Birthdays, anniversaries, pet christenings, Fridays… here at Taste HQ we’ll take any excuse to treat ourselves to a celebratory blow-out meal. But when that extra special occasion arises, which establishment should you entrust to furnish you through a truly memorable night of revelry? We caught up with Taste chefs to get the lowdown on their ultimate special occasion locations!
“It’s the best fine dining experience in London”
“The hospitality and service alone make you want to come back again and again – if you had the money. The food is always consistently good and the wine list is fantastic. But it is the service that will always make you feel special even if it’s not a special celebration”
And Mike Morrans of Senor Ceviche
“When you are spending a lot of money on a meal, you really want it to be a memorable experience and for me The Ledbury is up there with the greats”
“The Ledbury. Because”
You know something incredible is afoot when half of the Taste chefs polled declare the same venue is their favourite special occasion restaurant in London. Brett Graham opened The Ledbury in 2005 in a converted pub in an unassuming area of Ladbroke Grove, and has since climbed to the lofty heights of 2 Michelin stars and a perennial position within the top 30 (current ranking 27) of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards.
So what is it that makes The Ledbury so game changing? It’s probably best to start, as they do, with the impeccable British ingredients that form the core of The Ledbury’s ethos. Head Chef Brett Graham works closely with local suppliers to ensure that not only is the quality of the produce second to none, that dishes respect the integrity of the ingredients and are developed to allow its intrinsic qualities shine through.
Far from a fussy affair (don’t let the white tablecloths fool you), The Ledbury is foremost an exercise in the power of subtlety: from the unassuming exterior to the simply presented dishes. If you’re looking for showmanship over craftsmanship for your special occasion dinner in London, this might not be the restaurant for you. There are no elaborate garnishes or cascades of liquid nitrogen, just some of the most impeccable food you will taste in London right now.
Where to find it: 127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, W11 2AQ
“They have focused their attention on development, embracing the furious changes within the industry while continuing to carve out a unique space for contemporary Chinese cuisine”
Probably best known as the man behind the casual dining powerhouses Wagamama and Busaba Eathai, the crown jewel in Alan Yau’s restaurant empire is undoubtedly Hakkasan and its counterpart, Yauatcha. And it’s easy to see why. Before Hakkasan descended gracefully on Mayfair back in 2001, the average Londoner’s familiarity with Cantonese cooking was a word plopped in front of various dishes with little explanation on their local pan-Asian eatery.
With its sultry interiors, majestic space and array of opulent dishes, Hakkasan single-handedly transformed the reputation of Cantonese cooking in London. Head Chef Tong Chee Hwee’s skilful reinterpretation of classic Cantonese dishes, featuring locally sourced ingredients and forward-thinking presentation, very quickly led to a Michelin star and a reputation for attracting London’s mover and shakers, all desperate to try its infamous dim sum and signature roast silver cod with champagne and honey.
Fast forward 16 years and Hakkasan remains as consistently brilliant as its whirlwind opening years; and has spawned a whopping 12 sister restaurants across the globe. So if decadent dim sum washed down with a few of the capital’s best cocktails sounds like your idea of a perfect special occasion evening, Hakkasan have you covered, wherever you may be in the world.
Where to find it: 8 Hanway Place, W1T 1HD
“They give you the feeling that you are the most important person in the room and that’s quite special”
Despite being the most recent opening to grace our Taste chef’s guide to special occasion restaurants, you’d be forgiven for believing Margot to be something of a Covent Garden stalwart. With its gregarious waiters decked out in bow ties and dinner jackets, luxurious banquettes and gold flourishes, Margot has the feel of a restaurant that has stood the test of decades and come out swinging.
Once you’ve reconciled yourself to the fact that Margot is merely a year old, it’s time to settle in for a night of impeccable Italian cooking and some of the most affable service conceivable. For if ‘treated like royalty’ is top of your requirements list for a special occasion restaurant, Margot is the perfect location for you, as no question too silly, no demand too unreasonable and no conversation too banal to slip away from. Margot is a masterclass in service.
Onto the food, which by no means plays second fiddle. The menu draws inspiration from Italy’s diverse regions with a focus on quality, seasonal ingredients, and dishes hum with accomplishment. Dishes are seductively simple and pay homage to the classics, with the handmade pastas vying for show-stealing top spots alongside nostalgic desserts such as Limoncello baba or Tiramisu. If you want to be pampered in true old school fashion, both as guests and on the palate, go to Margot.
Where to find it: 45 Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, WC2B 5AA
“Typing Room has always been my go to for special occasions”
The Typing Room is our lone east-London special occasion restaurant, but by no means take that as an indication of inferiority. Far from it. Before arriving back in London to take up the helm, Head Chef Lee Wescott earnt his stripes at Tom Aikens in Mayfair, Per Se in New York and Noma in Copenhagen, so you can be sure the kitchen is in safe hands here.
Set in the impeccably renovated Town Hall Hotel, the open kitchen and Scandi touches of the restaurant itself strike the perfect balance of luxurious yet welcoming surrounds. And for a tasting menu with designs on a Michelin star, it comes in remarkably affordable at £65 per person. Whilst there are clear traces of inspiration from New Nordic cuisine across the menu, dishes are deeply rooted in British tradition, as humble ingredients such as gooseberries or trout are lovingly interrogated, remastered and delivered with exquisite precision. It is, in short, a 5-act love letter to the bounties of the British countryside. If you’re planning a special occasion with similar romanticism on your mind, The Typing Room will provide the perfect backdrop.
Where to find it: Town Hall Hotel, Patriot Square, E2 9NF
“It’s a very special restaurant with extremely high quality ingredients and the service is spot on”
As one of the most decorated chefs in the world, holder of 21 Michelin stars across his many restaurants, and the only chef in the world to have run three 3 Michelin-star restaurants at the same time, the outstanding culinary achievements of Alain Ducasse speak for themselves. His London flagship, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester doesn’t go light on the accolades either, holding all 3 possible Michelin stars since 2010
This is, undoubtedly, one special occasion restaurant to top all others. The surroundings are as extravagantly opulent as a fairy tale (there’s even a central table cloaked in fibre-optic curtains enabling you to see other diners whilst shielding you from sight), and each flourish of the meal is meticulously choreographed with operatic results.
Behind all this decadent beauty is a steadfast championing of seasonal British ingredients, sourced from only the very best suppliers and refined with French haute-cuisine flair. The signature of Sauté gourmand, lobster, truffled chicken quenelles and homemade pasta is the perfect poster-boy, elevating the humble chicken to hitherto unseen heights. Dining at this level does not come cheap, but if you have the budget – and the worthy special occasion – you can be sure one of the most memorable nights of your life is in store.
Where to find it: The Dorchester, Park Lane, W1K 1QA