Harden’s London Restaurant Awards: Muse by Tom Aikens named London’s ‘top gastronomic experience’

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Top dog: Tom Aikens won for his Belgravia-based restaurant Muse  (FSM)
Top dog: Tom Aikens won for his Belgravia-based restaurant Muse (FSM)

After polling more than 3,000 diners and garnering some 30,000 nominations, the restaurant guide Harden’s has named Muse by Tom Aikens as London’s top gastronomic experience.

Aikens bested Core by Clare Smyth, the long-standing Pied a Terre – where Aikens once worked – and Victor Garvey’s Soho spot Sola to come out on top, with the news revealed in a lunchtime ceremony at the Langham Hotel, presented by the BBC’s Nigel Barden.

Aikens’ spot, which picked up a star at the 2021 Michelin awards, was praised for its “genius, light fresh flavours” and “bijou and cosy” setting, while Pied was given the nod as “sheer class” from diners. Sola’s Pacific west coast cooking was considered “superb and creative” and Harden’s said Core was heavily nominated, but the editors decided Muse was more worthy of the prize, being newer; Core previously won the award in 2018. It was also named London’s best spot at this year’s National Restaurant Awards.

Other big winners at this year’s awards included European-Korean fine dining fusion Sollip, from husband-and-wife team Woongchul Park and Bomee Ki, which was named as top newcomer, triumphing over Fenn, the latest incarnation of Native and Maison Francois.

London’s best bar and pub was tipped as The Canton Arms in Stockwell; the win is affirmation that, more than a decade after its relaunch, the spot is still going strong with Irish chef Trish Hilferty in the kitchen. The nod for most interesting wine list in the capital went to Noble Rot Soho, which is perhaps not such a surprise; founders Dan Keeling and Mark Andrew won the same award five years ago for their original Rot on Lamb’s Conduit Street, and presently advise a handful of other restaurants around the city, including Sessions Arts Club.

There was also praise for Galvin La Chapelle, which picked up the Best for Business gong, and described as “the City’s No. 1 destination for business entertaining.”

The vegetarian and vegan category, which was introduced at the last awards in 2019 — there was no ceremony last year, for obvious reasons — was won again by Alexis Gauthier; this year, his new venture 123V was named the best vegan-friendly restaurant in London, coming out on top against Amrutha, Club Mexicana Taqueria, and The Gate W6.

The Outstanding Achievement prize, which is decided purely by Harden’s editors, went to UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls, who has been an outspoken advocate for the industry since the pandemic began.

Peter Harden, who co-founded the guide in 1991, said of this year’s awards: “After the extreme challenges of the pandemic, it is a joy to be able to gather London’s top chefs and restaurateurs again and to celebrate their successes.

“The last year was tougher for the London Restaurant trade than any in history. It has been inspiring to watch the resilience and creativity of the trade in the face of such a challenge. And it is in this context that Kate Nicholls is such an appropriate winner for our Outstanding Achievement Award, sponsored by haysmacintyre, for the superb way she has spoken for the industry.

“Congratulations also to all our other winners and shortlisted restaurants, who show that – far from being down and out – London remains at the forefront of excitement and innovation in dining out globally."

Winners of Harden’s well-respected awards are decided by the publication’s editors, who choose from a shortlist of four restaurants in each of the 15 categories: two of the shortlisted spots are voted for by the public, who can sign up to Harden’s to do so.

For more information, visit hardens.com

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