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La Bodega Negra
9 Old Compton Street, London W1D 5JF tel: 020 7758 4100 Best for post-watershed parties The most fun we’ve had in a restaurant since naked sushi, the ‘Black Cellar’ is a tequila-licked, fiesta-filled Aladdin’s Cave of kitsch Mexicana. Its moodily lit nooks and crannies and upbeat service are great for group dining, ditto the appealing line-up of tacos, tostaditas, ceviche – featured on set menus – and killer cocktail list. Side rooms, like the Puppet Theatre or the Barrel Room, are perfect for parties of 20-35 who want privacy and atmosphere. La Bodega has also become something of a hotspot for after-show parties – it holds 140 for an exclusive-hire reception, but bear in mind for corporate events that your guests will be arriving through the ‘sex shop’ entrance on Old Compton Street.
Private Dining Room: 20 Exclusive Use: 140
Quilon 41 Buckingham Gate, London SW1E 6AF tel: 020 7821 1899 Best for discreet, high-end entertaining Private dining is the star of the show at the swanky refurbished Quilon in Westminster. The 16-seater ‘restaurant within a restaurant’ has its own entrance, bar and kitchen – which diners can see right into – and shares the same grown-up look as the main dining room, where artful spotlighting and splashes of bronze and jade highlight the contemporary gloss of the place. Despite the new look, the high-end but home-style south-west Indian cuisine remains, so spice-tinged seafood dishes get top billing. Don’t skip pre-dinner drinks – the cocktail list at the new Q-Bar includes the chilli-infused Qojito and there are 20 British, world and vintage beers.
Private Dining Room: 16 Exclusive use: 100
Harrods 87-135 Old Brompton Road, London SW1X 7XL tel: 020 7225 5936, squaremeal.co.uk/harrodsvenue Best for after-hours takeovers Continuing a top-to-toe revamp of its restaurant portfolio, the grand old department store has added Pan Chai, Mango Tree and Galvin Demoiselle to the ranks. Fast-food concessions Pan Chai and Mango Tree dish up business-friendly Malaysian, Thai and dim sum, while Galvin Demoiselle is aimed squarely at the store’s lunching ladies with a light bistro menu and inviting banquette booths. In July, Bentley’s will take over the Sea Grill in the Meat & Fish Hall, offering crustacea, seafood cocktails and pies. While these delights are dedicated to Joe Public during opening hours, the store’s bespoke events team can arrange in-store parties out of hours, including the exclusive ‘Dine Around’ concept, catered by all of the restaurants.
Private Dining Room: n/a Exclusive use: 750
Sushisamba Heron Tower, Bishopsgate EC2N 4AY tel: 020 3640 7340 Best for sashimi with a view What better location than one of the City’s mightiest skyscrapers for crowd-pleasing US restaurant Sushisamba? Japanese is given a kick of citrusy, chilli-tinged South American flavour by its fusion with Peruvian and Brazilian cuisine, and it all comes against the backdrop of some knockout 44th-floor views. City event organisers are already rubbing their hands together about the restaurant’s pair of roof terraces – one with a City panorama (and the Olympic site beyond), the other facing West towards the sunset and the centre of town – both can be booked for events. There’s also a 12-seater PDR on the top floor and plenty of scope for taking over the whole of or part of the three-storey space. Private Dining Room: 12 Exclusive use: 280
✚ Lunchtime dim sum on the sunny patio for 80 at the newly revamped Royal China in Canary Wharf (tel: 020 7719 0888)......................................................................................................................................
✚ British steakhouse Gillray’s (tel: 020 7902 8000) at the London Marriott County Hall, where grass-fed English beef is prepared by steak specialists, with private dining for 30.
✚ Posh Indian at the freshly updated Bombay Palace (tel: 020 7723 8855) in Paddington, where the PDR seats 30, or the Lounge Bar and Patio for drinks receptions for up to 60.
✚ The semi-private space for 12 tucked away in the dining room at hot new Marylebone tapas bar Donostia.
✚ A chicken or steak feast at long-awaited Shoreditch newcomer Hix at the Tramshed (tel: 020 7749 0478). Private dining is on the mezzanine floor.
✚ Brand new Soho brasserie Central & Co (tel: 020 7437 4106). No official PDR, but 40-60 can hire the downstairs space, arranged around a marble island bar.
✚ Raymond’s latest openings: Brasserie Blanc at Tower Bridge (tel: 020 7480 5500) and the big one, at Opera Terrace on the Covent Garden Piazza (tel: 020 7379 0666). Both have private event space for 20.
✚ The handsome but homely 10-seater PDR at newly opened trad-Brit Reform (tel: 020 7935 5599) in the Mandeville Hotel, Marylebone. Scotch eggs all round.
✚ Clerkenwell’s revamped Portal (tel: 020 7253 6950), a tardis of event space, with a refreshed glasshouse and a new PDR and tapas room. The courtyard’s great for drinks receptions for up to 100.
✚ High-end Chinese at Bright Courtyard Club (tel: 020 7486 6998) on Baker Street, where you’ll find a 120-capacity dining room, PDRs for 8 and 20 and a courtyard for 130 guests.
✚ When The Hippodrome rises again as a vast £36m casino, the four floors of gaming heaven will also house the Heliot Lounge Bar & Restaurant. There will be two PDRs (with a combined capacity of 50) and a two-tiered terrace.
✚ The swank-o-meter will be turned up to max at The Bulgari Hotel on Knightsbridge, so expect the in-house Il Ristorante to be as polished as its Bulgari cutlery. Contemporary Italian food will also be served to the trio of PDRs, which seat 6, 8 and 10.
✚ Contemporary Peruvian continues its march with the arrival of Lima in Rathbone Place. Styled after a high-end cevicheria and headed up by one of Lima’s top chefs, the restaurant will serve ceviche, of course, as well as heartier regional dishes.
✚ The team behind Zuma, Roka and La Petite Maison will open a top-end Italian, Banca (pictured above) in the former NatWest bank on North Audley Street in Mayfair. Details were still sketchy as we went to press, but there will be a private dining room for 16.
✚ Grower Champagne and hotdogs out front, serious cheffy stuff out back – at Charlotte Street’s Bubbledogs, diners can pitch up and choose from the list of 10 dogs while groups can book the separate 19-seat ‘Kitchen Table’, with dinner menus from £50.
✚ Corbin and King’s Brasserie Zédel, a glossy but affordable David Collins-designed Parisian brasserie just off Regent Street. No PDR, it seems, but the Bar Américain and The Crazy Coqs Bar and Cabaret seat 70 apiece, so there will be space for entertaining.
This article was first published in Square Meal Venues & Events, summer 2012