The 2012 Michelin Guide landed on doorsteps with a thud and, as always, heads in the foodie world. Among the headlines were the first pub to gain two stars, the Hand and Flowers in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. Only four British restaurants earned the maximum three, two of which are in Bray, Berkshire where Heston's Fat Duck is joined by Alain Roux's Waterside Inn. It is London though, and Mayfair in particular, that remains the mecca of fine dining in the U.K. With so many to choose from in the capital, we thought we'd let you in on some of the little gems that offer just a tad more than fine dining...
L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon
With two Michelin stars and a superstar chef, you're unlikely to find privacy at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon on West Street in central London, but you will find a sleek and sexy take on French cuisine. Converted, just about, from Robuchon's own Japanese restuarant, l'Atelier's open kitchen, hip staff, slinky lighting and copious foliage create an exotic atmosphere to complement the exceptional food. Why not retire to the rooftop bar after your meal.
The Lecture Room and Library at Sketch
9 Conduit Street W1 is home to The Lecture Room and Library at Sketch where chef Pierre Gagnaire works his one-star magic in the riotous surroundings of a Mayfair town house. Now in its tenth year, Sketch is a veritable cavern of kitsch and bombast which sticks a very discerning tongue out at the snooty reputation of the many high-society venues in its locality. Like tumbling down the rabbit hole into Alice's pleasure palace, its retro chique colour clashes and zany lighting are a delight to the eye. The food delivers too, as Gagnaire combines the robuste Gallic flavours of his childhood with a nod to modernity. The cocktail menu is also a highlight. Though pricey, the whole experience is a joy.
Helen Darroze at the Connaught
A dining experience that oozes charm, sophistication and class can be found in Helen Darroze at the Connaught. The starched tablecloths and twinkling crytstal of one of Mayfair's most traditional and upmarket hotels provide a splendid backdrop for the precise and elegantly executed classical French cuisine in London. Le Parisienne has earnt two stars for her mastery of the delicate arts of the brioche, terrine, roast et al. To dine there is to take a pleasant saunter into the not too distant past, a particular highlight being the almost impenetrable French accents and the rather British austerity of the impeccably turned out waiters.
Perhaps a little belatedly given preferences nationwide, Asian food is turning more and more heads in the offices at Michelin. If you're looking for a catch-all solution to lunch or dinner just off Oxford Street which offers superb quality in a beautiful environment, you need to head for Benares (12A Berkeley Square House W1). In a sumptuous dining room thats delicately lit day or night you can relax amongst sunken water features, floating lotus flowers and babbling fountains while you enjoy an exceptional take on Indian cuisine served in a European style. There are few dishes on the menu you'll be unfamiliar with (the stuffed naan breads are moreish and the tandoori marsala a house speciality), but you can guarantee everything you taste will redefine your perception of subcontinental cuisine. Even more so should you be seated next to the windows that overlook the spotless ultra-modern kitchen.
This article introduces you to some of the 'unsung heroes' of the London restaurants in the Michelin Guide 2012 when it comes going that little bit further in the name of a truly unique dining experience.
Mayfair Luxury Hotel the Connaught. The Connaught has a history of providing excellence from Michelin starred restaurants to indulgent hotel suites.