For a group booking it will be hard to beat this location, for either the glamour of the venue or the value for money.
When I went to The Park, it was with a group of 12 people, and we were choosing from an early evening set menu that included unlimited wine with the first two courses.
The food and the service were of the high standard you would expect from the Mandarin Oriental, but what really surprised us was the range of options. How many places do you know that do a set menu where 12 people can all have different desserts?.
On the down side, you do have the Mandarin bar next door, so anything you save on the food will most likely get spent on the fabulous cocktails.
You will however need to get in quick, before The Park disappears in the planned refurbishment to fit in Heston Blumenthals new London venture : see Foliage replacement – the Gossip.
We have been going to several of the restaurants in the Tas group for a good few years now. They are ideal venues for vegetarians as well, as the menu covers a number of interesting non meat dishes.
The first one Tas The Cut is still the best, followed by the Tas Borough High Street. The one in The Cut is very efficient and delivers good quality food. Ironically based on my experience you are more likely to spot a celebrity here, than at the Ivy – the Old and Young Vic Theatres are in the same street. On our last visit the actress Jenny Agutter was dining at the table next to ours.
The Tas group specialises in Anatolian cuisine, and also runs a couple of delicatessens.
They have a larger venue call EV located under the arches near Southwark Tube station. This is great on a summer evening for drinks or for a cheap night out with a large group, as is Tas Pide, which is right next to the Globe Theatre.
Bloomsbury, Covent Garden, Fitzrovia, Holborn, Marylebone, Mayfair, Seven Dials, Soho, St James and Westminster.
That is a pretty large area, so I am going to focus on the centre of the West End or Tourist Central, i.e., places around Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus. This is mainly because finding a decent restaurant or bar in this area is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack.
So here are recommendations, in no particular order.
Thai Square, Trafalgar Square – it’s not the best Thai restaurant in London by any means, but it is part of a reliable chain. (It has recently won an award to say it is the best – so judge for yourself). It is also a good location for larger groups.
Asia de Cuba, St Martins Lane Hotel – Very stylish and expensive venue, food is specifically designed for sharing, so ideal for groups of 4 or more.
The Mint Leaf, Piccadilly – a stylish, Modern Indian Restaurant and Bar. Good Pre Theatre venue.
5th View Bar & Food, Waterstones, Piccadilly – For a book store cafe, this place is great, it does good reasonably priced cocktails and the food is way better that you would expect (limited choice though). Nice selection of cakes – the carrot cake is particularly good.
The Wolseley, Piccadilly – European Style Brasserie, very popular, stunning room – great for people watching if you can get a table.
Atheneaum Hotel, Piccadilly – The restaurant focuses on British style food. The hotel also does a really good “Afternoon Tea” and has a bar that is both cosy and stylish (and expensive!).
There are several restaurants and bars in the Vinopolis complex. I have been to most of them, on more than one occasion. The Cantina Vinopolis in particular delivered much better food than I was expecting, and off course being where it is, it’s hard to beat the wine list. If you do the wine tour first you can normally find some of the wines from that on the wine list.
It’s a large room, so works well for groups.
The Blue Bar, situated next to Vinopolis is a relaxing venue. It has a good cocktail list and does a mean white wine Kir.
The Wine Wharf is a fairly conventional wine bar with an excellent wine list and good bar service.
The Brew Wharf is a livelier venue that is good for groups.
The complex also has the only Majestic Wine Shop I am aware off in London that lets you buy individual bottles rather than cases.
UPDATE : March 2010 – Vinopolis is not such a serious wine venue these days, seems to attract a lot of hen and stag parties. Majestic has also been replaced by Laithwaites.