The Araki, a nine-seater Japanese counter in Mayfair that at over £350 a head is Britain’s most expensive restaurant, has been crowned London’s Top Gastronomic Experience at the first ever Harden’s London Restaurant Awards, justifying sushi master Mitsuhiro Araki’s gamble in closing down his Michelin three-star operation in Tokyo to move around the world.
He shared the awards ceremony stage at the Hippodrome Casino in Leicester Square on Monday September 12 with a star-studded list of London’s culinary talent across 12 categories.
An additional Lifetime Achievement award was presented to Bruce Poole in recognition of his work at Chez Bruce beside Wandsworth Common – voted London’s Favourite Restaurant for over a decade by participants in Harden’s annual diner survey, which formed the basis for the award shortlists. This year more than 7,500 foodies contributed 50,000 reviews.
Brick Lane legend Mark Gevaux – aka The Rib Man – won the Best Street Food for the £7 pork rolls (“lovely piggy goodness”) he serves with his trademark Holy F##k sauce, which will soon be exported around the world. The former butcher is adamant that he is not looking for a permanent site – he’ll remain a one-day-a-week operation, plus a pre-match treat for fans at West Ham home games.
There were awards for established names as well as newcomers, with The Wolseley, next-door to the Ritz, recognised as Best for Business (sponsored by Exmoor Caviar), and Clos Maggiore in Covent Garden as Best for Romance. Mayfair’s old-established Guinea Grill saw off trendier competitors such as Hawksmoor to win the award for Best Steaks & Grills.
The Chapel Down award for Wine List of the Year was awarded to Noble Rot in Bloomsbury, the acclaimed spin-off from the eponymous wine magazine for its “unbeatably interesting list… with lots of interesting vintages (including many mature wines) from in-the-know vineyards”.
Top Newcomer went to Lee Tiernan’s Black Axe Mangal in Highbury for its “mind-blowingly good” and “off-the-wall” combination of “loud metal and spicy kebabs”, and Top Cheap Eat went to Hoppers, the Sethi family’s Sri Lankan in Soho, for the “incredible” and “punchy flavours” of its “curries, plus crisp dosas and hoppers (rice panckes) for dipping”.
Purveyors of lighter meals won recognition as well as establishments offering multi-course blowouts. Department of Coffee in Leather Lane (“they’re serious about their caffeine”) won the award for Top Coffee House, while Ham Yard in Soho won Best Afternoon Tea for a hotel courtyard that “brings the feel of a village into central Soho”.
Not all award-winners were in central or east London, with Milk in Balham taking the prize for Best Brunch (“hands down the best breakfast in SW London”) and Fulham’s celebrated Harwood Arms winning Top Bar or Pub, in association with Curious Brew, for “taking pub food to a new level entirely” as a “gastropub on steroids”.
Peter Harden, host of the awards, said he had read more than a million reviews from diners since co-founding Harden’s guides 26 years ago. “I know the amazing commitment it takes to be a leader in the eating-out industry. I salute all those shortlisted via our survey, but particularly of course Mitsuhiro Araki, whose operation in London is proving spectacularly successful – and is yet another feather in London’s culinary cap.”
TOP GASTRONOMIC EXPERIENCE
Black Axe Mangal
TOP CHEAP EAT
BEST FOR BUSINESS
BEST STEAKS & GRILLS
BEST STREET FOOD
The Rib Man
WINE LIST OF THE YEAR
TOP BAR OR PUB
BEST FOR ROMANCE
BEST BREAKFAST OR BRUNCH
TOP COFFEE HOUSE
Department of Coffee
BEST AFTERNOON TEA