The Top Ten Restaurants in London. (2008)

Posted on: July 19th, 2008 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

We anticipate that each episode will be around 10 minutes with a changing format. Any research that is referenced can be found, for your further reading or interest, by following the links on the website to the podcasts page.

finediningguide was founded in 2004, we have approximately 15,000 page views a month from around 7,000 unique visitors. The top three most popular pages of the 150 page site are first, the overall home page, second the Michelin section home page and third, somewhat surprisingly, the Michelin Bib Gourmand page.

The entire site, highlighted by the One Percent Club, is targeted at the top 1% of restaurants in Britain – the top 500 out of 50,000.

In this podcast we will start a new feature, the top tens, in this case the top ten restaurants in London and not any old top ten: The top ten according to three leading guides – The Michelin Red Guide, The Which? Good Food Guide and the AA Restaurant Guide with a weighted points scoring system – 10 points per each Michelin Star, 3 points for each Good Food Guide mark out of ten and 2 points for each AA Rossette.

And so the top two restaurants in London, Gordon Ramsay’s flagship at Royal Hospital Road Chelsea and Marcus Wareing’s Petrus at the Berkeley Hotel. Gordon and Marcus go back a long way: From 1993 Marcus was sous chef to Gordon at Aubergine, they rose through the ranks of Michelin together before Gordon rewarded Marcus with his own restaurant in St James Street.

For a period the cooking there was sublime and one wondered whether the pupil was surpassing the master. Michelin were slow to see it that way, with Petrus, in its new home at the Berkeley, only elevated to two stars in the last publication.

Rumours have been around in the fine dining world for at least a year that Marcus was unhappy in the relationship with Gordon Ramsay Holdings and wanted his freedom.

Finally, come September 2008, he is expected to have a direct relationship with the Berkeley Hotel. Reported stories and interviews in the trade press, suggest a somewhat bitter parting of the ways.

finediningguide salute and respect what these two men have achieved over the last 15 years for fine dining in Britain and wish both every success in the future.

2008 will see Silvano Giraldin – the original master of the culinary art known as les art de tables retire as restaurant manager from Le gavroche. At the same time one of his protégés – Diego Masciaga is celebrating 20 years as the face of the Michelin 3 starred waterside inn in Bray. Congratulations and all the best to both of them!

Should you, like many, enjoy the distinct aromas of Epoisses and Chambertin or Liveraux and Munster or simply enjoy the theatre of watching the cheese trolley being wheeled around the restaurant then finedingguide bring sad news. It would appear that EU health and safety regulations may make this traditional part of the restaurant experience something of the past.

So to our final piece of this episode, an editorial about tipping.

What is the origin of the word tip in the context of giving thanks for good service?

The short answer is that no-one really knows.

There are two romantic urban myths; the first that a gentleman in the 17th century would ‘tip’ his hat to say thank you and one day this coincided with the handing over of monies. The second, and considerably more popular romantic conjecture, is that early tea and coffee houses held a box in the corner with the words inscribed “To Insure Prompt Service.” Over time this was abridged to TIPS.

Etymologists tell us that, prior to the start of the 20th Century, there’s no single example of an acronym providing the derivation of a word. One suggested fact often cited is that literature first described a tip in 1706, “Then I, Sir, tips me the verger with half a crown” in George Farquhar play, the Beaux Strategem.

Three hundred years later there’s a lot of confusion, for different reasons, about tips in restaurants. At the turn of the 1990’s the US IRS noticed missing tax dollars from the tipping of croupiers in Casinos. This prompted closer examination of restaurants where the IRS later found an estimated $9bn tax revenue shortfall.

Where the spotlight falls in the US sometime later the spotlight falls in the UK.

The UK however is more complicated, not only because it is laden with different old customs and practices but also the legal structure is very different. There’s the minimum wage, PAYE, National Insurance and VAT.

Untangling where and when tips qualify as income for each or any is a matter for sophisticated consultants and accountants.

Some clarity has come into view recently with acknowledgement that tips cannot make up the difference in a basic wage that is set below the minimum wage. The minimum wage is the minimum wage and tips go on top.

The most commonly used system for pooling and dividing up tips in the UK is called a tronc – literally meaning trunk, or the French example tronc des pauvres meaning poor box. Here a points system is used to reward members of the front of house and kitchen staff.

The administrator, or troncmaster (sounds grand and slightly Masonic), has the unenviable job of ensuring that all taxes are appropriately avoided and not evaded.

More complexity arises from the UK practice of a 12.5% discretionary charge taken on credit card slips.

The restaurateur has processed this payment and experienced a 2% administration charge from the credit card company. Owners too point to damages and breakages and whether they should be covered as expenses taken from the pool of tips?

In any event – Everyone – The restaurateurs, the waiting staff, the customers and the government would all appreciate clarity and transparency; although achieving this is understandably more difficult than first thought.