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Top London restaurants, or are they?


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The Financial Times carries an interesting article by a restaurant critic, Richard Harden, on top London restaurants and whether those with Michelin stars and a part of celebrity chef ’empires’ eg Ramsay are as good as independents.

There is a table of 33 top ‘restaurants’ in London (Pds80+ per head) based on a survey of 8,000 customers. Now many may say that price does not equal quality and Adam would agree, but these ones tend to have the Michelin stars.

Looking at this top-of-the-league-table, therefore, what is immediately apparent is that only two of the top 10 establishments (Gordon Ramsay, Chelsea, and l’Atelier de Joel Robuchon) are part of international celebrity-branded empires, but that seven are clearly not. Number one is a special case: though still (until September 10) technically part of the Ramsay empire, Marcus Wareing effectively declared independence long ago, and I believe that his restaurant’s eminence reflects his personal presence at the restaurant concerned. So make that eight out of 10 for the independents.

The piece concludes:-

I can suggest a couple of practical rules for choosing top-end restaurants, which I suspect are of universal application.

The first general rule is: big international names are for suckers. Don’t follow them in the belief that they will, ipso facto, be likely to give you better quality than the home-grown, stand-alone operations.

The second rule, however, is: if you are going to follow the names, do it properly. Don’t settle for second best.

Pay the extra, wait longer for that table, and seek out Ramsay in Royal Hospital Road, say, or Ducasse in Paris or Monte Carlo. It’s not that you’re likely to find either of the relevant gentlemen in residence but, if you visit one of the three-star flagships, you may be confident that it is an overriding objective of the businesses concerned that your meal is realised to the standards on which a whole empire’s international credibility ultimately depends. After all, for all they know, you might be from Michelin.

Adam is not surprised. Many years ago he ate at one of the earliest incarnations of Chef Nico Ladenis -Chez Nico, in Lordship Lane, South London. The food was superb. The food was cooked by the chef whose name was over the door. Sometimes, Adam enjoys seeing Ramsay, or Rick Stein on the TV, but these people are business managers now. He suspects that some like Ramsay are spread too thin, witness the lack lustre reviews for his New York venture.

Personally on TV Adam would rather watch the non PC Anthony Bourdain.

  1. krupatel24 permalink
    16/07/2009 22:00

    Hi there great blog – very interesting and its always nice to know that there are restaurants out there there that are definitely worthwhile going to and those that are not! – its always helpful to know ..I thought I’d let you all know about a bit of a competition that has just started at – The prize is to become a food critic for a month, with four free meals for two at the best restaurants in your area. To enter, all you need to do is sign up to htpp:// (it’s a bit like facebook) and review a hotel or restaurant. If you do this, you are automatically entered into the draw to become a food critic for the month! More Details about the competition can be found at the Gekko Blog. Its a fab deal and it gives you the chance to eat great food free


  2. adamsmith1922 permalink*
    31/08/2008 11:52

    Could not agree more.

    There are some good gastropubs around as well.

    Personally, I avoid these over hyped celebrity places even when on expenses.

    Years ago there were some very good places run y the chef/owner in Soho and elsewhere were good food could be had at reasonable prices


  3. showmethetaxcut permalink
    31/08/2008 10:57


    Forget Michelin.

    When I am in London I eat at the small upmarket Gaucho chain (Argentinian steaks etc). There are two in central London at Picadilly and just off the Kings Road in Chelsea. Others in the City and at Hampstead.

    Fantastic food at reasonable prices. Great atmosphere.

    A couple can eat and drink well for around NZ$300.00.


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