Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is toppled as London’s finest for food today in the 2011 Zagat guide, after two years at the top. The winner, the Ledbury, in Westbourne Park, only managed 13th place last year.
It’s not all bad news for Ramsay, in a year when he has lost a Michelin star for Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s, closed down the Devonshire pub and seen the departure of the talented chef Jason Atherton, who created Maze. Angela Hartnett’s Murano (owned by the Ramsay group) jumped to third place from 27th, and his flagship replaced Wagamama in the Most Popular category.
The Australian chef Brett Graham has become a favorite among fellow culinary masters since he opened the Ledbury in 2005, serving dishes such as celeriac baked in ash with hazelnuts and a croquette of wild boar. He won a second Michelin star this year and another for his pub, the Harwood Arms.
“This is a massive honor for the Ledbury and a credit to my young team, both in the kitchen and front of house,” Graham, 31, said in an interview. “Thanks to our customers, new and regular, for their loyal support over the past five years.”
Galvin La Chapelle was named best newcomer. Zagat also pointed to the emergence of “a strong crop” of affordable restaurants, such as Polpo and Dean Street Townhouse. The average cost of eating out rose just 1.1 percent from a year earlier to 40.84 pounds ($63), Tim Zagat, the chief executive of Zagat Survey, told a news conference at Koffmann’s today.
Pleasing the People
“London is one of the best places to eat in the world,” Tim Zagat said. “The past couple of years haven’t been easy for the restaurant industry, or anyone else, and the industry has responded by giving people what they want: less-expensive restaurants but nonetheless very, very good restaurants.”
Best Buy went to Chilango, a Mexican eatery with two London branches, on Upper Street and Fleet Street. The Ritz won for Top Decor and Mark’s Club for Top Service.
“It’s a real honor to receive the award” for popularity, Clare Smyth, Ramsay’s head chef, said. “Zagat is a fantastic award. We can’t win every year for food. It would be boring if the same restaurant was named best for food every year and the Ledbury has done a fantastic job and it’s nice to see someone else coming up and winning awards. Brett is very talented.”
The breakfast event to announce the results was attended by some of London’s foremost chefs and restaurateurs, including Hartnett, Nuno Mendes and Marcus Wareing, not to mention Ramsay, who paid tribute to Pierre Koffmann, the Frenchman who gave him a break by letting him defer part of the payment for Koffmann’s premises that became Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.
“We handed over half the money and he was very generous in allowing me to pay the outstanding fee a year later, which from a Frenchman is very good news,” Ramsay said. “If it wasn’t for him and his generosity, we wouldn’t be here.”
Hartnett said she’s still tweaking the food at Murano and was delighted to place behind her mentor Ramsay in the awards. Koffmann said he had enjoyed hosting the event and the opportunity to catch up with peers from the culinary world.
“We have some customers who just follow the awards,” he said. “Zagat and other guides can help. But as a chef, the best award you can have in life is a full restaurant.”
Top Food (with previous ranking): 1. The Ledbury (13) 2. Gordon Ramsay (1) 3. Murano (27) 4. Fat Duck (9) 5. Chez Bruce (2)
Top Newcomer: 1. Galvin La Chapelle 2. Babbo 3. Kitchen W8 4. Hix 5. Lutyens
Best Buys: 1. Chilango 2. Franco Manca 3. Benito’s Hat 4. Leon 5. Books for Cooks 6. Food for Thought 7. Golden Hind 8. Churchill Arms 9. Baozi Inn 10. Princi London
Most Popular (with previous ranking): 1. Gordon Ramsay (2) 2. J. Sheekey (6) 3. The Wolseley (5) 4. Wagamama (1) 5. Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s (3)
Winners by Cuisine (with previous winner): American: Palm (Lucky 7) British Modern: Chez Bruce (Chez Bruce) British Traditional: Goring Dining Room (Wiltons) Chinese: Hunan (Hunan) Chophouses: Goodman (Rib Room) Eclectic: Mosimann’s (Michael Moore) European Modern: Murano (Fat Duck) Fish ‘n’ Chips: Golden Hind (North Sea) Indian: Rasoi Vineet Bhatia (Rasoi Vineet Bhatia) Italian: River Cafe (River Cafe) Japanese: Dinings (Dinings) Lebanese: Ishbilia (Ishbilia) Mediterranean: La Petite Maison (Moro) Mexican: Chilango (Wahaca) Pizza: Franco Manca (Osteria Basilico) Seafood: J. Sheekey Oyster (J. Sheekey) Spanish: Moro (Barrafina) Thai: Nahm (Patara) Vegetarian: Roussillon (Morgan M)
Top Decor (with previous ranking): 1. The Ritz (5) 2. Gravetye Manor (1) 3. Galvin La Chapelle (-) 4. Mark’s Club (8) 5. Le Manoir aux’Quat Saisons (2)
Top Service (with previous ranking): 1. Mark’s Club (19) 2. Fat Duck (8) 3. Gordon Ramsay (3) 4. Waterside Inn (2) 5. Alain Ducasse (9)
“Zagat London Restaurants 2011” is published by Zagat Survey LLC and costs 9.99 pounds. It is edited by Sholto Douglas-Home and coordinated by Susan Kessler.
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)