London’s Best Tables May Offer Glimpse of Dining CelebritiesRichard Vines
The joy of getting a table at a fashionable restaurant may be diminished if you find yourself sitting near the washrooms or jammed in the middle of a row.
Just about every popular London establishment has favored locations where celebrities are seated. While the rest of us are unlikely to get them just by asking, we can try. Here’s a new list of best tables, updating a survey I conducted in 2010.
Ape & Bird: Go upstairs to tables 50 and 51, below the mural on the right. P.J. Harvey and Stephen Merchant are among the celebrities who have been spotted sitting there. On the ground floor, table 2, by the far wall, is in the thick of things, yet not in a thoroughfare. It’s a big, solid table for six. I dined there with Mick Hucknall. The Simply Red singer owns a wine estate in Sicily and is into food.
Berners Tavern: The two corner tables (8 and 22) at the end of the room near the kitchen are popular with couples. This restaurant in the London Edition hotel is celebrity central, with George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, Helen Mirren, Uma Thurman and Oprah Winfrey among those showing up.
Brasserie Chavot: Halfway down the room on the left, there is a banquette for two guests, table 10 that is popular. I ate there with actor and restaurateur Neil Stuke.
Cafe Murano: My favorite place to sit is at the bar, from which I spotted Jeremy Paxman dining. A friend saw Prince Andrew and Princess Beatrice sitting together with no fuss.
Casse-Croute: Table 8 at this French restaurant in Bermondsey is best: It’s in a corner by the window. Table 1 in the far right-hand corner as you enter is also popular, even though it’s near the washroom.
Coya: Ask for table 50: You can see the whole of the of the Mayfair Peruvian restaurant, the open kitchen and the wine corridor. Table 15 is good for a large group of friends and family: It’s an oval table where you can get together.
Duck & Waffle: All the tables have a great view from the top of the Heron Tower. Table 63 may be the best: It’s a banquette that can seat six. It faces east so guests can watch the sun rise or set over Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge and the Gherkin. Duck & Waffle is a celebrity hotspot and has been visited by Will Smith, Ashton Kutcher, Gwyneth Paltrow, Liam Gallagher and Keira Knightley.
Foxlow: Table 27 is a great table for two: it’s in the corner and great for people-watching in this Clerkenwell neighborhood joint. Table 44 is quieter. Or, if you are a group, 44 and other tables can be pulled together, as happened for another dinner with Hucknall.
Grain Store: Table 40 seats three to four people and has the best view into the kitchen if you like to be at the heart of the action. Celebrities include Gordon Ramsay and the New York restaurateur Danny Meyer.
Gymkhana: Table 15 downstairs is in a corner spot that offers some privacy. It’s where Nigella Lawson was seen dining with Salman Rushdie. Or you can push together tables 16 and 17 for a group, which is what happened when I invited chefs Anthony Bourdain and Ludo Lefebvre there. There is also a discreet private room, table 20. On the ground floor, tables 1 and 3 are in demand: They occupy the corners near the window.
Hand & Flowers: Tables 6 and 7 by the windows are popular tables for two. If you don’t want to be seen, B2 (in the bar) is better as it is in a nook. Table 11 is another booth. For groups, B4 is good. George Clooney and Tom Jones have been spotted at this two-Michelin-star pub in Marlow over the years.
Hawksmoor Air Street: The best seats are at the corner banquettes (tables 53 and 56) as they are in the thick of it and good for people-watching. Tables 34 and 71 by the windows are also popular. If you want a quiet booth for privacy without having to walk the length of the restaurant: 23, 24 and 25 are fine. Jon Hamm of Mad Men was seen in one of these.
House of Ho: Table 14 is a great table for two in the window. You can watch all the action on Old Compton Street. Guests spotted in this Vietnamese restaurant include Sheryl Crow and Paloma Faith.
Hutong: This Chinese restaurant in the Shard is divided into two dining rooms: Beijing and Shanghai. The main dining room (where most people would prefer to sit) is Beijing. The window tables are in the 10s and 50s but they are allocated on the night. To be sure of a good window table, you can book the star private dining room, Beijing 1.
Little Social: When booking, ask for the window table or any of the booths at the front: 3, 4 or 5. The tables at the back are to be avoided unless you enjoy intimacy with strangers. (Except for 50, which is semi-private.) I ran into Jools Holland. He asked if I owned the place. Sadly, I don’t.
Oblix: While the window seats are most in demand, VIPs may get table 1 in the corner, which is a bit secluded and offers views in two directions. The seats at the counter near the kitchen are also good, offering a direct view of St Paul’s.
Pollen Street Social: Diners in groups ask for table 1, in the bar. It can seat eight and it’s buzzy. (I dislike dining in groups almost as much as I dislike dinner parties, so I can’t vouch for this table.) Couples tend to prefer table 19, near the window.
Polpetto: Table 30, the round table for four in the window, has a great view out onto Berwick Street and you are also by the door, so you can see who is coming in and out of the restaurant. It’s already popular with celebrities such as the actor Jason Statham. The other great one is 12: It’s a booth that is semi-private, yet with a great view. Look into the room and it looks like the money table. For two people, 9 and 10 are booths.
Pont Street: The booth that is table 5 is best for a private meal as other diners can’t see you. The booths at 6 and 7 are also good and offer a view of the whole restaurant. Table 1 lets you see all the comings and goings. Many celebrities -- including model Cara Delevingne -- have been sighted, perhaps thanks to the fact chef Sophie Michell moves in such circles.
Roka: I like to sit in the open, on Charlotte Street, when the weather is good. Regulars tend to pick the robata counter, with seats 62 and 63 being the favorites.
Social Eating House: Banquettes 11 and 12 opposite the bar are good for people-watching. Corner table 21 is suitable for groups.
Sushisamba: Table 26 is a banquette that seats four and offers unobstructed panoramic views. This restaurant in the Heron Tower is pap heaven. Celebrity guests include Victoria Beckham, Henry Cavill, Cheryl Cole, Hugh Grant, Samuel L. Jackson and Nicole Scherzinger.
Zuma: Table 35, next to the sushi counter, offers a view of the whole restaurant. Some celebrities prefer Table 25, which a bit secluded.
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Bloomberg. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurant awards. Opinions expressed are his own.) For Related News and Information: