Harden's survey result
For 25 years we've been curating reviews of the UK's most notable restaurant. This year diners have submitted over 60,000 reviews to create the most authoritative restaurant guide in the UK.
This “Soho classic” (which underwent a contemporary revamp some years ago) was more consistently highly rated this year for its “refined Indian cuisine” from a menu “which gets away from the normal well-trodden footpaths”. Even fans though still concede that it remains “pricey”.
This landmark curry-stalwart in Soho has revamped over the years, but its ratings waned sharply this year; for fans it’s still a big favourite, but for others it’s now a big let-down – “it made me think of an averagely ‘premium’ restaurant, in an averagely ‘premium’ hotel”.
“It’s set the standard for Indian food for years”, say fans of this Soho stalwart (which underwent a “faintly impersonal” modern revamp a few years ago); others are more cautious – “it was good on an ‘offer’, but would have seemed overpriced at full tariff”.
This Soho stalwart – decorated nowadays “rather in international-hotel style” – no longer attracts the attention it once did; some loyalists still hail it as “London’s best traditional Indian”, but most assessments are more middle-of-the-road.
The Red Fort W1
Reinvigorated by refurbishment, this long-established, good-but-pricey Indian looks set to hold its own in a corner of Soho that's becoming ever more trendy.
The rather lugubrious start to 2010 for new restaurant openings has been partially offset by a number of top-end relaunches. We've recently reviewed The Capital (new chef), and Benares (refitted after a fire).
And now the Red Fort in Soho has also re-opened after a prolonged post-fire refit. This was possibly London's original upmarket new-wave Indian (even pre-dating the establishment of Harden's in 1991!). Now the old place fortuitously finds itself relaunched on a strip that - while is was 'away' - has had a major rush of trendiness. Quo Vadis, opposite, has been reinvigorated by the Hart brothers, and Richard Caring has unveiled his mega-'in' Dean Street Townhouse, just a few yards away.
The Fort's new interior, while not looking that different from the old days, has a comfortable-contemporary feeling which seems rather more inviting than we remember. It wasn't succeeding in dragging in the punters on our lunchtime visit, but the agreeable and efficient staff told us they were very busy at night.
We assume that it's only a matter of time before lunchtime trade picks up, but in some senses the restaurant doesn't really help itself. There are £12 set lunch menus - one carnivorous, one veggie - but they don't really seem to push them (and you may have to ask for either/both).
We tried one of each menu, on the basis of which we can confirm that the standard of the food is never less than good, and sometimes impressive. Tandoori starters kicked the meal off superbly, but there was just a slight feeling as it progressed that momentum was not quite being maintained.
We ended with a pudding sampler plate from the Ã la carte menu, which was enjoyable, but certainly not exceptional. We suspect that the story is similar with the broad-ranging carte (which includes some exotic meat dishes) - achieved to a good and consistent standard, but at prices that give nothing away.
Looking for a smart Indian dinner in Soho, though? Well, where else you gonna go?
77 Dean St, London, W1D 3SH
lunch noon - 3 pm, dinner 5.45 pm - 11.30 pm
Last orders: 10.30 pm