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London Restaurant Guides - The Best Guide?


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I presume some high-profile restaurants, or ones in a thinly-represented genre, or a sparse location, merit reviewing for information's sake even if the review is not a positive one. By the way, was anyone else surprised by their recent 180 on the quality of food at Monte's?

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Well as much as Tony hates lists and numerical ratings, and John dislikes hiearchys, you all have just made the best argument for ratings and hierarchys. It's because it is unclear why they put a red star next to certain restaurants. And that is a function of the reviews being uneven. In a very long list of restaurants like the Time Out Guide, it's important for a reader, unless they want to spend hundreds of hours deciphering their code, to be able to get a quick handle as to what they are recommending, and to what degree they are recommending it. It's extremely useful information and for example, if I have to be in London for business for 3-4 days and I get the guide in advance of my visit, it wouldn't be unsual for all of my meals to be at the best rated places. Now that they don't have the top 5 I have a harder time determining which places are"must go" and which ones are just recommended.

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Having more time (out) on my hands, I enjoy the "audience participation" of the Time Out approach, which requires prospective diners to examine the evidence and reach their own conclusions. Short lists of the "best" may be useful, but they are often opinionated or simply wrong. For me, Time Out comes close in print to a conversation with a trusted authority. They can be more useful and less annoying than a full-length review in a newspaper, which has increasingly become merely a vehicle for the critic's self-aggrandisement.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Actually I've never been against ratings per se. It's only when someone like Parker minutely nuances them in order to confer pseudo-scientific objectivity on them that I object.But we REALLY don't want to start going over that one again do we.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Andrew, you may be interested to know that an updated edition of the Guide to London's Best Food Shops will be published on 1 Oct.

There's also the Time Out Shopping Guide - their Food section isn't as comprehensive as the above, but it isn't bad.

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  • 2 years later...

I recently moved to London and am missing the array of information I'd found to follow about the food scene in Toronto. There, I'd found a handful of food-related email newsletters, guidebooks, and magazines which collectively made me feel fairly well-informed about the local food scene, from markets to new products to restaurant reviews. Egullet helped too.

Egullet is still helpful, as is my copy of the <i>Rough Guide to London Restaurants</i>. But I'm sure there are other extremely useful newsletters, guidebooks, and magazines which would help me become and stay informed about the food scene in my new home. Could you suggest some of them?

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Time Out London puts out a restaurant edition every year. I found it really useful for finding basic everyday stuff like good dim sum, indian places, pubs. Their reviews are fair and give you a good idea of what to expect in terms of the crowd, prices etc.

Here is a link to the website, and you can order the book from there too.

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Time Out Eating and Drinking Guide and Square Meal are the best guides IMHO, particularly for coverage of ethnic restaurants.

Both have websites - http://eatdrink.timeout.com/ and http://www.squaremeal.co.uk/

The restaurants section of http://www.thisislondon.com/ is also worth looking at for reviews from Metro and the Evening Standard.

I hope this helps.

All the best,

--

Ian Fenn

Chopstix Media

http://www.chopstixmedia.com/

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Any guide need calibrating against your own experience.

For me, the Good Food Guide is the only one worth following.

Unlike some it does not require payment from the restaurant, nore does it take advertising, nor does it own restaurants. It also has long and more detailed descriptions

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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For me,  the  Good Food Guide is the only one worth following.

I bought my first Good Food Guide in 1955 (which I still have) and have followed it intermittently ever since. Over the years it has gone increasingly upmarket and, as a guide to simple neighborhood ethnic restaurants, has become virtually useless. Yes, it is still an honest guide, but most useful for those punters with deep pockets.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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For me,  the  Good Food Guide is the only one worth following.

Unlike some it does not require payment from the restaurant, nore does it take advertising, nor does it own restaurants. It also has long and more detailed descriptions

Here Here. one thing i found kinda handy was the maps showing you where all these places are. it`s london section is very extensive .

i`ve owned a copy every year since `90 . not quite as impressive as 1955 ( bet thats interesting reading Mr Whiting ).

Anyway i hope your not missing T.Dot too much :]

tt
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Thank you for all of the advice. It's a relief to know where to start! I did go to a bookstore one day last week, but was overwhelmed with the number - and varying quality - of the guidebooks on offer.

I'm struck by the fact that all of you recommended guidebooks, whether in book or website form. (Although some of the websites might have newsletters attached.) What about keeping up-to-date with the ongoing changes in the restaurant scene - closings, exciting new openings?

I am missing Toronto, both because of friends left behind there, but also because I'd spent enough time in the city to have found lots of eateries and provisioners I really liked, some of which I had the fun of being a local at. It'll be a long time before I'm back up to speed in the same way here.

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Well...Square Meal mag has a lengthy news section in the front of every issue, so that's a good start for openings and closings.

Personally, I find Harden's a waste of time. Time Out is the most reliable printed guide, though you'll need to get in quick as they aren't doing any more after this issue.

London-eating is the best website, I think.

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Time Out is the most reliable printed guide, though you'll need to get in quick as they aren't doing any more after this issue.

Does that mean they'll only have the online edition available or are they effectively going to stop doing restaurant reviews? That would be a pity. Though I did not eat out much in London during the time I spent in the UK, I often followed their tips on ethnic places.

Edited to add: sorry, I hadn't seen Sarah's reply.

Edited by albiston (log)
Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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London-eating is the best website, I think.

I like Urban Path, principally because it has links to reviews published in the newspapers. On which subject, maybe it seemed to obvious to mention, but Fay Maschler of the Evening Standard is the doyenne of London restaurant critcs, having been at it for 30+ years, and is still the only one that matters for many.

I'm not suprised to hear about Time Out. It's axiomatic that guide books are out of date before they're published and, nowadays, printed guides are surely obsolete?

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I don't know about the online version of Time Out, but the printed one is definitely going - the current one is the last, as I understand it.

I have to disagree about using newspaper reviews as a guide to the quality of an establishment, I'm afraid, having worked with and edited many restaurant critics and disagreed with almost a majority. Many are employed for their style rather than their palate, and often we have to stop them making fools of themselves in print due to lack of basic knowledge. I do think that the 'ordinary joe' reviews are far superior as a guide.

Also, about Fay. She may be the doyenne but IMHO she's been doing it too long. She has 'pets' who can do no wrong, and, in order to review an establishment before anyone else, she has had chefs round to her house to COOK FOR HER IN HER OWN KITCHEN and uses that as the basis of a review.

Rant over :raz:

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Fay reviews restaurants far too soon after opening.

Her argument "well if they're charging customers they should deliver"

Obvious reply "standard of restaurant changes hugely in first month as beds down. Therefore first month experience not typical of what 90% of punters (ie YOUR CUSTOMERS) will experience. Therefore you are doing them a disservice by rushing to the front of the queue and making snap judgements.

As wise men say, only fools rush in

Though to be fair there has recently be a column revisiting restaurants (think St John got a bit of a kicking the other week). Too little too late however - the innocent victims of Fays sloppy review approach would long have closed by then.

Here endeth the lesson

J

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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