The Ledbury – the Notting Hill restaurant attacked during recent riots – receives consolation, as contributors to Harden’s annual survey of diners-out (conducted in association with Rémy Martin Fine Champagne Cognac) rate its food the best in London.
The Ledbury’s Australian chef, Brett Graham, becomes only the third chef to hold the honour this millennium. His ascent is all the more notable as – unlike his predecessors in the top slot, Gordon Ramsay (2000-2007) and Marcus Wareing (2008-2011) – he was a relative ‘unknown’ when the restaurant was launched. The restaurant’s promise, however, was always obvious: just a few months after its opening in April 2005, it won a ‘Restaurant Rémy’ top newcomer award.
Wandsworth’s Chez Bruce is voted ‘Londoners’ Favourite Restaurant’ for an impressive seventh consecutive year. The secures an extraordinary ‘double’ for its part-proprietor Nigel Platts-Martin… who is also a part-proprietor of The Ledbury. The other restaurants he part-owns – The Square, La Trompette and The Glasshouse – also win very high praise in the survey.
After an extraordinary 16-year run, London has a new ‘Most Romantic Restaurant’: Pimlico’s Poule au Pot is ousted by Prince Harry and Chelsy’s favoured dinner-date venue, Clos Maggiore in Covent Garden.
In other key survey results, the Wolseley retains poll position as both ‘Best for Business’ and ‘Best for Breakfast’. The ‘Best Pub Food’ is to be found at The Anchor & Hope.
Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s, whose lease was recently extended by the hotel landlord for only a marginal period, tops the poll for ‘Most Disappointing Cooking’, ousting the Oxo Tower from its habitual position at the top of that list of shame. The same two restaurants also appear on the other such list – ‘Most overpriced restaurant’ – but in the opposite order.
Peter Harden – the co-editor of Harden’s London Restaurants 2012, published today – comments:
“Brett Graham and the team at the Ledbury, who acquitted themselves so well in defending their customers against a mob, deserve the highest credit for establishing the Ledbury as the restaurant where you find London’s best food. It is also an extraordinary achievement for Nigel Platts-Martin, who co-owns both Chez Bruce (once again Londoners’ Favourite Restaurant) and The Ledbury.
Co-editor Richard Harden notes:
“After a long period where the top end of the restaurant scene appeared to be driven by froth and celebrity, London is at last seeing the launch of restaurants where the emphasis is on serious cooking. Recent openings include Galoupet, Hedone, Medlar, Pollen Street Social and Roganic. It is sometimes said that harsh economic times make for good art; it seems that the same may be true of restaurants!”
• Hotels are big news. Each year Harden’s lists the 40 restaurants diners-out are talking about most: this year four of the five list newcomers are in hotels.
• The most popular cuisine for new openings is London’s original restaurant comfort cuisine, Italian. Steakhouses are also in vogue.
• Geographically, the spotlight seems to be moving away from the ‘new frontiers’ to the re-discovery of traditional areas, most obviously Covent Garden.
• America, and in particular New York, is the inspiration for many recent and forthcoming openings.
Exemplifying almost all these trends is the imminent high-profile opening, Cut: a steakhouse in a hotel (45 Park Lane) in an established area (Mayfair), whose backer, Wolfgang Puck, has numerous US outlets.
Openings, closings, pricing
Numerically (although, as noted above, not in qualitative terms), it was a weak year for London openings, with 107 debuts recorded by the guide. This may be compared with 140, the third-highest figure ever, the previous year.
At 72, however, closings remain remarkably unaffected by economic stringency – the figure recorded, is almost exactly the same as last year, and very much within the normal range seen in the past half-decade.
Prices, however, have risen over the past 12 months by an extraordinary 11.1%. This reflects a ‘perfect storm’ of inflationary pressure – not only the much commented-on increase in food prices worldwide, but also the one-off effect of the increase in VAT in January.
1. The Harden’s survey of London restaurant-goers has been conducted annually since 1991, making the most recent survey the 21st. This year, the survey (now also including restaurants across the UK) generated some 85,000 individual reports from over 8,000 reporters.
2. The UK results will be published on 1 November, on the publication of Harden’s London and UK Restaurants 2012, in association with Rémy Martin Fine Champagne Cognac.
Selected lists from guide
Best for Food (£85+)
1. The Ledbury
2. Le Gavroche
4. The Square
5. Marcus Wareing
Best for Food (£65-£84)
1. Chez Bruce
3. Min Jiang
4. Gauthier Soho
Best for Food (£50-£64)
1. Morgan M
4. La Trompette
5. Pollen Street Social
Top Gastronomic Experience, by number of nominations (Last year in parentheses)
1. Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley (1)
2. Le Gavroche (2)
3. The Ledbury (3)
4. Chez Bruce (3)
5. Dinner (-)
6. La Trompette (5)
7=. The Square (7)
7=. Pied a Terre (-)
9. Viajante (-)
10. Gordon Ramsay (5)
Best for Business, by number of nominations
1. The Wolseley (1)
2. The Don (5)
3. The Square (3)
4. Bleeding Heart (4)
5. Galvin La Chapelle (9)
6. Coq d’Argent (2)
7. L’Anima (6)
8=. Galvin Bistrot de Luxe (7)
8=. Scott’s (8)
10 The Ivy (10)
Best for romance, by number of nominations
1. Clos Maggiore (2)
2. La Poule au Pot (1)
3. Andrew Edmunds (3)
4. Bleeding Heart (4)
5. Chez Bruce (6)
6. Galvin at Windows (5)
7. Le Caprice (9)
8. Le Gavroche (10)
9. The Ledbury (-)
10. Oxo Tower Restaurant (-)
Most Disappointing Cooking, by number of nominations
1. Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s (2)
2. Oxo Tower Restaurant (1)
3. The Ivy (4)
4. Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley (-)
5. Gordon Ramsay (3)
6. Les Deux Salons (-)
7. The Wolseley (-)
=8. Skylon (-)
=8. Hibiscus (-)
Most Overpriced, by number of nominations
1. Oxo Tower (1)
2. Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s (2)
3. Gordon Ramsay (3)
4. Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley (-)
5. The River Cafe (5)
6. Hakkasan (6)
7. Alain Ducasse (7)
=8. Maze (10)
=8. Le Gavroche
10. Nobu (-)