As if we’d let you leave it until the last minute! Here are Joe Warwick’s top five tips for fun, well-fed group dining this Christmas season. Get booking! We also recommend Brunswick House Café in South London, Upstairs at the Ten Bells in Spitalfields, Mall Tavern in Notting Hill, and Wright Brothers and Nopi in Soho.
Le Café Anglais, Bayswater
8 Porchester Gardens, London W2 (020 7221 1415; www.lecafeanglais.co.uk)
Rowley Leigh’s Anglo-French Bayswater bastion has just celebrated its fifth birthday, but feels as though it’s been part of the West London dining scene for much longer. The scale of the place makes perfect sense when it comes to party season, its long, elegant private dining room seating 26, or 50 for canapés. The main restaurant can do big tables and parties, too.
Duck & Waffle, City
Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2 (020 3640 7310; www.duckandwaffle.com)
If you’re after a room with a view, you’ll be pushed to find one that beats Duck & Waffle, which opened this summer on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower, serving classy comfort food for snacking and sharing. It’s open 24 hours, so a nocturnal gathering with oysters, sliced pig’s head and whole roast chicken is not out of the question. The private dining room seats 16, or take the whole restaurant for 98, or 160 standing.
194 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 (020 7378 9455; www.josepizarro.com)
The follow-up to Spanish chef José Pizarro’s perfectly executed, pocket-sized tapas bar José is just a short skip further down Bermondsey Street. It’s marginally more grown-up but still likeably laidback, with tapas and market-driven mains accompanied by an excellent all-Iberian wine list, including lots of cavas. The private dining room seats 10.
Brasserie Zedel, Picadilly
20 Sherwood Street, London W1 (020 7734 4888; www.brasseriezedel.com)
Chris Corbin and Jeremy King’s takeover of what was the Atlantic Bar & Grill has turned the vast listed vault of a space off Piccadilly Circus into a bustling, democratic dining room. The space is a stunner, and what the menu of classic French brasserie dishes lacks in excitement it makes up for with very reasonable pricing. Their Crazy Coqs cabaret room seats 70 and can be hired out during the day or on evenings when there’s no show.
Quo Vadis, Soho
26–29 Dean Street, London W1 (020 7437 9585; www.quovadissoho.co.uk)
Jeremy Lee’s arrival from Blueprint Café at the start of the year lit up the restaurant at this long-running Soho institution, thanks to his smart, seasonal way with British produce. Let’s just say: pheasant pie, roast venison with pickled prunes, meringue ‘cake’ with fruit and ice cream. The two first-floor rooms seat 12 and 24–32 respectively, with standing room for up to 70 between them.