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Restaurant Guide Books

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The annual flood of restaurant guides has once more hit the shops, covering a thousand good - and not so good - places to eat out. Alexander Hunt tries them out.

A. The Good Food Guide

The Good Food Guide, for years the trusted book for food lovers, covers the whole of Britain's restaurant scene, with over 1300 reviews. This year's edition even has full colour maps, making it easier than usual to read. Readers have access to a 24-hour up-date information service, giving details of chef changes, closures and restaurant sales - quite important when you consider how changeable the eating out industry has become, particularly since entries were written several months ago. The new service, therefore, could save you some nasty surprises. Restaurants are graded 1 to 5 on the basis of their cooking.

In his introduction, the Editor, Jim Ainsworth, gives an update on the whole eating out scene, while Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at Thames Valley University, look warily at the dangers that may lie ahead. The Guide, as usual, is not short on people who have points to make, like Simon Hopkinson, restaurant owner and food writer, who considers what makes a top chef good. But, as always, it's the reports from the public in the field that make this possibly the most readable food guide of all.

B. The Time Out Guide

Londoners may turn to The Time Out Guide. Over a hundred independent reviews of bars and restaurants in the city are listed in this year's issue - all visited anonymously by the magazine's own critics. The guide also has a Fax-A-Menu service - readers get a sample menu faxed to them from the top eating spots. The wine writer, Susy Atkins, knocks firmly on the head any preconceived ideas that matching wines with food has strict rules and Caroline Stacey reports on the dramatic changes that have taken place on the food front in Britain in the past twelve months.

C. Harden's Restaurants

A guide with a somewhat different approach in Harden's Restaurants. Brothers Richard and Peter Harden make this their fifth edition. It originated as an idea conceived during visits to the USA and the guide's based on detailed surveys of the views of frequent restaurant-goers. Using a cross-section of some 750 people who average 3.6 meals out a week, it provides an assessment covering some 125,000 meals consumed in the course of the year.

The brothers had a spell in investment banking prior to becoming publishers of the guide, and this results in a lot of marketing jargon, as well as graphs on the areas that really irritate restaurant-goers, like smoking, the sheer pain of making a booking, noisy settings, overcharging and overcrowding - all the things that go to making a good night bad. There's no holding back on frank comments, either, even for the famed establishments, some of which come in for very harsh remarks. This guide, while lesser known than some of the others, is popular in major bookshops as well as being used by a lot of businesses.

 

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