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Jan 11, 2010 06:01 AM

need some help picking between the following in London.

Hi there, we live in Glasgow and visit London frequently, although since the birth of our six month old, the trips are likely to become less frequent! We are hopefully coming down for a couple of days in the beginning of March and I need some help deciding where to go, as the opportunities to eat out are precious now. We will be travelling down with our son but he will be looked after by his gran, freeing us u to have a couple of lunches out.

We would like a burger. We have been to Hache and Ground. I thought Hache was decent enough. It seems the favourites at the mo are Byron and the Hawksmoor. We have been to the Hawksmoor a few times for steak and particularly like the cocktails there so are leaning towards there but is the £15 justified? As a one off I guess allowances can be made.

We would like a fancy lunch. We have been to RHR, Claridges, Maze, Petrus and I have been to the Square which I really liked. The choice is between Le Gavroche and The Square. What worries me about Le Gavroche is that the reviews seem to imply inconsistency. Given that we will be likely to be tempted off menu and as a result potentially spend a lot of money, I worry about being disappointed. It's somewhere I have wanted to go for ages but as you know when a place gets hyped up in one's mind, it quite often disappoints. The meal I had at the Square was one of the best I have had in London and I thought it better than Petrus so I am leaning towards it.

I have been really excited about the option of having Sichuan food, after having it in New York I have a craving for cucumber in scallion sauce, but can't make out from all the reviews which is most authentic between Chilli Cool, Snazz Sichuan and Bar Shu. Some reviewers felt that the food was not spicy enough at Chilli cool which seems to defeat the whole point of going. Any opinions?

If we can squeeze in a fourth meal it would probably somewhere that does modern British, given we have been to St John. Rules looks interesting as does the Harwood Arms. Anywhere else we should consider? Has anyone been to either or these recently?

Thanks for all you help!

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  1. Hawksmoor for sure. I think Byron is overrated, personally, with Hache and Ground miles better, but none are even near the pure deliciousness of Hawksmoor's burger. Whether or not it's worth it is down to you. I personally believe it is.

    There are others on here who know far more about the others than me so I'll leave that to them but have a good trip.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ibrahim.Salha

      In terms of Sichuan, I have never had any issues with the spicing at Chilli Cool, and out of the three, that is the one I go to the most. It is cheaper than Snazz and Bar Shu and I do think it's better.

    2. "What worries me about Le Gavroche is that the reviews seem to imply inconsistency. Given that we will be likely to be tempted off menu and as a result potentially spend a lot of money, I worry about being disappointed. It's somewhere I have wanted to go for ages but as you know when a place gets hyped up in one's mind, it quite often disappoints."

      I thought only new places really got "hyped" I would expect that a restaurant as old and as established as Le Gavroche would be the antithesis of a hyped restaurant.

      11 Replies
      1. re: PhilD

        Sorry, I meant hyped in my own head, not hyped on blogs and boards. You know that way when you peruse the menu, imagining what each of the dishes would be like, creating your ideal tasting menu etc, that sort of hyped.

        1. re: curiouseater

          The other thing you should bear in mind with Le Gavroche is the lunch menu is very good value £48 or so including wine and all the extras. I understand they allow you to substitute dishes from the ALC at modest supplements so the financial risk of going off piste isn't too great. On other boards it generally gets very positive reviews, and seems to be thought of as more consistent than The Square (albeit also a great option). Given the ones you have already tried I would have thought it was worth the punt.

          1. re: PhilD

            Had a wonderful treat of a lunch yesterday at Le Gavroche. It's one of those places where the world goes into suspended animation for a while until you emerge blinking into the light...clientele is hilarious, we must have been a third the average age, but twas fun guessing life stories. AND his royal Michelness himself came to talk to us (though we could think of nothing remotely witty or interesting to say to him and just babbled about it being beautiful in classic girlie crush way - which we both have, of course).

            Nibbles were foie gras with caviar, and then a celeriac remoulade with mojama. Amuse bouche was a tiger prawn fried in something akin to Panko and a little dice of mango and chilli. I started with steak tartare with quail eggs and a truffle cream. GOD it was velvety goodness. Best thing I've eaten in the past 12 months. The steak just melted and it had exactly the right balance of acidity. The truffling was generous. We added a souffle suisseuse between courses, natch. Like God had perfumed his clouds with cheese. Incidentally, we asked for one to share with two spoons. They brought out two normal sized portions. We both thought, cripes, that'll be another £20 on the bill...but they only charged for one. How good is that?

            Then a slightly bland though well cooked rock salmon on a potato/artichoke rosti with sauce choron (like bearnaise, with tomatoes) and lovely braised celery. My colleague's duckling was much better, beautiful saucing. Then the cheese. Oh my lord the cheeeeeeese. Best looking and stored trolley I have seen in a long while. My friend's posh take on mint choc chip ice cream was also pronounced ace.

            So, strongly recommend it. Service is stunningly competent too. We pigged out by having champagne to start, then the extra course, then a couple more glasses of wine in addition to the half bottle included per person...with service it came to £170. But you could easily get away by sticking to the £48 deal, more than enough a) to eat b) to get the Gavroche experience.

              1. re: helen b

                I feel myself swelling with happiness for your experience! Until I get there myself, I will live in vicarious heaven through your post. :-) I am so happy to hear this is the food one would expect at Gavroche.

                1. re: zuriga1

                  There is one slight thing though. Have just found out the souffle alone was just under 1000 calories...gulp. I can feel the heart attack coming, though what a way to go!

                  1. re: helen b

                    You are only young once, so enjoy it. The calories will melt away. Just check your lipids when you get older and be sure they stay in the normal range. I overdosed on ghee last night, but it was worth it. :-)

                    Dr. Zuriga

                2. re: helen b

                  Good post. I would love to eat there. Perhaps when I am more solvent...

                  One issue I have, and it is by no means at all particular to Gavroche, but the top restaurants really have to stop serving endangered fish. Rock Salmon is in real trouble. I mean I try my best to be ethical with fish, but I have to admit, some amazing tuna (especially toro sushi) catches me out on occasion. But there really is no need to eat something like rock salmon, its not even a special fish.

                  Anyway, rant over, everything else about the whole meal sounds fantastic. And don't worry about the calories of that souffle, its the house special and its not like you eat them everyday! To be honest the amount of butter in EVERYTHING in these types of restaurants would make your head spin if you saw what they did behind closed doors.

                  1. re: chief1284

                    helen b, thanks for posting about your meal. I love steak tartare, ever since having it in Barcelona at Paco Meralgo. I didn't realise that Le Gavroche did one. One good thing about sharing the souffle is that you share the calories! It was something I had thought about too. Funnily enough we have been to Red Chilli when we were in Manchester last October. We were very glad we stumbled upon it. I remember huge portions and the requsite tongue numbing effect of enough spicing.

                    1. re: chief1284

                      Rock salmon is the pretty way of saying huss, non? Is huss really endangered? If so I feel awful, because I've been ordering it left, right and centre in preference to cod, haddock et al even though it's simply not as nice, as I thought stocks were OK...

                      And Zuriga, the 'third the average age' may have been a teensy exageration as we're in our mid 30s, so fat intake matters already, alas...Says she who just cooked chips in beef dripping for my boys tonight. My bad.

                      1. re: helen b

                        I'm sorry to have to inform you but unfortunately any small shark, Huss, Dogfish etc all come under the umbrella of Rock Salmon. It's a nice way to say small shark! And sharks are some of the most vulnerable of all fish. Worst of all, you don't really know what species you're getting when you order rock salmon, so it could be something like the critically endangered spiny dogfish.

                        Point is ordering shark isn't great for the sea. Don't feel bad though, basically any fish you order isn't going to be great! I can't help myself either. But I suppose you may as well have some delicious cod if you're going to. The 3 fish I'm finding most ethical and favourable right now are Coley, Whiting and Gurnard. Coley is especially fantastic in fish curries.

                        On the plus side, chips in beef dripping! Amazing!

                        (NB. After editing this post has gone mad and doubled up - just explaining its weirdness)

            1. I would recommend No 10 in Earls Court, Gourmet San in Bethnal Green or Red Bar (also in Bethnal Green) for great Sichuan food.. None are fancy places, but as authentic as they get in London (esp if you order from the Chinese menu). Search various threads on this board.

              1 Reply
              1. re: foreignmuck

                Thanks for all the suggesions. I think Haawksmoor it is for the burger and I will look into the other Sichuan rec's. still undecided about Le Gavroche and the Square. Have been reading about the Ledbury too, which just adds to the confusion. However, it's a nice porblem to have! Thanks again.

              2. Number 10 in Earl's Court is hands down the best Sichuan restaurant in the UK. I seriously doubt I'll find better anytime soon. A quick search will get you a lot on it. It's also seconds from the tube.

                Red Bar is quite respectable as well, but Gourmet San's really not worth the trip. Especially with Red Bar so close. Also Gourmet San's best dishes are definitely its Dongbei stuff (and I think the chef's from Dongbei.) The Hangzhou stuff at Red Bar is also excellent but their Sichuan dishes are probably the second best in London. Maybe the place in West Acton is better, actually, but very good nonetheless. And so close that they deliver... To me at least.

                2 Replies
                1. re: JFores

                  Best in the UK...? It may well be the best in London and could be the best in the UK, but have you eaten Sichuan food across the four countries? Or at least in areas other than in London? I know there are one or two in Manchester that are raved about by people who know their food, and there is also one in Liverpool that does some good stuff and another in Leeds. I'm sure that in recent years there have been others springing up elsewhere too...

                  1. re: Theresa

                    Agreed. I have eaten at all of the above, and Red Chilli in Manchester is comfortably the best Sichuanese in the UK for my money. Now I'm back down in London, I miss it, real bad. Consistently amazing food at consistently mind-boggling value.

                    As for best in London, I'll buck the trend of recent opinion and say Barshu is still the best (in quality). It is very overpriced and the service has been rushed when I've been, but it is more refined than the others. Nevertheless, if you want good Sichuan food at reasonable prices No.10 at Earl's Court and Chilli Cool are the places to go. Well, Red Bar could be in contention, I only had a very short lunch trip and didn't get the full experience. It was very good and I'd LOVE to live close enough for deliveries, but I wasn't wowed as some have been. I plan to go back and do it properly though.

                2. I think that Ground has closed down?
                  In Chiswick a couple of times over the last 3 weeks and it is empty, with signage gone and blacked out windows.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: scooby99

                    Isn't that just the Chiswick branch?