London’s 10 most disappointing restaurants (scroll through our gallery)

  • 1 The Chiltern Firehouse W1
    “Full of Z-listers, models and wannabe movers-and-shakers”, this achingly hip Marylebone yearling is “so overhyped” it’s hilarious. It’s undoubtedly a “gorgeous-looking” place and “fun” too (especially if you like people-watching), but you pay “silly money” for service that’s “confused” (going on “obnoxious”), and food for which “mediocre would be a flattering description”.
  • 2 Oxo Tower SE1
    “Stunning view, shame about the food” – year-in-year-out it’s plus ça change at this famous South Bank fixture, whose “rubbish” cooking, “purposeless” service and hefty bills make it nigh on “the worst bang for your buck in town”.
  • 3 Pollen Street Social W1
    Eeeessh! – turns out Jason Atherton isn’t superhuman after all, as falling ratings at his original solo venture give the first hints of growing pains amidst his burgeoning (but hitherto seemingly bulletproof) empire. This, the original Social, still has legions of fans who laud its “utterly inventive” cuisine and “buzzy” (if “downright noisy”) vibe, but its performance has seemed more “generic” and “passionless” of late, with gripes over “unmemorable” meals at high prices, and “conveyor-belt” service.
  • 4 Colbert SW1
    “How did Corbin and King get things so wrong?” – this “buzzing” Sloane Square two-year-old looks “elegant”, but service can be “appalling” and the brasserie fare is “seriously underwhelming” – “it’s like an expensive Café Rouge!”
  • 5 Grain Store N1
    Bruno Loubet’s “NYC warehouse-y” King’s Cross two-year-old divided opinions this year; to its fans this “wonderfully bustling space” remains “an absolute revelation” thanks to “endlessly inventive”, “veg-a-centric” cooking, but a few doubters had meals that were “absolutely awful”. (Flying from Gatwick? – there’s now a branch there too.)
  • 6 Dinner SW1
    “I love a bit of history with my meal!” – Heston’s “self-consciously creative” menu of rediscovered Olde Worlde English dishes is “pure foodie heaven” for fans of this park-side chamber (“lovely views if you get a window table”). Esteem for the place continues to wane year-on-year, however, and to a growing band of refuseniks “what first seemed novel and exciting now seems boring” and “oh-so overpriced”. Top Menu Tips for first-timers – the Meat Fruit (“to die for”) and Tipsy Cake (“divine”).
  • 7 Gordon Ramsay SW3
    Slowly but surely, GR’s Chelsea flagship is clawing its way back into London’s very top tier. As yet, it still inspires too many gripes about a “boring” experience at “stratospheric” prices, but year-on-year the ‘swingometer’ is steadily heading in the direction of its admirers who – lauding Clare Smyth’s “absolutely impeccable” cuisine – say “the bill is eye-watering, but after such a superb meal, you won’t care!” Stop Press – in early October 2015, Clare Smyth announced that she was stepping back, to open her own place in autumn 2016. Her No 2. Matt Abe will succeed her here.
  • 8 Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester W1
    “Never a three-star!” – the Gallic über-chef ’s foodie temple in Mayfair is just “not up to par”; OK, a minority of fans are duly wowed, but for a sizeable majority its “Michelin-by-numbers” cuisine, “characterless” style and ferocious prices create a “distinctly average” experience.
  • 9 Dabbous W1
    Aficionados of Ollie Dabbous’s foodie legend still extol the “inventive and refreshing” cuisine at his “chilled” Fitzrovia HQ. However, evermore sceptics “don’t understand the hype”, given the grungy, “industrial” decor and food that increasingly seems “strange”, “gimmicky” and “none-too-thrilling”.
  • 10 The Wolseley W1
    It should be a national monument!” – Corbin & King’s “tremendously atmospheric” (“mildly cacophonous”) European Grand Café by the Ritz has become a “perennial” linchpin of “glamorous” London life (“there’s always at least one A-list celeb eating at a nearby table!”). It’s the “fun and the buzz” that set it apart, however – the large Mittel-European menu is “very adaptable” but decidedly “not exciting” (even if “it does the best breakfast in town, bar none!”)

And now to the ‘list of shame’. Here are London’s 10 most disappointing restaurants, according to the results of Harden’s 2016 survey of over 6,750 restaurant-goers.

Topping the Most Disappointing Cooking list this year was paparazzi hotspot the Chiltern Firehouse. Nuno Mendesʼs hotel dining room has the dubious pleasure of taking this title from the Oxo Tower restaurant, which has finally managed to escape the number 1 spot on the Ê»list of shameʼ (now at number two) after 15 years. The Hardenʼs survey not only awarded the Chiltern Firehouse bottom marks for food, reporters also decried the place as “full of Z-listers, models and wannabe movers-and-shakers” and “so over-hyped itʼs hilarious” – none of this is helped by “silly” prices and service thatʼs “confused (going on obnoxious)”.

Appearing on the Most Disappointing Cooking list for the first time is Jason Athertonʼs flagship Pollen Street Social (3). According to the survey, 2015 was the year the (until now) bullet-proof Atherton empire began to show signs of wear and tear. Complaints of “passionless”, “unmemorable meals” and “conveyor belt service” typified feedback and led to tumbling ratings. Has the restaurateur finally overstretched himself? The last 12 months have been busy – the opening of City Social (which got a name check in out Best for Business top 10 at number 4), the launch of Social Wine & Tapas and his forthcoming Japanese project on the former site of Turnmills, Sosharu. His Bernerʼs Tavern also took a nosedive in ratings this year, with food deemed to be “no more than competent”. Athertonʼs “trendy yet superb” Social Eating House in Soho remains a beacon of hope.

It appears alongside Heston Blumenthalʼs hotel dining room Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental (6) and Bruno Loubetʼs Grain Store (5) – another new entry in the unenviable top 10. Dinnerʼs popularity continues to wane year-on-year in the survey and its Olde Worlde dishes which “first seemed novel and exciting now seems boring” and “oh-so overpriced”.

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