With dinner for two costing £450, even the restaurant critics complain that the Sketch in Mayfair is beyond their budget. Now it has earned the distinction of being "the most overpriced restaurant in London".

Reviews in Harden's London Restaurants 2004 published yesterday complain that the prices at the Gallery dining room at Sketch are "for mugs" while the food is "pretentious tosh" although other diners praise it for being "innovative". The Lecture Room in the same complex is declared the most expensive restaurant in town. Reviewers say the menu, including £48 starters and £75 main courses, is "fussy" and "extortionately overpriced".

Opened last year at an estimated cost of £12m by Mourad Mazouz and the three-star Michelin chef Pierre Gagnaire, Sketch has usurped the Oxo Tower and Nobu, which previously vied for Harden's readers' opprobrium as the capital's most overpriced restaurant.

The guide is compiled from 80,000 reviews by 6,500 diners. Its co-editor, Richard Harden, said: "We don't have anything against restaurants charging £140 per head but they have got to justify it. In London at the moment there are no establishments that do."

Such a high price for a three-course meal with a half bottle of house wine was reasonable provided there was a beautiful venue, faultless service and Michelin three-star food, as was the case with L'Ambroise in Paris, Mr Harden said.

The Ivy has been elected Londoners' favourite restaurant for the eighth successive year because it offers "comfort food of the highest order".

The capital's "top gastronomic experience" is Gordon Ramsayin Chelsea, which offers "devastatingly good" modern Gallic cooking although the service is occasionally "comically attentive".


Harden's readers criticise prices at:

Sketch (Gallery), W1
Oxo Tower (Brasserie), SE1
Nobu, W1
The River Café, W6
Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's, W1
Le Pont de la Tour, SE1
Gordon Ramsay, SW3
The Ivy, WC2
Quaglino's, SW1