Navigating the London restaurant maze

Saturday, October 05th , 2013

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Atithi is the younger sister of Swagat in Richmond. The head chef and part owner of both divides his time between the two places, and is a talented cook. I first tried his food at a rather odd Indian restaurant turned nightclub called Yatra, before he moved to Tangawizi and now to his own ventures. Of the two places, I slightly preferred Swagat, but Atithi is smarter and certainly very pleasant.

The oddly named Perkin Reveller (a Chaucer reference; see the review for why) is on the river by the Tower of London, but its chef has a pedigree that suggests something more ambitious than serving basic food to the throngs of tourists. The modern British food was decent enough but it was far from exciting, and although it is not a tourist trap it did seem to me too expensive for what appeared on the plate.

Gillray’s is a steakhouse also on the river, in this case in the old County Hall building overlooking Parliament. Service was terrific and it is certainly a very smart place, but although I quite enjoyed the food the bill was very high indeed, with a crushingly expensive wine list to boot. This was a pity because at a lower price point it could attract a lot more diners, which at present seem to be heavily made up of the hotel guests at the Marriott in which it resides. The kitchen sources its meat well, and the desserts were very good, but for this money you could eat in some very serious London kitchens.

Claude's Kitchen was a pleasant enough neighbourhood restaurant in Parson's Green. It has a fairly priced wine list, and I enjoyed a quail dish. though other dishes I tried were pretty ordinary in standard. It was doing well on the evening we visited, and certainly the menu was inexpensive by London standards. 

The best meal of the week was at Maze (pictured), which continues to pack them into Grosvenor Square. What impresses me about Maze is the level of consistency from such a large kitchen: dishes are prettily presented, precisely cooked and appealing. A pork belly dish with peas and wasabi was particularly good at this meal, but there was hardly a misstep. Service is very slick, and I just wish they would make their own bread. 

The New York Michelin 2014 guide came out. There was no change at the three star level (with a count of seven) but significant change at the two star level. Gordon Ramsay had its stars removed, as did Corton (closed) and Gilt (closed). Jungsik was promoted from one star to two, leaving just five two star restaurants. At the one star level, there were stars for Aska, Babbo, Carbone, Caviar Russe, Ichimura, Le Restaurant, Lincoln, Musket Room and Telepan. There are 55 one star restaurants in all in 2014. There were deletions for Adour, Cafe China, Dressler, Marc Forgione, Picholine, River Cafe and Saul.