The 2012 edition of Harden's UK Restaurant Survey, now available, confirms that the strength of the restaurant scene across the UK – not just in the capital – continues to confound pessimists.
The guide - far more comprehensive than its established rivals - is researched in association with Rémy Martin Fine Champagne Cognac, and is the only national restaurant guide based on a detailed annual survey of restaurant-goers. This year, there were over 8,000 contributors, who together contributed some 85,000 reports.
Co-editor Peter Harden comments:
“It was widely feared that difficult ongoing economic conditions would throw the development of the UK’s restaurant scene into reverse. While it is true that the rest of the country is not proving as resilient as the capital, it does seem that the UK-wide trend towards improving restaurants, evident over the last 5-10 years, is too strong to be easily derailed. It's interesting that when Edinburgh – now a major ‘destination’ – did recently see a major failure at the top end, local commentators tended to blame not the lack of demand, but rather over-supply!”
This year, the UK guide has seen some changes. It is now called a Survey (not a 'Guide’), to emphasis the basis of its compilation, which is unique among the national guides. The guide also now includes the full content of Harden’s celebrated London guide (over 1800 restaurants), not just 'edited highlights’ – thus, purchasers of the national guide now also get the full text of what is often regarded as the definitive guide to the capital’s culinary attractions.
The rating systems between the London and UK guides formerly differed, but the 'London' system has now been adopted throughout. This assesses Food, Service and Ambience independently, and each aspect – guided by the survey – is put into one of five categories from 1 (best in the price class) to 5 (worst). This system, believed to be unique (worldwide), is as helpful to someone trying to spend a small budget well as it it to a gastronome for whom money is no particular object. This is consistent with the guide’s aim, which is to tell people where to find the best dining opportunities wherever they find themselves, whatever their budget, and whatever style they are looking for.
On the basis of the Harden’s survey, the UK’s best-all-round restaurants – giving equal importance to Food, Service and Ambience – are as follows (last year’s ranking in brackets):
1. Le Gavroche W1 (2)
2. The Ledbury W11 (4)
3. The Ritz W1 (-)
4. Chez Bruce SW18 (5)
5. Min Jiang W8 (-)
Rest of UK
1. Gidleigh Park, Chagford (1)
2. Waterside Inn, Bray (4)
3. Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Great Milton (2)
4. Mr Underhill’s, Ludlow (3)
5. Restaurant Martin Wishart, Edinburgh (-)
The restaurants achieving the highest volume of survey commentary were as follows (last year's ranking in brackets):
1. Fat Duck, Bray (1)
2. Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Great Milton (2)
3. Waterside Inn, Bray (3)
4. Seafood Restaurant, Padstow (5)
5. Northcote, Langho (6)
6. Hind’s Head, Bray (5)
7. Gidleigh Park, Chagford (14=)
8=. Kitchin, Edinburgh (16=)
8=. Chapter One, Locksbottom (12)
10. Hand & Flowers, Marlow (-)
11. Vineyard at Stockcross, Stockcross (13=)
12. Hix Oyster & Fish House, Lyme Regis (11)
13=. Walnut Tree, Llandewi Skirrid (10)
13=. Star Inn, Harome (7=)
13=. Yang Sing, Manchester (8=)
16. Sportsman, Whitstable (-)
17=. Magpie, Whitby (8=)
17=. L’Enclume, Cartmel (-)
19. Yorke Arms, Ramsgill-in-Nidderdale (-)
20. Hambleton Hall, Rutland (16=)
Co-Editor Richard Harden observes:
“While the restaurants which attract the very most survey commentary are ‘known and usual suspects’ – with no fewer than three of the top 20 in the village of Bray, Berkshire! – it is heartening that the great majority (14) of the top 20 places that incited most survey commentary are not in SE England. There is still plenty of room for improvement, but this offers heartening confirmation that most corners of the UK now have restaurants which the visitor should find positively worth seeking out.”
For further details or to discuss interview opportunities please contact Helen Teschauer on 020 7839 4763 or email@example.com
Notes for Editors
1. Harden’s has conducted surveys of restaurant-goers, first in London only but in more recent years across the entire UK, for 21 consecutive years.
2. Co-publishers and co-editors of the Harden’s guides are brothers Richard and Peter Harden.
3. The data published in Harden’s UK Restaurant Survey 2012 are also available in the form of apps for iPhone and iPad, and for BlackBerry.