No celebs, and no TV chef, but Chez Bruce tops the bill

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Indy Lifestyle Online

But the long-established restaurant, which can boast both David Beckham and Madonna among those who enjoy its elegant comfort food, has lost its title as Londoners' favourite restaurant in one of the capital's most reliable eating-out guides, Harden's London Restaurants.

The Ivy, in Covent Garden, which has held the title in the guide for nine years, has dropped to number two, behind Chez Bruce in comparatively unstarry Wandsworth, south London. In the latest edition of the guide, published today, The Ivy was also named the second most disappointing restaurant and the fifth most over-priced by reviewers.

However the guide also confirms the superiority of Gordon Ramsay when it comes to the pure quality of the cooking. The chef-turned entrepreneur's eponymous restaurant in Chelsea, the only holder of three Michelin stars in London, heads the "top gastronomic experience'' category, while his other main restaurant, Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's, rose from third to second place.

The "most disappointing" and "most overpriced" categories are topped by the Oxo Tower restaurant, which enjoys spectacular views from its South Bank setting, for the fifth year running.

Richard Harden, co-owner of Harden's Guides, which are based on the reports of 8,000 volunteer restaurant reviewers, said the toppling of The Ivy had been in the wind for the past two years. "We have been warning that the consistency of The Ivy is not what it was. The fact that it is registering as one of the most disappointing is significant, because it suggests that people are not finding it good enough. It is still a very good restaurant, but maybe just slipping a bit.''

He added: "But this also about the fact that Chez Bruce, which is essentially a suburban restaurant run by an excellent chef, but who is not some kind of media star, becoming so good that it has topped a list that includes many other highly fashionable central London venues.''

The Ivy became famous in the 1920s and 1930s, when it was patronised by stars such as Noel Coward. Revived in the 1990s, it is now part of the Caprice Holdings group, which also owns J Sheekey and Le Caprice and was sold to the high-street clothing manufacturer Richard Caring earlier this summer. A spokeswoman for Caprice Holdings said that the company did not wish to comment on the new guide's findings. The Harden's guide makes the point that the Caprice group is one of three that control or are linked to many of the top 40 places visited by its reviewers. The others are Gordon Ramsay, who has five, and Nigel Platts-Martin, who has three, including Chez Bruce.

The co-owner and chef, Bruce Poole, said that he was "delighted" with the Harden's findings, adding: "I don't think for one minute that we are the best restaurant in London but we are pleased to have done well in one of the guides that is quite highly respected. It means we are doing something right." The guide shows a record 142 restaurants opened in London in the past year. Prices have risen by 4.1 per cent to an average of £36.82 for a dinner for one, although the £100-a-head meal is commonplace at the most prestigious establishments. There is also an increasing trend for Asian or pan-Asian venues to be highly rated - Nobu and Hakkasan both feature in the top 10.

Mr Harden said that during the Nineties, the guide's top restaurants were dominated by large, style-driven establishments, such as the now closed Mezzo in Soho, which often served only mediocre food. "Now it is very encouraging that restaurants serving quality food have taken up most of the pole positions.''

London's most popular

TOP GASTRONOMIC EXPERIENCE

1. Gordon Ramsay (1)

2. Gordon Ramsay at Claridges's (3)

3. Chez Bruce (2)

4. Tom Aikens (4)

5. Le Gavroche (5)

6. Nobu (6)

7. La Trompette (9)

8. The Ivy (8)

9. Pétrus (-)

10. Locanda Locatelli (10)

FAVOURITE RESTAURANTS

1. Chez Bruce (2)

2. The Ivy (1)

3. The Wolseley (8)

4. J Sheekey (3)

5. Le Caprice (4)

6. Gordon Ramsay (5)

7. La Trompette (6)

8. Hakkasan (7)

9. Nobu (-)

10. Zuma (10)

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