London restaurant openings up 25%

The London restaurant scene would appear to be defying the recession after it emerged that 134 new restaurants opened for business in the capital over the past year.

Influential eating-out guide Harden’s said that the number of openings was up 25% on the previous 12 months, when 107 took place.

More significantly, however, the figure was not offset by the volume of closures. 74 restaurants were closed during the period, the same as the prior year and “entirely normal by standards seen since 2000”, according to the authors.

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This rapid rebound puts openings in the top half of the ‘normal’ range (120-142) recorded this millennium.

The guide notes that not only are openings numerous, but many are also notably ambitious, citing the vast marbled chamber of Brasser ie Zédel (Soho) that seats 200 people and the recent launch of Sushisamba and Duck & Waffle, which can house some 250 diners, with bills up to £100 a head.

The average cost of dinner for one at establishments listed in the 2013 guide is £46.55, up from £45.01 last year. Prices are 3.5% higher than a year ago – a rate of increase slightly above inflation generally.

Richard Harden, co-editor of the guide, said: “Traditionally, dining out was considered a luxury and ‘the first thing to go’ in hard times, so it is very odd that the longest recession anyone can remember is coinciding with this extraordinary flowering in the London restaurant scene, at all levels. It is all ‘through the looking glass’.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal was judged as offering the best gastronomic experience in the capital, The Wolseley was hailed ‘best for business’, while 1 Oxo Tower was named the ‘most overpriced restaurant’.

Harden’s surveyed more than 7,500 ‘regularly restaurant-going ‘reporters’ for the guide.

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