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Take seven readers, four Square Mealers and a restaurant PR, place in a beautiful room, add a three-course meal with matching wines, then stir in hot restaurant gossip, some great private dining recommendations and mix well. The Venues & Events Lunch Club is ready to serve
The simplest recipes are often best. When the idea of a Venues & Events Lunch Club first occurred to us, we couldn’t believe we hadn’t thought about it years ago. If you’ve got readers who book restaurants as regularly as ours, it makes perfect sense to get them involved in ‘test-driving’ private dining rooms – a job the V&E team has selfishly kept to itself for far too long.
In this issue, we were due to review one of the PDRs at Lutyens, the Conran restaurant in the old Reuters HQ on Fleet Street, and, with a venue like that, finding guests to help us out wasn’t particularly hard. PAs and event bookers from OC&C, Freshfields and Goldman Sachs were among the lucky few who managed to bag an invitation.
Lunch was held in the Viceroy’s House room, the largest of Lutyens’ four private dining rooms, and it got off to a flying start. Following brief introductions and a toast to the inaugural Lunch Club, the room quickly filled up with chatter as guests got straight down to the matter of sharing restaurant recommendations – just like we’d hoped they would.
We hardly noticed when the attentive waiters presented us with the first course: a generous plate of smoked salmon, served with warm soda bread and chilled Chablis (the 2009 ‘Carré de César’, Domaine de l’Eglantière). To follow, we tucked into a perfectly cooked roast Landaise chicken forestière, in which the earthy mushroom sauce proved a perfect match for the sommelier’s red selection (a 2008 Crozes-Hermitage, Etienne Pochon).
Before the meal drew to a close over a decadent crème brûlée, V&E editor Annica Wainwright took the opportunity to give guests a sneak preview of the private dining facilities at new restaurants including Marcus Wareing’s The Gilbert Scott, Massimo at the Corinthia, and The Riding House Café, while Lucy Hayward from lifestyle agency Bacchus PR offered hot restaurant gossip and details of 34, the upcoming opening from Caprice Holdings.
In return, guests shared their own restaurant secrets, with Lutyens, 1 Lombard Street and The Wolseley all nominated as safe bets for business. Well fed and with notebooks full of recommendations, it was a happy crowd that headed back to the office after coffee and petits four. ‘It’s been really nice meeting people in the same industry as myself, and to talk restaurants and events in a relaxed environment,’ said Ella Davies, senior PA at internet firm Claranet.
The inaugural meeting of the Venues & Events Lunch Club was, of course, also a great showcase for Lutyens. While the majority of guests had booked tables in the restaurant and bar many times, few had ventured downstairs to explore the private dining options.
Viceroy’s House, the swanky 16-seater PDR where our lunch was held, is actually part of a suite of four, all named after buildings designed by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. Across the corridor are St John the Evangelist and Great Dixter, which seat six guests each or 12 when combined, while right next door, behind another retractable wall, the Reuters room shares Viceroy’s skylit ceiling – natural daylight galore! – seating 10 on its own or 26 when the wall is pulled back.
As can be expected from a venue designed by
Conran & Partners, Lutyens’ interiors are cool and comfortable, mixing art deco with modern touches and quirky artwork from Sir Terence’s private collection. Its restaurant, which seats up to
130, is complemented by a bar with its own charcuterie counter (great for a casual breakfast or lunch) and there is also a private members’ club on site.
The cooking, as evidenced by our meal, is classic French in style, with a wide choice of set menus available for groups.
Lutyens, 85 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1AE, tel: 020 7583 8385. For more information about private dining at the venue, visit squaremeal.co.uk/lutyens. The Venues & Events Lunch Club is open to anyone who books private dining rooms as part of their job. If you'd like to join us for future events, send your details to [email protected]
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events, summer 2011