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Jan 7, 2010 03:08 AM

The Square or Hibiscus?? [London]

I'm planning a birthday dinner for my boyfriend and I can't decide between the Square or Hibiscus. We can't usually afford to eat in high-end restaurants, so this will be a special, once in a blue moon experience for us. Food is of course the most important aspect, but atmosphere as well. Which one should we go for? Please help!

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  1. have you been to the ledbury?? that's my favourite high end restaurant at the moment.

    i havent been to the square but i enjoyed the ledbury a lot more than my meal at hibiscus.

    2 Replies
    1. re: t_g

      no i haven't. will definitely put it on the list, although (due to boyfriend's wishes) it has to be either the square or hibiscus this time. what was your experience of hibiscus? did you not enjoy it?

      1. re: belma79

        no i enjoyed it! it was good - i just enjoyed the ledbury more. and thought i'd bring it up since it's the sister restaurant (i think?) of the square

    2. I would suggest Hibiscus.

      Food is likely to be excellent at both (perhaps a little more classical at the square I guess) but I think the dining room at the Square is just a little corporate for your purposes. I always think of the Square as perfect for a work group or a group of friends who can be better behaved than than me and my friends, but not great for a couple, especially if you don't eat at formal high end restaurants all that often...

      I know you've said this is a pretty strict list of two, but I would second the Ledbury suggestion. Similar quality and style of food, a little more affordable and I think a better atmosphere for a couple on a birthday dinner (just be careful of the table turn - make sure you clarify on booking).

      Having said all of that, we are talking about some seriously good restaurants here so you are going to have a ball whichever way you go!

      7 Replies
      1. re: Lazo

        this is a great reply, thank you! really useful and picks up on all the important factors. and i think i will have to look at ledbury now too!

        1. re: Lazo

          just to say, i've been looking into ledbury and i must say i am so confused now! it was pretty much decided we would go to hibiscus, but after the recommendations here, and a bit of web browsing, we're really torn. should we really choose ledbury over hibiscus?? surely hibiscus is more 'special' with 2 stars etc? i'm just not so sure anymore!

          1. re: belma79

            I disliked Hibiscus and thought Bosi overrated. Howard at the Square gets great reviews, and I have always enjoyed Brett's food. My sense is that the Ledbury is a pretty hot restaurant at the moment, and Brett is on a roll with predictions of a second star when the guide appears in late Jan, whilst recent reviews for Hibiscus are mixed; has Bosi lost his edge?

            1. re: belma79

              It is sometime since I last ate at Hibiscus but found it faultless - as I had before it moved from Ludlow. It is the best of the several Michelin starred restaurants I've eaten in over the last couple of years. Great food, perfect service.

              Bosi lost one star when they moved to London but regained it last year. The vagaries of the Michelin system means it's anyone's guess what will happen when the awards are announced soon.

              1. re: belma79

                i wouldnt let the fact that hibiscus has 2 stars sway yr decision, as PhilD says, there's a good chance that the ledbury will get it's 2nd star at the end of the month...

                1. re: t_g

                  Both The Square and Hibiscus have two, but remember the Ledbury is a rising two star not simply a one star.

                  1. re: PhilD

                    I'll also support the consideration of The Ledbury. I ate there in late December and had the the tasting menu with wine pairings. I thought the service and ambiance was sophisticated while still being very comfortable. The sommelier was very engaging and we were able to discuss wine and the London food scene and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. There wasn't a misstep amongst the 9 courses I had (especially the celeriac baked in ash, my main of deer and a fantastic amuse of chestnut and truffle soup) and the wine pairings were creative and enhanced the dishes.

                    I was in a similiar position as the OP as I wanted to do one high end London restaurant on my trip. The Ledbury seemed to tick all my boxes for what I was looking for and I thought it was a good value relative to some of the other restaurants of similar class. In the end, I was very happy with my choice and our party had a great dining experience.

                    I was dissuaded from Hibiscus because of the recent mixed reviews and I thought The Square would be too corporate and lack a certain amount of energy that I was looking for.

            2. just to say thank you everyone. ledbury it is! seems like a simple decision after all your, very similar, comments. we're going last week in january, i'll make sure to report back. thanks again!

              6 Replies
              1. re: belma79

                I'm confident you will have a great meal!! One other practical tip, if this super cold weather holds up get a cab there - it is a lengthy walk from the tube!

                As a few have mentioned above, 1*, 2*, rising 2* etc doesn't really make any difference to your enjoyment of the night, the basic point is that they are all fantastic! It sounds like you'll be there the first week after the 2010 michelin guide is released anyway, so if the predictions come true and it moves to 2*, you may very well have the hottest table booking in town (unless Marcus Wareing goes to 3, which he surely deserves, but that's a separate post...)!

                Also, someone mentioned above that the Ledbury is a sister restaurant of the Square - I also believe this is true. I like to think of it as the younger more energetic (and so for me, more attractive) sister. And whilst the restaurant may not yet have the iconic status or outrageous opulence of Banc (apologies for obscure Sydney reference (based on my check of the Australian board I think PhilD will remember this place fondly though), but I believe this was the restaurant the current Ledbury head chef started at and coincidentally the site of my first ever genuinely fine dining experience 10 or so years back so kind've appropriate....) I think the food is even better than that was and the reputation is certainly soaring!

                You have got me reminiscing about some fantastic meals now....!

                1. re: Lazo

                  thanks lazo! i'm sure i'll have a great meal too - no doubt in my mind now. (by the way, you should post what you thought of babbo in your nyc thread, even though it was back in 2007 - planning to eat there in march! would be very interested to hear what you think).

                  also, one (last!) question re ledbury for everyone - should we go for a tasting menu or go a la carte?? what's the consensus? i really like the idea of the tasting menu for a special occasion, but don't want to miss out on some signature dishes. we also don't eat meat (but a big yes to fish). thanks again!

                  1. re: belma79

                    Personally, I'd go for the tasting menu. From my researching prior to my trip and my own experience at The Ledbury, the tasting menu was well balanced and usually includes many of Chef Graham's current signature dishes (the celeriac, the ceviche of scallops and the mackerel). We were also able to easily make substitutions which could help you in the case of not eating meat and if you spot something on the ALC that you'd really like to try.

                    1. re: michaelstl

                      i really want to try the souffle for dessert - it doesn't seem to be on the tasting menu (was it on yours? you went quite recently). but if they are flexible and happy to substitute then we should be fine i guess!

                      1. re: belma79

                        It wasn't on the tasting menu for my visit and I only made changes to the savory courses, but when I contacted the restaurant prior to my visit, they said that they'd be happy to make any substitutions. I'm sure that if you contacted the restaurant in advance or spoke with your captain at the start of your meal, it'd be no problem.

                  2. re: Lazo

                    Lazo - yes Brett was at Banc, he won a travelling scholarship (Josephine Pignolet Best Young Chef) and came over to London. Liam Tomlin closed Banc a few years ago, but like Brett, many of the kitchen brigade have onto great things. Brett also has an ownership interest in the Harwood Arms where his protégé from The Ledbury, Stephen Williams is chef, IMO the best food in a pub in London (second only to the Sportsman in the UK).

                    Belma79: it may also be good to try and get the Date Tart for dessert (why not share a soufflé and tart?), it is a Sydney classic that Brett seems to have brought with him and made into a classic dessert in London.

                2. Just to say it looks as if the Ledbury has won its second Michelin star! So all of you who guessed it would were right. Thanks again everyone for recommending it to me. Can't wait for my dinner now...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: belma79

                    Yes Brett had a good year, the second at the Ledbury and the first at the Harwood.