This is London. You could rock up to most of the restaurants here wearing your ‘gym clothes’ - you know, those trackies that have definitely never met a cross trainer but serve as PJs, casual office wear, and an on-the-go blanket. And we like that about London. But sometimes, you want somewhere you can get dressed up. Somewhere you can get so fancy that you feel like an extra in The Great Gatsby, take entirely shameless selfies, and finally wear that satin jacket you bought when you were half-cut at a market in Barcelona. Here’s where to go when you want to get dressed up without ever feeling overdressed.
Quaglino’s has a truly inspiring history of getting Very Important People pissed and frankly, that is one of our favourite qualities in a restaurant. It’s featured heavily in Absolutely Fabulous, author Barbara Cartland once found a real pearl in an oyster served here in the 30s, and everyone’s favourite royal nan, Queen Lizzie, popped by for a buzzing dinner in 1956 and made history as the first reigning British monarch to eat at a public restaurant. We love to see it Liz. These days it’s still host to a live band, slick cocktails, and lots of outfits you definitely can’t put anywhere near a washing machine without some higher power screaming ‘DRY CLEANING ONLY’. It’s perfect for a night of lobster dishes and Sinatra singalongs with friends, but it’ll also work for a romantic late night drink after a particularly schmoozy date.
Decimo is sexy. Like, that kind of sexy you’re aiming for when you wear that underboob wrap dress (and / or bandage?) that inevitably ends up looking a bit ‘Tutankhamun’s Going Away Party’. A high fashion restaurant that has aptly hosted many a big-deal fashion event and is, well, high in the sky due to its 10th floor location at the Standard hotel, this is where you should go when you want to eat a caviar-covered tortilla under the guise of ‘baby deserves a treat’. Don’t skip the tacos, margaritas, or opportunity to miss your catwalk moment strutting across the restaurant by failing to call ahead and request one of the corner, top-view tables.
Loud, proud, and home to some delicious things that you can dip in hummus, Chameleon is exactly the kind of Marylebone money playground you should get dressed up for. Partly because it’s nice to treat your tired London limbs to some time out from denim whilst you’re drinking fig negronis, but mostly because a woman walks around your table playing an electric violin whilst wearing a gold sequined full-length gown. Imagine wearing skinny jeans in front of that, talk about a crime against all that is fabulous and beloved by Liza Minnelli. Their entirely low-key named ‘God’s Garden’ is an excellent shout for some serious daytime glamour but you can also hit up the inside of this Grade I listed building for dressy octopus-fuelled fun in the evening.
Every time someone turns up to Bob Bob Ricard in trainers a tiny diamante encrusted angel dies. Probably. This Russian-meets-British restaurant in Soho looks like a swish train carriage with royal blue leather and enough shiny detailing to match the actual sun. On top of its press for champagne buttons, an excellent Beef Wellington, and a whole lot of caviar, this place also has plenty of flashy background potential for selfies that’ll make you look like a distant relation of the Dumas family.
Calling all miserable owners of wedding wear they never actually wanted to buy but refuse to sell on Depop, this seafood specialist spot will host you, feed you exceptional oysters, and make you forget all about being emotionally manipulated into buying that £200 bridesmaid dress despite your insistence that mint green really isn’t your colour. Jokes on the bride because you’re about to take it on one last glorious hurrah on the 14th floor of a hotel and get prawny juice all down the front. Godspeed. Outside of matrimony-related fashion vengeance, please know that the seafood here really is great and the views across London will bring that drama your outfit deserves.
You can’t turn up to Park Chinois in flip-flops. In fact, it would probably confuse the live brass band and they’d start an awkwardly sad rendition of Summer Nights from Grease. No, when you go to this Mayfair spot you can expect big prices, some decent Chinese food, golden live entertainment, and a crowd that thinks Aldi is the name of one of their mate’s eight pet St. Bernards. Basically, it’s a bloody good laugh, there’s no such thing as being overdressed here, and it has some of the best people watching potential in London.
J Sheekey is one of London’s most classic West End restaurants with everything you’d want from a classic West End restaurant. Mirrored lamps you can check out your own banging outfit in? Check. Classy old fashioned interiors that make you feel like Jordan Belfort might pop in from their outdoor terrace at any moment? Check. Lots of lobster on the menu? Absolutely. If you’re looking to get dressed up without spending a small crustacean fuelled fortune, then just order their excellent fish pie and a glass of wine. You’ll still have a great time.
Let’s play a game of word association. You want to look lit, hot, flame emoji... can you see where we’re going with this? Chiltern Firehouse is a restaurant, and hotel, that has a reputation for attracting the rich and famous. You know, those people that have to insure their own body parts and accompanying leather jean collection. And that could be you. For a night anyway. Be warned, this place is pricey and you’ll need to book ahead, but it’s worth it if you’re after somewhere to get a bit schmoozy in your Sunday best with a high-chance of some celebrity spotting. Don’t miss the crab doughnuts.
Duck & Waffle
Is it just us, or is there something about a high cityscape view that says whack on your best shoes? Maybe the closer you get to the stars, the more you have to look like one. Who knows? But, Duck And Waffle is on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower, serves some pretty good British food with a twist, and importantly, is open 24 hours a day. That’s right, this place basically offers you an endless supply of hours to enjoy the fruits of actually making an effort with your hair, whilst checking out the London skyline. Winning.
n.b. Duck & Waffle currently closes at midnight.
The key to getting dressed up, is to never, ever look fancier than the room you’re in. Those are the rules. But who’s to say that you can’t rock up somewhere with a £13.75 prix-fixe menu in your glad rags? Thanks to all the pink tablecloths, gold detailing, marble pillars, and the 20s brasserie feel, Zédel is grand enough to constitute wearing something really nice, even though the prices are all very reasonable. Also, there’s a cheese trolley, and from personal experience, we’d like to let you know that if you can wear sequins and eat from a cheese trolley in the same night, you’re living life right.
Your sister, or your childhood nemesis, or your sister who happens to be your childhood nemesis, is visiting London and you just know they’ve made a trip to the dry cleaners before arriving. That’s what London is about right? Looking suave? Well, no. But at Kerridge’s, it totally is. This huge, slightly broody restaurant near Embankment has oxblood leather booths, a statue of a gold suit in the middle of the dining room, is part of the Corinthia Hotel, and definitely deserves you - and whoever you’re with - in your finest attire. If you’re going all out, get the lobster thermidor omelette that’s a casual £35.
Sure, maybe you’re the kind of person who usually eats pizza whilst wearing their duvet as a giant adult bib. But Bocconcino in Mayfair, is a big, upmarket Italian spot where you can eat pizza, as well as dishes like ricotta ravioli and yellowfin tuna tartare, whilst looking mighty fine in a tan leather arm chair. When it comes to the decor, this place is more on the rustic riviera royalty end of the spectrum than loud-and-proud glitz, but it’s perfect for a dressy date or for dinner before taking your best clothes for a night on the town.
You’re having one of those days, where inexplicably, you look fucking fantastic. You can’t waste this on popping to your local in trainers. No, you need somewhere sexy. You need somewhere like Yauatcha. This extremely glam Chinese restaurant in Soho serves excellent dim sum, like prawn cheung fun and their must-order venison puffs. You should also get involved in their in-house patisserie, which make tasty desserts that are really good-looking. Just like you.
Having accidentally watched approximately 82,000 hours of Oscars coverage you’ve decided that it’s bull that you can’t get dressed up too. Before you decide to start wearing a feather boa on the overground in the hopes that someone asks you ‘which designer you’re wearing’, take your nicest clothes to Mayfair’s Gymkhana instead. This upscale Indian spot has a wild muntjac biryani that’s so good you’ll want it to stand up and give a Best Biryani speech just so you can clap for it. You won’t regret ordering the roe deer chop either.
Go on, leave those jeans at home. They’ve worked hard all year. When you’re looking to wear something from that section of your wardrobe that rarely gets to see the light of day, Berners Tavern is a good place to start. Part of the Edition Hotel in Fitzrovia, this big British restaurant serves a very decent steak and looks like Louis XIV himself had a hand in the interior design. Expect Versailles style moulded ceilings, countless gold-framed oil paintings, and the kind of lighting that makes you look 20% more like a member of the Hadid family than you do now.