Don’t fancy the shared package with the circus theme? We test-drove some of the city’s more sophisticated spots for a ‘memorabe in a good way’ festive do
Words Millie Milliken Photos Max Miechowski
We kick off the night’s proceedings at Zetter Townhouse Marylebone (020 7324 4401). Presided over by the fictional Wicked Uncle Seymour, the whole house can be hired for parties. Among the dark oak furnishings and myriad curios, we gather around the fire in Seymour’s Parlour for mid-afternoon libations.
With cocktail hero Tony Conigliaro behind the menu, our high hopes are satisfied: the toasted almond syrup in the Almond Sour brings a hit of festive marzipan to proceedings, but it’s the carob old fashioned that slips down the easiest. Yep, be careful: the combination of dark decor and a fireside spot makes it tempting to stay longer than perhaps Uncle Seymour would like.
The prospect of our next stop – or perhaps the impact of that last old fashioned – has put everyone in a merry mood. A black cab across town takes us to Bank and 2017’s big opening: The Ned (020 3828 2000). This colossal venue has six event spaces to choose from: our pick would be the walnut-panelled Tapestry Room. Lined with what was once England’s longest tapestry, it can seat up to 120 for a banquet.
As a smaller group tonight, we’re dining in the 20s-feel Millie’s Lounge on the open-plan ground floor. Squeezing snuggly into one of the baby pink booths, we’ve got the marble walls of the former Midland Bank for a backdrop. Sticking to the theme of the day, champagne and 12 oysters are brought for the table while we deliberate over the menu. It’s classic British stuff: potted shrimps with melba toast; roast Banham chicken with chipolatas and stuffing; and sticky toffee pudding. The real highlight, though, is Miss Fay Presto. We wouldn’t have expected the Soho House outpost to have roaming magicians, but her winningly whimsical delivery is just what a do at a high-end City establishment needs.
Okay, we admit that Inception Group’s Bunga Bunga Covent Garden (020 7590 3602) doesn’t scream ‘classy Christmas party’. But, come on: your group will be grateful for a touch of Berlusconi-themed madness before the night’s out.
We enter the party floor through a mock butcher’s meat locker. Yes, as per the original in Battersea, this WC2 newbie’s gimmick game is strong and before someone can shout ‘Salute!’ we’re poking straws through the windows of a Leaning Tower of Pisa sharing cocktail.
Tonight’s stage show is the Burlesquoni – think flamboyant compere, sequins and salacious dancing. Book an exclusive party for 400 here and there’ll be a Christmas Variety Show for entertainment, canapés, sharing feasts and personalised cocktail menus. Before we shimmy our way out – via a photo stop at the speedboat table – we take a peek into the semi-private, semi-classy Martini Room, where you can seat 25 revellers.
With our appetite for debauchery sated, it’s time to end our night on a slightly more suave note. Enter Ronnie Scott’s (020 7439 0747) and it’s Late Late Show. With only one or two of us having stepped inside the landmark jazz club before, it feels like a real treat as we take our seats by the bar.
We’re in for the Leo Richardson Quartet show (or ‘blowing session’, as they call it): four hours of super-cool sax, keys, bass and drums. ‘It’s like watching the film Whiplash’, one of the team says through the applause that follows Ed Richardson’s drum solo.
We’re stuffed, but if your group fancies something to soak up the rum martinis, small plates like pan-fried halloumi, pork belly with caramelised apple sauce, and baba ganoush will do the job. An 11pm-3am jazz session too late for your lot? The Ronnie Scott’s Christmas Cabaret Lunches match the atmosphere and musical prowess of the Late Late Show with a significantly earlier finish. ‘Jingle Bells’ in the style of Bob Dylan? We’d love to see that.
If we could have another day of Christmas party testing, we’d have our eyes on these equally classy options:
(020 7107 8853) might be best known for its bar, but it’s the 25-capacity Champagne Room we prefer. The fizzy stuff is, of course, its signature tipple, served in Baccarat crystal glasses.
They might be popping up all over town but the original The Ivy
(020 7307 5900) remains a classic. Its Private Room – 32 seated – has all the prestige of the main dining space, despite being easier to get into.
Mahiki Kensington (020 7368 1180) opened this September. A grown-up version of the Mayfair original, this will have private dining rooms. The famous Treasure Chest? That’s staying. This time though, it’ll be made of ice.
+ Late night
Dan Doherty’s Duck and Waffle (020 3640 7310) is a bucket-list entry for most Londoners. The food’s 24/7, the cocktails ever changing and the night views from the 18-seat private dining room are knockout.
Prefer to host a daytime event? See more sophisticated ideas for Christmas parties here.
This article was first published in SquareMeal Christmas 2017