The cost of eating out in London is at its highest level in over a decade, with the average meal now costing £43.40, a new eating out survey has found.
According to the 2012 Zagat London Restaurants guide, which is based on the comments of nearly 5,500 regular restaurant-goers, the cost of dining out in the capital has jumped more than 6% in the past year.
Zagat's findings echo those of London restaurant guide Harden's, which last month suggested that average meal prices have shot up by record levels over the past 12 months.
However, despite the increase in the average cost of a meal, Londoners are eating out more often - at 2.4 times a week, compared with 2.2 times last year - marking the first jump in three years, according to Zagat. A third of restaurant-goers feel the London restaurant scene has improved in the past year, while just 5% say things have got worse.
"The fact that the industry can charge higher prices but at the same time continue to attract increasing numbers of diners is a very good sign," said Tim Zagat, co-founder and co-chair of the guides with his wife, Nina.
He added: "Things really have improved so much in London - 30 years ago the food here was a joke but today London is one of the top five cities for dining out in the world."
Diners' biggest bugbear in London restaurants is poor service, according to Zagat, with nearly three-quarters (73%) saying it was their most frequent complaint, followed by prices (10%) and noise (8%).
Zagat said that service was an area that could be fixed more readily than others. "There needs to be more investment and training for front of house in the same way that back of house has improved in recent years," he added.
"Thirty years ago there were hardly any culinary schools but now they are everywhere. Front of house must get the same attention and there needs to be more training for waiters in schools and colleges."
Internet reservations continue to rise in London and 37% of respondents to Zagat's survey say they typically book online, compared with just 17% three years ago, while 78% say they visit a restaurant's website before visiting it.
The Zagat Restaurants survey, which includes ratings and reviews of nearly 1,200 restaurants in London and the surrounding area, recognised a number of establishments, with Heston Blumenthal's Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental hotel named top newcomer.
Brett Graham's two-Michelin-starred Ledbury won the award for best food for the second year in a row, with Sketch picking up the award for best decor and the Waterside Inn in Bray, Berkshire, coming top for service.
The Wolseley was named the most popular restaurant overall.
The 2012 Zagat London Restaurants guide is published today priced £10.99.
Last week, Zagat was sold to Google for an undisclosed sum in a deal that is thought to be worth millions. The Zagats will remain with the business as co-chairs.
By Kerstin Kühn
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