"The Mason's Arms, Knowstone This was our second visit and happily chef's Waterside pedigree shone through. The pub-style Mason's Arms is obviously more modest than the Thames-side three-star crowning glory of the Roux empire, but the quaint little mid-Devon village of Knowstone is more than adequately represented on the fine dining map by Mark Dodson's restaurant. Every dish was good and the service much improved by comparison with our previous experience here. The seared peppered tuna and oriental salad starter was something I had enjoyed before and it was still well up to standard, the pigeon breasts with a clever curried brussels sprouts purée were much appreciated, and the smoked duck salad with duck liver parfait and delicious cherry dressing also went down well. The mains continued the winning streak, the fish dish of monkfish in prosciutto with smoked mackerel croquettes and scallops almost upstaging the seasonal game offerings of local venison loin with pear done in red wine and a blue cheese gratin and partridge breast "en crépinette" beautifully balanced with caramelised apple and cranberries, both of which were first-class. Chocolate cheesecake and honeycomb ice cream was possibly justifiably the preferred dessert, although my spiced pumpkin crème brûlée matched with a lovely cinnamon ice cream definitely competed for the top of the podium. Everything considered this was an excellent meal and the icing on the cake, as it were, taking into account the aperitifs, wine and coffee, was the amazing value for money the bill represented. A most satisfactory evening."
"Nathan Outlaw You just cannot beat this - the three-star, 10/10 food and wine, the three-star, 10/10 service, the three-star, 10/10 setting, it all adds up to one of the very best fine dining experiences you'll get anywhere. French and German chefs and gourmets have dined here and come to the same conclusion: Nathan Outlaw is at the top of the class and if he is some day rewarded with three stars and 10/10 it will be no more than he deserves. It is a constant source of wonder for us how the chef, ably aided and abetted by Head Chef Chris Simpson, manages to conjure up so many variations on the fish theme. Being located in Cornwall is a guarantee of a regular source of quality ingredients, of course, but we are sometimes reminded of dishes we've had here before when we look at the menu, only to be confounded by a completely new take on the main element and accompaniments which produces yet another masterpiece. This was perfectly illustrated by the first of the two amuse-bouches, salt-cured monkfish, something we know and love, but this time with terrific pickled artichoke, sour cream and ginger, the latter an incredibly good partner for the fish. The second had cubes of apple cleverly cutting the richness of the hen crab's brown meat mousse which in itself was delicious and with the addition of watercress and apple jelly just superb. Then, who would actually think of coupling preserved herring with cold-smoked mackerel? Put them together with roasted sweetish onion and a parsnip crisp and you have a match made in heaven. Again, try balancing perfect red mullet with sweet tomatoes and mint, rocket and anchovy sauce plus cubes of raw courgette. If you can bring it off, chapeau, you have an out-and-out winner. One of chef's signature favourites is the unforgettable Porthilly (lobster) sauce, and we're always happy to treat our tastebuds to it in combination with sea-fresh fish, this time bass, with fondant potatoes and an interesting green in the form of chopped and reconstituted hispi cabbage. Marvellous. And it's not just the fish dishes - the cheese on this occasion was a Ragstone goat's cheese made special by a wonderful beetroot chutney and purée, and, via a lovely palate cleanser of raspberry crème brûlée, two excellent desserts, satsuma granita dovetailed with brandy and tarragon cream, and a tasty, crunchy spiced quince and hazelnut tart to finish. Ab fab or what?!"
"Rasoi A feast for the eyes is a cliché, but when you look at the dishes served here your senses are assailed first by the visual beauty, then the spicy, perfumed aromas and you cannot resist tucking in and savouring the wonderful flavours. There is much to be said for traditional curry-style meals and there are still very good restaurants specialising in what we in Britain generally consider to be Indian food. However, when a top-class chef brought up in the old style but keen to make the cross-over with modern techniques and ideas to modern cuisine does so successfully enjoyment is guaranteed on a different level, especially when it is backed by good service and a well-chosen wine flight enthusiastically and knowledgeably served by the restaurant manager. The prestige menu was preceded by a whole range of canapés including the lightest of poppadums with a set of chutneys, the stand-out of which was a beetroot version, a yummy masala rice ball, and a chilli garlic scallop beautifully balanced with a coconut-chilli-kaffir lime leaves-tomato soup/sauce. The first of two entrées was tandoor-smoked salmon under an old-fashioned cloche to retain the smoke which came with a terrific honey and mustard coating and strategically placed dabs of saffron cream. The second was foie gras with a spicy crust complemented by a thoroughly delicious saffron and cardamom cream and saffron caviar and a specal treat of a truffle-laced mushroom naan. There were also two main courses separated by lychee sorbet with mint jelly doused at the table with champagne, an excellent palate cleanser. The black tandoor-baked chicken tikka was several classes removed from the sort of thing you get in a takeaway, the proper taste of the bird enhanced with sesame seeds sprinkled liberally on top and the tomato semolina upma and the tadka dal makhani giving the dish a touch of distinction. Just as good, though not at all in the same style, was the dehati lamb chop which we found anything but rural with its refined presentation in a coating of mustard seeds and the accompaniment of a keema lamb mince samosa with a stunning rogan josh sauce and three different naan breads. Our colourful dessert was a gajrela carrot pudding with kulfi ice cream, almond truffle and an amazing coconut soil, which again demonstrated the talent of the chef not just in the kitchen but also in the planning of the menu as a balanced whole."
"Breakfast middle eastern"
"Cooking here knocked ny socks off. I'd heard good things but wasnt really expecting it to be this good. Beautifully situated dining pub well worth a trek out."
"A gem of a village bistro. Well crafted French influenced menu superbly delived by the chef proprietor. Tiny little family operation that delivers every time.Fish soup is killer."
"comes into its own in winter. Feast on far better than average pub fare in one of Leeds' most iconic rooms. A true classic."
"Want a burger? Go nowhere else. Top notch "dirty" food. Bit up itself but go with it, its great."
"French classics done very well indeed at this Holbeck institution. Its not Noma but its very good. Every time I go I remark how i shold visit more often. Extremely convivial hosts make the experience complete."
Menus from £54 pp
Richard Caring’s famous Theatreland idol – now the original of a fast expanding brand – emerged from a massive overhaul too late to be rated (just before the survey closed). Too often a let down in recent years, a handful of first-days reports say its “beautiful refurb” is “superb in every detail” – “wow, wow, wow!”
The Private Room at The Ivy is as glamorous and in demand as the restaurant downstairs. Up to 60 guests can be seated for a wedding breakfast, lunch or dinner, or 100 for a cocktail or canapé reception.
Their stylish private dining room holds 27 seated diners, or 60 people for drinks and canapés. Book the Navarino room and enjoy a 3-course Christmas party menu for £45 pp with a complimentary glass of bubbly on arrival.
Wright Brothers (The Cage) W1
Menus from £39 pp
“Tanks full of sparkling sea food” showcase the “breathtakingly fresh” oysters, shellfish and other “flavoursome” fare at these “happy and bustling” outfits. Top Menu Tips – “an historic beef and oyster pie”, and “blissful oyster Happy Hour”.
Their unique private dining room offers set and sharing-style menus showcasing the finest oysters, fish and seafood. Watch the chefs at work as you and your guests dine in the giant ‘oyster cage’, nestled within the open kitchen. The Cage can accommodate 20 seating, or 35 for a standing event.
Dinner menus from £52 pp
Lunch menus from £35 pp
Moved this year from its long-standing Chelsea home to a “wonderfully decorated” new site in St James’s, this renowned Indian seems to have transported well – the new location is “lovely”, as is the “superb, fragrant and subtle” cooking, and all-in-all it’s “expensive but worth it”.
Chutney Mary offers two private dining rooms, with an extensive menu of options to cater for private celebrations, lunches and dinners or business events. The Club Room, can seat from 18-32 guests for a sit down meal, or 60 for a cocktail reception. The room has space for pre-meal drinks. The Crystal Room, can seat from 10-16 guests for a sit down meal.
Or why not try its new sister restaurant Masala Grill SW10? Though in a simpler vein, “standards are being maintained at the former Chutney Mary”; this new Indian (same owners) offers “a different slant to the original on the site” but is “very professional” with some “excellent and unusual” dishes.
The venue's two private dining rooms can accommodate 28 and 32 people for lunch or dinner and up to 50 for cocktail parties. Menus from £32 pp.
Christmas menus from £72 pp
“Even if you would normally avoid tourist spots like the plague”, London’s oldest restaurant (Covent Garden, 1798) satisfies even sceptical visitors with its “truly historic” interior and “proud-to-be-old-fashioned” menu, majoring in meat, game and “old-school puds”; one caution though – it’s getting “oh oh so expensive”.
Rules has a couple of private dining rooms to choose from. The John Betjeman Room accommodate up to 10 for dining while the Graham Greene Room can seat up to 18 for dining and 25 for buffets and receptions.
Dinner menus from £53 pp
Lunch menus from £32 pp
With a reputed £10m spent on converting the ground floor of The Adelphi, just off The Strand, this hallowed US steakhouse brand’s first incursion into the UK market makes a bold statement, with 300 seats, endless leather and brass, and a menu packed with USDA cuts.
There's three private dining rooms to choose from at S&W. The largest (Theodore Roosevelt Room) seats 50 or has room for 60 standing. The Churchill Room seats 28 guests while the Liberty Room holds 20 for a sit-down dinner.
Menus from £49 pp
Sitting pretty alongside Bentley and Bugatti showrooms, members’ clubs and purveyors of haute couture, Richard Caring’s latest venture (on the site of a former Mayfair NatWest bank) adds another seafood specialist to the Caprice empire.
The Coral Reef Room boasts two of the largest live coral reef tanks in the world, and seating for up to 48.
“Always fun, especially in the downstairs oyster bar” – Richard Corrigan’s “classy” fish veteran, near Piccadilly Circus, won vigorous praise this year for its “amazing” oysters and other “bang-on” fish and seafood; there’s a “pleasingly traditional” upstairs restaurant too.
The Swallow Street Rooms are a hidden gem accommodating 60 people on round tables or 100 guests for canapé parties. You'll have own private bar, bathroom, cloakroom facilities, piano, plasma screen, late licence and state of the art sound system. Bentley's also boasts the Rib Room (up to 30 guests) and the Crustacea Room (up to 14 guests).
“Filling a gap in the market near Spitalfields” – this “light and airy” new brasserie is a “good all-dayer” occupying an attractively converted former bank (and with a “beautiful outside terrace”); service, however, is not always “up to speed”.
Blixen is on the former site of a bank and when you dine in their private room you'll actually be sitting within the old vault - pretty cool. It seats up to 18 people.
“Plush jock-inese decor”… “spectacular cigar terrace and whisky selection”… “amazing wine list”… “traditional, meaty Scottish fare”… live jazz – this Belgravia bastion is well-known as a “clubbable” redoubt of male revelry; its ratings were hit this year though by some reports of “terrible” service and “unexciting” meals.
The Jacobite Room, located on the first floor, features mahogany panelling, embellished with a dash of Macdonald tartan, and offers seating for up to 22.
There’s “a real wow factor” to the “smart and American-feeling” decor of this big new watering hole – the “open and spacious ground floor of a Fitzrovia office building”; fans say the food is “surprisingly good” too, but others – judging it “over-designed and inauthentic” – find its appeal “hollow”.
Its private dining room, “Percy’s Den”, has room for 24 seated and 35 standing, complete with a fully stocked bar.
“A real treat in every respect” – this luxurious, well-spaced Belgravia dining room is firing on all cylinders after its revamp last year; as well as the top-quality roast beef and grills for which it’s long been famous, the “seasonal menus show true skill and inventiveness”.
Three alternative areas host up to 20 guests, ideal for business or celebrations. One room includes a cigar terrace and all feature a selection of Topolski art.
“It should be a national monument!” – Corbin & King’s “tremendously atmospheric” (“mildly cacophonous”) European Grand Café by the Ritz has become a “perennial” linchpin of “glamorous” London life (“there’s always at least one A-list celeb eating at a nearby table!”). It’s the “fun and the buzz” that set it apart, however – the large Mittel-European menu is “very adaptable” but decidedly “not exciting” (even if “it does the best breakfast in town, bar none!”)
The Private Dining Room seats up to 14 guests and is available to book for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“Less hectic than the Wolseley but with all the good bits” – Corbin & King’s “so-very-civilised” three-year-old, on the fringe of Covent Garden, is a less showy, more “luxurious” alternative to its bigger stablemate (and likewise “pitch perfect” for business). The Mittel- European cooking “isn’t really the point”, but it’s usually highly “satisfactory” (in particular the “utterly fab” breakfasts and “most delicious afternoon teas”).
The Delaunay's two private dining rooms seat up to 8 and 14 guests respectively and are available to book for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The two rooms can also be opened up to accommodate a long table of 24 guests.
[caption id="attachment_9667" align="alignleft" width="300"] By Patricia Niven[/caption]
Menus from £50 pp
Outstanding “new kid-on-the-foodie-block”, which crept into Fitzrovia without fanfare, but is proving one of the year’s gastronomic highlights; its “functional” and “echo-y” design covers the “bare essentials”, the notably “genuine” service (led by co-owner Will Lander) is “spot on”, and the “eclectic” cuisine is “novel” and “exciting”.
Portland's private room seats parties of anything from 8-16 people. Because it’s designed for larger groups, they offer a set menu of sharing plates for the whole table. The room is all yours for the afternoon or the evening and you will have a dedicated member of our team looking after you.
“Utterly brilliant steaks” and “professional” cocktails have won cult status for Huw Gott and Will Beckett’s “lively and clubby” steak houses (a fave rave for “boozy business lunches”); they risk starting to seem “up themselves”, however, not helped by increasingly “stupid prices”.
The Guildhall's private dining room seats up to 22 people and has its own bar. And the restaurant itself is available for exclusive hire for 160 people.
“Phenomenal” Italian tapas – “really unusual” dishes from all over the country, including lots of game and offal – help inspire mass adulation for Jacob Kennedy and Victor Hugo’s “wildly popular” venture, near Piccadilly Circus. It has a “wonderful”, “casual” atmosphere too – if an “incredibly noisy” one – with many reports tipping the bar-side perches as the best seats in the house. Desserts are “particularly original” too (or “skip pud, and go to Gelupo, their ‘sister’ ice cream shop opposite”).
The Remus Room can accommodate 12-32 people seated, 50 standing, and is served by its own dedicated chef in an adjacent kitchen. Bocca di Lupo's feasting menus are changed monthly, and individual menus can be designed by special request.
“No flim-flam – just pure class!” – this Soho three-year-old may be “simple and basic” (and “a bit cramped” too), but it dishes up “brilliant”, “sensitive” seasonal cuisine, and Luke’s hand-written list provides “smashing wines at decent prices”; “book at lunch, to avoid the inevitable evening queue”.
The private room seats up to 12 people, and is bookable Monday-Saturday for lunch and dinner.
Bob Bob Ricard W1
Full restaurant menu available
“Love the ‘press for champagne’ button on every table!” – this “wacky” Soho diner is “perfect for an intimate meal” or “girls’ lunch” thanks to its fun, boothed seating, “OTT” decor and “charming” service; on the downside, the cooking is no more than “high-end comfort food” and “prices are silly for what you get”. Top Menu Tip – “excellent beef Wellington”.
Apparently modelled on the Royal Dining Car, Bob Bob Ricard's private dining room can seat 10-16 guests.
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