In a city where every gastronomic whim is catered for, the realm of private dining is still one where inspiring spots are hard to find. But don’t be disheartened – because beyond the soulless corporate dining rooms, a sparkling new generation of private spaces are awaiting your booking. We’ve unearthed the best in London:
A surprisingly rare encounter between cool and cosy is the subterranean watering hole at the Marksman. The first pub in London to be awarded the Michelin Pub of the Year, this is fine dining without the kerfuffle. Think salt cold fritters, duck with pickled prunes, and the famous brown butter and honey tart. Marksman Public House, 254 Hackney Rd, E2 7SJ. Sits 8-12 people.
For a grown-up event, venture to the 38th floor of the Gherkin for one of the awe-inspiring private spaces rooms at Searcys. The views are so good you almost forget the food; book it for an evening sitting and watch the city light up after dark. Seasonal menus are paired with world-class wines; and even the cheese course – of British artisan varieties – has its own port, a famed 10 year-old Alves de Sousa. Searcys at the Gherkin, 30 St Mary Axe, EC3A 8EP. 20-50 guests.
What could be more exciting than a private pasta party? At Covent Garden’s Bancone, Chef Louis Korovilas is on hand to design your own feasting menu. Here unfolds plates of bountiful antipasti – such as Panelle with smoked duck breast, Burrata or Honeyed Focaccia – and large sharing bowls of seasonal fresh pasta. Try the Wild Asparagus, Hops, Baby Courgette, Pine Nuts, Buckwheat and Bucatinior and their classic, Silk Handkerchiefs with walnut butter and confit egg yolk. Bancone, 39 William IV Street, WC2N 4DD. Private dining for 8-14 guests.
4. Jungle Room, Blanchette
The verdant, tropical hand-painted mural gives Blanchette’s dining room its name. The Jungle Room can accommodate up to 14 guests for French wine and Blanchette’s signature delicacies – from tasting bites of crispy frog’s legs and miniature croque monsieur, to indulgent mains of braised lamb shoulder with anchovy and soubise sauce. Blanchette, 9 D’Arblay St, W1F 8DR. Group menus start at £35pp. Seats up to 14.
Perhaps the best kept secret of East London. Through the underground bar of this superlative yet low-key dumpling house, emerges a scene of red brick, hanging lanterns and rambling plants, not to mention all-important raincover. (Even warm in January!). Here, a veritable feast ensues – handmade dumplings, filled with ethically-sourced meat and fish, smoky aubergine and tangy turnip cake, chased along by small-brew Japanese sake. Be sure to leave space for pudding: chocolate dumplings with hot salted caramel. My Neighbours the Dumplings, 165 Lower Clapton Rd, E5 8EQ. Group menus start at £25pp. Sit-down dinner for up to 20 people, plus larger drinks and canapé events.
Grab your nine nearest friends and hot foot to Holborn for nothing other than the best pie in town. The £100 tasting menu is a rarefied homage to this British icon, with flavours of Lobster thermidor, Potato, comté & caramelised onion, and Rabbit, pork & pistachio en croute with plum chutney, or you can go à la carte. Soak in the deliciousness of the pie-kitchen setting with its a dazzle of sky-high copper tins. The Pie Room, 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN. Seats 10.
7. Bob Bob Cité
Perhaps the most anticipated opening of the year (if not only for it’s 14 month delay) is Bob Bob Cité, the new Leadenhall Cheesegrater building sister site to Soho’s Bob Bob Ricard. Three blingy private dining rooms will serve up chef Eric Chavot’s classic French comfort food, dressed to the nines in a lavish homage to the 1970s – met with LED tickertape. As in Soho, champagne is still on tap. Opens 10th May.Bob Bob Cité, 122 Leadenhall St, London EC3V 4QT. Three private dining rooms sit from 4-18 guests.
There’s the more formal first floor private dining room at Covent Garden’s Cafe Murano that seats 20-50 people, and then there’s this, a charming set-up in their deli next-door. Fitting 18 guests, dine on Angela Hartnett’s delectable north Italian dishes – mushroom arancini, baked semolina gnocchi, pork belly with celeriac and slaw, and a vin santo cantucci semi-freddo – and feast your eyes on beautiful displays of artisan food and wines too. Cafe Murano Covent Garden, 36 Tavistock St, WC2E 7PB. Group menus start at £46 pp. Sits up to 18.
By Louise Long.