Welcome to Notes, providing information and views about restaurants in and around London, past and present.

Splendid Spaces to Dine in Style

“The food is the only thing that matters” restaurant goers often carelessly say – but even for foodies it is not always true. Sometimes we want a restaurant to impress, to reassure or simply to lift the soul. Restaurant London has some splendid dining rooms, among them: The Berners Street Tavern is a joke name for a converted ballroom from the Gilded Age, today a bustling bar and restaurant beneath a high moulded plaster ceiling with 180 paintings looking down on diners from the soaring walls. Spring occupies a fine set of rooms in Somerset House with views over Waterloo Bridge from the high ceilinged main dining room, a room whose decoration manages to be both elegant and funky. Sketch, The Library is set in a grand square high-ceilinged ballroom of the late Georgian era in a house that served as Dior’s London home when that fashion house was in the meridian of its fame. The luxurious furnishings, the imposing space and the remarkable food make this the favourite restaurant of more than one of my foodie friends. Bibendum is Terence Conran ‘s design masterpiece – the great square room’s enormous windows display images in stained glass from the early decades of motoring as depicted in contemporary Michelin Guides – captivating as the setting sun streams shafts of colour through the space. The Wolseley in Piccadilly converted a fine art deco showroom into a swish restaurant imbued with modish elegance. The Louis XVI Room at the Ritz is a grand high-ceilinged oval dining room fit for Louis XVI’s great grandfather himself. Gavin La Chappel is a converted church, a gothic temple to the pleasures of the table. The Gilbert Scott occupies a soaring curved space in St Pancras Station.

Talking Points

Soho Dining Confidential is a collection of restaurants compiled by Will. It grew from frequent requests by friends and family to provide restaurant recommendations to Central London visitors. Will has eaten at all the restaurants. He is not sponsored by anyone and does not accept free meals or drinks. Soho Dining Confidential is purely a reflection of his personal tastes and preferences. Will lives near Cambridge Circus and dines out far too much. By way of amends for his dining indulgence he keeps Soho Dining Confidential as a structured list of the foodie haunts of Soho, Covent Garden and surrounding areas. Trusted dining friends provide second opinions and alert him to changes. The restaurants mainly focus on the wealth of Modern European dining in London with occasional visits to other continents. Soho Dining Confidential is a consequence of London’s glorious restaurant revolution. Starting circa 1990 London was transformed from a sorry desert into one of the great restaurant cities of the world. The latest twist of this revolution places a premium on creativity where plates of food are ‘designed for sharing’. Hushed dining temples, replete with linen and silver, where penguin-suited waiter-priests wield odd implements to pick up non-existent crumbs are best consigned to museums. Excellence today is frequently found in small restaurants that offer delicious, creative food in informal settings – no fuss, no linen and often not much elbow room. Many are relatively inexpensive, as good food goes, restaurants for foodies: vibrant, even boisterous, though mostly – blessedly – rock music free.