Jul 11, 2013

From Bermondsey To London’s Oldest Restaurant With Two Private Rooms

Little did I know when I planned to visit venues in London on Tuesday that it would be one of the hottest days of the year. And, boy, was it hot walking around town!

The trip started with a visit to Zucca in Bermondsey. It was good to meet with Hayley Try, the General Manager, who showed me around this extremely cool south east London eaterie run by Chef Patron Sam Harris. The menu is a contemporary take on traditional Italian with the four main constituent parts of antipasti, pasta, secondi (main course) and dessert. Sam’s background includes working at The River Cafe and this pedigree is evident in the cuisine and elegance of Zucca. The private dining room is located at the rear of the restaurant and can comfortably seat up to 10 guests. The private room has natural light and, if requested, can effectively double up as a chef’s table with the buzz of the private kitchen visible through a glass partition. Hayley is no slouch herself having previously been Restaurant Manager at Bethnal Green’s acclaimed Viajante as well as a stint at The Ledbury. Zucca is a magnet for discerning local foodies and is also only a 5 – 10 minute hop in a cab, over Tower Bridge, from the City. City PAs looking for a corporate private dinner venue for up to 10 would be well advised to throw caution to the wind and make a date at Zucca as it is a jewel. If you don’t believe me, here’s what Jay Rayner had to say a few years back …read more

My next appointment was in the City and – the weather being so gloriously Mediterranean – I decided to brave the heat & transport myself there by Shanks’ Pony. And very glad I was that I did for several reasons. Before I visited Bermondsey I imagined it to be a pretty grim, run down, sort of place full of rapscallions. How wrong I was as I soon came to realise that it’s an uber cool part of London with a vibrant and diverse mix of people bustling amongst its shabby chic streets. Having left Zucca and whilst strolling north up Bermondsey Street I noticed arty shops, a barrister’s practice and a couple of other venues in this single street with private function rooms which caught my eye.

First up, on the right I saw The Garrison which is a gastropub with a private room – The Cinema Room – that can seat up to 25 and also has a kind of chef’s table – The High Kitchen Table – seating up to 10 diners. It was bright and airy with a good menu & the usual funky mix of mis-matched chairs around wooden tables.

A couple of minutes further up Bermondsey Street on the left I came across The Hide Bar where a very friendly member of staff showed me the private event space at the rear of the venue which can seat up to 70 for a private dinner and has its own bar.

Having reached the top of Bermondsey Street and wandered along a few delightfully Dickensian streets and under the arches the Thames waterfront loomed. What a vista with The Gherkin, Tower 42 and Heron Tower et al immediately ahead, Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf to my right and St. Paul’s & The Post Office Tower on my left.

A slow walk over Tower Bridge, dodging the multitude of camera toting tourists followed by a leisurely saunter through the east side of The City, crossing Bishopsgate, towards Broadgate to Snowden Street, home to acclaimed Michelin award-winning L’Anima. Run by Francesco Mazzei, Co-Owner / Chef Patron and formerly of Franco’s in St. James’s,

L’Anima sits on the faultline where The City meets Shoreditch. A most stylish restaurant with limestone clad walls and high ceilings, the venue has a couple of private rooms at the back with The Wine Cellar –  an intimate room with wine racks on the walls – seating up to 7 and the larger Private Dining Room seating up to 15. The main restaurant is naturally sun lit and has a real buzz about it, as you might expect from its location and Francesco’s reputation. I met with Jenny MacLean Of Coll who, despite her wonderful Inner Hebrides surname, is actually German – not that you would ever guess from her impeccable diction. Jenny passed on a little secret that I am now going to share which is … wait for it … L’Anima are serving a set lunch in the bar with 2 courses for £16.50 or – if you’re really hungry – 3 courses for £19.50 including a glass of house wine. If you’re looking for an affordable spot of lunch in The City at an acclaimed restaurateur’s venue … you know where to go!

From The City to Covent Garden, via tube to Holborn followed by a brisk stroll over busy Kingsway, round the back of The Royal Opera House & through the south side of Covent Garden to visit London’s oldest restaurant, Rules.

How to describe Rules? Well, it really is the oldest eaterie in London, located on Maiden Lane and dating back to 1798. The restaurant itself is old school, serving traditional British food with game supplied from the restaurant’s own Scottish estate. Its walls are adorned with old paintings and cartoons of such notables as Sir Winston Churchill and, round the corner, in the left side of the main restaurant a mural of Baroness Thatcher in her Falklands pomp. The restaurant has a delightful gentleman’s club / cigar box feel to it. I met with Nancy Moukhtar, Private Dining Rooms Sales & Marketing Manager, who also took me up several flights of stairs to the restaurant’s two private dining rooms which are similarly steeped in history. First off, The John Betjeman Room – named after the former Poet Laureate who was a regular at Rules and actively petitioned against the proposed demolition of the restaurant in the early 70’s at the time of the Covent Garden redevelopment. The room seats up to 8 and has delightful cartoons and photographs of JB as well as framed signatories to the petition.  Nancy then showed me The Graham Greene Room which seats up to 16 guests around a long table. Named in memory of the great British writer who, although he lived on the South Of France, always returned to dine at Rules on his birthday. Letters and photographs of the great man adorn the walls and at the end of the room is the bar from the 50’s film set of Our Man In Havana..