Londonlaunch.com's Top 10 Best London Restaurants are in a league of their own, offering fabulous fine-dining, Michelin starred chefs, stunning decor and exceptional service.
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I'm often asked which restaurants are the best in London. Well, it's obviously a matter of opinion (and taste) and in the gargantuan metropolitan megaplex we know and love as our home town, you can't help thinking that a sub-standard gastronomic experience would not go unnoticed. In short, there are loads of great restaurants in London, so it's what makes them different that makes them stand out as the ‘elite’. Then, of course, it depends what mood you're in or what the purpose of the evening (or luncheon) is.
At least once a week (particularly on a Tuesday or Wednesday for Champion's League reasons) I like nothing more than devouring a juicy flame grilled burger (and chunky chips) at our office local, The Broadway Bar and Grill. Owned by a great friend of mine and renowned Club owner, Brenhan McGhee, we're always welcomed with open arms and ushered to our favourite table (the one with the best view of the (multiple) screens) no matter how busy they are (even if their very own 'noisy neighbours', Chelsea, are playing).
The ‘BB&G’ is, in fact, an excellent destination for a wide variety of corporate gatherings – from sports screenings to wine tasting, rooftop summer soirees (check out their amazing integrated rooftop tent) to fine dining in their classy ‘Brasa’ restaurant, perhaps followed by a few after-dinner drinks in their integral member’s club, Broadway House.
On other occasions, my inevitable acclimitisation to world class canapés and bowl-food, delectably supplied by London's finest caterers, gets the better of me and I crave something rather more exotic and over the top. An occupational hazard, of sorts!
The great thing is that restaurants and, more specifically, quality restaurants are making a notable comeback. This is because, as in any field, quality always wins through in the end. Settle for a cheap restaurant experience and all you'll get is...erm... a cheap restaurant experience. If budget is the primary concern though, there are plenty of great local places if you look hard enough. For example, there’s a tiny little French place in an alleyway in Knightsbridge. I can’t remember what it’s called but I know where it is and they have authentic rustic French wooden-handled knives, which is a great touch. Snails and bone marrow (a current trend in the events catering world), amongst a variety of other quintessentially French
delicacies, all adorn the menu ‘gastronomique’. My simple rule of thumb is to avoid anywhere where the tables are sticky, the loos are grotty and you have no idea where the kitchens are. Until you find them next to the loos downstairs.
In 2014, corporate event organisers are looking for affordable quality experiences and, as luck would have it, that's exactly what the market is offering. Of course, it's not luck at all because the restaurant trade is a fine tuned and well oiled (excuse the pun) money making machine and for good reason – you get what you pay for. The signs are that there are going to be more events staged in 2014 than ever before.
Corporations are increasingly entertaining more intimate groups of clients and, crucially, potential clients, more frequently.
Sure, the spectacular flagship gala dinners for five or six hundred guests or more are still going strong (check out some of the amazing, star studded events the Lord's Taverners are staging this year, as well as other high profile charities such as Ark (who raise millions through their sensational events) and Marie Curie, who have, for the first time started to use event technology to great effect). And the food produced by the leading caterers is nothing short of sensational (Rhubarb, Mustard, Admirable Crichton etc) as well as the up and coming new kids on the block, snapping at their (delicious, edible) heels (Noble House,Purple Grape, On Air etc).
In fact, one of my top 10 restaurants is overseen by a Rhubarb shareholder, Heston Blumenthal, and that tells a story. It really is all about the grub these days, rather than the decor! Restaurants have become increasingly desirable environments for relaxed corporate gatherings as the business world inevitably becomes more and more personable and, to a certain extent 'authentic'. A bloody good meal in a bloody good restaurant goes a bloody long way! Almost at any cost.
The food is paramount. The presentation is tantamount (to a work of art). The hosts must be catamount (especially at Galvin – look it up!). And the environment must categorically surmount the highest peaks of excellence (Duck & Waffle does this in altitude alone!). These four ingredients are all as crucial as each other.
It's all or nothing because in a world of uber-demanding perfectionists and online expert critics who all want to be heard (and listened to) there's no mercy or margin for error.
For substandard experiences we have one word. Tripadvisor. And it's a dangerous word in the restaurant world.
You'd be amazed at how much this one site has forced the trade to up its game, almost single handedly improving hotels and dining over the last five years because grumpy people now have a voice too. The secret to its unfathomable success is that it can't be ignored because everybody uses it, good or bad.
I’ve met Heston (at the launch of 20 Fenchurch St where Rhubarb have won the in-house catering contract for the awe-inspiring ‘Sky Garden’). He’s passionate, inventive and now, part of Rhubarb – a real coup (for both of them actually). Aside from being in one of London’s finest hotels, Dinner has a style all of it’s own and it’s an experience fine-diners will never forget! Guaranteed.
I love Gordon Ramsay and his passionate rage makes him (and his restaurants) a real draw. From the new Italian-style Union Street Café in Southwark (originally poised to be co-owned by David Beckham) to the new(ish) Savoy Grill, the aptly named Foxtrot Oscar Chelsea bistro to Plane Food at Heathrow, the GR empire is spreading it’s wings. My favourite is the classic Petrus in Belgravia. It’s French and almost impossibly stylish and it has a (well deserved) Michelin star to it’s name. Perfection.
Gordon’s former business partner (sort of) and a giant in his own right now. He’s also one of the select few who really does do the cooking, most days of the year, so it’s a proper treat to dine here. Marcus even invites all guests to ‘tell the front of house team’ if you want to meet him, even just to say “Hello!” This guy really understands the concept of creating an all round experience and, recognized as one of the top chefs in the world, Marcus Wareing is worth investing in if you really want to impress and enjoy…
With his flagship restaurant in Chelsea, Tom also has restaurants in Canary Wharf and Somerset House, where a beautiful large-scale riverside terrace is stunning in the summer. He does simple, classic comfort food really, really well and his restaurants resemble a (very nice) urban/country fusion kitchen feel. He has lovely PRs too, in the form of the world-class Mason Williams, who are long-standing friends of ours (and once got us on the front page of the Daily Star on New Year’s Day with a story about how much sick it would take to fill the Thames! Seriously.)
My original favourite and, interestingly, where both Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing trained. I love Michele Roux’s gloriously rich French cuisine and this classic restaurant is consistently world class. Le Gavroche has sculptures on the tables (such as elaborate cockerels etc) bent out of cutlery and one of the best and, therefore, the most famous Front of House Directors in town, Silvano Giraldin (who remembered me years after my first visit and welcomed me like a long lost friend!). This is an all round experience that will last with you (as it has with me) forever – and the food is nothing short of sensational. In fact, Michele Roux himself once came out of the kitchen to visit us and presented Jude with a signed cookbook. Legend!
I once did a talk in Manchester and one of the other speakers was the GM at Galvin. Fred Sirieix. What an inspiration! He’s so meticulous that he gets his team in for fun-fuelled training at the weekend. And they love it! He’s even invented a board game (that costs about £400!) which is all about the intricacies of running a restaurant. He calls his pretty front of house girls (I know that sounds politically incorrect, but they are pretty girls by design so that’s that), ‘Gazelles’ because they prance about sorting stuff out! The best views on Park Lane are just the icing on the cake in this amazing place and, sitting atop the Hilton Hotel (the only vantage point from which you can (legally) peer into the Queen’s garden!), it’s well worth a visit – perhaps before going downstairs to Whisky Mist?
Talking about amazing views, it really doesn’t get any better than this. Right at the top of the Heron Tower, this eclectic modern British restaurant with specialities including, you guessed it, duck and waffles, the floor to ceiling glass conjures up the possibly the finest view from any restaurant, anywhere in the world. Including New York City.
An inspired European ‘Grand Café’ The Wolseley is what I would call an ‘accessible classic’. Fairly relaxed in its approach, it’s a great way to enjoy world-class cuisine, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, afternoon-tea or dinner. Breakfast and lunch are both affordable and delicious whereas dinner is a little more of a commitment, shall we say, but wonderful nevertheless. The last time I ate here, it was pre-Lady Gaga at the O2 with some great friends who happen to be the largest manufacturers of domestic clocks in the world – Newgate. We were sitting next to one of the founder, Jim’s heroes too – Lucian Freud. What a night. And The Wolseley didn’t disappoint!
OK, forget what I said about oysters earlier. This place (resisted saying ‘plaice’) is the finest seafood restaurant in London, and has been for years. Situated in London’s salubrious Mayfair district, Scotts is famous for serving the finest oysters, shellfish and crustacean delights in all of England (although Rick Stein might have something to say about that). A wonderful classic environment and simply sensational seafood (in abundance).
STK combines probably the best (certainly the most decadent) steak I’ve ever experienced. Everything comes with chips, truffles and/or hot melted blue cheese. The food is amazing, that’s a given, but the atmosphere is something else. Big, brash, loud – the American way. But somehow it works. The resident DJs subtly crank things up throughout the evening until, by 11.00pm it’s like a club and everyone’s dancing on the tables. Literally. Another trade secret is that they are very selective about the VIP guest list. A carefully constructed and eclectic mix of dinner guests make for a rocking atmosphere that perhaps wouldn’t be otherwise possible. And then, of course, you can hop in the lift for after dinner drinks up at Radio…
Oh, and a bonus at number 11 – Boisdale of Belgravia. This timeless ‘end of Empire’, well-worn and ‘clubbable’ joint is home to some of the finest steaks south of the border. An intrinsically stylish restaurant (which owes much of it’s unique atmosphere to the gloriously eccentric owner, Ranald Macdonald), Boisdale has a decidedly ‘old-school-cool’ atmosphere with live jazz every night. It’s really popular with small to medium sized corporate gatherings too as there’s an abundance of unique dining areas (nooks and crannies) in which you can lose yourself (and your inhibitions, it seems!).
So, there you have it, our (current) top 10 (actually, 11!). If you disagree or have any suggestions/reviews to add, please let us know! Likewise, if you operate a restaurant, which we haven’t included, please tell us why we should have done so!
Will Broome CEO