The 10 special-occasion restaurants to know in London
The go-to special celebration restaurants that make you go 'aawh'
Razzmatazz isn't everything when it comes to special occasion dining and plenty of chefs agree. Chez Bruce is frequently voted as the chef's favourite restaurant for its faultless cooking of simple dishes that have a little edge without being gimmicky.
There's no better place for prawn and scallop raviolo; plump perfectly seasoned in a deliriously rich bisque and topped with some vivid green samphire to give a bit of crunch. Rare-grilled salmon with citrus salsa, black rice, avocado and mint is another signature. The cheeseboard numbers close to twenty, each presented in oozy perfection – a total joy in itself.
Better still the wine list is excellent, and, the midday midweek lunch is worth taking a day off for, especially with the offer of a post-prandial stroll on Wandsworth Common.
Dinner for two including drinks: £150
It is always exciting to be one of the first to try new generation talent, cooking in their own place. This makes Caractère surely the right setting for celebrating one's own achievements.
Emily Roux, daughter of Michel Roux jnr runs front of house with considerable charm and a lifetime of being around haute gastronomy. Her husband Diego Ferrari is the ex-head chef of Le Gavroche. The pair first met at Alain Ducasse's glittering 3 star Louis VX in Monte-Carlo and went on to work at Le Gavroche together. Ferrari combines his Italian and French heritage with classic technique and a wholly appealing menu. Immaculate service that truly puts your desires first and exceptional presentation are givens. But there's a pleasing playfulness about the food, divided into sections 'curious', 'subtle', 'greedy'.
Expect the unexpected: there's 'bourbon' biscuit sandwiched with sardine cream and celeriac cacio e pepe, oxtail stew with ethereal dumplings and a divine, molten chocolate cake served with very properly chilled cream. Simply delicious.
Lunch midweek: 3 courses plus wine, coffee & water £39
Dinner: £160 for dinner including wine
Christmas Eve lunch £98
For occasions where the spoiling must be superlatively stellar, Hide is the opening of 2018 to choose. Everything about Hide impresses from the much talked about oak staircase, perfect for flaunting one's sartorial best, to the always surprising and flawless presentation.
Most crucially the food is simply delicious. It sings with purity and flavour. Ollie Dabbous and his team are hyper-talented and clearly in love with their kitchen and their produce. Grilled langoustines on rosemary skewers with sea truffle sauce is ecstatically fresh and demands to be eaten with one's fingers. Desserts are memorable too. especially the maple leaf and pecan mille-feuille and the signature acorn cake drenched in a liqueur of one's choice with clotted cream. Decadent desserts are always important for the most special of occasions.
For wine lovers, the list (especially the serious bound list) is second to none. Hide's owners are fanatical about wine and have probably the most extensive cellars in London, combined with their decadent Mayfair Hedonist wine store. The sommeliers are refreshingly un-snooty, they even often offer wines to sip and compare and many wines are surprisingly reasonable by the glass.
And if dinner reservations prove impossible, breakfast or afternoon tea at Hide are incomparable treats too.
Dinner for two with wine: £200
The vintage, art deco meets Taiwanese teahouse vibe at Xu (pronounced Shu) . It's a love letter to 1930s on two small floors idivided into mini-enclaves, each with its own air of intimacy. There’s dark wood panelling, and ceiling fans idling overhead.
The food is magnificent with great nuances of texture and flavour. Best of all are an appetiser of tomato and smoked eel, as well as smoky, tangy, sweet and salty tender shortrib of beef enriched with bone marrow.
Both Xu's cocktails and tea lists invite considered investigation for a memorable occasion.
Dinner for two with wine: £120
Roka itself is about to celebrate 20 years of opening which seems unbelievable. The restaurant remains as glamorous and thrillingly delicious as ever with a lively atmosphere accentuated by the action in the open kitchen.
Be sure to order the yellow tail sashimi, or as many of the dumplings as appetites dictate (all are superlative), and the black cod with yuzu miso. It's a good place to try a Shochu (rice wine) cocktail or be guided by a sake sommelier.
Dinner for two with drinks: £140
A relative newcomer, yet Margot already has the sense of being a classic. This is cosseting of the highest order with utterly and genuinely charming staff led by owner Paulo de Tarso making everyone feel the most important in the room. Seating is luxurious banquettes and the decoration is expensively sumptuous yet never bling.
Be sure to order the silken housemade pasta, preferably with a liberal grating of white truffle, abundant lobster or a deep, earthy hare ragu. Perennial favourites include the deconstructed vitello tonnata and very fine osso bucco. Glorious, properly made rum baba with chilled chantilly cream is a treat of the first order.
Dinner for two with wine: £150
This is what it feels like to be truly, madly famous, almost. Being ushered into the hallowed dining room of The Ivy with its veritable hum of excitement and the slight yet discernable turn of the head as a new diner joins the coterie. Everyone is imbued with a modicum of stardust if they manage to snare a booking and it is unbeatable for celebrations.
Expect perfectly made and imaginative cocktails, as well as the kind of food most of us like to eat: from classic steak tartare and prawn cocktail to Asian starters including their signature bang bang chicken, followed by a choice of comfort dishes, like their incomparable fish pie or something more courant from the plancha or shell and seafood menu. Chef Gary Lee is exceptionally talented as well as accustomed to pandering to guests' whims.
Desserts are always a highlight especially the Original Beans chocolate fondant with coconut ice-cream and the Baked Alaska for two. And for sheer decadent nostalgia, there's a sumptuous Knickerbocker glory too.
Dinner for two including drinks: £180
Super-stylish and sophisticated Mazi is good for surprising guests if they think they're simply going for an old style Greek getaway. Yes, there's still Greek salad, but not how one might remember it. Christina Mouratoglou and Adrien Carre’s creative vision is to take the best ingredients of Hellenic cuisine and presents them in a beautiful, lighter and refined light. What's more Mazi always has a holiday-like aura of special excitement.
Drink Greek spirit led cocktails such as the Mastiha mojito and tzatziki martini served up alongside mouth-watering authentic mezedes like spicy tiropita with broken filo pastry, or grilled octopus with bottarga and fennel.
And, we love the loukoumades (Greek doughnuts), naughty yet delectable, drenched in honey and walnuts.
Dinner for two including drink: £120
Undoubtedly one of the most special spots to dine in the city is Hutong on the 33rd floor of the Shard. With dark red, moody interiors, sparkling lanterns and a traditional Chinese wishing tree where guests hang their wishes on branches, Hutong oozes romance for a splash-out supper of fine North Chinese cuisine and creative cocktails – all framed by the London skyline .
The pink champagne prawn dumplings and Peking duck have to be ordered. Book far in advance to secure the best tables in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows and drink it all in.
Dinner for two with dirnks" £130
Spring's dining room is a breathtakingly beautiful a place to dress up or down for as you enjoy an intriguing mix of arty fellow diners. It's a restaurant where the cooking is truly heartfelt and so deeply epitomises a seasonal produce driven menu that dishes veritably sing on the plate.
Start with oysters with apple granita, kohlrabi and creme fraiche, then a very Skye Gyngell starter of crab salad with puntarelle and samphire followed by pork with girolle mushrooms and mustard butter, or halibut with vin jaune and leeks.
Stunning desserts may include a jewel like pomegranate jelly with goat's milk cream or pear and hazelnut tart with creme friache and espresso.
Dinner for two with wine: £150:
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