It was perhaps never a bastion of culinary excellence, but news that The Criterion has gone into administration and faces an uncertain future is still sad tidings. It is, after all, “possibly the most beautiful restaurant in London”, with its extraordinary neo-Byzantine dining room.
But despite the beauty and romance of this theatreland stalwart, which couldn’t be in a handier location right by Eros, our reporters often found “mediocre” food and “stilted” service. Even back in the early days of our survey (1995) it was billed as a happy standby for meeting friends pre or post show, but the food was “nothing special”.
Yet we hope that the old girl is rescued once again (it has gone through many iterations over the years). Surely someone can get the recipe for success at this plum site right? Built in 1874, The Criterion restaurant is part of the Criterion Threatre Block is owned by the Crown Estate. It changed hands many times until it was snapped up by the one-time enfant terrible of British cooking Marco Pierre White in 2001, who sold it to Vox Restaurants in 2009. The group, operated by Georgian entrepreneurs Irakly and Nino Sopromadze, promised a sympathetic restoration – however they couldn’t shake the label of a beautiful restaurant whose food “should be better” (Harden’s 2010 survey).
According to Caterer & Hotelkeeper a statement on the restaurant’s website confirmed that it had gone into administration, but no comment was immediately available.