Harden's Guide 2023: £100 per head ‘no longer enough' for a top tier meal

Alex South

Alex South


Restaurants charging £100 per head are no longer considered a top price category restaurant following record price rises, according to Harden’s restaurant guide.

Harden’s London Restaurants 2023 notes a general rise of 8.1% in restaurant prices in the 12 months to August 2022 amongst the 1675 establishments it reviews.

Amongst the 58 restaurants charging over £130 per head the rate of increase was 11.7%.

Commenting on these findings, Editor Peter Harden said: “It was the post-Brexit, 2017 edition (published in autumn 2016) in which we first introduced a £100+ top price band at the front of the book. At that time, there were 37 such entries, of which just one had a formula price over £150 per head. Fast forward five years, and £100+ is – in this edition – for the first time the delimiter merely of our second highest price category.”

Revealing the new top category in the guide, Peter said: “Our highest band is now set at £130+. Now, there are 154 entries in the guide above the £100 level. And in a neat symmetry with the figures above, there are 37 restaurants with a formula price over £150 per head. In fact, there are 17 entries now over £200 per head and six above £250! It feels like everything is speeding up. That’s because it is.”

The general rate of increase was a record in the last decade and the highest in the 20 years since 2000 when the guide started calculating price rise data; with the exception of a blip after the recovery from the great crash (when a rate of 11% was briefly registered in 2011).

Openings and Closures

The guide notes that there has been no ‘twang back’, post pandemic, with 136 newcomers recorded as opening in the year: the lowest level of openings since 2011.

Commenting on this Peter explained: “Many restaurants were already challenged post-Covid. We saw that in reduced opening times; constant anguish in the trade about disastrous post-Brexit staffing problems; and – amidst rising prices – with consumers’ perception of value starting to dive.”

Looking to the future, Peter added: “How this will now play out with the increased challenge of mounting inflation remains to be seen. It is not a good sign that our data precedes the most recent spikes in prices, and yet diners in our poll were already expressing concerns related to these never-before-seen levels of expense.”

Harden’s 2023 Top Performers

Core by Clare Smyth again topped the poll for where most diners had their best gastronomic experience of the year.

The highest average food rating went to Evelyn’s Table amongst restaurants charging over £130 per head, with the guide noting that chef-patrons, the Selby brothers’, “very snug little basement venue for counter-top fine dining shows levels of skill and technique to compete with much better-known places that leave you with a far higher bill” and advise “file this under ‘one to watch’ as they plan to build out the ambition even further”.

Theatreland seafood veteran, J Sheekey, was the poll’s most-mentioned restaurant while Bruce Poole’s neighbourhood star Chez Bruce in Wandsworth topped nominations as diners’ favourite for the 17th year in a row.

Despite worries about Jeremy King’s departure, The Wolseley remained diners’ top choice for a business meal or breakfast and Covent Garden’s Clos Maggiore was again first choice for an important date.

The Harwood Arms topped the category for best Bar & Pub.

The Oxo Tower was again the restaurant registering the most disappointments, while the River Café yet again was voted the capital’s most overpriced establishment, with the guide noting that “no one can doubt the quality of the food, even so the gobsmacking prices are hard to justify”.

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Alex South

Alex South

Editor 10th November 2022

Harden's Guide 2023: £100 per head ‘no longer enough' for a top tier meal