Our pick of the season’s best new restaurants for group dining and private events
Edited by: Heather Steele
LA DAME DE PIC
French finesse for big-boss dinners
The new Four Seasons hotel on Trinity Square seems a fittingly grand home for a chef who arrives from France with three Michelin stars. The columned entrance of the old London Port Authority HQ is nothing short of stately, and the brief walk through the lobby bar was attractive enough for us to stop and admire the uplit bas-reliefs that line its circular walls. The restaurant’s small bar area is drinks-reception ready, while the private dining room will make groups feel as if they’re somewhere secret. Pic’s immaculate tasting menu couples exotic flavours with a delivery restrained enough to please most palates: brillat-savarin pasta parcels with tonka bean and voatsiperifery (a rare Madagascan pepper) is a case in point – and the showstopper.
Exclusive use: 80
Private dining: 14
Four Seasons London at Ten Trinity Square, EC3N 4AJ | 020 3297 3799
THE KITTY HAWK
A multifaceted City restaurant with plenty of space for events
There’s something about the choice of lighting that gives away a Russell Sage Studio restaurant design: squirrel-cage bulbs, low tungsten glow, some sort of ‘feature’. In the case of Kitty Hawk’s PDR, it’s supplied by thick ropes around a beam of oak. That and the room’s Aubusson blue walls (so hot right now) offer a loose nautical theme that we’re assuming nods to its seafood (and steak) menu. The finished product is undeniably attractive, and practical too: AV and a huge hidden flat-screen make it work for work. There’s a variety of options for curtained-off semi-private dining in the neo-deco main restaurant, and groups can head up to the clubby ground floor when it’s time for cocktails.
Private dining: 12
Semi-private dining: 14, 12, 8
11-14 South Place, EC2M 7EB | 020 3319 9199
BONNIE GULL SEAFOOD SHACK
The seafood specialist reels us in with a smart second site
The word ‘shack’ doesn’t quite do this place justice. Its interiors are far from the shabby-chic vibe we expected: instead, picture a minimalist marble-topped dining counter with eight navy-leather stools. There are a few rustic touches – light fittings have been fashioned from creels and ingredients are stored on high, above the hobs. It all helps to create a cosy, inviting atmosphere, as do the chefs and maître d’ who chat warmly throughout service. The hospitality alone would encourage us to return, but it’s the food we remember most. Small plates of simple, but extremely well-executed fish dishes come thick and fast: think grilled Scottish langoustines with garlic butter and crab panna cotta. While this site remains no-bookings only, groups of 10 can jump the queue by hiring the pretty semi-private dining space at the back.
Semi-private dining: 10
22 Bateman St W1D 3AN | 020 7436 0921
MASALA ZONE COVENT GARDEN
The Floral Street Indian reopens in style
Hundreds of ceremonial Rajasthani puppets adorn this refurbished favourite
from MW Eat. Groups can dine sans dolls in the exotic downstairs private room. We suggest going down the sharing route with chef’s street food ‘chaat’ dishes (ask for the gol guppy pops, which diners can fill with a spicy sauce). The main event has to be its trademark thali served on silver trays. Check out the cocktail menu too – the Hyderabad Highballs with curry leaves are a clever twist on a classic G&T.
Private dining: 42
48 Floral Street, WC2E 9DA | 020 7379 0101
BAR + BLOCK
A big steakhouse brings casual group dining to King’s Cross
This latest Bar + Block occupies a sprawling site in N1. The beef comes from British breeds and the beer is local, with a focus on craft brands for more clued-up drinkers. There’s no PDR, but the marble-topped Chef’s Table sits far enough from the hubbub and close enough to the kitchen for lively group get-togethers. Sharing dishes suit casual dining – don’t miss the chicken wings with raspberry and Tabasco sauce – while decent steaks come with beef-dripping chips and left-field sauces (lobster and prawn is a surprise favourite). Its £10pp express menu is ideal for working lunches.
Semi-private dining: 16
26-30 York Way, N1 9AA | 020 3889 8888
BEST OF THE REST
RAIL HOUSE CAFÉ
Riding House Café founder Adam White was determined that the Rail House Café (020 3906 7950) would stand out from all of the glass-fronted rivals alongside it in Victoria’s gleaming Nova development. So he’s built an entire wooden building within a building that gives the place a down-home feel. Inside, the event spaces are as spectrum-spanning as the all-day international menus, and include a semi-private dining area.
THE IVY SOHO BRASSERIE
The banquettes are a different colour, but all else is reassuringly familiar at The Ivy Soho Brasserie
(020 3301 1166). The latest spin-off from the Covent Garden original has a stronger party vibe than its siblings – there was a DJ on the Friday night we visited – but the usual smart private room at the back. This one comes with its own bar, seats 24 at a long table, and has a glass front that concertinas open to let the buzz in.
This article was first published in SquareMeal Venues + Events, Spring/Summer 2017