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London - Best fine dining experience? Special dinner, no budget

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My brother and I are looking to take our mother to dinner to celebrate her birthday.
Looking to go somewhere really special. Deciding factor is food quality and presentation. Price and wine list are really not factors.

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  1. she might really enjoy the do over of the savoy grill.

    1 Reply
    1. re: howler

      The Savoy is closed for a refurb until 2009.

      FWIW my choice for a special occasion would be Le Gavroche.

    2. Most of the London smarty-pants places are in fact terribly dull. Why not get a driver to take you to Le Manoir which is enchanting. A stroll round the gardens with a glass of something nice, followed by faultless (in my view) food is really special.

      Actually, 1st. class train to Didcot from Paddington and a taxi would be much quicker. The M40 is hell for the first 10 miles.

      1. I haven't been there for a few years, but the restaurant at Blakes Hotel is serene and lovely with fantastic food (still that way I hope). I also like the idea of Le Manoir.. especially this time of year.

        1. Thanks for the suggestions.
          i. I would prefer to keep it in London though.
          ii. Regarding Le Gavroche, this is a restaurant I really am very excited to try, but want to save this for another occasion I have in mind.
          iii. Blakes is a great shout actually. I was going to dine there a few months ago, but it didn't happen. Who is the chef here?
          iv. Some ideas of my own - Capital, Petrus, Square, Ramsey at RHR, Joel Robuchon

          6 Replies
          1. re: aliak

            Ramsay at RHR is a great experience and the maitre d' is the most charming man in London. The food is old school French - a bit heavy on the reduced sauces for my taste, but very good. If your Mum likes the traditional, then I think she will like it. Le Gavroche is in a similar vein. Impeccable service.

            If you do a search for L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, a poster called Bill Hunt went there recently and posted a pretty comprehensive and very positive review.

            1. re: greedygirl

              I have read the very thorough Bill Hunt review thanks.
              All three are definately restaurants on my list, but I think Ramsay@RHR will be my choice this time round. I have just eaten at my first 3* in Paris (L'Arpege) and was absolutely delighted with the whole experience. Now I am interested to see how London compares!
              On another note, are there any other restaurants that you recommend I must try?...personal favourites?

              1. re: aliak

                For more local restaurants, Chez Bruce in Wandsworth is lovely, as is The Glasshouse in Kew. I also loved Wild Honey in Mayfair when we went recently.

                1. re: greedygirl

                  Second Chez Bruce. Easily my favourite restaurant in London.

                2. re: aliak

                  Hunt's report was for Ramsay at Claridge's not RHR...it may be easier to get in.

              2. re: aliak

                We dined at Le Gavroche a bit ago. The meal was spectacular, as was the wine pairing (know that that is not a deal-breaker, on you list). The only negative, that I, and wife, expressed was the smoking in the dining room. It really muted the wonder flavors (flavours). That has now changed. We;ll definitely be back, when we can fit it in on our twice-annual trips.

                Another great dining venue, not too far away, has been the Greenhouse, Hayes Muse, Mayfair. We've done it twice in succeding years, and have loved the tasting menus (and sommelier's pairings) on both visits.

                Just did Gordon Ramsay's Claridge & Joël Robuchon's L'Atelier last month. Reviews: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/509083

                Though you do not give details on my mom, I'll take a stab and say that Gordon Ramsey's would fit the bill slightly better. OTOH, you can pick through these two reviews, and decide for yourself.

                Could not find the La Gavroche, or either Greenhouse reviews, but will post them, if Google helps me out.

                Happy birthday to your mum,


                [EDIT] I see that you've seen the reviews, and that Greedygirl has made references to them, as well. Note to self: read EVERY reply, before replying. Still, happy birthday to your mum!

              3. I agree that Le Manoir is an extraordinary experience- although the set menu is not hugely expensive, to save money book a local B&B. I also enjoyed Sally Clarke's in Notting Hill. Zuma is also special and I think its better than Nobu.

                4 Replies
                1. re: funkygirl

                  Is Sally Clarke's 'glamorous' enough?
                  The meal is for a birthday and my I would want the whole evening to really blow my guest away and leave a lasting impression i.e. food/presentation/ambience all to be top notch.

                  p.s. I really didn't rate Nobu very highly at all. Maybe my expectations were set too high (it is surely one of the most hyped-up restaurants in London), but I was left rather disappointed.

                  1. re: aliak

                    My own two pennoth

                    my only experience of GR @ CLARIDGES was so miserable, I have tried to blot it from memory. Ranking with Restaurant TA and Gilgamesh as one of the worst in memory. That was some years ago now, so it does sound as if it has improved.

                    Gavroche is a "never fail" IMHO, a near perfect combination of food, ambience and telepathic service.

                    Le Manoir is perhaps the most glamourous and, if you can stretch to a room there, the included breakfast is almost worth the visit on its own. The sound of one of the staff crunching along the gravel path with your heaving tray of bacon, eggs, black pudding, sausages, mushrooms etc etc while you are neck deep in one of their over sized baths is one of the most decadent experiences in the country.

                    I enjoyed my last visit to RHR and, by comparison to continental 3* is good value. The service always remains some of the best in London

                    Just to throw a few more into the mix. For food and ambience one of the best high end places I have tried in the last couple of years is Galvin @ The windows. Obviously its location some 20+ floors up helps, but the Galvin's food is never less than excellent and it has one of the best FOH teams in London. In any case, perhaps use the bar as a pre-supper drink venue, the cocktail mixing is good to very good.

                    FInally, and I have not tried it, Gary Rhodes W1 at the Cumberland has set its stall out for a Michelin and he is, by all accounts still actively involved in the kitchen. I have not been but all reports I have had have been positive.

                    Hope tis helps


                    1. re: Simon Majumdar

                      Gazza was present at W1 for the first few weeks but then he went off to pursue his other many and varied interests. From a couple of visits the food was pretty good on the whole although I found the atmosphere a little oppressive - not quite the place for a birthday celebration.


                      You haven't specified what sort of food you're looking for but if you're willing to try something different Hibiscus is a possibility. I've been twice and really enjoyed it but the food will be different to some of the other places mentioned.

                      Just another thought but what about a classic hotel restaurant. The younger hermano took me to The Goring for my birthday and I really enjoyed it (especially as I wasn't paying). It's not cutting edge stuff but sometimes it's about the whole package.


                      1. re: Hermano Primero

                        I'd restrained myself from again mentioning Hibiscus.But seeing as HP now has, I'll give a big second.

                        Great meal earlier in the year - the move to London hasn't had any negative effects.

                2. I've never been, but I've also heard good things about Roussillon.

                  1. OK, cost no option? Somewhere special? Well, for starters you'll probably find it almost impossible to get into the 'top' restaurants without booking a month in advance although you may get lucky! Llunch (my favourite) would likely get you a better result and would most likely save you a quid or two as well! Then of course there's the question of what style of food or restaurant would please mother?

                    There's no point taking her to say, Locanda Locatelli, if she hate's Italian - though if she does like it then Zafferano in Chelsea is, in my view, a much better, more authentic option.

                    If you want the very best in modern British and if your mother is of a certain age then, without a doubt, Petrus at the Berkely is the best choice but if she has more contemporary tastes (certainly in the style of dining room) then Gordon Ramsay at Hospital Road would be ideal! Don't whatever you do though, take her to Ramsay's at Claridges - it is simply average.

                    If Mum is a bit artie then she'll love the culinary flair of Tom Aikens where his plates are just so beautifully presented you'll want to frame them and hang them on a wall.

                    Fish? One-O-One in Knightsbridge re-opened a few months ago after undergoing majopr refurbishment (it sorely needed it) and I can't get enough of it! 3 or 4 small dishes rather than starters main course and dessert is the order of the day (I think 4 too many unless you're on the large size yourself).

                    Where would I go? Probably The Ledbury in Notting Hill, not quite central I know but worth the short journey. Not only has it been voted Best Restaurant of the Year a number of times but it's also won Best Restauranteur's Restaurant of the Year too! The style is very much modern European, the service is quite superb and the dining room one that I can assure you your mother will love!

                    Where would I not go? Don't trek all the way out to Le Manoir de 'Touriste' as I've seen previously mentioned - price will become a factor and you'll have that awful journey back to Town (unless you have unlimited financial resources and can afford to stump up for a night's stay)!

                    I hope you found this useful - I'm happy to give more specific recommendations (I've been lucky enough to eat in most of the high quality London restaurants) and help you find the perfect venue - come and visit me at www.thebigblackpudding.blogspot.com

                    Cheers and good luck!

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: thebigblackpudding

                      Restaurant Tom Aikens has got to be the most polarising restaurant in London. I know many people who love it and go regularly and many people who went once and didn't like it at all.

                      I fall into the latter group, I am afraid. My one experience was truly dreadful. I thought the plating looked like a road accident and the food lacked any spark at all. The whole experience was brought even further down by his (now ex, I think) wife who ran the front of house and sucked all the good humour out of the air like a vacuum.

                      I may well be missing something, but every time I have tried a TA place (inc Pied De Terre when he cooked there) I have come away with a sour taste in my mouth.

                      Perhaps this is for a different thread?


                      1. re: Simon Majumdar

                        Yes, polarising Aikens restaurant certainly is! You'll note that I deliberately likened Aikens plates to works of art - the beauty of which is in the eye of the beholder, or not, as the case may be.

                        1. re: thebigblackpudding

                          Re TA the words that immediately spring to mind are grim and overpriced. And just to rub it in the service is pretty snotty too. The room is one of the worst in London - cold and sterile. Probably, the *last* place I'd want to have a birthday celebration.

                          1. re: Hermano Primero

                            don't want to confuse the issue, but a place which hasn't been mentioned yet is foliage in the mandarin oriental. delightful staff, relaxed dress code (in spite of their small print), 5 rosettes from the aa and starred ( with 2 star-rising from michelin). make no mistake, this restaurant is hungry to continue to climb the accolade ladder as it is often woefully over looked.

                            however, food aside, what makes it great for special occasions is the room itself, with its delightful views toward hyde park, infact, for a complete safety net ask for a window table when you book.

                            with the benefit of hindsight, why forte put mpw's restaurant in the dungeon at the front of the hotel when - i can only assume - they had this space available is a total mystery to me.