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Culture

Indoor Dining: It's Time To Get Back To Business

Tabletop freedom is upon us. Here’s The Stack’s edit of where to host the ultimate working lunch

By Emma-Louise Boynton

17 May 2021

1. St John (Smithfield), Clerkenwell

Why it’s excellent:

Set in a former smokehouse right around the corner from London’s Smithfield Market (the largest wholesale meat market in the UK), St John has commandeered a cult-like following since founders Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver first opened its doors in 1994. Ideal for your first working lunch back, the uncluttered interior aids a simple and excellent experience so you can get straight down to business. Its speciality is ‘nose-to-tail eating,’ meaning the menu, which changes daily, offers anything from pigs ears and ducks’ hearts to bone marrow and squirrel. But don’t be put off, the dishes are simple and delicious, the wine-list exclusively French, the interior pared back and functional (think white-washed walls, starched tablecloths). There is little wonder food critic Jay Rayner wrote a ‘love-letter’ to the old smokehouse in place of a review and cites St John as his ‘reference point for many other reviews’.

What to order:

The menu is updated daily (at 11am, so just in time for lunch) but veer towards the bone marrow however they have it. If it’s a bottle over a glass kind of lunch, opt for the Sancerre or the Chablis for a white; the Pinot Noir or St Julien for a red. At £60 - £70 a bottle they’re well-priced compared to the really good burgundies that sit at about £150 a bottle. Get a half-dozen, freshly baked Madeleines for dessert.

Something you’ll want to know:

“Your phone is not your tool for eating,” says Fergus Hernderson. “It should not be on the table with your knife, fork, glass and bread.” So, in your bag it must remain while you wine and dine here.

Book here.

Ideal for your first working lunch back, the uncluttered interior at St Johns aids a simple and excellent experience so you can get straight down to business.
Image by Harriet Langford

2. Scotts, Mayfair

Why it’s excellent:

To mark the end of lockdown Mayfair’s centerpoint of urbane sophistication is ready to take your order. This is a big gun spot, meet to be seen - think business meeting but make it bouji. A suitably grand haunt (with the bill to match ) in which to convince your guest of your new venture and their role in it. Plus, the champagne won’t hurt. Seafood is the specialty here so you can lunch light while delving deep into the advantages of investing in crypto or the opportunities for starting a new business now things are on the up. It’s also the perfect place to indulge in some worthwhile people-watching - Scotts has been an outpost for the chic and fabulous since it opened its Mount Street doors in 1968.

What to order:

Oysters and champagne, the house speciality. We’re celebrating a new dawn, a new day, remember?

Something you’ll want to know:

Scott’s started out in 1972 as an ‘oyster warehouse’ in the London Pavilion Music Hall. Thanks to its growing popularity Scott’s soon expanded down Coventry Street as it fast became one of London’s best fish restaurants.

Book here.

The decadence of Scotts' interiors match that of the restaurant's speciality: oysters and champagne.
Image by Scotts

3. Brunswick House, Vauxhall

Why it’s excellent:

Stepping into the crumbing opulence of this antique-strewn Georgian mansion is like stepping onto the set of a fabulous period drama where you know the vibe will be as good as the cocktails are strong. For a working lunch it’s discreet but not dull, it’s relaxed but not too casual. In the main dining-room, the high ceilings hang heavy under the weight of an innumerable and eclectic collection of chandeliers, while the walls are covered with imposing, gold-framed paintings. Oversized foliage sprouts from every corner and crevice. Under the expert eye of one of London’s hottest chefs, owner Jackson Boxer (he has a litany of highly lauded restaurants behind him including Rita’s Bar in Dalston and St Leonards in Shoreditch), Brunswick House has a menu to match its ostentatious charm.

What to order:

To start, share the grilled asparagus with whipped cannellini beans and the burrata - as creamy and delicious as any you’ve tried - then load up on some greens with the cornish leaves and a helping of the winter tomato salad. This will balance out the giant plate of fried courgettes which are a must (more crispy fries than actual veg) and is accompanied by a rich coconut dip. Then opt for a bowl of uber-creamy Brixham Crab egg noodles. Drink a Chili Pisco Sour. Or several.

Something you’ll want to know:

Boxer is the product of a foodie-dynasty (his grandmother is the much revered food writer, Arabella Boxer, who has more than a dozen cookbooks to her name) but his epiphany moment, when he knew he had to become a chef, occurred while he was washing dishes for Margot Henderson, the owner of Rochelle Canteen and the wife of Fergus Henderson of St John, whom he credits as his greatest inspiration.

Book here.

The menu at Brunswick House is overseen by one of London's hottest chefs, owner Jackson Boxer (his grandmother is the much revered food writer, Arabella Boxer, who has more than a dozen cookbooks to her name).
Image by Brunswick House

4. Quo Vadis

Why it’s excellent:

Nothing spells the end of lockdown like a return to the beating heart of Soho. there is also something ‘in the know’ about this spot that might impress your business dining partner. Founded in the early twentieth century, the restaurant was formerly a notorious Soho brothel and also housed Karl Marx, who began writing Das Kapital while tucked away in one of the upstairs rooms. A rather different crowd crosses its threshold these days, lured in by the seasonal British menu, strong cocktails and charming ambience, bolstered by the stain-glass-windows that are one of the few remaining relics from the building’s colourful past. While the upstairs is a private member’s club, the downstairs dining-room is to be enjoyed by all.

What to order

Start with the asparagus vinaigrette, then go for the agnalotti, peas, broad beans, herbs and parmesan for your main. It’s indulgent and delicious – you won’t regret it. Get a side of spiced spinach and lentils if you want to go the extra mile, but just make sure to save room for dessert – Les QV Profiteroles au chocolat is not to be missed. Then toast to new beginnings with a QV aperitivo.

Something you’ll want to know

Legend has it that when Quo Vadis expanded in the mid-1930s (to take over the three buildings it now occupies on Dean street), a workman asked then owner Peppino Leoni what he should do with the piles of rubbish he’d found in an upstairs room -’exercise books,’ he’d said. ‘Full of scribblings in some foreign language...’By the time Leoni discovered Karl Marx had occupied the room, the papers had already been whisked off and destroyed. Alas.

Book here.

Mark the end of lockdown with a trip to the beating heart of Soho. Quo Vadis formerly housed Karl Marx, who began writing Das Kapital while tucked away in one of the upstairs rooms.
Image by Helen Cathcart

The Short Stack

From the ostentatious charm of Brunswick house to indulging in oysters and champagne at Scotts, indoor dining is back and so is the business lunch.

By Emma-Louise Boynton

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