Our pick of the season’s best new restaurants for group dining and private events
Edited by: Heather Steele
After 30 years gathering accolades in Midtown Manhattan, Aquavit brings its refined Nordic style to London
London’s Aquavit is more of a laid-back affair than its Michelin-bothering big sister across the pond, and yet the overall effect is still highly polished. Swedish-born Martin Brudnizki has delivered a marble and chrome-inflected mise-en-scène, while artist Olafur Eliasson – whose ‘Weather Project’ once lit up Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall – has contributed some showpiece wall-hangings. Beneath them, diners choose between delicate (and often raw) small plates and some meatier mains (veal cheek, dill and salt-baked onions was our pick). Upstairs are two spaces for groups: the commodious Stockholm room comes with a separate lounge area for drinks; the Copenhagen room puts smaller parties around a single round table. In both, set menus start at £50pp. The precision-tooled kitchen’s best work is to be found among the smorgasbord offerings, and many of these dishes can be replicated as canapés for standing receptions (scallops, kohlrabi and lovage, or mackerel tartare, sorrel and lumpfish roe). Guests should make sure to eat heartily, though: each of the above is best accompanied with a hit of the life-enhancing spirit for which the place is named.
Private dining: 60, 14
St James’s Market, SW1Y 4QQ | 020 7024 9848
One of the Nova development’s best offerings hits the mark for groups
’s latest opening
launched in Victoria’s shiny Nova complex in February. Headed up by Finnish exec chef Helena Puolakka, Aster’s menus blend Nordic cuisine with classic French technique: expect the likes of scallop with celeriac, sea buckthorn and liquorice followed by milk-fed lamb shoulder and lingonberries. Decorated by the omnipresent Russell Sage Studio, trademark touches of polished metal and bright banquettes are scattered throughout this vast restaurant. Set across two floors, it can be hired exclusively, or in several semi-private formations. For smaller groups we like the Wine Room. Bright and booze-filled, it makes a great spot for business lunches.
Exclusive use: 500
Private dining: 16, 8
Semi-private dining: 200, 80, 35, 20, 15
150 Victoria Street, SW1E 5LB | 020 3875 5555
India’s luxury Leela Group opens its first outpost outside the subcontinent
Mayfair’s not short of fine-dining Indians, but we’re glad that this one has been added to the mix. A royal-blue PDR is the spot for serious entertaining, although we like the gentlemen’s club feel downstairs, where semi-exclusive dos are serviced by a private bar. Executive chef Rohit Ghai (formerly of Michelin-starred Gymkhana and Benares) has been inspired both by the street markets and royal households of India – and the results are very pleasing. Dainty small plates are matched with surprising, deftly spiced curries and biryanis. For us, the lobster nerulli is the jewel in the crown.
Private dining: 8
Semi-private dining: 32
8 Mount Street, W1K 3NF | 020 7499 1800
Jamie Oliver opens a second slick steakhouse
Meat – and lots of it – was the name of the game when Jamie Oliver opened Barbecoa in St Paul’s five years ago. Focusing on barbecued food, the restaurant fast became a go-to for City boys looking to do business in carnivorous, whisky-soaked environs. His new place
in Piccadilly takes a slightly different tack. Aimed at the Soho media set, this basement restaurant beneath Bafta pairs striking antique tiles and sleek furnishings with a buzzy open kitchen. Excellent steak still reigns supreme, but here there’s a cold seafood bar serving up impressive fruits de mer platters, whole lobsters and ceviche. A smart PDR comes with all the necessary kit for meetings.
Exclusive use: 360
Private dining: 14
Semi-private dining: 250, 110
194 Piccadilly, W1J 9EX | 07541 953933
The GAME BIRD
Five-star refinement and a wholly patriotic menu
Gone is the five-star Stafford Hotel’s rather dated Lyttelton, replaced by a still-grand restaurant with modern blood-red leather chairs and grey velvet banquettes. Dishes turned out by exec chef James Durrant (winner of the main course in the BBC’s Great British Menu in 2014) zero in on British ingredients made kitchen-ready by the gun – don’t miss the signature roast pigeon – but also show his affection for fine fish and crustacea. Private parties are spoilt for choice with five enclosed spaces, though on a second visit we’d likely set up shop in the 380-year-old Wine Cellars. Once guests have ogled its big bordeauxs and burgundies, they should ask legendary sommelier Gino Nardella to show off its collection of WWII memorabilia.
Private dining: 44, 28, 12, 8, 8
16-18 St James’s Place, SW1A 1N | 020 7518 1234
The glitzy Japanese crosses Green Park and adds an Italian menu to its repertoire
After more than a decade on Albemarle Street, this Russian-owned sushi specialist
has moved from Mayfair to Belgravia. As well as gaining an enigmatic second name (Twiga means ‘giraffe’ in Swahili), it now has three storeys to play with: the top-floor cocktail lounge is well set up for drinks receptions; the open-plan main restaurant exudes an understated, monochromatic luxury; and there’s a basement club that can be hired exclusively. The kitchen’s expanded too, offering a classic Italian menu alongside its reputation-making Japanese. On both sides, truffle is nearly ubiquitous – just how the good people of Sloane Street like it.
Private dining: 100, 100
165 Sloane Street, SW1X 9QB | 020 3096 0222
BEST OF THE REST
(020 7329 9299) offers Thames views from every corner of its 175-capacity dining room. Just in time for its 10th anniversary in January, the restaurant (which has a 20-seat PDR) reopened with a new chef. John Harrison’s menu still focuses on West Country produce, so expect potted kipper parfait, followed by baked chocolate pudding with Cornish clotted cream.
SIX STOREYS ON SOHO
The latest in Camm & Hooper’s stable of quirky venues, Six Storeys on Soho
(020 3869 7009) is a private dining/party destination to satisfy an array of tastes. Each floor has a different theme, though a distressed Victoriana vibe threads them together. We dined in the second-floor Parlour which combined excellent service with a modish British menu. Vintage-themed ‘libations’ are a big focus.
This article was first published in SquareMeal Venues + Events, Spring/Summer 2017