatsuso, London's best Japanese.

Where would I go for old-fashioned grandeur?

Some of the top hotel dining rooms are worth seeking out for their stylish and comfortable settings and very good service. The Connaught is often held up as the benchmark of culinary consistency, and its less culinarily ambitious Mayfair competitor, the Dorchester Grill, offers a lot of spirited grandeur. At a slightly more modest cost, London's oldest restaurant, Rules, manages - remarkably - not to be
a tourist trap.

Where is the culinary 'cutting-edge'?

'Fusion' between European and Eastern cuisines is the trendy culinary frontier of the moment. As a fashionable as well as culinary phenomenon, there's nowhere to beat Nobu. Among more established restaurants, the Sugar Club goes from strength to strength. Mju, Nahm and The Providores are newcomers with considerable ambitions.
Hang the food - where are the 'in' places?

The most perennially 'in' restaurants in London are the (always difficult to book) duo, The Ivy and Le Caprice. Nobu has become a major star venue. Oblivious, apparently, to such considerations as quality of cooking and service, the media and fashion worlds still seem besotted with the wacky creations of American design-hotelier Ian Schrager - Asia de Cuba and Spoon+. For what used to be called the jet-set, Knightsbridge's upmarket Italian restaurants retain a magnetic attraction.

Are there any key cuisines to seek out?

Two national cuisines currently account for a disproportionate number of the more interesting places.

Indian

London's pre-eminence as a city of Indian restaurants continues to grow, and it offers a range of outstanding places at all price-levels. At the grander end of the market London attempts 'haute' Indian cuisine in a way not really seen elsewhere, and the best names include the newly-opened Cinnamon Club, as well as La Porte des Indes, Tamarind, Vama and Zaika and, in a more traditional style, Salloos. In contrast, some of the best subcontinental food in London is incredibly cheap, and three of the names that have stood the test of time in recent years are Kastoori, Rasa and the Lahore Kebab House.

Italian

London's Italian cooking has in recent years emerged with a vengeance from the Anglicised torpor which has dominated since the '50s. Modern Italian establishments now offer some of the most exciting continental cuisine available. Notable followers of the new school include Assaggi, Passione, Zafferano, and the rising Teca. The famed River Café generates rather mixed feedback, largely on account of its punishing prices.

Suggestions for a good night out on a budget?

For top-quality food on a budget, ethnic restaurants are almost invariably the top choice - see the lists on page 14. Suggestions for a fun night out at relatively modest cost include Pizza Metro, Sarastro, Souk and Andrew Edmunds.

What about good pubs?

In the past decade, London has pioneered the concept of pub as a quality eating place where the cooking has nothing to do with traditional notions of pub grub. The original 'super-pub', Farringdon's Eagle, is still one of the best. Others worth seeking out include (to the west) the Anglesea Arms and the Havelock Tavern, and (to the north) the Duke of Cambridge and the Engineer.

Does London offer much choice for vegetarians?

Most London restaurants - the most notable exceptions being some of the classic French establishments - provide some vegetarian options, presumably explaining the existence of relatively few specialist veggies of any interest. Blah!Blah!Blah! and The Gate (which has a new north London offshoot) are notable exceptions. Some of the best vegetarian food is ethnic: Southern Indian, Greek, Turkish and Lebanese establishments almost invariably offer a good range of non-meat choices.

Are there any good rooms with views?

There seems to be an (almost) inexorable rule that London restaurants with views feel no particular obligation to provide food of particular interest - the egregious Oxo Tower, which has the best of the views, is a case in point. Two other places merit recommendation - Twentyfour, half-way up the former NatWest Tower, and The Tenth, a little-known hotel dining room which has an impressive view over Kensington Gardens.

Anything to avoid?

The West End - and in particular Covent Garden and many of the major thoroughfares - has many lacklustre restaurants so taking 'pot luck' is not really advisable. There are quality places, of course, and at all price levels - use the guide! Also, beware of concièrge recommendations to the huge brasseries which have opened over the past few years: it may be convenient for him to make you one of a block-booking of a dozen tables, but size is no guarantee of quality and our survey shows that discerning locals are fleeing these establishments in droves. If you insist on checking out these 'mega-brasseries', by far the best of them are Bank and Le Palais du Jardin.

Harden's London Restaurants 2002 and Harden's Top UK Restaurants 2002 published by Harden's Limited and are available from all good bookshops, or directly

 

This article was supplied by www.hardens.com

Email Hub-UK : info@hub-uk.com