Tokyo and Paris may have more Michelin stars but London’s status as the world’s most cosmopolitan city for dining out has been strengthened by a record rise in the number of restaurants over the past year.
The 2015 edition of Harden’s London Restaurants, published tomorrow , shows 148 new openings since last year’s guidebook, compared with 47 closures, equating to net growth of 101 restaurants, a third higher than the previous record in the 2006 guide.
The ratio of openings to closures of 3.1 has only been beaten once in the 24-year history of the guide, in 1996, and Peter Harden, the guide’s co-founder, described the activity of the past year as “a restaurant scene in overdrive”.
However, Mr Harden added a note of caution, pointing out the ratio had never increased for more than three years in a row, suggesting that the capital’s restaurant scene was “very likely set for some loss of momentum”, if not a reverse.
“This exceptional level of growth is a fabulous achievement for the capital, but raises questions about sustainability,” he said. “It underlines London’s continued emergence as the greatest restaurant city on the planet, but such high points have also often heralded more competitive times ahead.”
He said that while London was regarded as “one of the great dining out cities of the world”, it was easy to forget that this was a relatively recent phenomenon. “Twenty years ago the proposition would rightly have been derided, and even a decade ago it would have sounded very much like boosterism,” he said.
The guide notes the continued emergence of East London as an eating out destination, with three of its most notable entries — Lyle’s, Merchants Tavern and Typing Room — being located in Shoreditch and Bethnal Green.
Other “significant openings” include Jason Atherton’s City Social, half way up Tower 42, and Nuno Mendes’s Chiltern Firehouse, a New York-style brasserie in Marylebone created by the hotel tycoon André Balazs and already a magnet for celebs including Kate Moss, David Beckham and Simon Cowell.
In the guide’s annual poll of more than 6,000 restaurant-goers, The Ledbury, in Notting Hill was judged “top gastronomic experience”, while Chez Bruce, in Wandsworth, was voted “London’s favourite restaurant” for the tenth year in a row. Both are backed by the restaurateur Nigel Platts-Martin.
While Simon Rogan’s relaunch of the main dining room at Claridge’s as Fera at Claridge’s was the highest rated newcomer, Oliver Dabbous’s eponymous flagship restaurant, the much-heralded Dabbous, made an unwanted debut on the “most disappointing cooking” list alongside Marcus Wareing’s relaunched Marcus, at the Berkeley hotel, and Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner.
Oxo Tower retained its position as the purveyor of London’s most disappointing cooking, although it handed the baton of the “most overpriced restaurant” to The River Café. The Wolseley was deemed the “best for business” ahead of its sister establishment The Delaunay.
The average price of dinner for one at establishments listed in the guide is £49.46, a rise of 2.7 per cent on last year and broadly in line with inflation.