& COOKING ARTICLE
have been given permission by Harden's Restaurant Guides
to reproduce the following article which was taken from
the section of London Restaurants 2005 entitled
Eating in London - FAQs.
Restaurants 2005 is edited by Richard and Peter Harden.
should I use this guide?
guide can be used in many ways. You will often wish
to use it to answer practical queries. These tend
to be essentially geographical - where can we eat
? To answer such questions, the maps and
Area overviews (pages 238-268) are the place to start.
The latter tell you the key facts about the dozens
of restaurants in a particular area in the space of
a couple of pages.
what if, perhaps as a visitor, you're prepared to
seek out restaurants for their own sake, rather than
regarding them as incidental to some social or business
purpose? That is the main point of this brief section
- to give you a handy overview of London's dining
scene, and also some thoughts as to how you can use
the guide to lead you to eating experiences you might
not otherwise have found (or perhaps even contemplated).
does London compare internationally?
is not Paris, Rome or Madrid. As the capital of a
country which, for at least two centuries, has had
no particular reputation for its gastronomy, its attractions
are rarely indigenous. By-and-large, only tourists
look for 'English' restaurants.
London does score - and score magnificently - is in
the range and quality it offers of everyone else's
national styles of cooking. Always an entrepot, London
is now a culinary melting pot, too: in terms of scale
and variety, its only obvious competitor is New York.
In one area, London may claim worldwide supremacy.
As a paradoxical legacy of empire, it is in the cuisine
of the Indian subcontinent. For a combination of variety,
quality and innovation, London's 'Indian' (including
Pakistani and so on) restaurants are without peer.
is London's best restaurant?
much we may speak of melting pots and diversity, when
people talk about the very best cooking, they tend
- rightly or wrongly - to mean the best French cooking.
capital's best Gallic restaurant is undoubtedly Chelsea's
Gordon Ramsay, perhaps the only London restaurant
whose cooking can be said to be notable on an international
There is a very solid second tier. At the top of this,
traditionalists would put Le Gavroche - London's longest-established
grand French restaurant. Other contenders include
two new kids on the block - Tom Aikens and 1880. Perennials
which perhaps attract less attention than their cooking
deserves include the Capital (being given a new, fashionably
retro look as we go to press) and Aubergine.
down a level, Roussillon - hidden away, but accessible,
in Pimlico - is central London's 'secret' top-class
French restaurant. For Gallic fish dishes, Restaurant
remains the capital's top place.
'in' at the moment?
unusually, the past year has seen not one but two
would-be entrants to the 'in' hall of fame. The Wolseley
certainly offers affordable glamour, but does its
prominent location make it just too 'obvious'? Time
will tell. Although it received much less advance
hype, Mayfair's discreetly-located Cipriani - which
had the advantages of siblings both in Venice and
NYC - has immediately put itself on the map as the
destination for those who aspire to join the private-jet
restaurants are always 'in'. The Ivy (if you can get
a booking) and siblings Le Caprice and (more recently)
J Sheekey are perennial 'can't-go-wrong' choices for
pretty much any occasion. Members, and would-be members,
of the 'Knightsbridge' crowd often feel similarly
about the great '60s trattoria San Lorenzo (even if
its appeal to the uninitiated is elusive going-on
the fashion crowd, Momo is something of a Mecca. The
same owner's year-old Sketch, however - a brave venture,
verging on folly - may well have already enjoyed its
15 minutes of fame.
years have seen a welcome number of restaurants that
are both fashionable and good, and which have achieved
a consistently trendy status. It was Nobu which set
the trend, but it now has a host of imitators, such
as Hakkasan, Zuma and, more recently, Taman gang and
not really fussed about fashionable scenes - where
can I find a really good meal without spending the
Ivy, J Sheekey and Le Caprice are not that expensive,
and if you want a bit of glamour plus a decent meal
in the heart of town, this trio of establishments
is hard to beat. In Knightsbridge, Racine is now well-established.
Though more remote, three places owned by Nigel Platts-Martin
are top choices - Chez Bruce in Wandsworth, La Trompette
in Chiswick and The Glasshouse in Kew. Do not be fooled
by their suburban locations - these are serious restaurants!
(During the currency of this guide, Mr P-M is also
scheduled to open a slightly more accessibly located
'local', in Notting Hill - no name as yet.) For sheer
consistency, few restaurants match the amazing performance
over the years of Clarke's in Kensington.
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 is currently the grandest of
the native flag bearers. The venerable Rules combines
generally good cooking with charming period style.
Nearby, the famous Simpsons-in-the-Strand has been
too variable to recommend in recent years, but is
now improving. The City preserves some extraordinary
olde-worlde places such as Sweetings and 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.)
foodies, Smithfield's St John has made quite a name
for its exploration of traditional British cooking,
including lots of offal: uncompromising food in an
uncompromising setting. A new South Bank gastropub,
the Anchor & Hope has instantly created a huge
reputation by offering similar (but perhaps less 'threatening')
fare, in a rather similar vein.
afternoon tea, the Basil Street Hotel, The Wolseley
or The Ritz are best. Any light meal at Fortnum's
Fountain is pleasant. For good old fish 'n' chips,
the best chippies are Toff's, Two Brothers and Faulkners
(none of which has a particularly convenient location).
London supposed to be a top place for curry?
noted above, London is the world's leading Indian
restaurant city: Curry is just part of a panoply of
interest. At the top end, establishments such as Chutney
Mary, Vama, Zaika, Tamarind, The Cinnamon Club and
the new Rasoi Vineet Bhatia are 'pushing back the
eat well on a budget, the capital's inexpensive Indians
offer a great deal of choice in almost all areas.
Such names as Mirch Masala, New Tayaab and the Lahore
Kebab House stand out, but the number of interesting
places is large - see page 234 for a comprehensive
list. The very best Indian restaurants are invariably
not to be found in the West End, but competent names
to look out for include Chowki, Mela, Soho Spice and
Veeraswamy (a smart modern establishment whose origins
make it the UK's oldest 'curry house').
the past ten years, many pubs have re-invented themselves
as informal restaurants. The Eagle was the original
(1991), and is still often credited as the best. This
year, however, has seen a stand-out newcomer in the
form of the Anchor & Hope. (For the rest of the
top ten names, see page 11.) The trend goes from strength
to strength. There are now almost no affluent suburbs
which lack pubs serving food of a quality that even
five years ago would have been inconceivable. Outlying
examples include The Ealing Park Tavern, The Earl
Spencer and St Johns. (As of last year, incidentally,
even that most important London suburb, New York City,
boasts an English gastropub!)
the pub tradition of ordering at the bar is kept,
but some of the grander establishments offer full
table service and have really become restaurants in
all but name (usually with a bar attached). Whether
these are really pubs any more becomes a question
of semantics. Examples include The Drapers Arms, The
Ebury and The Palmerston.
said diverse: what about other cuisines?
has good representations of most major cuisines (with
the possible exception of Latin American ones, although,
even here, there are some signs of life).
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 14 - and the idea of the generic 'Italian' restaurant
will soon seem as passé as the '50s idea that
olive oil was something you bought at the chemist.
the many traditional Chinese restaurants, the very
best - with the exception of Yming and Fung Shing
- are not in or near Chinatown. The biggest concentration
of very good restaurants is, in fact, in Bayswater
- including Royal China, Four Seasons and Mandarin
Kitchen. In the West End, Hakkasan, and its new sibling
Yauatcha, are at long last bringing a revolutionary
degree of style to the quality Chinese dining experience.
capital was historically weak in other oriental cuisines,
but there has been much activity in recent years,
often combining quality Japanese (or Japanese fusion)
cooking with innovative design. Zuma, its new offshoot
Roka and Sumosan are good examples.
cooking is also widespread but strongest in west London.
Fulham's grand Blue Elephant has been amazingly consistent
over the years, as has Notting Hill's Churchill Arms
- an example of that curious London creation: Thai
in a pub.
major hit of recent years has been the cuisines of
North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. These
cuisines lend themselves well to good budget experiences
- the Tas chain and Haz are among the good, less expensive
the lists on pages 14 and 15 for the top exponents
of each type of cuisine by nationality.
suggestions for 'something completely different'?
about Archipelago, Champor-Champor, LMNT, the Lobster
Pot, Les Trois Garçons, Sarastro or MVH? These
- in their various ways - each deserve applause for
being very 'different'.
there any sharp practices I should look out for?
the 'blank credit card slip trick', which is much
more common that it ought to be, even in top establishments.
If you are presented with a credit card slip with
a blank line for a gratuity, you should not assume
that a tip is appropriate. Often, 10% or (more usually)
12.5% service has already been included in the sum
you are being asked to pay, but the restaurant is
hoping that you will inadvertently 'double up' the
London Restaurants 2005 and Harden's UK Restaurants
2005 are published by Harden's Limited and are available
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