Eating out in London is getting more expensive, according to the latest Zagat survey that accompanies its 10th London Restaurants guide.
The average restaurant bill has risen by 4.7% since last year and by a massive 44% since 1997.
A meal that cost £31 at Michelin-starred restaurant Chez Bruce in 1997 is now £55, 75% more expensive. Zafferano's customers are paying 65% more than they did in 1997 (up from an average £34 to £56), while the Waterside Inn has increased prices by 50%, from £60 to £90.
The result is that diners are favouring cheaper, more informal restaurants in a move that has benefited value-for-money ethnic eateries, according to the survey's co-founder, Nina Zagat.
"London is a very expensive city to eat out in and people definitely notice and comment about it. This was probably the reason why Nobu has been knocked off the top as the capital's most popular eaterie," she said.
London prices, which average £36.79, are double the US average of £18.12, and are exceeded only by Tokyo, at an average of £39.47 per meal.
"There have been huge changes in London's restaurant scene in the past 10 years and it's now a very exciting restaurant city - one of the best in the world," Zagat added.
However, cost may be the reason why consumers eat out in London just 2.4 times a week, which is less than the 3.3 average of Paris and New York and the 3.8 average of Los Angeles.
This change in eating habits is also driving a new desire for communal tables and smaller, tapas-style dishes, which might also have contributed to Wagamama's rise in popularity this year.
Many recent newcomers share this style of dining. The Indian Amaya and French/Asian Maze offer small dishes, while the Middle Eastern Ottolenghi uses communal tables.
Service remains the diner's top gripe, cited by 59% of survey respondents. Although only 19% listed smoking as a pet hate, 87% of diners wanted to see it stubbed out completely in restaurants.
"We've fought that battle in the States," said Zagat. "When the ban was brought in, many restaurants were convinced it would kill business. In fact it has been the exact opposite."
Italian emerged as the favourite cuisine for 25% of London diners, followed by French (19%), Japanese (14%), and Thai (11%).
The top food award went to Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road for the sixth year running.
Most Popular Restaurants
Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s
Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road
Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons
Gordond Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road
Rasoi Vineet Bhatia
By Angela Frewin and James Garner
Published by: The Caterer