& COOKING ARTICLE
have been given permission by Harden's Restaurant Guides
to reproduce the following article which was taken from
the pages of UK Restaurants 2003, published in November.
Restaurants 2003 is edited by Richard and Peter Harden
practically every respect, London today is an incomparably
more interesting city to eat out in than it was ten
years ago. For quality and range, London now has only
one serious competitor in the world, New York, and the
diversity has become so great that the choice can seem
its many maps and indexes - in particular the Survey
results (pages 19 - 22) and Area overviews (pages 82
- 93) - this guide is designed to provide numerous ways
of locating the restaurant you're seeking for any particular
occasion. But, if you're new in London - or just an
occasional visitor - you may find the following a handy
is London's best restaurant?
the sense people usually mean this question - that
is, money-no-object, probably French - the answer
is clearly Gordon Ramsay (in Chelsea). Or, for a more
traditional atmosphere, head for Le Gavroche - London's
longest established 'temple of gastronomy'. Pétrus
has recently emerged to claim a place in the first
rank, though its ambience is rather 'businessy'. The
Square is similarly a favourite place to entertain
For first-rate cooking, hotel dining rooms are rarely
the best option, but two are of note. If you like
fish, Restaurant One-O-One, in Knightsbridge, is now
the second highest-rated restaurant in town overall.
If you're looking for a more all-round 'classic' experience,
1837 in Mayfair would be the place.
Other names of note include Mayfair's Nobu (see below),
Chelsea's Aubergine and - on the basis of the quality
of cooking alone - Tatsuso, a City Japanese.
'in' at the moment?
Ivy and, to a lesser extent, its sibling Le Caprice
are always 'in' - they make a 'can't-go-wrong' choice
for pretty much any occasion. if you can get a booking.
The Mirabelle is slowly building a similar reputation.
The hottest ticket of recent years has been, and probably
remains, Nobu, which has the advantage that the food
is as notable as the clientèle. As a star magnet,
San Lorenzo has a timeless - and to the uninitiated,
quite inexplicable - appeal. For the fashion world,
Asia de Cuba remains quite a place.
recent arrivals, Zuma stands out, as, for a slightly
younger crowd, does Hakkasan. In groovy Notting Hill,
trustafarians fall over themselves to get seats at
E & O and the Electric Brasserie. If the launch
to any extent lives up to the pre-launch hype, then
Sketch - part owned by the man behind the ever-fashionable
Momo - will enjoy at least its fifteen minutes in
not fussed about fashionable scenes - where can I find
a really good meal without spending the earth?
Ivy and Le Caprice are not that expensive, and neither
is their emerging stablemate J Sheekey. If you want
a bit of glamour plus a decent meal in the heart of
town, they are hard to beat. Though more remote, three
establishments run by low-profile restaurateur Nigel
Platts-Martin are also top choices - Chez Bruce in
Wandsworth, La Trompette in Chiswick and The Glasshouse
For French cooking of utmost quality, but without
great formality, two names stand out - Monsieur Max
in distant Hampton Hill, and the trendier Club Gascon,
on the fringe of the City. Shepherd's Bush's quirky
Chinon has long been producing modern (Anglo-)French
cooking on a par with many places that charge twice
as much. Other names which have stood the test of
time include Clarke's (Kensington), Monkeys (Chelsea)
and - at a very affordable price level - Andrew Edmunds
if I want the best of British tradition?
Britain is a 'pub culture', there are very few 'traditional'
restaurants of note, and fewer which can be recommended.
The Dorchester Grill and Wilton's are the grandest
native flag bearers. The venerable (but cheaper) Rules
may be a mite touristy, but it offers an excellent
combination of good cooking with charming period style.
The City preserves some extraordinary olde-worlde
places such as Sweetings or Simpson's Tavern, and
the famous pub Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Other ancient
taverns include the Grenadier, the Queen's Head, the
Trafalgar Tavern and the Windsor Castle. (For more
on modern pubs see below.)
afternoon tea, the Basil Street Hotel, Brown's Hotel
or The Ritz are best. Tea (or any light meal) at Fortnum's
Fountain is also pleasant. For good old fish 'n' chips,
the best chippy, Faulkner's, is in the heart of the
East End. Smithfield's St John has made quite a name
for its exploration of traditional British cooking,
including lots of offal (served in an uncompromising
London supposed to be a top place for curry?
are - it is said - more Indian restaurants in London
than in India. What's more, London is leading the
way with a new style of Indian-fusion cooking that,
for many, has taken the cuisine out of the 'ethnic'
category altogether. Leading exponents are Tamarind,
Zaika, Vama and The Cinnamon Club.
At the other end of the scale - but famous for the
quality of its food - lies the legendarily scruffy
Lahore Kebab House. In between, good places are legion
- see page 21 for a few more suggestions. Note that
many of the best names - Rasa and Kastoori, for example
- are veggie. As you will see, what good Indian restaurants
tend to have in common is that they are not located
in the West End.
the past ten years, many pubs have re-invented themselves
as informal restaurants - you order at the bar, and
your meal is brought to you. The Eagle was the original,
and is still often credited as the best.
The trend goes from strength to strength, and is pushing
the pub upmarket to an extent that would once have
been inconceivable even five years ago. Some arrivals
of recent years - the Admiral Codrington, The Perseverance,
The Ealing Park Tavern, St Johns, Oak and The Waterway,
for example - are much superior to many restaurants.
said diverse: what about other cuisines?
has good representations of most major cuisines (with
the possible exception of Latin American ones). Italian
cooking has long been a popular choice for relaxed
neighbourhood dining, especially in the more affluent
parts of town, and there is an enormous variety of
trattorias and pizzerias. In recent years, some excellent
high-level Italians have emerged - see the list on
page 21. When it comes to oriental cuisines, the capital
is quite well provided for. There are many Chinese
restaurants, but the best of them - with the exception
of Fung Shing and Yming - are not in or near Chinatown.
The biggest concentration of excellent Chinese restaurants
is, in fact, in Bayswater - Royal China, Four Seasons
and Mandarin Kitchen. Thai cooking is also widespread
but strongest in west London. A few years ago, London
was weak in Japanese restaurants, especially at lower
price-levels, but there have been many improvements
in recent years, and the cuisine is now becoming fashionable
in a way which has long been the case in some US cities.
See the lists on page 21 for the top places in each
there any sharp practices I should look out for?
the 'blank credit card slip trick'- a fraud practised
to a shocking extent, even by many top places. If
you are presented with a credit card slip with a blank
line for a gratuity, don't assume that a tip is appropriate.
Often, 10% or 12.5% service has already been included
but the restaurant is hoping that you will inadvertently
'double up'. If you are not sure - and especially
if the bill has not been brought back so you can check
- ask if service was included. If so, don't add a
further tip unless the staff have been amazing. You
may also wish to write "please don't leave
this blank" on the slip.
London Restaurants 2003 and Harden's Top UK Restaurants
2003 are published by Harden's Limited and are available
from all good bookshops, or directly
article was supplied by
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