We Are the Restaurant Capital of the World; London's Openness to Global Ingredients, Wines, People and Culinary Traditions Put Us above Paris or New York

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 23, 2017 | Go to article overview

We Are the Restaurant Capital of the World; London's Openness to Global Ingredients, Wines, People and Culinary Traditions Put Us above Paris or New York


Byline: Ewan Venters

ONE of the most interesting cultural shifts in London over recent decades has been the transformation of our attitude to food, and the rise of restaurant culture. So how did we become a nation of foodies? When did eating out become such an important feature of British life? After all, this is the land that gave the world spotted dick, shepherd's pie and fried Mars bars. But look at the plat du jour now. We have world-renowned chefs, a definable British cuisine, and London can justly claim to be the restaurant capital of the world, outstripping Paris or New York.

So where did it all begin? London's current culinary pre-eminence owes much to the Famous Five, a quintet of visionaries who changed the face of our restaurant scene for ever. So much of what we take for granted today -- the excellence, variety, class and innovation of the capital's restaurants -- is down to the work and inspiration of Marco Pierre White, the late David Collins, Sir Terence Conran and that ubiquitous double-act, Chris Corbin and Jeremy King.

The opening of Harveys in the late Eighties, with Marco behind the stove, could justifiably be seen as the beginning of the eating-out revolution in London. He pushed the boundaries of food like never before, creating an uprising in south-west London. Marco was influenced by the French greats like Raymond Blanc, Pierre Koffmann and Albert Roux, but what Marco did was to share his passion and knowledge with others, and this has led to so many talented chefs working across the industry today. Without Marco, you could argue, we might not have seen the likes of Gordon Ramsay, Jeff Galvin or Heston Blumenthal.

David Collins is simply regarded as the Michelangelo of restaurant design, creating some of the capital's most luxurious and recognisable venues. He trained as an architect but it was as a brilliant interior designer that he made his reputation. He had, in particular, a clarity of thinking and sensitivity around restaurant design: he instinctively knew what diners wanted. With the creation of Cafe Rouge in 1989, and then many of London's great restaurants, including J Sheekey, The Wolseley and the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum's, David has left us with some of the most remarkable and treasured interiors. There is nothing like a David Collins-designed room to make us all feel glamorous. …

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