|This is the fifth in a series of occasional restaurant newsletters devoted to both the eating scene in London and to top restaurants around the world. As ever, to unsubscribe just email a reply with the word "unsubscribe" in the title and you will not be bothered further.
There have been a number of improvements to the web site in the past few months. I have started a series of interviews with chefs of restaurants featured on my site. It turns out that a lot of top chefs seem a surprisingly shy bunch, but I have now collected a number of good interviews and will continue to do so.
The home page now has a section “did you know” which tells you information about the site that you may not have realised. This section refreshes randomly each time you visit the home page, just as the photos on that page already do.
The gallery section continues to be enhanced with photos from top restaurants. In this there are not only full size photos but also in some cases many more than the three thumbnails shown on the review. If you have not visited this then it is well worth doing so. There is a slideshow option allowing you to sit back and watch the dishes unfold.
For those in London, you can now make reservations directly on-line for any restaurants that use Toptable (which is a lot). A link is shown at the bottom of the review, and by clicking you are taken directly to the restaurant of interest and can reserve using the Toptable reservation engine.
There are now more indexes on the London section, allowing you to search by cuisine, by area, by price and value for money. Coming down the road is a multiple criteria search capability, and a series of further site enhancements.
The London Restaurant Scene
The generally healthy economy has meant that London restaurants continue to live in an unprecedented boom era. The good thing about that is that chefs from elsewhere are tempted to move to London e.g. Claude Bosi had relocated Hibiscus to London, and Alain Ducasse is about to open at the Dorchester. The downside is that some chefs have made the (correct) business decision that more money can be made flogging bistro food than from fine dining, and so London openings have been dominated by a seemingly endless series of bistros: Tom’s Kitchen, Arbutus, Wild Honey, Galvins, Canteen, La Petite Maison, ....
None of these are bad restaurants, and some are in fact very good, but there is only so much bistro food that I crave. Every now and again (well, quite often really) I long to have food that is exciting and is pushing the boundaries. The only recent openings with Michelin ambition in London through to early November 2007 have been Hibiscus and Texture, and perhaps Theo Randall. Gordon Ramsay seems bent on expansion rather than worrying too much about really top culinary ambition any more (though at least he has thoughtfully opened a nice gastropub within walking distance of where I live), and so we perhaps have to look to chefs from abroad to bring really top notch food to London; Alain Ducasse will (hopefully) be the obvious example, but there are rumours are some other very serious chefs scouting around London recently. At least the cooking at places like Bacchus is genuinely different and shows no lack of ambition.
There has been curiously little in the way of interesting ethnic restaurant openings recently. I can’t bring myself to try the new flashy Ukrainian place Divo on the site of W Sens, while the multi-million pound refurbishment of Mocoto proved to be an ill-fated investment: a difficult site combined with Brazilian food, which is little known in London – it closed after a few months. Alan Yau’s Sake No Hana is the most promising based on his track record, assuming the builders ever finish. Of recent openings, I enjoyed the simple (and cheap) Malaysian fare of Kiasu.
The Michelin season is almost upon us (indeed the New York guide is already out), and the culinary world will be looking out with great interest in December – February as the various country guides are published. As ever, these will be covered on my site. I am particularly looking forward to seeing Michelin’s first foray into Asia, with its Tokyo guide due out at the end of November 2007. It will be fascinating to see how they rate the restaurant scene in Tokyo, some of whose best restaurants are tiny and serve just one specific style of dish.