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The Best Special Occasion Restaurants in London


Food & Drink /

The Best Special Occasion Restaurants in London

Take your loved one somewhere special this Valentine's Day...

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Celebrating an anniversary, a birthday or a promotion? These are the top spots in London to book for a special occasion. From sweeping views of London to the best steak in the world, these are the perfect restaurants for toasting your success…

Hutong, London Bridge

Hutong Shard By Night

BEST FOR: Breathtaking views

Undoubtedly one of the most special spots to dine in the city is Hutong on the 33rd floor of the Shard. With dark red, moody interiors, sparkling lanterns and a traditional Chinese wishing tree where guests hang their wishes on branches, Hutong oozes the romance of fairy tales and is an absolute delight. This is our top pick for a splash-out supper, with its vast selection of fine Northern Chinese cuisine and creative cocktails set against the backdrop of the sprawling London skyline which twinkles at night. Allow longstanding waiters to guide you through the menu, but don’t miss the pink champagne prawn dumplings and Peking duck which is carefully sliced instead of shredded. Book far in advance to secure the best tables in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows and soak it all in – you’ll struggle to go back down to earth. The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, London SE1 9RY

Benares, Mayfair

Benares Indian Food

BEST FOR: Indian that will blow your socks off

This Berkeley Square haunt remains one of the finest Indian restaurants in town and is the brainchild of Atul Kochhar, renowned culinary star and the first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star. Though you’ll recognise the classic curry names on the menu, the food here is a far cry from your usual curry house with its modern twists on dishes and exceptional quality of ingredients. Luxurious options fitting of the location are plenty – the Lobster Biryani, for example, or a Venison and Chocolate curry that featured on Celebrity Masterchef. But what really stands out is the use of excellent British ingredients like the huge, juicy Scottish scallops that are pan-seared and served with homemade chutney and spiced root vegetables for an unashamedly decadent starter. The wine list is impressive if scarily long at a whopping 26 pages, but well worth pairing to each dish in true Mayfair style. For a fascinating insight into the workings of a Michelin-starred kitchen, book the 9 seat chef’s table. 12a Berkeley Square, London W1J 6BS

Roux at Parliament Square

Roux at Parliament Square, interior

BEST FOR: Sophisticated celebrations

Our top tip for the revered Roux at Parliament Square is not to waste time poring over the à la carte menu. Michelin starred Michel Roux Jr and Head Chef Steve Groves have created an unmissable tasting menu which uses the finest seasonal produce to re-visit classic dishes, such as Dorset crab with apple, fermented chilli and dashi, or a perfectly al dente punchy and rich Sicilian prawn and datterini risotto with refreshing pea sorbet. Say yes also to the wine pairing, and alongside the eight courses, a charming sommelier will serve thoughtfully matched wines – including a nod to the current rise in excellent English sparkling wine. Here you will find top-notch service: crisp white table linen, warm artisanal bread and delightful staff. All this under the roof of a beautiful listed building designed by Alfred Waterhouse (architect of the Natural History Museum), in dining rooms that were revamped last year and now ooze contemporary luxury. In a word: wonderful. RICS, Parliament Square, London SW1P 3AD

MNKY HSE, Mayfair

MNKY HSE Restaurant Interiors

BEST FOR: Party people

If you’re looking for great food and a party atmosphere as opposed to stiff white linen tablecloths, MNKY HSE on Dover Street is pretty near perfect. The Latin American restaurant headed up by Pablo Peñalosa Nájera (ex-Four Seasons Bogotá) strongly encourages its ethos of ‘eat, drink, play’ in something that results as a vibrant mix of reggaeton and Mayfair glitz. It’s flashy, club-like and at times exaggerated – but this is its appeal, and the reason it’s the location of choice for many a Fashion Week party. If you’re in the mood to go all out (and if you weren’t when you arrived, you certainly will be within the hour), order the BLUE MNKY cocktail which packs quite the punch with lashings of whisky, a £55 price tag and accompanying electric cigar. Food-wise, everything we tried was delicious, but with options such as wagyu tostadas, toro tartar, black cod, king crab and yellowtail truffle ceviche, beware the bill as it’s very easy to get carried away. Stay late enough for the DJs and you’ll soon be dancing the night away… 10 Dover Street, London W1S 4LD

Aquavit, St James’

Aquavit_Interior_5

BEST FOR: Modern Scandi chic

Visitors to Aquavit won’t need long to understand why the contemporary Nordic restaurant was recently awarded a Michelin star. Start with a cocktail at the marble-topped central bar which exudes old glamour, before tucking into a Smörgåsbord of classic bites such as different types of herring, Gravlax and pickles. Not all will be familiar with the cuisine, but rest assured that diners will emerge converts to the Scandi way of eating. The Swedish meatballs with lingonberries and pickled cucumber are a must, and be careful not to fill up on the highly addictive bread with cod roe butter. Very reasonably priced given its culinary accolade, and great for a special supper before heading out into the Soho night. 1 Carlton Street, London SW1Y 4QQ

Zuma, Knightsbridge

Sushi & Sashimi Platter Zuma

BEST FOR: A glitzy splash-out meal

Just a few moments from Harrods is one of London’s most acclaimed Japanese restaurants, Zuma, which is a suitably glamorous neighbour. The restaurant itself is vast, with a sushi counter, robata grill and sparkly sake bar, and always full to the brim with a mix of stylish locals, discerning fans of Japanese cuisine, and high-end shoppers dressed head-to-toe in designer clothing, all drawn by Zuma’s globally-excellent reputation (there are 12 other restaurants worldwide). Having tried it ourselves, we can confirm that the hype is strongly rooted in fact – the menu features modern yet authentic dishes which will equally satisfy the guest looking for a recognisable Instagram post as the one on a real foodie pilgrimage. Once you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that a meal here will be pricey, you may as well go all out on the menu – so order the seared wagyu with truffle, fatty tuna with chilli, coriander and sesame, mixed sushi and sashimi (trust the house on this one), spicy beef tenderloin and finish with the classic Zuma melt-in-the-middle chocolate cake. Don’t skip the cocktails. 5 Raphael Street, London SW7 1DL

Oval Restaurant at The Wellesley, Knightsbridge

The Wellesley Oval Restaurant Interior

BEST FOR: Adult elegance

The uber elegant restaurant at The Wellesley is a great place for a special occasion supper, especially on Friday and Saturday evenings when you can enjoy exquisite Italian food accompanied by the smooth sounds of live jazz. Is there a better combination? Each dish is beautifully constructed with the finest ingredients. Of particular note are the tartare starters – both the smoked tuna tartare with crispy duck egg yolk and avocado puree, and the beef with Norcia truffle are exceptional. The pasta dishes distinguish themselves thanks to the introduction of unusual ingredients such as saffron, green apple and lime to complement more traditional Italian flavours. If you can’t decide, go for the tasting menu which showcases Oval’s best. The after-supper treats served in a lacquer Cohiba box add an extra sparkle to a memorable evening. 11 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LY

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Simpson’s in the Strand

Simpson's in the Strand

BEST FOR: The Best of British

For a British institution steeped in tradition, look no further than Simpson’s in the Strand, an old favourite haunt of Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens. The iconic West End restaurant is a mere hop, skip and jump from The Savoy, and was revamped under the Savoy’s name last year after murmurs that it was losing its touch. Certainly back on form now, expect top-class old-school service and delicious English dishes with a twist. Be sure to start with half a dozen rock oysters, served with miniature bottles of Tabasco as well as the usual trimmings. Simpson’s has long been known as purveyor of the perfect roast beef, which is wheeled directly to your table on a huge silver trolley and carved before your eyes – this celebrated tradition began as a way to avoid disturbing chess games in progress. Big supporters of English vintners, ask sommelier Malcolm for his help in pairing English sparkling wine with your meal for a special touch. Head here for a true best of British experience: one of the earliest Master Cooks was so insistent on this that he introduced the use of the term ‘Bill of Fare’ in place of ‘Menu’. And over 180 years later, the Bill of Fare is still fit to bursting with delicious dishes. Chop, chop! (See more pictures of the revamped Simpson’s here). 100 Strand, London WC2R 0EW

UNI, Fitzrovia

UNI Fitzrovia Tiger's Milk Ceviche

BEST FOR: Intimate date night

Tucked away in the side streets of Victoria, UNI is a world away from the corporate hustle and bustle of the area, instead providing the perfect spot to hole up in for an evening. The low lighting, narrow banquettes and little alcoves make for an intimate affair – and the food? A colourful fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisines, also known as Nikkei, which has become very fashionable as of late. Expect fresh, fragrant ceviche in tiger’s milk, fiery tiraditos and the signature miso black cod with anticucho sauce. Absolutely delicious and a change from the usual sushi/sashimi platter (though they have that too, of course, and it’s top-notch). The laid-back chic feel of the place makes it perfect for a date night and a few too many glasses of bubbly. 18a Ebury Street, London SW1W 0LU

45 Jermyn St., St James’

45 Jermyn Street Interiors

BEST FOR: Old-school glamour

45 Jermyn St. in the heart of St James’ takes inspiration from the ‘golden age of glamour’ – and it shows. With its signature orange leather, Eau de Nil accents (it’s owned by Fortnum & Mason) and sophisticated furnishings, it’s the ideal spot for a real grown-up dinner in town. Leave any doubts about Modern British cuisine at the door as this is truly some of the best we’ve tried – there’s everything from the classic Piccadilly smoked salmon to Beef Wellington which is dramatically flambéd at the table, as well as some Asian-inspired dishes thanks to new Head Chef Jamie Shears. Every dish comes with added panache; the braised veal cheek is served with luxurious bone marrow, while the Dover Sole is exceptional cooked à la Meunière. Order the triple-cooked fries on the side for some extra indulgence, and end with the chocolate sphere topped with hot chocolate, melting to reveal tangy orange ice cream within. For an extra special occasion order from their selection of Caviar which includes the finest Iranian Beluga, and hit the cocktail list hard. 45 Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6JD

World’s End Market, Chelsea

Jose Gordon Steak World's End Market

BEST FOR: World-class steak

Non-locals may be surprised to hear that what looks like an upmarket pub from outside in fact houses a delightful restaurant serving what has been described as the ‘finest meat on earth’. You may recognise José Gordón from the Netflix documentary Steak (R)evolution, a journey around the world in search of the best meats available. José’s restaurant in Spain, El Capricho, was voted as serving the best steak in the world thanks largely to the care he takes in raising, ageing and cooking the meats from his nearby farm. Fast forward a few years and José’s cuts are now exclusively available at World’s End Market just off the King’s Road, which proudly displays the deep red meats for diners to choose from. The exquisite quality of the food is evident even to the untrained eye, and the relaxed atmosphere makes this the perfect spot for a more low-key, but still memorable, evening. 459 King’s Road, London SW10 0LR

Tsunami, Clapham

tsunami sushi

BEST FOR: Serious sushi

Tsunami is tucked away on a side street in Clapham. On a Saturday night, you’d be well within your right to doubt that you’d find near-perfect, melt-in-your-mouth fish after passing a strip of boisterous nightclubs with lines down the block. Within your right, but completely wrong. Tsunami is all class. Simple, clean lines and dim lights make the relatively small interior with tables and booths feel open and cavernous. As the name suggests, the menu is a bit of an exciting rush. Take your time as you pick on some spicy edamame beans. You’ll be grateful that the restaurant isn’t too buttoned up when you sneakily lick some chilli salt from your fingers. Once you get down to business, your first and foremost priority should be the white tuna, nigiri or sashimi. The soft shell crab roll, lobster maki, and dragon roll are also slam dunks. The snow crab shumai is light and fluffy while the spicy tuna roll is perfectly balanced, too. 5-7 Voltaire Road Clapham London SW4 6DQ BL


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