Dining isn't always all about what's on your plate – sometimes it's about champagne, celebration, chandeliers and how damned good you look.
London does a deliciously dazzling line in dining rooms that pull out luxurious stop after luxurious stop: restaurants where Champagne is served by the trolley or on the push of a button, where the bathrooms boast gold swans for taps, and where the food is (quite literally) fit for a queen.
Transporting you from the red velvet grips of 1930s Shanghai to the glistening canals of Venice (all via a Damien Hirst sculpture or two), these are the places to get dressed up to the nines for.
Bob Bob Ricard
A button in your booth says "Press for champagne"? Don’t mind if we do. Bob Bob Ricard’s reputation is positively soaked in the bubbly stuff, thanks to its most famous feature. Among the Prussian blue banquettes, art deco monogramming and dazzling degrees of gold, you’ll find a gilded button at every table which, when pressed, sends a bottle-wielding waiter to the table in a matter of seconds. The Russian-influenced menu features baked oysters brezhnev topped with truffle, lobster mac and cheese, lobster pelmeni dumplings and the legendary chicken Kiev – in other words, comfort food for oligarchs. Can't get a table? Sibling restaurant Bob Bob Cité is open any day now.
1 Upper James Street, W1F 9DF, bobbobricard.com
From descending the stars under a decadently illustrated lantern, to washing your hands under golden swan-shaped taps, every detail here has been designed to swathe diners in a red velvet rush of opulence. The Mayfair spot has been styled after the nightclubs of 1930s Shanghai: the upstairs dining room is serenaded with live music every night, while the downstairs Club Chinois hosts raucous (and frequently racy) cabaret shows beyond the golden palm tree columns of its Wave Bar. The theatrically served Peking duck is a must-try – unless you can make your mind up between five different types of wagyu beef.
17 Berkeley Street, W1J 8EA, parkchinois.com
Sketch Lecture Room and Library
Thought marshmallow armchairs and egg-shaped toilets were as elaborate as Mayfair restaurant Sketch could get? Head upstairs for something quite different. Above the Insta-famous, powder pink Gallery restaurant is the Lecture Room and Library, Sketch’s two Michelin-starred, ultra-luxe dining destination. Pierre Gagnaire’s exquisite food is served in a room so richly decorated it positively glows. Ceilings are painted in pastels, period patterns are highlighted with gilt, and cream silk walls are button-upholstered – there is no room in the capital more decadent to dine on such high quality food.
9 Conduit Street, W1S 2XG, sketch.london
There’s a coral reef on the ceiling, a glistening sea monster crawling across the wall and Damien Hirst-fashioned mermaids rising from the bar – Sexy Fish is as ludicrous as it is luxurious. This Asian-inspired seafood restaurant serves its premium sushi with a side of splendour, thanks to its famously elaborate decor and the ability to conjure head-turning cocktails at the bar, which is itself overlooked by a school of fish-shaped lanterns. Book into the private dining room and the fish in the decor aren’t just fictional – one wall of the room is entirely occupied by an aquarium.
Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, W1J 6BR, sexyfish.com
The Ritz needs no introduction. Having ruled the capital as the first name in London luxury for more than a century, we challenge anyone not to swoon at its relentless charm. Tea at the Ritz is an institution, but dinner at the chandelier-laden restaurant is the real treat. Chef John Williams’s Michelin-starred menu entertains hugely, but so do the ballroom dancers, live musicians and singers who take to dancefloor on Friday and Saturday nights. The luckiest of diners, however, are those that take a seat in the ruby red William Kent Room – it’s so regal that the first person to ever have a party in it was, of course, the Queen.
150 Piccadilly, W1J 9BR, theritzlondon.com
Can you have too much art in a restaurant? Not if Berners Tavern is to be believed. The dining room at the London Edition hotel boasts internationally acclaimed chef and restaurateur Jason Atherton at its helm, as well as a pretty stonking collection of paintings. The walls are covered from floor to ceiling with elaborately framed artworks of all shapes and sizes, neatly fitting into every available nook and cranny under the stunningly moulded period ceiling. Overwhelmed by the artistic overload? Don’t worry, there’s a champagne trolley on hand to calm the aesthetic rush.
10 Berners Street, W1T 3NP, bernerstavern.com
A set of stairs lit like a rippling pool beckons guests down into the superlatively slick surroundings of Hakkasan Mayfair. Beats hum in the dark, broken by low-level orange and blue light that reveals a maze of wooden panels and the superb Cantonese food at your table – the whole effort is arrestingly stylish and more than a bit sexy. The food is dressed just as well as your fellow fashion-focused clientele: Peking duck comes topped with your choice of caviar, and sesame prawn toast is lathered with foie gras – it’s the little things in life, eh?
17 Bruton Street, W1J 6QB, hakkasan.com
From dark and mysterious to light as a feather, Céleste has pastel power and a chandelier or three on hand to brighten your day. The dining room at The Lanesborough hotel is in the capable hands of French chef Steeven Gilles, a culinary maestro who can boast the impressive claim to have only ever worked in Michelin-starred restaurants – including Céleste. The food is modern European with classic touches, and similar can be said for the decor – Venetian-inspired in tones of gold and blue, always elegantly lit either by a glass roof by day or its famous chandeliers by night.
Hyde Park Corner, SW1X 7TA, oetkercollection.com
Brasserie of Light
Sexy Fish isn’t the only London restaurant to boast a mythically majestic Damien Hirst sculpture – Pegasus makes a more than noticeable entrance at Brasserie of Light. This London newcomer may “just” be the restaurant attached to department store Selfridges, but its wow factor should ensure diners drop their bright yellow shopping bags in awe. It is already well on its way to become a fashionable favourite, having hosted Brooklyn Beckham, Lily Allen and Pixie Geldof at its opening party, and its sophisticated surroundings look set to take many a stylish customer under their wings.
Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, W1A 1AB, brasserie-of-light.co.uk
Neptune’s fairly glorious decor will have you all at sea and pleased as punch to be so. The seafood-focused restaurant at Bloomsbury’s recently rebranded Kimpton Fitzroy Hotel is almost absurdly pretty: the walls glow peach and with lighting diffused from ra-ra skirted chandeliers, while pot plants drape down columns and coral-coloured shellfish cool on an ice-covered bar. Pick your way through the day's oyster selection or go all out with a seafood platter featuring langoustines, scallops, cock crab, to be enjoyed alongside natural wines and selection of champagnes.
Russell Square, WC1B 5BE, neptune.london
Harry’s Dolce Vita
Though now it is little more than a crushing disappointment, once upon a time sipping on a bellini in Harry’s Bar in Venice was one of the most glamorous pursuits on the planet. Nowadays, Londoners needn't travel to make like Ernest Hemingway, Alfred Hitchcock and Peggy Guggenheim – a collection of Harry’s Bars have come to the capital. Harry’s Dolce Vita takes the wood-panelled bones of the original’s famously austere decor and injects it with slick brass finishes, warm ochre leather and snapshots of Sophia Loren et al gazing down on diners. Come for a bellini, but stay for a negroni or two.
27-31, Basil Street, SW3 1BB, harrysdolcevita.com
Yes, there are quite a few Ivys around in London these days – into double figures in fact, and counting. While the Ivy’s offshoots may have lessened the brand’s exclusivity factor, dining at the original West Street restaurant is still a treat. Though now over 100-years-old, The Ivy is looking better than ever: a makeover has put cocktails front and centre courtesy of the glistening three-pointed central bar, while surrounding diners on emerald green banquettes are still flanked by those iconic diamond windows.
1-5 West Street, WC2H 9NQ, the-ivy.co.uk
MNKY HSE has celebrity credentials alright: when fashion photographer Mert Alas had his birthday party there last year, attendees included Lindsay Lohan, Lupita Nyong’o, Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss – who jumped out of a cake. The Peruvian-influenced party palace will feed you fabulously in the evening’s early hours with the likes of wagyu beef tostadas, truffle rice and caviar tacos, before live music and DJ sets see the cavernous rustic-chic space turn into a dance floor. There is monkey business to be had here, but only in supremely stylish fashion.
10 Dover Street, W1S 4LQ, mnky-hse.com
Legendary Mayfair restaurant Quaglino’s was the first restaurant to host the Queen after her coronation and is, on record, the first ever public restaurant to host a reigning British monarch. Dining at the dramatically designed, ocean liner-reminiscent restaurant even comes with the chance to have your very own Kate Winslet/Rose moment, as diners enter the double-height room by descending a majestic staircase in full view of pretty much every table. Get your gladrags on, make sure you can walk in those heels and prepare to make an entrance.
16 Bury Street, SW1Y 6AJ, quaglinos-restaurant.co.uk
Onima may have recently landed in Mayfair, but it’s the star-studded party scene of Greek island Mykonos that it takes as its inspiration. Greek food gets slick Asian twists with drizzles of ponzu sauce and yuzu, served up in rooms lit moodily and decorated with black marble, brass and more nods to sophistication. Onima may be longing for the sand between its toes, but it could do worse than where it is. The five storey building which houses it is the former London home of Cartier jewellers – credentials don’t get more dazzling than that.
1-3 Avery Row, W1K 4AJ, onimarestaurant.com