It’s a hard truth to stomach for my foodie friends: while I’m happy enough to tuck in to a beautiful plate of food, it’s the beautiful plate itself that always seduces me. Eating out is all about the glamour and clamour you get when sitting in an exquisitely decorated dining room full of people having a good time.
What do these lavish, often high-spend environments have to do with your humble home, I hear you ask.
This is the beauty of living in a metropolis: you can get several Pinterest mood boards-worth of ideas from something as simple as a meal out a couple of times a month.
Sometimes it’s the details that catch my eye, be it the navy blue plush armchairs in the bar of Dukes in St James’s Mayfair or the glorious green of the Formica tables at £6-dumpling stalwart Jen Cafe in Chinatown.
In other places I want to transport the entire decor scheme home with me. Serving the City since 1889, everything in fish restaurant Sweetings is impeccable, from the micro mosaic floor to the gloss blue facade.
Polished brass, elegant mahogany and silverware are offset by heavy white tablecloths, plain white crockery and classic bistro glasses. It’s a masterclass in unfussy, unpretentious decorating.
If you’re on a budget and want a home that will still look stylish in 140 years, this is the place to emulate.
A short stroll away, near Smithfields Market, the nose-to-tail marvel
St John is housed in a former bacon smokehouse. Opened in 1994, it’s a pared down paean to the delights and opportunities of industrial conversions — no surprise given Fergus Henderson, one of its founders, initially trained as an architect.
Zinc bar, white walls, tall ceilings, bentwood chairs and very little else. The food and the conversation do the work, the space provides the setting.
A touch monastic for your home? Try Luca a few doors up the road. It’s out and out glam, from the leather booths to the linen lampshades, effortlessly chic, and classic without being fusty.
The jewel in its crown — especially during this glorious heatwave — is its beautifully planted courtyard. Urban gardeners will find themselves taking notes on the back of their napkins of the pots and their contents, as well as the working outdoor fireplace.
I hope I’ve inspired you to appreciate restaurants as a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. Chow down!