Namesakes: Putting on the Ritz

How would you like to eat at the Bluebird, Savoy, River Cafe, Criterion and other leading London names for around a fiver? It is possible - but you may have to get on a bus to Acton. Caroline Stacey samples namesakes of the famous

They did say the Titanic, didn't they? They said Saturday. They definitely said they'd be here at 9.45pm, so where are they now its gone 10? And why can I only order a Dr Pepper and not the Martini I'd been promised?" Somehow I doubt anyone could possibly confuse a kebab and burger joint on the Holloway Road in north London called Titanic, with a glitzy rendezvous in the West End run by Marco Pierre White. Does each Titanic even know the other exists?

When you're the original Ritz you can afford to be airily oblivious to the fact that, up and down the country, in Lancashire, Glasgow, and Tyneside, there are other probably less ritzy Ritzs paying tribute to your august name. It's unlikely that the Savoy Grill, in the eponymous London hotel, is losing sleep over the existence of the Savoy Grill on Bispham Road, Thornton Cleveleys near Preston, Lancashire. Imitation ought to be flattering when it's not too close to home.

Several of London's most glamorous and distinctive restaurants are so confident that confusion is out of the question: they can happily share their name with another. But just in case someone tries to trick you into a cheap date at a venue other than the one you had in mind, here's how to spot the essential differences between places which sound the same.

The Ritz It's become a byword for all that is glamorous, luxurious and just a little ostentatious. When Andreas Iannous's parents opened their Greek and Continental restaurant in London's Shepherd's Bush 50 years ago, they put "Ritz" on the sign. Since then it has been redecorated in English cottage style, with traditional scenes on the table mats, wheelback chairs and cosy carpets. Andreas does most of the cooking, and his English roast dinner is pounds 6.30. Greek meals cost from pounds 7.30. London's original Ritz (strangely unaware of its Shepherd's Bush competitor) was opened in 1906 by Cesar Ritz, following namesakes in Madrid and Paris. Its interior is a magical confection of pillars, chandeliers, mirrors and general unashamed luxury. In the past three years it has been restored at a cost of pounds 25m by the British company which owns it. The restaurant is open every day and it is famed for its dinner-dances on Friday and Saturday nights. The 115 rooms cost from pounds 285 a night, and one of the 16 suites is pounds 1,500.

Coast Oliver Peyton's Coast was Elle magazine's restaurant of the year when it opened in 1995. This was possibly the first London restaurant to surf the Pacific Rim, with a menu that mixed occidental and oriental with panache. Stephen Terry, the chef who first got it noticed, has now returned to cook there. Marc Newson's Sixties-futurist interior, curved sofa-banquettes and dimple- like lights, have influenced a new wave of design. Bar Coast in Clapham, south London, is one of Bass Leisure Retail's brands. When it opened as Cafe Coast in 1996, enough people thought it was the diffusion version of Coast for the original to take legal action. After that, Cafe Coast became Bar Coast, and there are none anywhere near Mayfair. Coast's food has evolved away from the Orient back to chic European, while Bar Coast is about to exchange nachos and similar snacks for a Pacific Rim menu.

Titanic Calling a restaurant Titanic when it is situated above the Atlantic bar and restaurant in the Regent Palace Hotel, Piccadilly Circus, might have been tempting providence; it was certainly provocative. But so far, Marco Pierre White's Art Deco parvenu has proved unsinkable. The Atlantic's protest about the Titanic trading immediately overhead has recently ended with an out-of- court settlement. Titanic is not the most exclusive or expensive of MPW's venues, nor the name the most tasteful, but there's a waiting list for (free) membership to get priority entry into the late bar on Friday and Saturday nights. Dishes such as sea bass with balsamic dressing and spring onions for pounds 15.50 are among the most expensive. A meal's around pounds 25 without drink. This Titanic, Piccadilly, opened in January this year, not long before another on the Holloway Road, one of the more unlovely arterial routes through north London. The latter's sign makes it look like it's full steam ahead. It is also popular with a weekend crowd, for kebabs, burgers and other takeaways.

Savoy The palatial Art Deco Savoy (never "Hotel") has, leading up to it, the only right-hand-drive stretch of road in London. It also has 207 bedrooms (starting at pounds 270 plus VAT a night), three restaurants, the ne plus ultra of cocktail bars, and employs around 500 people. In medieval times, Count Peter of Savoy built the Palace of Savoy on land given to him by Henry III, on the bank of the Thames. Five hundred years after this was destroyed by fire, opera impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte raised the present structure on the same spot and kept the old name. The Savoy fish shop and restaurant on the Savoy roundabout in Acton, west London, also has a pedigree: it has been in the Alexandrou family for 30 years, and a fish and chip shop for 40 years before that. Fish and chips cost from pounds 3.50 up to a mighty pounds 4.25 for something like scampi.

Odeon Think you might enjoy a trailer of lobster tortellini, citrus salsa and lobster sauce; main event of scallop and black truffle feuillantine, young vegetables and rosemary; then a decent interval before your L'Odeon chocolate plate? Then don't make the mistake of going to the Odeon Leicester Square. The Odeon, like all the other cinemas in the chain, has little more than hot dogs, wine gums, Poppets and chips'n'dips. At most you can go mad and spend pounds 4 on popcorn and pounds 2.10 on a Coke. But the French owners of the unrelated L'Odeon, on a first floor on Regent Street, may not have realised when they opened in 1995 how strongly the name - from the Greek oideion meaning gathering place for entertainment - is linked with a front row in the stalls. They still have to pay a nominal sum each year to compensate the cinema for confusing its customers. Now the two London Odeons do joint promotions.

Bluebird Recent storms battered the front of the Bluebird Cafe at Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire, which has nothing except a road between it and the sea. Sailing enthusiast Andrew Gill bought it 10 years ago, although the name dates back 45 years to when it was opened by an RAF widow. His Mega-breakfast is "a heck of a plateful" and popular post-clubbing. The menu doesn't change all day. It's "anything that's bad for you", followed by soft ice-cream. Terence Conran's Bluebird on London's King's Road is in the old Bluebird garage, once Europe's largest, where Malcolm Campbell's speed-record-breaking Bluebird was built, and Grade II listed for its fine design. The menu may be minimal, but fishcakes with peas, mint, or sirloin and Bearnaise and frites are a lot more elaborate than anything available in Lee-on-Solent. And a meal costs around pounds 35.

The River Cafe Dinner at The River Cafe can require booking weeks ahead, getting down to a riverside location in west London and being prepared to spend around pounds 50 a head to eat evolved Italian peasant food, among the chattering Chiantishire set. Or head to the Water of Leith in Edinburgh where Majid Jorjani opened the River Cafe three years ago, and where he serves dishes such as gormeh sabzi - lamb stewed with parsley, coriander, fenugreek and young leek - from his native Iran, alongside Mexican faves like chimichangas and fajitas. This River Cafe goes down well with students and impecunious young professionals who, in the evening, rarely spend more than pounds 20 a head including drinks, and around a fiver at lunchtime. The chefs who made the other one so well known have had their own television series, and, in hardback, Ruth Rogers and Rose Grey's bestselling The River Cafe Cookbook costs more than a meal in Edinburgh's River Cafe.

Criterion "It means the standard by which things are judged," says Patrick Chubbs of the Criterion in Weymouth, Dorset. "I think that must have appealed to my father." Patrick took over the Criterion from his father, and his son Nicholas is now in the business, which has been in the family for half a century. The decor inside the stuccoed building on once-elegant Weymouth's Georgian seafront might look Tudor, but was installed 10 years ago. In summer, holidaymakers come for home-cooked meals; steak and kidney pie is the most popular dish, at pounds 4.95 including vegetables. In winter it's open only for lunch, and locals find the steaks, casseroles, gammon and pineapple, followed by crumble, bread and butter pudding, cheesecake, trifle, steamed syrup sponge with custard, or roly poly make up for the lack of anything more than soup or fruit juice for starters. At Marco Pierre White's revived Criterion restaurant on Piccadilly Circus, there are more than a dozen starters - oysters and smoked salmon with cucumber gelee being just one item on the menu of classic French food. This and the adjacent Criterion Theatre were built together in 1873, designed by Thomas Verity in lavish, gilded Byzantine style. n

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Sudan, the last male northern white rhino
environmentThe death of a white northern rhino in Kenya has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    IT Project Manager

    Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    IT Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    Day In a Page

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth