There are a few restaurants so brilliant they’ve become undisputed classics of the London dining scene. This month we pay homage to the old favourites, including the might of traditional institutions such as The Savoy and The Wolseley to more unusual cult hits like Swiss restaurant and basement club St Moritz, or a fine dining restaurant housed within a block of flats – the Oslo Court Restaurant.
Established in 1990, the Chutney Mary is a pioneering Indian restaurant, the first to put refined Indian dining on London’s culinary map. The restaurant has just relocated to St. James’s in the West End, following 25 years in Chelsea. It’s owned by the Panjabi sisters, who also run Veeraswamy, Amaya, the Masala Zone group, and Masala Grill.
Rules was established by Thomas Rule in 1798 making it the oldest restaurant in London. It serves traditional British food, specialising in classic game from its own estate known as The Lartington Estate in the High Pennines. Rules has been frequented by Henry Irving and Laurence Olivier amongst others.
Famed as a haunt of Princess Diana, Daphne’s has been attracting the jet set for years. After a recent refurbishment by celebrated designer Martin Brudnizki, the restaurant, bar and conservatory (private room) are vibrant and inviting and have been designed with the colour palettes of Italy firmly in mind. Daphne’s appeal lies not only in its seasonal cooking, but also its natural warmth and effortless Italian charm.
The Gay Hussar has served national specialities and the finest Hungarian wines for over 50 years. The Hungarian restaurant is located in London’s ‘Theatreland’ in Soho. The restaurant’s unique decor and intimate environment have drawn the UK’s leading political figures, journalists, and artists alike.
A famous celebrity hangout of the 80s and 90s, Le Caprice is a classic St James’s restaurant, close to the Royal Academy, Burlington Arcade and Bond Street. The menu features classic British, European and American favourites and its timeless black and white interior is complemented by a collection of iconic photographs by David Bailey.
Originally a series of four Georgian town houses, Kettner’s was first opened as a restaurant in 1867 by Auguste Kettner, (chef to Napoleon III,). Kettner’s became infamous as the rendezvous of choice for deliciously colourful characters of the time, renowned for hosting incredibly risqué parties. Oscar Wilde dined at Kettner’s, and mentioned it as his venue of choice in his trial notes. Agatha Christie and Bing Crosby were also celebrated regulars. King Edward VII courted his mistress, Lillie Langtry and even ordered a secret tunnel to be built between Kettner’s and the Palace Theatre, where his mistress Lillie Langtry performed.
Proprietor Tony Sanchez has been running the Oslo Court Restaurant, which is hidden within a block of flats, for nearly thirty five years. A block of flats may seem an unlikely place for a successful restaurant today, but during the 1930s many such blocks were built with restaurants. Starting as a members club, and going through many stages, Oslo Court is one of the few remaining today.
Popular with celebrities, people from the arts and media and theatregoers, The Ivy is the Queen of restaurants. An acclaimed refurbishment in 1990 gave The Ivy its distinctive look – oak panelling, stained glass and site-specific commissions from leading contemporary artists – and recast it as the grand restaurant of its early-20th century heyday.
The original Boulestin restaurant was opened in 1927 in Covent Garden by French connoisseur and bon viveur, X. Marcel Boulestin, where it remained until 1994. M. Boulestin is often hailed as ‘the first TV chef’ and was a big character with immense food knowledge and a reputation for good taste. Restaurateur Joel Kissin had spent many years working with Sir Terence Conran and was responsible for launching world-renowned restaurants such as Bibendum, Quaglino’s and Le Pont de la Tour. He also opened Guastavino’s in New York, before becoming captivated by M. Boulestin and returning to London to find a site in which he could revive Boulestin’s ethos to dining.
The Wolseley was designed by architect William Curtis Green, and originally constructed in 1921 as a car showroom for Wolseley Motors. The Grade II* listed building then served as a branch of Barclays Bank between 1927 and 1999. The Wolseley reopened as an upscale European-style restaurant in 2003 after extensive renovation work by British restaurateurs Chris Corbin and Jeremy King.
Savoy Grill is without doubt one of London’s most legendary restaurants. Frequented by celebrated diners such as Sir Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde, Frank Sinatra and HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, the original seating plan has been brought back for its reopening. Designer Russell Sage took inspiration from the restaurant’s heyday, and original 1920’s Art Deco features have been restored. Head Chef Andy Cook oversees a menu that returns to the classic Escoffier-inspired grill rooms of old. Dishes include charcoal grilled Chateaubriand with pommes soufflés, king crab and prawn cocktail, lime and chocolate soufflé and iced Peach Melba.