Best restaurants for a party in London…
Tendril, Oxford Circus
Subtitled “a (mostly) vegan kitchen and bar”, chef Rishim Sachdeva’s cooking, which explores the creative possibilities of plant-based dining, has proved super-popular with vegans and omnivores alike, which makes for an always lively vibe, whether you’re sitting at the central bar watching each dish being plated or in the atmospheric dining room on either side. Book the six-course set festive dinner: after welcome margaritas in Tendril’s semi-private rear dining room, the menu plays out in sharing dishes of preserved fennel and aïoli or crispy potatoes and remoulade, then solo courses of smoked potato pie or burnt leeks and chive emulsion. Max group, 30 (52 full-hire), dinner menu £67pp.
Cây Tre, London
This year, Hieu Trung Bui’s pioneering Hoxton Vietnamese restaurant celebrates its 20th anniversary. Its festive sharing menu (also at Cây Tre Soho) includes dishes such as salt beef papaya salad, caul-fat wrapped roast ribeye, crispy sea bass in tamarind and braised duck leg with Indochina dragonplum sauce. £45pp; £20pp wine flight available.
The Laundry, London
A beautiful building with several dining spaces, this Brixton restaurant is a flexible feast. Groups of up to 12 can
eat from an all-day festive menu in the main dining room or on a heated terrace promising “hygge vibes” (mains from £19). Alternatively, like the larger parties in its private rooms, smaller groups can pre-book a set festive menu of sharing starters and individual mains, including cod Provençal or confit duck, parsnip purée, beetroot relish and orange salad. Festive menu, £35.
The Thomas Cubitt, London
A warren of handsome rooms that can accommodate eight to 80, this Georgian pub (one of Cubitt House’s eight upmarket London boozers) is a civilised redoubt of good wine, food and festive feels. Group chef-director, Ben Tish, runs a quality ship. Feasting menus include, for example, sharing platters of duck liver parfait, mulled pear and spiced milk buns; Norfolk Bronze turkey with trimmings including Middle White pork pigs-in-blankets; and organic salmon with fennel, braised cannellini and roasted chilli dressing. Feasting menus, groups eight+, from £68pp.
Arcade Battersea, London
New 500-capacity food hall at Battersea Power Station, featuring 13 cuisines. There is something for everyone in, for example, Tipan Tapan (Nepali street foods from ex-Fat Duck chef, Arjun Gurung); Sonora Taqueria’s Mexa; or Cantonese Siu Siu and its char siu iberico pork sandwich. Digital ordering to table allows you to easily mix dishes from across the kitchens. Groups of 12+ are advised to reserve and sharing menus, from £25pp, are offered for groups of 20+. Mains from around £10.
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As Christmas approaches, chef Stevie Parle’s fresh pasta joint gets festive. Boozy slushies are given yule twists (quince, prosecco and brandy; mulled wine), while its group menu for parties of eight to 14 – alongside starter and mains options such as aubergine caponata or sausage ragu with Sardinian-style malloreddus pasta – includes quiet, ingenious nods to the season, such as a sprout, chestnut and pancetta gnocchi. Group menu, £30pp.
Circolo Popolare and Gloria, Fitzrovia and Shoreditch
Part of the Big Mamma group of Italian trattorias, Circolo Popolare and Gloria are perfect for tribes who love their wine, a boisterous atmosphere and OTT food. Circolo Popolare’s largest table seats a dozen diners, while Gloria has the semi-private, candlelit Wine Room (which seats up to 20), stacked high with bottles of Italian wines, including classic vintage barolos from private collections, and The Basement, a hidden dining room with access to the open kitchen.
Gloria is deliciously kitsch, with a mirrored ceiling and luxurious Missoni carpet, there are semi-private booths or the whole space can be taken over by 70 diners. Order the likes of pizza with truffle, speck, fior di latte mozzarella and mushrooms, bulbous burratas and 5.9-inch-high lemon meringue pies.
The best restaurants cocoon you from the world. Hidden behind smart blinds in a historic warehouse, beneath the train tracks of Canary Wharf’s North Dock, Blacklock’s fifth London site is just such an escape. The VFM steak brand’s “all in” menu, which centres on sharing platters of its “skinny chops” – grass-fed British beef, pork and lamb chops, served on charcoal-grilled flatbreads – is great for groups up to 16. Interesting Harbour Brew Co beer and tap wine list. All in menu, £25pp.
Casa do Frango, London Bridge and Shoreditch
Both of these Portuguese chicken joints have buzzy bars to start your evening in, where cocktails have pleasing Portuguese twists – such as a dash of tawny port in a punchy old fashioned, or tropical Licor Beirão to lace the caipirinha-like Caipirão.
In the restaurants, long wooden tables provide great hosts for parties, and there’s a sharing vibe. Try a selection of petiscos (small plates) served in terracotta dishes – shell-on prawns slathered in a garlicky white wine piri piri sauce and deep-fried salgadinhos (empanadas stuffed with caramelised onion, kale and mushrooms). The main event is succulent chicken with crispy, sticky piri-piri skin and extra-hot piri-piri sauce on the side. Accompany with refreshing chopped salads of tomatoes, cucumber, onions and green peppers or African rice studded with tiny peas, plantain pieces and chorizo, with crisp chicken skin on top to add crunch. Leave room for a delicate, cinnamon-laced custard tart, fresh and warm from the oven.
Downstairs at Morito, Hoxton
A basement bar where, on Tuesdays, live music – from gritty rock ’n’ roll to neoclassical- influenced songwriters – is served alongside North African and Mediterranean plates of lamb chops with anchovy butter or sea bass with pilaf and cacik.
Decimo, King’s Cross
Come to the 10th floor of the Standard for Peter Sanchez-Iglesias’s hit Spanish-Mexican food (think chistorra sausage black bean tacos or Cornish lamb mole). Stay on Saturdays until 2am to explore the mezcal cocktail list as DJs spin into the night.
Chishuru, Oxford Circus
Adejoké Bakare’s restaurant retains the warmth of its supper club origins. Sink into the West African dishes of goat ayamase or ekuru bean cake with pumpkin seed pesto and scotch bonnet.
The roaring 20s may be long gone, but in this corner of Mayfair, Quaglino’s offers a contemporary take on Gatsby-style, late-night glamour. With its mezzanine bar and sweeping staircases, this is a huge art deco showstopper with a stage hung with red velvet drapes, where musicians and DJs play every night. At weekends, tables are cleared to create a dance floor and regular acts such as the all-female High On Heels and MKM Collective keep the party going until 3am.
Best restaurants for a party across the UK…
Church Street Tavern, Colchester
Owner Piers Baker (Sun Inn, White Hart) creates smooth, convivial Essex venues that serve reassuringly good food. This smart bar-restaurant’s Christmas menu (for groups six+), gives the classics a modish spin, in dishes such as beef sirloin and braised shin with onion and blue cheese yorkies, parsnips and duck fat roasties, or preserved lemon fishcake, saffron yogurt and dukkah. Christmas menu, £35/£42.
Yuzu @ Brew York, York
Brew York’s vast brewery tap is a veritable beer-vana. Resident kitchen Yuzu is a further draw with its on-point rice bowls and Korean fried chicken. Groups of 10+ can book ahead and go à la carte or opt for a festive sharing menu (£15pp, optional £5 beer flight) featuring pigs-in-blanket bao, turkey and stuffing gyoza and a mince pie bao-nut – yes, a bao-doughnut fusion! Mains from £9.50.
The White Horse, Churton, Cheshire
Gary Usher’s debut pub is a polished, clubbable space, equally suitable for a gathering of old friends, a huddle of young couples or a multi-gen family meet-up. Chef Josh Robbins’ set menu (groups of eight+) marries creative meat-free mains, such as roast cauliflower with sumac butter bean mash and a green chilli and salted lemon dressing, with sharply executed classics like chicken liver pâté, crème brûlée and pork and apricot-stuffed turkey. Festive menu, £32/£42.
Madre, Manchester and Liverpool
Liverpool gets the soaring seven-metre-tall Christmas tree, Manchester has the slick, nightclub-adjacent styling. Both Madres share a bustling, vivacious energy perfect for a crowd. The festive sharing menu (groups six+) showcases various starters and tacos, including the stand-out birria beef shin version, with its sensational dipping broth. Christmas taco fillings include adobo-marinated turkey and cranberry, and roast brussels sprouts, peanut miso and salsa negra. Festive menu, £35/£40.
The Tivoli, Cambridge
With its street food (Levels’ 14-inch square pizzas, Steak & Honor’s renowned burgers), covered roof terrace and indoor games – including neon-lit crazy golf course, Electric Greens – this four-floor former cinema has it all. Eat in the Assembly Hall or book group packages that add in activities. A festive feasting menu is offered (£25pp, groups 30+) for those who, understandably, can’t live without pigs-in-blankets. Mains from £9.50.
Picture House Social, Sheffield
Occupying a former 1920s ballroom, this basement bar-kitchen rolls until 3am at weekends. Book a booth (12 seated) and explore its menu of Neapolitan-style pizzas, topped with classics like ’nduja and fennel sausage, and innovative combos such as BBQ lamb, red onion, pickles and mustard mayo. Not that the thrills here are purely pizza-based. The venue also boasts a mini-cinema/karaoke space and games rooms (table tennis, table football, shuffleboard shack), various aspects of which you can book for private groups or drop into ad hoc. Pizza from £8.
House of Fu, Leeds
With its frozen yuzu margaritas and upper-floor karaoke rooms, HoF has your party needs covered. Groups of up to 10 can eat from the East Asian-inspired main menu – think shiitake and kale gyoza, or spicy pork and chicken tantanmen ramen – with larger parties offered various set menus, from £22.50. A new Fu in Manchester has its own feasting menus (from £40), including dishes such as sea bream carpaccio and Szechuan lamb shoulder. Mains from £13.
Not only does Exhibition unite three of the north’s finest talents (southern Italian pasta kitchen, Sud; Basque-inspired aces, Baratxuri; and Scandi-influenced Osma), in one venue, across one menu. But after dinner, the bar in this chic, open-plan space ramps up with DJs and ace cocktails until late at weekends. A sharing menu of dishes from the three kitchens is available for parties of eight+ (£49, vegan six-course, £40). Larger plates from around £10.
Thor’s Tipi, York
This Parliament Street pop-up aims to provide a rolling party through December for bar hoppers, exhausted shoppers, friends and families. Expect DJs spinning Christmas and chart classics, plus eclectic live music on Sundays. York’s East Asian street food specialist, Yuzu, will serve karaage fried chicken (a popular festive food in Japan), katsu dishes and knock-out bao, while the bar delivers frozen slushy cocktails, such as the Frosty (salted caramel vodka, hazelnut liqueur and chocolate milk). In the Principal Hotel gardens, a second Thor’s will operate as an alpine dining hall for groups, with Yuzu serving sharing platters of gyoza, loaded duck fries and miso caramel wings on converted snowboards (£21pp).
Albert’s Schloss, Birmingham
This Bavarian beer hall, reimagined for modern Britain, has been a runaway hit in Manchester. Now it’s bringing its unpasteurised, tank-fresh Pilsner Urquell, homemade schnapps, live music and DJs to a new 500-capacity Birmingham venue. Expect crowds to flock this festive season for plates of chicken schnitzel, wild mushroom spätzle or schweinshaxe – roast pork knuckle with red cabbage. Elsewhere, the menu includes enduring classics (think coquilles St Jacques, steaks and burgers) and a Christmas menu is available, too (£40pp).
Escape to Freight Island, Manchester
Part food hall, part music festival, part 21st-century cabaret, this vast indoor-outdoor space is an all-singing, all-feasting extravaganza – one where you can dance off Madre’s tacos, Baratxuri’s Basque cooking and Mi & Pho’s glittering Vietnamese dishes to DJ sets from regulars such as Paulette and Crazy P. The programme at this “enchanted festive wonderland” includes candlelit concerts, community choir sessions, festive food and wreath-making classes, as well as cinema screenings of seasonal favourites such as Elf. Order a cocktail from The Jane Eyre or a peerless pint from brewery Pomona Island’s tap room and strap in: Christmas starts here.
Bundobust, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool
The beer-hall-style layouts of Bundobust make it perfect for larger parties, allowing everybody to sit together on the communal benches. The serving style is also ideal, with small dishes of Indian street food designed for sharing. Go for the Bundo Combo, which includes every dish on the menu – including bhel puri, bundo chaat and massala dosa – for £82.50 and feeds six to eight.
Everything is vegetarian, with more than half of the menu vegan, and there are plenty of gluten-free options, too. With 16 beers on tap and an extensive range of beers in the fridge, cocktails and mocktails, there’s something for everybody.
With a roof terrace overlooking the city centre, Bambalan has become a go-to venue for Bristolians looking to host a large party. There is space for up to 250 guests indoors but the capacity extends to around 400 when using the three outdoor terrace spaces, which also include a DJ booth and ping pong tables. Food-wise, expect punchy Middle Eastern-inspired flavours, including imam bayildi (charcoal-roasted aubergine with spiced tomato sauce, feta, tahini, rice pilaf and fattoush).
Honeycomb & Co, Edinburgh
Since opening in May 2017, Honeycomb & Co has built a reputation as relaxed neighbourhood spot with cracking food. The restaurant is available for private hire every day from 7pm, whether it’s for cocktail parties or seated dinners. The restaurant has a flexible layout which allows larger groups of up to 42 people to be seated, or 60 standing.
A typical three-course dinner menu begins with Edinburgh Gin-cured salmon, pickled cucumber, whipped horseradish and preserved lemon cream, followed by heather-honey-and-ginger-spiced slow-roasted pork belly with pickled cauliflower, pak choi, roasted squash and miso gravy. To finish, there’s fig and pear ‘mess’ – roasted figs, poached pears and honey cream with brown sugar meringue and pistachio brittle.
Hare & Hounds, Aberthin, Vale of Glamorgan
Run by ex-St John chef Tom Watts-Jones and his wife, Sarah, this picturesque Welsh village pub has an 18-seat private dining room and often hosts large parties and wedding receptions. Tom and his chefs can write a three-course à la carte menu in advance or tables can request sharing dishes, such as braised lamb shoulder or steak and ale pie to have along the centre of the large table.
For very large parties, the team can put a marquee in the garden and serve buffets of cold meats, fish and salads, host a BBQ or a roast suckling pig.
Freemasons, Wiswell, Lancashire
Award-winning Ribble Valley pub Freemasons has recently launched its “Mr Smith’s” chef’s table for private parties. With seating for six to 12 people, the space can be tailored to suit the party – whether you want to watch sport on the big screen, put on your own music playlist or just sit comfortably with some great food. You can choose from a variety of menus, such as Sunday lunch or a bespoke tasting menu with wine flight: you can even book it for a breakfast.
The rest of the pub also has a number of other private dining areas. Don’t expect a compromise on the food though – with this flexibility this is one of the best gastropubs in the country, with an impressive menu with the likes of slow-cooked shoulder and kofta of Herdwick lamb with aubergine and miso purée, and rice pudding with poached English bilberries.
Bar Esca, Nottingham
For larger events of up to 100, Nottingham’s Bar Esca has Cellar 9, a private-hire space with its own bar. Designed around Barcelona’s backstreet bars, the atmospheric, low-lit cellar features Picasso-style graffiti on the back wall and often has live music. Food is the ultimate drinking fodder – think chorizo hot dogs, halloumi fritters, Catalan-style flatbreads, croquettes and chicken fillet skewers with a roasted sesame dip.
Work your way through the bar, or stick to the seven types of made-to-order sangria. There’s also a full vegan or vegetarian party menu on offer, too.
The Hut, Colwell Bay, Isle of Wight
A beachside restaurant with stunning views across the bay and the Solent, The Hut offers private dining on the 26-cover Top Deck. Whether guests arrive by road or boat, they are protected from the elements by heaters and a retractable roof. A typical meal might include fish soup, smoked haddock fish cake with spinach and beurre blanc, or grilled chicken and fries.
With its stunning rooftop views across Leeds and excellent food, Crafthouse is one of the city’s undisputed hot spots and tailor-made for large parties with its open-plan restaurant, interconnected bar and terrace. It also has a 20-seat private dining room with glazed walls on two sides enabling diners to enjoy those panoramic views, and the terrace can be used for private BBQs with bespoke menus created by the chefs.
Choose from the modern British menu, with the likes of braised pork cheeks with celeriac and pickled apple, and pigeon with puy lentils and bourginon sauce up for grabs in recent months.
The Birmingham branch of this fast-growing Indian street-food chain has a 14-seat private dining room in the middle of the restaurant. If there’s a big gang of you, ask for the sharing menu (at £19.50 a head), which provides a spread of dishes from across the menu including the signature yogurt chat bombs, fenugreek fries and Himalayan cheese toast, followed by a tiffin roulette which gives a taste of three different curries served with rice.
Wild Artichokes, Kingsbridge, Devon
A small industrial space might not scream party venue but Wild Artichokes, from chef and food writer Jane Baxter (who trained under Joyce Molyneux, has worked at River Café, and set up the Riverford Field Kitchen) and event organiser Samantha Miller, knows how to have a good time. Its unusual location offers up a unique dining experience – four big tables with benches, food to share and a view of the open-plan kitchen. The venue can seat 32 comfortably or up to 40 cosily.
Jane and her team create a set sharing menu each night, with a selection of fish, veggie and meat antipasti to start, then usually one or two cuts of meat, lots of seasonal vegetable dishes and traditional puddings to share.
Sam says: “This way, there’s no need to worry about sending menus around for guests to make choices – you just turn up on the night and eat.” The venue isn’t licensed for alcohol but guests can bring wine, with a corkage fee of £5 per bottle.
The Fox & Hounds, Hunsdon, Hertfordshire
James and Bianca Rix’s village pub has a huge dining room, garden and terrace, all of which can be used for parties. The light, high-ceilinged dining room can seat up to 45 for a sit-down meal over three long tables, and the kitchen can also cater for canapé parties and buffets. The whole pub can also be hired out for larger parties such as weddings and special birthdays, catering for up to 100 guests.
Head chef James works closely with customers to develop a bespoke menu according to individual preferences, occasions and the season. This might mean set menus, à la carte options and sharing dishes for tables, along with specials such as seafood platters and large joints of meat cooked in the Josper charcoal oven.
Scallop Shell, Bath
This upmarket, family-friendly fish restaurant in central Bath can accommodate up to 40 people in its upstairs restaurant space and serves a special menu for large groups.
Start with Elberry Bay mussels, shallots, garlic and parsley before moving on to cod loin, chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce, or English smoked salmon fishcakes. Make sure you leave room for the classic sherry trifle (or old-fashioned steamed plum pudding with brandy custard, if it’s near Christmas).
This gastropub has converted the old skittles alley into a 30-seat private dining room available for party hire. Heathcock also offers a corporate package on weekday lunches where work groups/ meetings can have the private dining room for a half day/full day, along with a two- or three-course lunch featuring its robust, modern British pub grub – steak and ale pie for two to share, braised duck leg pappardelle, or hanger steak with pommes anna. Far more interesting than a pile of sad-looking sandwiches in the office boardroom.
The Whippet & Pickle, Holmfirth
A busy independent restaurant in the heart of West Yorkshire, The Whippet & Pickle is a popular party venue thanks to its private dining room and 20-seat cinema. Large groups with something to celebrate tend to have a restaurant meal followed by their choice of film. The restaurant even provides popcorn and lets you take your wine in.
Go for Korean duck tacos with kimchi slaw and sesame mayo for starters, followed by chipotle and maple-glazed pork belly, with smoked corn and pepper salsa, and mac ’n’ cheese.
Established in 1993, Exeter veteran Harry’s has hosted many parties over the years and large groups can either host a table in the main restaurant or take over the private dining/function room. Depending on the party size, Harry’s offers an à la carte choice or a special parties and events menu that will appeal to crowds – from steaks, burgers and chillies to Devon crab linguine, and salmon and watercress fishcakes. You can even work with the team on a bespoke menu, including sharing plates and wine flights.
The Sheppey, near Glastonbury
This unusually cool rural pub delivers great food (beer-battered fish and chips, and chicory and smoked Wedmore cheese tart) and cracking music events. Every Thursday and Friday in December, the early tables will be cleared to create a dance floor for DJ Lath’s Soul Shack.
The One O’Clock Gun, Liverpool
From the makers of Levantine restaurant group Maray, this Albert Dock pub serves Great North pies, good beer and winning toasties, such as the festive cheese with pulled turkey, sage, onions and gravy. DJs and live music boost the mood.
Dockyard Social, Glasgow
A West End street food event where DJs and food traders – such as Neapolitan-style Pizza B Goode, Yalla (don’t miss the whole roasted cauli) and Thai kitchen Noi’s – keep things bubbling.
Oli’s Thai, Oxford
Ladd Thurston’s exceptional Thai cooking means tiny Oli’s is often fully booked. But it does hold five counter seats for walk-ins. Arrive early or try sister tapas venue, Arbequina (arbequina.co.uk).
Angela’s of Margate, Kent
Due to its size (the largest table seats eight), this seafood restaurant avoids the Christmas party rush. Nods to the season (mulled white wine, for example) accompany classy plates of, say, lemon sole with green sauce.
A cosy Canton spin-off of Dusty’s Pizza, where you can enjoy seasonal small plates (deep-fried camembert with fig mostarda and sirloin with walnut romesco) and natty wines.
The Dining Room, Abersoch
Chef Si Toft’s 22-cover restaurant acknowledges Christmas (with seasonal cocktails and a set menu for groups) but generally sticks to what the regulars love: plates of, for instance, ox cheek, black kale, pickled carrot and mushroom ketchup.
The odd Mariah Carey track aside, it’s business as usual in this minimalist Ancoats space. Expect stellar small plates (those fried potatoes, that yeast sauce!) and exciting natural wines.
The Sun Inn, Dedham, Essex
Instead of turkey and other festive clichés, this 16th-century coaching inn offers larger groups sharing feasts of, for example, luxury fish pie or chateaubriand.
Discerning office parties visit Röski but
Anton Piotrowski’s restaurant retains a refined and relaxed air as he weaves technically accomplished magic with plates of quail kiev and caviar or red cabbage ‘bolognese’.
Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds
As its name suggests, Belgrave is primarily a loud, lively late-night bar and gig space, but food has always been at the heart of this hip, multi-storey operation. Its monthly street-food festival has launched celebrated Yorkshire names such as Bundobust and Harrogate’s Stuzzi, and Belgrave’s main bar is the permanent home of two of Leeds’ hottest street-food slingers: Patty Smith’s burgers and Dough Boys pizza.
Just outside the city centre, hidden among the artists’ workshops, galleries and creative spaces that are slowly transforming industrial Ouseburn, Ernest is a friendly, boho café-bar where affordable, locally-sourced food gives way, after 9pm, to boozy nights of comedy, anarchic ‘disco ping pong’ and dance-music. Most of that noisier action is kept in a back room, leaving diners and drinkers free to kick back in the quirkily decorated café, with its mirror balls and impressive collection of Star Wars figures. While it uses vegetables from Byker Community Farm and meats from traditional Northumbrian butchers, chef Richard Phillipson’s menu is global in its outlook.
Words by Mark Taylor and Tony Naylor
Photographs by Jerome Galland, Lateef Okunnu, Joann Pai, Bacon on the Beech, Paolo Ferla
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