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OLYMPIAN PERFORMANCE WINS ‘GOLD’ FOR RADICAL EAST ENDER

• Survey finds Nuno Mendes’s Viajante, in Bethnal Green, is ‘best new restaurant’ of year

• Award reflects emergence of East London as major dining area

• Londoners’ willingness to bless radical cooking, with echoes of ‘molecular gastronomy’, bodes well for Heston’s forthcoming ‘Dinner’ opening, but Blumenthal will have his work cut out to beat Viajante

Other key findings of the 20th Harden’s survey of restaurant-goers

• Marcus Wareing again voted London’s best chef

• Gavroche’s Michel Roux Jr confirmed as top chef with greatest staying power

• Standards at Michelin’s top-rated (3-star) London restaurants – Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay – lag far behind those of a number of less celebrated establishments

Best Newcomer Award

Viajante – Portuguese chef Nuno Mendes’s new restaurant in East London’s Bethnal Green – has won the Rémy Martin VSOP Award for Best-rated Newcomer in the annual survey conducted for Harden’s London Restaurants, the 20th edition of which is published today. The total number of reporters contributing to the combined London/UK survey exceeded 8,000, and together they gave some 85,000 individual reports.

Viajante’s “amazing food combinations” are said by the guide to offer “sheer pleasure all the way”. A meal might include:

• Squid tartare and pickled radishes, samphire and squid ink ‘granite’

• Charred leeks, white asparagus, hazelnuts and milk skin

• Crumbled Polenta and lemon paste, strawberries and citrus powder.

These dishes reflect Nuno Mendes’s peripatetic past (‘viajante’ is a traveller in Portuguese), and his time working with one of New York’s most celebrated chefs, Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Viajante is located in Bethnal Green’s old Town Hall, two stops on the Central Line from the Olympic Village at Stratford. The award reflects the emergence of East London – until recently a culinary desert – as a quality restaurant scene. Co-editor Richard Harden says: “This year, East London was, for the first time, the most active area for new openings after central London, Indeed, some restaurants in the East – such as Hawksmoor and St John– are now “exporting’ concepts to the West End, which, until recently, would have been unthinkable.

The award also shows London diners readiness to embrace experimental cuisines. Until recently, the UK’s few more experimental restaurants have generally been found out-of-town, in locations such as Bray, Cambridge, Leeds and the Lake District.

Co-editor of the survey, Peter Harden, notes: “Nuno Mendes’s cv includes a ‘stage’ at El Bulli, so his experimental culinary style – with its echos of ‘molecular gastronomy’ – clearly invites comparison with the likes of Heston Blumenthal, who will be launching ‘Dinner’ in Knightsbridge in December. Mendes’s success is encouraging for Blumenthal in one respect, but also sets the world-famous chef something of a challenge! Viajante is a hard act to beat.”

Marcus Wareing is voted capital’s top chef… and does best puddings too

Marcus Wareing is voted London’s top chef for the third consecutive year, with Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley described in the guide as “standing supreme as London’s best restaurant”. The guide commends Wareing’s food as a “tour de force”, service as “second to none”, and the wine list as “exceptional”.

The restaurant of the Lancastrian chef captures not only the guide’s Rémy Martin XO Award for Best All-Round Restaurant but also the Coeur de Cognac Best Dessert Award for his warm chocolate moelleux with salted caramel.

For a full list of the Rémy Martin awards, see Appendix I.

For 20th year, Michel Roux Jr maintains unique “staying power” of Le Gavroche

Harden’s – celebrating its 20th edition – notes that Le Gavroche under Michel Roux is one of only two restaurants (the other being Le Caprice) to have featured in the survey's top-20 most mentioned restaurants every year since. It was listed among the very best establishments in town in the 1992 guide and remains so today (beaten in the top price bracket only by Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley).

Co-editor Peter Harden notes “Michel Roux Jr succeeded his father Albert in the same year as Harden's was launched. Maintaining his father's high standards so consistently over so many years is an incredibly impressive achievement unmatched by any other chef in the survey. Perhaps because he inherited his position, he doesn't seem to get the recognition his performance deserves.”

Survey results suggest Michelin’s top awards – to Ramsay and Ducasse –may have as much to do with celebrity as quality

Co-editor Richard Harden notes that the results of Harden’s survey of ‘ordinary’ restaurant customers is casting ever-increasing doubt on the utility of the internationally prestigious 3-star awards being made by the French tyre company, Michelin.

According to Michelin, only two London restaurants deserve the top ‘3-star’ rating. Both of them – Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester – are branded with the names of international celebrity chefs. Survey participants, however, see standards at these two restaurants as being considerably lower than at a number of other top-price establishments.

Harden observes: “At least the top award for Gordon Ramsay might be explained away as a lag in downgrading a restaurant which our survey did – until a couple of years ago – show to be the best in London for over a decade. With Ducasse’s establishment, however, practically all third-party opinion has always been so out of step with Michelin’s grade that the inescapable impression is that the organisation is more concerned with the name over the door than the quality on the plate. If that is the case, it is not really clear what the point of the Michelin awards is”.

Other trends

The editors of the guide suggest the following trends of the moment

• ‘Street food’ from Indian and Latino cuisines is at the heart of numerous new and growing chains which are spicing up the options amongst fast-food cafés.

• The steakhouse mini-boom is continuing. It would appear to be part of a wider boom in specialist outlets, as London is seeing the opening of, for example, ever more gelaterie, pâtisseries, and seafood bars – categories that have historically been poorly served. (This week, for example, sees the opening of an offshoot of leading Parisian pâtissier Pierre Hermé in Belgravia.)

• London has a growing number of traditional (Gallic) brasseries: another category of establishment it has always been short of.

• The area around Hyde Park Corner (and on into Belgravia and along Knightsbridge) is emerging as something akin to the ‘Bond Street’ of London’s restaurant trade (a reputation which looks set to be enhanced with the arrival of Blumenthal’s ‘Dinner’ in December).

Other key survey results

• For the 6th consecutive year, Bruce Poole’s restaurant Chez Bruce was voted Londoners’ Favourite restaurant

• For the 8th consecutive year, J Sheekey was the restaurant which attracted most survey commentary. Mayfair celebrity-magnet Scott’s is now the second Most Mentioned Restaurant (up from 3rd last year).

• The Wolseley was again most frequently nominated Best for Business. Second and third places were taken by Coq d’Argent and The Square.

• To no one’s surprise, La Poule au Pot, in Pimlico, was voted London’s Most Romantic Restaurant… for the 16th consecutive year

• Oxo Tower was the restaurant most often nominated both as Most Disappointing and as Most Overpriced. In each of these lists, second and third positions were held by Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and Gordon Ramsay at Claridges.

Full lists are set out in Appendix II.

-Ends-

Notes for Editors

1. The Harden’s nationwide survey is conducted in association with Rémy Martin Fine Champagne Cognac. The out-of-town results for the Harden’s survey will be published on the launch of the new edition of Harden’s UK Restaurant Guide 2011, in association with Rémy Martin Fine Champagne Cognac, in October.

2. Harden’s London Restaurants 2011 (£11.99) is available from all good bookshops (including branches of Waterstone’s nationwide) or from www.hardens.com

3. Harden’s restaurant listings are also published in formats for BlackBerry and iPhone. An iPad edition will be launched shortly.

APPENDIX I – REMY MARTIN AWARD-WINNERS (AND RUNNERS–UP)

Rémy Martin XO Award for best all-round restaurant

Winner

1 Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley

Runners –up

2 Le Gavroche (3)

3 La Trompette (5)

4 The Ledbury (4)

5 Chez Bruce (2)

6= The Square (-)

6= Oslo Court (-)

6= The Ritz (-)

9 Pied à Terre (-)

10 Trinity (-)

Remy Martin VSOP Award for best-rated newcomer

Winner

1 Viajante

Runners-up

2 Mooli’s

3 Manson

4 Kitchen W8

5 Bistrot Bruno Loubet

Rémy Martin Coeur de Cognac award for Best Dessert

Winner

1 Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley

(Warm chocolate moelleux, salted caramel)

Runners-up

2 The Ivy – Baked Alaska with griotte cherries (2)

3 Chez Bruce – Cheeseboard (3)

4 Murano – Pistachio soufflé with warm chocolate sauce (-)

5= Le Caprice – Iced berries with hot white chocolate sauce (-)

5= maze – Peanut butter & cherry jam sandwich (-)

APPENDIX II

Survey rankings by number of reporters’ nominations

(Last year’s ranking in brackets)

Best meal of the year

1 Marcus Wareing (1)

2 Le Gavroche (3)

3= Chez Bruce (2)

3= The Ledbury (8)

5= La Trompette (5)

5= Gordon Ramsay (4)

7 The Square (9)

8 L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (7)

9 Roussillon (-)

10 Murano (10)

Favourite

1 Chez Bruce (1)

2 Galvin Bistrot de Luxe (7)

3= La Trompette (6)

3= Le Caprice (2)

5 The Wolseley (4=)

6 J Sheekey (3)

7 The Ivy (4=)

8 Moro (9)

9 The Ledbury (-)

10 The River Café (-)

Best for business

1 The Wolseley (1)

2 Coq d’Argent (4)

3 The Square (5)

4 Bleeding Heart (2)

5 The Don (3)

6 L’Anima (6)

7 Galvin Bistrot de Luxe (9)

8 Scott’s (8)

9 Galvin La Chapelle*

10 The Ivy (-)

Best for romance

1 La Poule au Pot (1)

2 Clos Maggiore (3)

3 Andrew Edmunds (2)

4 Bleeding Heart (4)

5 Galvin at Windows (9)

6 Chez Bruce (5)

7= Café du Marché (-)

7= Marcus Wareing (8)

9 Le Caprice (6)

10 Le Gavroche (10)

Best breakfast/brunch

1 The Wolseley (1)

2 Smiths (Ground Floor) (-)

3 Roast (3)

4 Cecconi’s (4)

5 Simpsons-in-the-Strand (5)

6 High Road Brasserie (7)

7 Providores (Tapa Room) (-)

8 Tom’s Kitchen (8)

9= The Goring Hotel (-)

9= Automat (10)

Best bar/pub food

1 The Anchor & Hope (1)

2 Harwood Arms (7)

3 Bull & Last (9=)

4 The Anglesea Arms (9=)

5 Princess Victoria (-)

6 The Thomas Cubitt (4=)

7 The Wells (-)

8= The Orange (-)

8= The Eagle (4=)

8= The Ladbroke Arms (-)

Most disappointing cooking

1 Oxo Tower (1)

2 Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s (3)

3 Gordon Ramsay (4)

4 The Ivy (2)

5 Cipriani (7)

6 The Wolseley (5)

7 Alain Ducasse (-)

8 maze (10)

9= Le Caprice (-)

9= Corrigan’s Mayfair (6)

Most overpriced restaurant

1 Oxo Tower (2)

2= Gordon Ramsay (1)

2= Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s (3)

4 Cipriani (4)

5 The River Café (5)

6 Hakkasan (7)

7 Alain Ducasse (-)

8 Le Gavroche (-)

9 Sketch (Lecture Rm) (9)

10 maze (10)

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