Inside Tips on Getting Best Tables at London’s Top Restaurants

Chefs work in the kitchen of Roka
Chefs work in the kitchen at Roka in central London, Aug. 30, 2007. Photographer: Will Wintercross/Bloomberg News

Telephone a restaurant requesting a good table and you may be told that all are excellent, only to be seated in an undesirable location known to insiders as Siberia. Call a hot venue and you’ll be lucky even to get in.

One way to improve your chances of obtaining a reservation is to announce yourself -- “This is X X” -- before specifying the time you want. (The reservations clerk may be confused into thinking you are a regular or a celebrity.) As for where you sit, it helps to know the numbers of the good tables.

Here’s a guide to London’s best.

Angelus: “Table 7. It’s a round table in the corner of the banquette and gives the best view of the restaurant. In warm weather any of the outside tables.” Thierry Tomasin, owner.

L’Anima: “Table 19 is best but it’s going because we’re building an extension. I’d pick the mezzanine, which is intimate but you get all the vibe.” Francesco Mazzei, chef-patron.

Arbutus: “Corner table 3 is most popular, as you can sit next to each other while looking into the restaurant. Table 19, by the window, is also highly requested.” Will Smith, co-owner.

Benares: “The best is 24 because it’s in the corner so you can sit side by side and have a view of the whole restaurant. Table 17 is similar.” Atul Kochhar, chef-patron.

Bistrot Bruno Loubet: “Tables 6 and 7 are best because they are by the window, with a beautiful view, and you also have a view to the kitchen and the restaurant.” Bruno Loubet, chef-patron.

Blueprint Cafe: “Table 10 is my favorite. It’s far enough from the windows that only the river and the skies are visible and it faces toward Tower Bridge and the City. It’s almost tucked away, which is rather wonderful.” Jeremy Lee, chef.

Le Caprice: The power positions include the wall tables at the far end of the bar. Princess Diana used an alcove on the left, beyond the stairs. For two, sit at the bar itself. (The Caprice group declined to comment for this survey; the entries for Le Caprice, the Ivy, J. Sheekey and Scott’s are mine.)

Fino: “Table 21 is undoubtedly our best. It is a corner table with a very comfortable banquette on each side. It commands views of the whole restaurant but is protected as well.” Sam Hart, co-owner.

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe: “Table 4, which is a corner table for two at the front, next to the windows, and allows both guests to enjoy the banquette seating.” Jeff Galvin, co-owner.

Galvin La Chapelle: “Table 111, which is a round table for three people, with direct views into the kitchen.” Chris Galvin, co-owner.

Le Gavroche: “We have eight top tables: 1 and 2, 15 and 16, 12 and 12a and 21 and 22. That’s because we had a good designer and Albert (Roux) told him what he wanted.” Silvano Giraldin, director.

Goodman: “We get a lot of requests for table 50. It’s set in an alcove so there’s no one behind you or beside you and it seats up to seven.” David Strauss, general manager.

Gordon Ramsay: “Tables 7 and 8 are the favorites. They can both seat four, are by the window and have a view across the whole restaurant. Because those tables are in the corner, they are very secluded.” Jean-Claude Breton, Maitre D’.

Greenhouse: “Table 11 is the perfect position. It isn’t too close to the kitchen or the entrance, but has a very good view of the restaurant, out to the beautiful garden walkway.” Jean-Marie Miorada, manager.

Helene Darroze at the Connaught: “Table 8. It’s a table for two in the corner by the window. It feels nice and private but still gives a bit of a buzz.” Helene Darroze, chef-patron.

Hibiscus: “Table 11 because it is nice and discreet, in the corner, and has an excellent view onto what is going on in the restaurant.” Claude Bosi, chef-patron.

Hix: “People like the corner table by the window, table 25. It’s got a view across the room. It’s not my favorite. In my own restaurants, I hate to be seated at a prominent table.” Mark Hix, owner.

The Ivy: The power tables are corner banquettes 6, 16, 11 and 21, with 16 for triple A-listers. Fernando Pierre, director, said: “I agree with you about those tables. It would, however, be rare for us to seat people there simply because they requested it. Also, they are tables for three or four. The best twos might be the round tables on the left, tables 2-5.”

J. Sheekey: The more important you are, the deeper into the restaurant you are seated. Room 4, at the back, is the power room. Sit out front and you are probably a tourist.

Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley: “Table 7, which is along the wall in the center of the window. It allows a view of the whole room but also gives an element of discretion.” Marcus Wareing, chef-patron.

Murano: “Table 14 is a top choice: It’s next to the window and can seat five people, one of the bigger tables in the restaurant.” Angela Hartnett, chef-patron.

Nobu: Table 4 is the most requested. It’s a corner where you sit on a banquette and can look out to Hyde Park or watch everyone coming and going in the restaurant, according to Mark Edwards, Nobu’s executive chef.

Petrus: “Table 5 -- which seats six -- is good because it’s closed off in a corner and is very discreet. Other people like to be seen and to see the whole restaurant. Table 10 is good for that.” Jean-Philippe Susilovic, director.

Pied a Terre: “The two most popular are 10 -- a really intimate table for two -- and table 1, which seats four to six and gives a great view of the restaurant.” David Moore, owner.

Polpo: “The most requested are 32, by the window, and 22, a high-top right at the back, where you can look down on everyone. The best seats are at the end of the bar, by the window, but you can’t request those.” Russell Norman, owner.

Quo Vadis: “The tables along the window are always favorites: 4, 8, 9, 17, 18. But there is also a certain customer who prefers the security of 23 or 24 and for real privacy the snug tables of S1 and S2.” Eddie Hart, Owner.

Racine: “Table 38. It’s a window seat. It’s best to watch the Beau Monde of Knightsbridge and gives a great view of the restaurant, too. Also, secluded Table 45 for two.” Henry Harris, chef-patron.

Roast: “Regulars and VIPs get to sit at my table, 34, if I’m not there and they know they have the boss’s table. You can also impress your guests by booking Table 35, where the profits always go to charity.” Iqbal Wahhab, owner.

Roka: “In Canary Wharf, table 12 is a low table in the cocktail lounge overlooking the green and all the modern architecture. In Charlotte Street, table 90 or any of the terrace tables.” Nic Watt, executive chef.

Sanctum Soho: “ I always pick the corner booth, Table 2, as I can see the room and breathe in the activities of the day. I also think no one can see me.” Mark Fuller, owner.

Scott’s: The power tables are the semi-circular banquettes against the wall at the far end of the bar, and in the corner at the back. (I saw Elton John there once.) Whether you sit in the front or back room is a matter of choice, not status.

The Square: “Table 20 gives a secluded view of the entire room from the back corner; 30 and 43 are the two corner tables in the front of the restaurant; 32 has a view across the room.” Philip Howard, chef-patron.

Terroirs: “Table 4 is popular. It has a wonderful old leather banquette from the Mirabelle, you can sit with a glass of cloudy red and watch the world go by.” Oli Barker, partner.

Texture: “Table 17 is best. It’s in the corner and quite secluded and quiet, but you get a great view of the wine rack and the pastry and cold-starter station.” Aggi Sverrisson, chef-patron.

Tom Aikens: “If there are four of you, 3 and 8 are good because they’re both corner tables so you can see the whole room. For two, I’d say 9, 10 or 14.” Tom Aikens, chef-patron.

Wild Honey: “The booths (tables 19-22) are the best. You can enjoy the atmosphere of the restaurant while still having the privacy of a booth.” Will Smith, owner.

The Wolseley: “I’m afraid I could never tell you that, sorry.” Jeremy King, owner.

Zuma: “Table 20 is best only because you’re close enough to the bar that you can get the vibe without being in the bar and you get a complete overview of the dining room without being scrutinized yourself.” Christina Ronsyn, general manager.

(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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