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Where would you dine in the Mayfair area? [London]

Hi,
We will be staying in Mayfair for four days. Looking for a variety of interesting places. Money is no object but cheap is sometimes unbelievably great. Prefer not to go where every other tourist goes. Any help? Thanks-Cary

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  1. Cheap and Mayfair don't belong in the same breath. Expand your area to north of Oxford St to Marylebone or east to Soho. Get your concierge to get you into The Wolseley for when expense is no object. Just buy Time Out restaurant guide or Zagats, it is easier than my trying to tell you when there are so many options. Scotts for fish if money is really no object. But Mayfair is full of (rich) tourists so hard to avoid them but while London does have undeserved reputation for poor food if you still want to eat cheap then eat ethnic.

    1. Wild Honey (12 St George Street), very well priced for the area and it is good mix of French and British cuisine. Corrigans (28 Upper Grosvenor Street) traditionaly influenced Irish/British food, well priced in a great "clubby" room - great for game if in season.

      Maze (Grosvenor Square), Gordon Ramsay's place used to be interesting but now the chef, Jason Atherton, has moved on (he left a the end of April) I would wait for recent reports before recomending.

      Many will recomend Hibiscus but my meal there wasn't stellar, and others will recomend Hélène Darroze at the Connaught, which I haven't tried, it is meant to be superb but also will stretch the "money no object" sentiment.

      If you want a great value lunch try to get into La Gavroche (43 Upper Brook Street) it has a set lunch including wine for £48 which is a bargain for the quality and service. It is a an old classic of a restaurant serving very high end food.

      One other I have not been to is Galvin at Windows which is meant to be good and has great views. You are in prime Michelin star territory in Mayfair with Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, Marcus Wareing at the Berkley, Heinz Beck at Apsleys, Philip Howard at the Square, Angela Hartnett at Murano and just across the park a great Michelin starred Indian Quilon and all of these are worth trying and get well reviewed.

      10 Replies
      1. re: PhilD

        Given that one of the criteria is not touristy, that would rule out virtually any Michelin starred restaurant, given their prominence in guidebooks, especially ones in hotels. If one were to venture as far as The Berkeley and that tourists weren't a deal breaker, Koffman's new restaurant might still be under the radar thus have relatively fewer tourists. The classic and somewhat rustic food is excellent and technically accomplished, the setting casual (details later). In that immediate area around Hyde Park, Lebanese food at Ishbilla would probably be the place to go that best matches the criteria of the OP.

        1. re: limster

          I never think of Mayfair as touristy (apart from Bond Street) when compared to many other parts of central London, I worked in Berkeley Square for a couple of years and found most people in the area either worked or lived there.

          I also don't think it is correct to say that Michelin starred restaurants in London are full of tourists. Yes the more discerning visitors will be checking out these places as they have well deserved global reputations, however 99% of tourists in London will be eating in far cheaper places and will tend to head to the tourist traps in Covent Garden, around Piccadilly (the Wolseley), Soho and Leicester Square. As London is such a global city it has a big international population of expat workers and Mayfair is a centre for hedge funds, consultants etc so lots of people who are not British but these are not tourists.

          1. re: PhilD

            Sure, one could not expect 50% of the tourists to visit any given restaurant -- there's probably no restaurant in the world that could hold so many people. The relevant measure is whether tourists are over-represented.

            And the point remains that tourists will be over-represented in Michelin starred restaurants (especially in areas with lots of hotels where they are particularly convenient to tourists, and many of these restaurants are in hotels), because these places are in all the guide books. As for well-deserved global reputations, that has been considered on a case by case basis.

            1. re: limster

              "And the point remains that tourists will be over-represented in Michelin starred restaurants" Do you really think this is an accurate statement for London?

              OK maybe true relative to restaurants out of the centre and in the suburbs, or for specialist places (Asian, Indian etc). But compare to mainstream "tourist trap" restaurants near the tourist hot-spots then I don't agree. OK the top restaurants in London will attract a number of overseas visitors, but many of these will be on business thus very different from the tourist hordes. Lots of Londoners do have money and like to treat themselves so they go along to these places (although few seem to contribute to this board).

              There is also another very important point that needs to be made. The best cooking in London, the cooking its culinary reputation is based upon is coming from these sorts of restaurants. It is also coming from the top "gastro-pubs" which deliver ingredient led British cooking. It is not coming from a lot of the specialist restaurants i.e. Indian, Thai, Vietnamese etc. OK there are one or two acceptable to good examples of these types of food, but even then they are far from perfect, or world beating. It is interesting for residents to try them and expand their horizons, or for homesick residents to recharge their memories, but why would a visitor/tourist travel to London to eat food that you can get better elsewhere?

              My advice to a visitor is to try the best of British cooking at a good gastro-pub, at Hix or Corrigans, or one of the old traditional places like Scotts or Rules. Next try some of the food cooked by the top chefs which is often French or Italian inspired, and because of the long culinary tradition in the UK of cooking these cuisines can be very, very good. And then head for some Spanish food which due to the proximity (tourism) is starting to get a lot better - Barrafina (in Soho) for example is a short walk from Mayfair.

              1. re: PhilD

                let me see if i can help. the statement "Prefer not to go where every other tourist goes" indicates that the OP would prefer a local favourite over a restaurant written up in every guide book, known to every concierge etc. a perfect example is launceston place - a local favourite in a charming n'hood serving excellent brit cuisine. another one: cheyne walk brasserie - excellent cote de bouef (best i've had in london), good wine list and utterly local.

                1. re: PhilD

                  >>"And the point remains that tourists will be over-represented in Michelin starred restaurants" Do you really think this is an accurate statement for London?

                  Based on my personal experiences, yes.

                  >>There is also another very important point that needs to be made. The best cooking in London, the cooking its culinary reputation is based upon is coming from these sorts of restaurants. It is also coming from the top "gastro-pubs" which deliver ingredient led British cooking. It is not coming from a lot of the specialist restaurants i.e. Indian, Thai, Vietnamese etc. OK there are one or two acceptable to good examples of these types of food, but even then they are far from perfect, or world beating.

                  How many restaurants of these various types have you tried that lead you to these conclusions? The impression I get is very different, and there are a couple of examples where the high quality of British ingredients lead to a product that can be superior to the original in the native country.

                  OTOH, do you suppose that Ducasse's or Beck's restaurants here are as good as their flagships in Monaco or Rome?

              2. re: PhilD

                Limster may have something of apoint about tourists and Michelin depending, of course, on definition of tourist.

                There are four starred restaurants in the north west. If I want to visit any of the other ones in the country, then I do so as a tourist (my definition being someone travelling for fun not work). Eating at highish level places is one of my main reasons for visiting London.

                That said, many tourists will be found in the "traps" around Soho, Covent Garden, Chinatown, etc (basically the tourist areas) so dining at more upscale Michelin starred places may well fit the OPs desire not eat where "every other tourist" goes. I susepct there are few places at any level that will not have a high proportion of customers who are just passing through the city - it's the nature of it being the capital, surely?

                Michelin may not be perfect but it's one of the best guides to quality places in the UK that I know. Of course, the OP may prefer to eat at one of the "ethnic" restaurants that have been recommended on this board that are certainly not destination places but would then, almost certainly, miss out on recognised great places that are popular for very good reason.

                1. re: Harters

                  Yep, that's why judithuk suggested above that it may be difficult to find places that were not touristed in the area. It's a tough request to fulfill. Not every tourist stays at the Dorchester (vast majority don't), but there's a large number of people who stay there that are tourists. And the people that stay at the Dorchester are probably going to be the ones that can afford Ducasse's restaurant there.

                  That said, there are high end places that are great and don't have Michelin stars. I used Koffman's new restaurant at the Berkeley as an example that was somewhat near Mayfair.

                  The quality of the Michelin guide is a separate issue -- I'm just saying that because tourists follow guides like these, one would also find a higher than normal number of tourists at these places, which is a criteria that the OP tried to rule out. This is not an issue of the quality, just merely that guidebooks that tourists use will guide them to places therein.

                  I don't disagree that Michelin is one of the best guides. But many of us think that the state of the art in that area is really not good enough. In fact, we're so disappointed in many areas that we're forced to take things in our own hands if we want to eat the breath and depth of delicious food that London (or insert city here) has to offer. That's one of the reasons why this site exists and why we've stayed on it. Otherwise, we'd all just follow the guidebooks and be eating the best possible stuff. This is probably site talk material -- I think it might be better continue this issue there.

                  As I mentioned above, we'll have to discuss restaurants on a place by place basis -- it's not certain that the "ethnic" places are not destination restaurants. Nor are the "recognised" places are great or popular for a good reason. For example, I'd very much like to try Ducasse's food. But from all I've read and heard first hand (a friend used to work in the kitchen there and Plaza Athénée), I'd be much better off taking the train to Paris despite all the extra expense. I wish life was easier, but it's not straightforward, and we'll have to weight out various factors before drawing conclusions.

                  1. re: limster

                    "This is probably site talk material -- I think it might be better continue this issue there."

                    I'm sure you and I have had this discussion on at least a couple of occasions. I suspect that if we go at it again, we'll have to agree to differ again.

                    But, for the relevence of this thread, I would stick to my view that when I visit London I find Michelin starred listings to be a pretty good starting point for where I want to eat. By way of other indicators, my next reference points (in order of helpfulness - and, indeed, relevence to eating anywhere in the country outside of my own immediate home area) are:

                    Good Food Guide

                    Hardens Guide

                    Egullet

                    Local review sites (eg: London-eating, RestaurantsofManchester, ChesterAt Large)

                    Chowhound

                    I accept that other folk may have a greater devotion to Chowhound than I do. Such is the nature of life and one's own experiences.

                    1. re: Harters

                      join me on site talk, will you? ta in advance

          2. Semplice is quite expensive, but has a fantastic all Italian cheese cart that is quite reasonable. Their trattoria (Trattoria Semplice) is also pretty good.

            Nagomi has surprisingly good ramen; I was pleased with the tonkotsu, with its stiff wiry thin ramen.

            You're probably not too far from Marylebone and Soho, which can provide you with more options.

            1 Reply
            1. re: limster

              Also, La Genova is very expensive for what it is, but the Genovese dishes there (e.g. trofie with pesto) are classic and old school. Princess Garden across the street serves pretty good for dim sum, even though I'd trek a little further to Paddington for Pearl Liang, or Kensington for Min Jiang.

            2. Thanks to all who took the time to reply. I really do appreciate it. Cary

              1. i'm fond of a little wine bar in Mayfair on N.Audley St called "Suze Wine Bar"...i've mostly been there for wine, but once for lunch i had some fried calamari and an asparagus soup and enjoyed both very much...outdoor seating too...

                1. I have eaten at Galvin at Windows, and I would highly recommend that for a excellent meal and fantastic views. I would say its quite "safe" high-end cuisine if you know what I mean though. At least in the sense it is very unlikely you will eat something completely new and engaging. But everything they do, they seem to do very well.

                  Another place my friend is wild about is Kiku, a Japanese restaurant. Apparently a lot of the Japanese embassy staff like eating there, which is a great compliment to the place I'd imagine (especially after seeing their chefs show up Rick Stein no end!). Not too cheap, but if money is no object...

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: chief1284

                    limster - i've been fortunate enough to try ducasse in mc and london and the reports are quite correct, there's nothing in it. the dorchester is a pale imitation of his grand french establishments. don't get me wrong, the dining room itself is lovely and reeks of money, but the amuse bouche / mignardises / trollies (there's one for bloody everything in mc) just aren't there. i've banged on about this on here before, but they don't even have a cheese board, let alone trolley! the british industry is still smarting from the speed with which the restaurant got its 3 stars, which imo it really doesn't deserve. i think the problem is that, even though it is still london's most expensive restaurant, the prices don't come close to paris and mc, for example, £115 vs €220 degustation and ducasse has paired down the dorchester to maintain his profit margins. i'm speculating of course, but the experiences are light years apart.

                    looking elsewhere, i had a belter at murano in january. highly recommended. i've heard terrible things about maze since atherton left. marcus wareing at the berkeley is brilliant, how that doesn't have 3 stars is beyond me. i don't think anyone's mentioned theo randall at the inter-continental yet; i've not been but reports all seem to be consistent, fairly cold, overly designed room, but stunning, stunning food.

                    also, there's a great little gastro pub called the only running footman on charles st, just off berkeley square. check out the restaurant upstairs for more formal fayre and the bar down for the (albeit refined) pub grub.

                    1. re: marcus james

                      "the british industry is still smarting from the speed with which the restaurant got its 3 stars".

                      lndeed. I was at a localish place just after the announcement. They had been hoping to get their second star (which would have been richly deserved, IMO) and were, understandably, a bit peeved that there was a perceived bias towards French restaurants

                      1. re: Harters

                        after the announcement ducasse ate a load of humble pie and said something along the lines of michelin being harder on uk restaurants in general. i think even he may have been slightly embarrassed by the rating. i don't think the appointment was helped by the year before when both the dorchester and robuchon went straight to 2 stars. i have to say though, although not in mayfair, l'atelier is really hitting some peaks right now. i know where i'd go if given the option between the two.

                      2. re: marcus james

                        Great - thanks for the info. Will have to try Marcus Wareing. Have you been to Koffman's restaurant at the Berkeley?

                        1. re: limster

                          no, i was going on the second night, but got cold feet as my contact there had left already. i don't often get the chance to go out with the group i was with so we flipped to pied a terre as felt it was probably going to be a safer pair of hands (which it was). restaurants always have opening teething issues and it would have been a bit of a gamble, though good to see positive reviews for koffman filtering through on other threads already.

                          1. re: marcus james

                            I had heard (on another board) that they don't have a head chef yet. It will be interesting to see how it settles down into steady state once Clive Dixon is on board in August, hopefully Koffman will be a regular in the kitchen rather than an absentee exec chef. Dixon is ex Hinds Head, Lords of the Manor, Clivden and Le Champignon Sauvage so a very good pedigree.

                            1. re: marcus james

                              Yeah, it's always a gamble with new places; too early and they're still rough, too late and it's packed. Fortunately, for what I had, their technique was spot-on and the food was delicious (although the vegetable sides were somewhat ordinary). Will be curious to see how they handle roast chicken.