toptable’s Top 100: The Bloggers Speak

‘When a man is tired of arguing about London, he is tired of arguing about life,’ Samuel Johnson opined.  Not.  We don’t know anyone who would shrink back from a good dingdong about the best place in London or the country for that matter for pizza, martinis, steak, dim sum.  But it’s our favourite food bloggers who are among the most devoted opinion-makers of all when it comes to the categories of ‘food’, ‘restaurant’ and ‘best’.  While they are — nearly — uniformly polite and respectful, you can sense a roiling cauldron of passion under the surface that is ridiculously easy to stir up.
So we thought we’d do just that.  We took a list of our favourite food bloggers, award-winning eating writers whose work we really respect, and we sent them the toptable Top 100 list of restaurants, as created by you, our toptable diners, who expertly rate the restaurants where you’ve dined.   Then we stepped back and watched the fireworks light up the night sky.  Of course, not every great restaurant in the UK takes reservations, so they won’t appear on toptable.  And, tragically, not every terrific restaurant that takes reservations has joined the toptable community.  But even so, it’s been a most illuminating exercise.
We’re really grateful to the bloggers who have taken the time to get their white-hot thoughts down and send them along as we are always grateful for toptable diners who make the effort to rate and review our restaurant members.  Thanks to you all.
Hugh Wright/TwelvePointFivePercent
Your view of the list – do you agree with toptable diners?
This is a really interesting list, as diverse both in terms of types of restaurant and cuisine as in the areas it covers. Being a London restaurant blogger (and resident) it’s too easy to forget that, while London remains the culinary capital of Britain, it certainly does not have the monopoly on fantastic food destinations and there’s no better illustration of this than the fact that five of the top ten restaurants, including the number one, are outside of London. It’s really not for me to agree or disagree with toptable diners; this list is as democratic as it’s possible to be and if these are the restaurants that toptable’s diners rate most highly, then they deserve that accolade!
Interesting/unusual restaurants
There are certainly some interesting restaurants on the list, in all sorts of ways. It’s interesting that Roux at The Landau is in at number 13 despite having only been open a few weeks; I can only imagine that it must be really wowing diners to achieve that. I’m also delighted that Clos Maggiore, which I’ve said for years is one of London’s most under-rated restaurants, is high up the list at number 25.
What would be your top 3 in the list?
One of my absolute favourite restaurants, Adam Byatt’s Trinity,  is at number 44 here but would be in my top 3. I had one of the most incredible meals of my life at Hibiscus (number 80) last year and am surprised it’s not much higher up the toptable diners’ list. I also can’t recommend The Cinnamon Club highly enough; not just amazing Indian food, but amazing food full stop.
Three restaurants you’d like to try that you’ve not been to yet
Definitely Le Gavroche, a restaurant I’ve been meaning to visit for years and just not got round to – yet. I’ve also wanted to experience Galvin La Chapelle ever since it opened but similarly, haven’t turned intent into action. Finally, I’m planning on visiting The Greenhouse; it’s one those lesser-known restaurants with a quietly brilliant reputation which everyone who’s been raves about and I want to try for myself!
Best dish you’ve eaten in any on the list
I’m going to be greedy and compile a complete best meal.  Starter: roast hand-dived scallops with pork pie sauce, pink grapefruit and sorrel from Hibiscus; main: wood pigeon en cocotte from Trinity; and dessert, the chocolate tart from Apsley’s at The Lanesborough which was so amazing it made me gasp.
Best restaurant in cheap/expensive price range
It’s not necessarily ‘cheap’ but the set lunch at Trinity is amazing value at this level of quality. If money’s no object then it would have to be Hibiscus or Le Gavroche, although again both of these offer set lunches which represent good value in relation to the cost of an a la carte meal at either of these two Michelin-starred restaurants.
Best tables in top five restaurants
Look, here’s a bit of advice about tables. When you go into a restaurant, whether you’ve booked or not, don’t just blindly sit down at the first table you’re led to. Observe the room as you walk through it. Look around the table; is it near the waiter station/kitchen doors/air-con etc? Is it in a draught? Is it next to a table with noisy kids? If so, don’t feel obliged to accept it; ask for another table. Do this, and every table you ever sit at will be the best table, because you’ll be happy at it.
Anything of particular note about any of the restaurants – e.g. best cheeseboard, best sommelier, best chef even!
Clos Maggiore is incredibly romantic with its conservatory and indoor vines with twinkling fairy lights. The food and wine list are fantastic too. Gauthier Soho is brilliant for vegetarians; Alexi Gauthier treats vegetables with as much reverence as any other ingredient and has a dedicated vegetarian tasting menu. The bar downstairs from The Cinnamon Club has some of the most interesting and unusual cocktails anywhere. Oh, and Galvin at Windows is arguably the best restaurant for any special occasion you can think of; whether it’s a birthday, wedding anniversary, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, the food is excellent, the service impeccable and the views truly are spectacular by day or night; I’d go more often if I wasn’t so scared of heights!
Chris Pople/Cheese And Biscuits
It’s a very interesting list which I suppose just goes to show how willing toptable diners (and by extension the general public) are to largely ignore professional critics, bloggers and certain French guides and just do their own thing. Being London-based I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting either of the top two spots but it’s great to see stalwarts Le Gavroche and Chez Bruce doing so well – thoroughly deserved. On the other hand, I’m not sure I’d rate the hugely overpriced and underwhelming Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester a full 84 spots above the superb Galvin at Windows, and as for the high scores for so many awful Gaucho steakhouses… the mind boggles.
I think of toptable-bookable restaurants (which, it’s important to point out, excludes the world-class Ledbury and Fat Duck restaurants, both of my favourite steakhouses Hawksmoor [editor’s note: Chris, we now book Hawksmoor!] and Goodman, as well as certain oversubscribed celebrity hangouts like Nobu) my top 3 would be Le Gavroche, Galvin @ Windows (for the best service in the city) and Launceston Place. Based on these scores I’d love to try Roux at The Landau and Artisan in the Westbury Hotel, the latter I’d never even heard of! I’m also seriously considering a gastronomic tour of Scotland…
It’s also fantastic to see Zucca doing so well. It’s a great showing for a restaurant in its price range, and one that’s barely been open a year. Ditto for Trinity – a fantastic local restaurant with one of the great tasting-menu bargains of London.
It’s interesting to see how many of London’s “fine dining” restaurants are in the top
50.  They’re often the places I’m least impressed by; maybe because my expectations are high before I arrive and my wallet is a lot lighter when I leave.  Well done Zucca for bucking that trend.
Dino/The Epicurian
Your view of the list – do you agree with toptable diners?
I do not agree with the ranking in the list or the inclusion of restaurants like Gaucho that I consider to be truly awful. Restaurant Martin Wishart is not even the best restaurant in Leith let alone the UK 🙂
Interesting/unusual restaurants
Seven Park Place – few covers contributes to superb food from the talented William Drabble
What would be your top 3 in the list?
1. Hibiscus
2. Gauthier Soho
3. The Square
Three restaurants you’d like to try that you’ve not been to yet
Chapter One , Cah – Chi , The Bingham
Best dish you’ve eaten in any on the list
White truffle risotto at Gauthier Soho
Best restaurant in cheap/expensive price range
Cheap = Zucca , Expensive = Hibiscus
Best tables in top five restaurants
Best table in the top 5 in my opinion is Le Gavroche.
Anything of particular note about any of the restaurants – e.g. best cheeseboard, best sommelier, best chef even!
I would say Claude Bosi (Hibiscus) is one of the best three chefs cooking in the UK at the moment along with Tom Kitchen and Brett Graham.
A Girl has to Eat
It’s really wonderful to see such a wide range of restaurants from across the country in this diners’ list, especially in the top ten.  It’s a shining example of how sophisticated British palates are, and how far the culinary talents in this country reach. I shared my top ten restaurants with toptable readers back in December, but I am also a fan of Chez Bruce (#4) with its robust cooking and reasonable pricing. And 12th-ranked Apsleys must truly must have one of the most beautiful pasta dishes in the world with its carbonara fagotelli. I have yet to try 30th-ranked Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley although I am sure I will find it a thrilling experience. Finally, my top restaurant pick for next year’s list is Dinner by Heston Blumenthal so watch this space.
Bitten and Written
It’s a very conservative top ten, particulary in terms of the London selection, with only Petrus by Gordon Ramsay and Roux at The Landau having opened in the last year. With the slew of new restaurants that have assaulted London over the past year, this is a surprise. The zeitgeist of the trend-driven restaurant of small plates and casual dining is not represented. This is perhaps more a reflection of the kind of person that takes the time and effort to [rate restaurants].  Scotland has done very well, taking the first two spots and three in the top ten – some satisfied diners in Scotland.
What would be your top 3 in the list?
Pied a Terre for consistency, Pearl for the most artistry on a plate, Galvin La Chapelle for most beautiful room.
Best dish you’ve eaten in any restaurants on the list?
Black truffle risotto at Gauthier Soho. Perfectly executed, indulgent risotto.
Best restaurant in cheap/expensive price range
Zucca for value.  The Square at the top level never misses a beat
Anything of particular note about any of the restaurants – e.g. best cheeseboard, best sommelier, best chef even!
Zucca has the best quality/value wine list with a 100 per cent Italian list.
I’m surprised by how spread out across the UK the restaurants are in the list. I’m certainly often guilty of being ‘London’centric’ in my view of dining, and it’s interesting to see a load of restaurants named that I’m not so familiar with. By the way, if you really pushed me for 3 restaurants I’ve never been to, but would like to visit from the list, then I’d go for Le Gavroche, Restaurant Martin Wishart and Galvin La Chapelle. No expense spared of course.
A Rather Unusual Chinaman
On the whole, I think the list is pretty comprehensive, and contains many of the restaurants I would like to go to, or have been. I am probably most surprised at the amount of Gaucho’s on the list, when far superior restaurants such as Hawksmoor and Goodman fail to register even in the top 100, and the Sportsman in Seasalter, which was probably my best complete meal of last year sadly isn’t currently bookable on toptable. The choices outside of London do surprise me slightly, although happy to see The French Table (Surbiton), a local (to my family at least) restaurant on the list. From the list, I would love to head to Edinburgh and try the number one on your list (Restaurant Martin Wishart), and I certainly intend on ticking Chez Bruce and Le Gavroche off my list. Out of all on the list, I probably remember my visit to Galvin La Chapelle most vividly, for great food and rather odd and annoying service. The venison dish with chestnut purée, red cabbage and blueberries is still one of the best dishes I have ever eaten.
Bruce Palling/Gastroenophile
It is interesting how far this list diverges from own favourite restaurants in Britain! Of course, there are some I adore, such as Chez Bruce and The Square but my other all-time favourites, such as The Ledbury and Dock Kitchen are not featured currently on toptable and my other favourites, such as — Pearl Liang, Bocca di Lupo, Racine and Bar Boulud — do not appear on the Top 100 list. Perhaps this is what makes London such a spectacular place to dine – there is such a vast choice we can all agree to disagree.
Gourmet Chick
If you try out number four on the list, Chez Bruce, don’t miss the cheese board which is actually a whole trolley of cheese impeccably sourced and presented.  At number 17, Launceston Place, try the melt-in-your-mouth salt marsh lamb if it is on the menu.  Sketch, number 53, is renowned for its afternoon teas served in a seriously quirky setting (check out the space pod toilets) and save room at The Square, number 77, for dessert as the  peach melba soufflé is unmissable.
Food Urchin
Great to see that Trinity is on the list, they delivered one of the most memorable meals of 2010 when I went there early last year to sample their tasting menu. My wife still bangs on about the black truffle tagliatelle. In fact, I wish she would put a lid on it.