London's most expensive tasting menus

Anna Solomon

3 February 2022

From ‘fois gras shavings’ to tea served with golden tweezers, these are the tasting menus to try when you’re not paying

3 February 2022 | Anna Solomon

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t’s fair to say that London hasn’t always had the best culinary reputation. Compared to the Parises and Romes of this world, English food has, perhaps not unreasonably, been seen as dry, greasy, bland et al.

Oh, how things change. As London snowballed into one of the most influential metropolises in the world, and legions of different peoples, cultures, and ethnicities flocked in as a result, the restaurant scene burgeoned. No longer is the capital’s food characterised by prim dining in the West End, but by a dynamic set of influences popping up from Shoreditch to Southwark. Sure, the French do ‘haute cuisine’ pretty well, and you can definitely get some decent grub in Italy, but London has its own thing going on.

It must be said, however, that ‘having your own thing’ comes with a price tag. Not known for its thrifty credentials at the best of times, London’s highest-end food establishments can cost a pretty penny. But it’s all part of the experience, right?

And in that spirit, we’ve researched the priciest restaurants on the scene – you know, places that will set you back a few hundred quid before wine. For consistency, we’ve based our rankings on the price of the tasting menu (or set menu equivalent) without wine pairing (which is likely to double the price). From five-star mainstays to secret sushi joints, this isn’t your average meal out.

10. sketch: £165

Housed in an 18th century Mayfair townhouse, sketch is one of the quirkiest ways to enjoy haute cuisine. The ‘gastro-brasserie restaurant’ is visually breathtaking: from chairs wearing ballet shoes to futuristic toilet ‘eggs’ and a restaurant space decked out like an enchanted forest, every inch demands to be Instagrammed. The food, curated by chef Pierre Gagnaire, is also striking. The tasting menu at The Lecture Room, the restaurant that won sketch its two Michelin stars, offers out-of-the-box delicacies like roasted chicken consommé infused with lemon balm, raw foie gras shavings with bottarga sardine ice cream, and gin and cucumber sorbet with goat’s cheese velouté and driftwood. Intrigued enough to pay £165 per head? Plenty are.

Visit sketch.london

9. Le Gavroche: £178

Le Gavroche is a true institution. Opened in 1967 by Albert and Michel Roux Snr, it was, at the time, the only French restaurant of its kind in London. It has been helmed by Albert’s son, Michel Roux Jnr, since 1991, and he has continued to uphold the incredibly high standards of classical food for which Le Gavroche is famous. The ‘Menu Exceptionnel’ reads like a roll-call of irreproachable ingredients: eight courses include a crabmeat salad, lamb and sage raviolo, and braised ox cheek – the attendant selection of farmhouse cheeses are the best around. Include a sommelier-selected matching glass of wine for each course for £278 or £388 per person. At those prices, it had certainly better be ‘exceptional’.

Visit le-gavroche.co.uk

8. The Ledbury: £185

The Ledbury closed abruptly in June 2020 as a result of financial difficulties arising from the pandemic, but made headlines recently when it announced that it would reopen in 2022 as a tasting menu-only venue. We’re not actually sure what will be on said tasting menu – aside from the minimalistic website’s assertion that it will include ‘new and exciting ingredients’ – but we do know that the rebirth of this Notting Hill institution will be a big deal in well-heeled circles. The Ledbury opened in 2005 and won two Michelin stars, as well as landing the accolade of being one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. Before closure, founder Brett Graham reimagined British and Japanese ingredients using classical French techniques – think bantam’s egg with dried ham and Caesar mushrooms, or veal tartare served on glistening beef fat toast.

Visit theledbury.com

7. Hélène Darroze at The Connaught: £185

Hélène Darroze took the reins at The Connaught in 2008, gaining a Michelin star the year after, a second in 2011, and the ultimate star in 2021. Late 2019 saw the dining room completely revamped to match Darroze's stylised menu, which names only the key component of the dish alongside its provenance (‘Pigeon – Denbighshire, Wales’ or ‘Turbot – The Ajax, Cornwall’), eschewing those over-complicated catalogues where you’re never quite sure what the ingredients are. Despite the warm environs and unpretentious dishes, the service team is well-drilled and the culinary standards are of the highest order – hence the £185 price point for the ‘Taste of Winter’ menu, which asks diners to choose between Torbay prawn and caviar, and mallard and A5 wagyu.

Visit the-connaught.co.uk

6. Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester: £195

Clocking in at nearly £200 per person, the tasting menu at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant at The Dorchester yields impeccably prepared classics such as lobster medallion, line-caught turbot and saddle of venison. The hotel’s landmark restaurant has held three Michelin stars since 2010 thanks to Ducasse’s trademark focus on seafood and seasonal vegetables and, although many of his signatures are still in evidence, head chef Jean-Philippe Blondet has also put his stamp on the menu: expect French classics like ‘sauté gourmand’ of lobster alongside more original dishes such as fermented cabbage with caviar and juniper berries. A modern, light and informal setting swathed in natural fabrics underscores the restaurant’s forward-thinking approach to haute cuisine.

Visit alainducasse-dorchester.com

5. Park Chinois: £200

Striking surroundings and live entertainment all contribute to Park Chinois’ eye-watering price point. Paying homage to the decadence of 1930s Shanghai, with a peppering of French influence (‘chinoiserie’ refers to the fascination of colonial-era Europeans with the ‘orient’), this Mayfair establishment takes Chinese cuisine to the next level. The ‘Jade Menu’ is its most expensive offering and includes, to start, duck done various ways: with gold Oscietra caviar, winter truffle, mango, and finally apple in tart form. For mains, choose between wagyu short ribs, crispy chicken and scallop, ‘yin yang’ sea bass and Dover sole, or Sicilian red prawn – finish with a ‘seasonal dessert’ by Park Chinois’ pastry chef. It’s a menu so exclusive that you need to let the restaurant know that you’re going to order it 24 hours in advance.

Visit parkchinois.com

4. Umu: £220

Umu’s eight-course ‘Kaiseki’ is essentially Japanese haute cuisine, and includes the likes of Cornish crab and caviar, wagyu with tofu, steamed scallops, charcoal-grilled roe deer, and squid noodles – plus the chef’s selection of sashimi. Although the restaurant is inspired by Kyoto, you can expect more than a nod to the UK: Umu calls in our fair nation’s most premium ingredients, bringing their natural flavours to the fore. If you happen to have a few extra pennies, or access to an expense account, consider upgrading to the prestige wine or sake pairing for an extra £220. The restaurant, which has two Michelin stars, is a bit of a badly-kept secret; the windows are draped in dark linen fabric, obscuring the clean lines and glossy woods inside.

Visit umurestaurant.com

3. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay: £220

Gordon Ramsay’s culinary empire is vast, with a grand total of 18 restaurants in London alone. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay was his first, opening when the eponymous chef was just 31, and has since earned three Michelin stars. Specialising in modern French cuisine using the finest seasonal ingredients, the Chelsea flagship delivers a pitch-perfect menu featuring dishes such as pressed foie gras with smoked duck and wild strawberries, lobster, langoustine and salmon ravioli, and roast pigeon with fennel, apricot and almond. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t come cheap, with the ‘Menu Prestige’ costing £170. But it is the enigmatic ‘Carte Blanche’ menu – which relinquishes control to the chef and costs £220 per head – that lands Restaurant Gordon Ramsay at number three.

Visit gordonramsayrestaurants.com

2. The Palace Lounge at Rubens at The Palace: £500 (for two)

So, what takes the penultimate spot on our list of costly cuisine? A tasting menu of gold-leaf encrusted wagyu and caviar-loaded oysters? Nope – it’s afternoon tea. A short walk from Victoria Station, the five-star Rubens at the Palace offers one of the best that money can buy. The Golden Tips Tea is served in the Palace Lounge; for a mere £500 two guests enjoy scones, pastries and finger sandwiches alongside the fabled Ceylon Golden Tips. The delicate tea, which is showcased in a mahogany box lined with velvet, is weighed using golden scales. Each tip is placed into the silver teapot individually with golden tweezers and infused with still mineral water to produce an extraordinarily smooth, light and mellow texture. The Golden Tips Tea also includes a bottle of Lanson Champagne that is sabred at the table.

Visit rubenshotel.com

1. The Araki: £310

The menu taking prime position has an unusual back story. Mitsuhiro Araki’s restaurant in Ginza held three Michelin stars before he decided to close it and bring his vision to the English capital. By 2018, The Araki London also boasted a trio of accolades. It specialises in ‘edomae sushi’, a style that originated 200 years ago in Tokyo, with everything prepared and served by Mr Araki according to the tradition of ‘sado’ (a Japanese tea ceremony). Then, in 2019, the founder returned to Japan and his apprentice, UK-born Marty Lau, took over as head chef. So closely bound was Mr Araki to the brand that Michelin stripped the restaurant of its stars on his departure, a setback that Lau has said will only motivate him to work harder to make The Araki a success on his own terms. The food is still worthy of a dizzying price point, however – the only menu available is the sushi ‘omakase’ (‘I leave it up to you’ in Japanese), which costs over £300 per person.

Visit the-araki.co.uk

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