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[London] If your boss gave you a little thank-you present of £350 to take your wife out for dinner where would you go?

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We see going out for dinner as our main form of entertainment, so have eaten out extensively across London at all levels. I think if we stay relatively controlled on the wine we can keep most places within budget, with a few obvious exceptions.

I guess I am just wondering if anyone has had any really good experiences recently. Perhaps something a little bit different or that is a bit of a risk - you know, the kind of thing you might hesitate on if spending your own money...!

Look forward to hearing any suggestions. Thanks.

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  1. If the chef is the same one as a few years ago, I'd head for Blakes Hotel in South Ken. I think it was the best dinner I've had since living here. The room is intimate and lovely, service was superb, and the food was delicious. It also was VERY expensive and luckily I was a guest of a friend. No one ever mentions it here, but I hope it still has the same quality as I experienced. Sadly, chefs move around a lot.

    That said, I'd also consider a short ride from London and perhaps eating at Raymond Blanc's restaurant Aux Quat' Saisons.

    1. On the basis that I regard much of "down south" as London, I'd be booking the tasting menu at the Fat Duck and be prepared to chuck in some of my own money to top up.

      As it is, with travel, overnight stay and no boss to give me money, I'm not going to see any change from six hundred quid. I suspect it'll be worth every penny.

      1. What about Apsleys, it is new and getting interesting reviews, i.e. Matthew Norman hated it which is often a good sign. But the food cognoscenti seem to like it with some saying it is the best Italian in London, the chef (Heinz Beck) has three stars at his other restaurant in Rome. A risk worth taking?

        3 Replies
        1. re: PhilD

          "Matthew Norman hated it which is often a good sign"

          Indeed. He hated the Modern in Manchester. Burn him, burn him.

          1. re: Harters

            ...and he loved Mat Folas's (Masterchef winner) Wild Garlic in Dorset, which was surreal.

          2. re: PhilD

            Though a routine reader of Chowhound, I rarely post but I did in December to recommend The Eastside Inn, in St John Street. Amidst a lot of good and happy food experiences in the year, it stood out as sublime. OK, it is a risk and so ticks that box because when I went once before it was merely good and expensive. Write off a large chunk of time, book the restaurant not the bistro, throw yourselves at the mercy of the chef and sommelier (give him a tight budget!) and you should just about manage it for 350. I just hope you will enjoy the same outstanding, fun and utterly delicious meal.

          3. i went to marcus wareing at the berkeley on xmas eve and had a fabulous meal (very elegant/refined) so that would be high on my list.

            having done it once, i'd avoid spending my own money on returning to helene darroze or petersham nurseries but would happily return to both if someone else was paying.

            having said all of that, i do love locanda locatelli and would probbaly head their for a blow-out meal. their wine list is fabulous and i'd enjoy moving up a notch on it.

            out of london i'd also be heading to fat duck or le manoir. 3 chimneys would be my long distance choice.

            6 Replies
            1. re: abby d

              Whereas we had a less than stellar experience at Locatelli. We had waited for many months before the opportunity to get a table co-incided with the opportunity to come down south. Mrs H was most disappointed. I would seriously question its star.

              1. re: Harters

                I'm beginning to wonder if people can rate decent food any more than they can rate art. It's just too individual a thing, and unless one knows the party doing the judging and perhaps have eaten with them at the same time, their opinion may be valueless. Perhaps that's why the Zagat guides are so popular as it goes by percentages. ??

                Bad, bad food is much easier to talk about!

                1. re: zuriga1

                  it is definitely subjective - my boyfriend and i often score the same meal very differently.

                  there are several places i have been based on recommendations on here which raved and i have been very underwhelmed. it's just the gamble you take.

                  service and atmosphere plus, as you say zuriga, terrible food, is easier for people to judge more consistently.

                  apologies for the spelling/grammar mistakes in my post above

                  1. re: abby d

                    It's also worth noting that restaurants aren't 100% consistent. The exact same dish maybe cooked slightly differently from day to day, depending on the cook at the particular station etc.

                  2. re: zuriga1

                    You may be right and, of course, it is a very subjective thing.

                    It becomes easier to take an overall view when there's an external influence to judge against. So, in this example, I have eaten at a number of Michelin 1 star places - it is then relatively easy for me to compare the Locatelli experience against the others, and say if it was better, same or worse. It would be a nonsense to compare it against my local Italian places - even the good one.

                    It's also why I'm a big fan of the Good Food Guide as a help to deciding where to eat. There's a scoring system which, although imperfect, offers a generally consistent guide. When visiting an unfamiliar area, it's always my first point of reference. I then usually seek to validate that by looking at review sites - such as london-eating or Toptable. A final validation may come by looking at boards such as egullet and chowhound - but even here I'm looking for contributions from particular individuals who, for me, have a record of liking the same sort of food and experience as I do.

                    I know nothing about art but I like Mondrian :-)

                    1. re: Harters

                      I think that may be the key, John. Having a scoring system certainly helps when making a choice. That's why a lot of NYorkers use Zagat's. When it comes to Michelin starred, I think it's still a bit difficult to judge an Italian restaurant one star compared to the same rating for a different cuisine, but it certainly is something of a reference guide.

                      Heck, you could paint as well as Mondrian. Are you snowed in?

              2. Thanks a lot for all the suggestions guys.

                Unfortunately I've already eaten at many of these places and we were really trying for something new for this meal. With the exception of Le Manoir (the most disappointing restaurant experience of my life), I totally agree with the recommendations though - have had some great meals at those restaurants!

                One I haven't eaten at that could be worth a punt is Apsleys actually. Has anyone actually eaten there, or are we just going off the reviews, which I agree have certainly been "interesting"....

                And these out of town suggestions have me thinking about Gidleigh Park again. I know it's a long way, but has anyone eaten there lately?

                3 Replies
                1. re: Lazo

                  Re: Apsleys; no I haven't tried it but was basing my recommendation on Felix Hirsch's and Andy Hayler's blogs (as well as a few others) as I find both write accurately about the top end.

                  Re: Gidleigh Park, again I have not been, but I ate Michael Caines' food at The Bath Priory last year (after he took over as Exec from Chris Horridge) and it was really very good. If we had had more time in the UK Gidleigh Park would have been a must try meal based on the standards Michael achieved so quickly at the Priory.

                  1. re: Lazo

                    My stay at Gidleigh Park was before Michael Caines was a 'name,' so I can't speak to the quality these days, but I'm sure it's excellent. The hotel is beautiful and well worth the drive from anywhere. I get a mailing from them and noticed that they have a very reasonable lunch special that lasts through February. I knew the previous owners, the Hendersons, and they worked hard to make Gidleigh into a special place.

                    1. re: Lazo

                      Have you tried Percy's? Tina Bricknell-Webb is a very good chef, they grow / raise much of their own produce and importantly it adds up to really flavourful food. It's not haute, more California cuisine style food. They're about an hour short of Gidleigh Park. from London. They have rooms and the breakfasts are up to the standard of the dinners. The website is www.percys.co.uk

                      No doubt you've been to the Square and Robuchon?