The 12 top tables of Christmas — or where to have a really raucous lunch

Going Out | Restaurants

The 12 top tables of Christmas — or where to have a really raucous lunch

Forget carols — a proper Christmas lunch is all about carousing, says Kate Spicer
Kate Spicer13 December 2023

It’s the adult Narnia, isn’t it, sitting down for a bloody good lunch? When a lunch is right, time stops, it’s like falling in love.

You’d think every restaurant would have the chops to enable this sort of spendy bedding in, but not even Michelin stars can guarantee the right mix of comfort, candlelight and generosity of spirit. And what use is the perfect table in the perfect restaurant if they turf you out after two hours? Here, at least, is a simple solution: book from 1.30pm onwards, to avoid big-lunch kryptonite: the dreaded table turn.

Of course, Christmas meals aren’t Christmas meals without the pre-drinks (nor the post-drinks obviously). As such, seek out The Botree Bar at the Botree hotel (30 Marylebone Lane, W1U 2DR,, for first-rate cocktails in surroundings that suggest refinement as well as pleasing levels of Christmassy giddiness. The Ferenc’s Festive Negroni is a must, and there are even oysters on the bar menu if you fancy a little pre-lunch lip-smacker.

Once you’re suitably warmed up, head to one of these, my 12 tables of Christmas. It’s no time to be a Scrooge.  

Noble Rot Mayfair

Noble Rot Mayfair
Noble Rot Mayfair

Ask a hardened regular of Mayfair’s Noble Rot what the best table is for a naughty lunch and they’ll say, “that one at the top of the stairs”. Hidden awayin a cosy corner, Table 40 is known as The Chave Suite for the photograph of  winemaker Jean-Louis Chave’s Les Chalaix vineyard which hangs over its horseshoe-shaped banquette. Officially for four, the Chave can comfortably squeeze six. Stunningly good food, mellow service and the daily-changing set lunch is £26 for three courses. Go large on the Coravin list of exceptional fine wines by the glass.

5 Trebeck Street, W1J 7LT,

Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill


t’s had its up and downs over the past 112 years but since Richard Corrigan took it on nearly 20 years ago, it’s been all ups. Settle at the table near the white marble counter, by the oyster shuckers, where the light’s warm and dim, the flowers beautiful, and the soundtrack is jazz and the gentle crack of shucking. Your starting block is a glass of fizz. Twinkling on the menu are dressed crab, Cornish fish stew, fish pie, Dover sole, creamy mash. The cheeseboard is an adventure in Irish cheesemaking. Corrigan should be knighted for his commitment to making sure people have a proper good time. If lunch really lingers, there’s always his secret basement den for all kinds of carrying on, shenanigans and ballyhoo. Expect a good lunch to go from £100-a-head.

11-15 Swallow Street, W1B 4DG,

The Devonshire Grill Room

Clare Menary

The hottest opening this year is undoubtedly a pub, but not just any old pub. The Devonshire is run by a maestro of conviviality, Irish publican Oisín Rogers, who promises that “this will never be a place where we say no”. Tables are hard to come by — though not impossible, and there are cancellations — but in a few weeks the new Claret Room opens on the second floor, where table 53, a corner banquette by the window, looks the spot to bed in. This cosy, anything-goes pub has comforting food like potted shrimps, risotto, steak and chips, or a beef cheek and Guinness suet pudding. Set lunch is from £25, but it’s with the Pomerols et al where the cheque’s going to get toppy.

17 Denman Street, W1D 7HW,

The Red Lion and Sun

It looks like a twee suburban boozer, but Heath Ball’s Highgate Hill institution is better at facilitating long lunches than most swanky uptown places. The food’s delicious: roasted suckling pig, Singapore lobster, huge platters of chargrilled langoustines. Table seven by the window (for six) is the prize seat. There’s a good mix of skin contact trendy natty wines for the kids and thumping Rhône, Bordeaux and oak-aged Super Tuscans for the old farts. You can’t go wrong here. Expect to start at about £30-a-head, but it can go anywhere.  

25 North Road, N6 4BE,

Otto’s French Restaurant

Press handout

There’s nowhere like Otto’s this side of 1972, with its commitment to haute cuisine in the old style. The room twinkles with silverware and the sort of rich French food that requires a week to digest. There is performance and drama with every course, aided by patrons Otto Tepasse and Elin Hansen. Duck and lobster (£150 and £200-a-head respectively) are pressed in an antique silver vice to extract every scrap of rich juice and flavour and then flambéed with five types of booze. L’escargots come in parsley, garlic and bone marrow. Otto’s is A LOT — and it is magical. If you’re into celery juice and clean eating, don’t even think about it. They will bend over backwards to ensure you are happy: one regular guest was so tired after lunch they put him to sleep under a blanket on a sofa and woke him up in time for dinner with a glass of Champagne on a silver salver. Lunch from £70, but the sky’s the limit.

182 Gray’s Inn Road, WC1X 8EW,


Sera & Laurie Fletcher

They call it a “bistro for locals” and for the billionaire class of neo-Notting Hill, perhaps it is. Securing tables here is a negotiation: if you’re a power-player with a hard on for caviar rostis and olive-fed beef, there is nowhere else on planet London right now. Once you’re in, the fishbowl windows make it feel particularly good to be on the inside. There’s drop-the-mic good vegetable dishes. Head chef Max Coen has enormous talent but is as humble as Aussie owner Chris D’Sylva is ballsy and brash. Always book for 2pm lunch, or 8pm dinner sitting if you like to get stuck in. Don’t bother asking for a 7pm table, unless you’re Victoria Beckham. The corner tables, 220 and 224, are the sweetest but are given at D’Sylva’s discretion.

105-107 Talbot Road, W11 2AT,



Kick off with a silky golden Negroni and head to table 180,   at the back by the blazing open fire in the conservatory. Heaven. Luca has a Michelin star and the food is neat and serious, but the Italian energy keeps it loose. The Italian cooking here pivots on British ingredients: Orkney scallops, Jerusalem artichokes, Cornish mussels (and the five-course set menu is a steal at £95). The wine list is replete with tempting Tuscan vintages. Owners Daniel Willis and Johnny Smith circulate, oozing charm. The bar is a vibe at the end of a long lunch, too.

88 St John Street, EC1M 4EH,



Given the grand surrounds of neighbouring Mayfair, it feels all the naughtiest to emerge from this sleek and timeless dining room slightly dazed and woozy, after a lunch of fine white Burgundies and velvet Clarets. No restaurant sails past the 15-year mark without some serious culinary chops and so it is here: come for Christmas as it might be done on the Riviera, with great platters of prawns, for King Crab  tarts, for clam-studded linguini and roast chicken coddled with lemon. Service is the discreet kind; no eyebrows are raised when the third bottle is ordered. The cocktail list is fearsome, too: a faux pas to overlook it, no?

53-54 Brook’s Mews, W1K 4EG,

The Dining Room at The Goring

The Goring

The Dining Room has grand hotel spaciousness. Swarovski chandeliers bathe the room in festive twinkling light, while the heaviest of yellow gold curtains only ramp up the magic. There’s lots of trolley action, with beef Wellington carved tableside. The food is beautiful, holding its star since 2015. The Goring is the last family-owned grand hotel in London, the only one with a royal warrant, and some surprising faces often appear. The circular table 16 seats nine and is the one to book for a giddy lunch. It’s rather formal — carousing is perhaps out — but you cannot fail to feel very special here. The set Christmas lunch for £130  includes their famous lobster omelette (even better with a side of chips).

15 Beeston Place, SW1W 0JW,


Simon Brown

Slide into the booth, table 77, order a Boho Negroni, and dig in to Tom Cenci’s eccentric twists on retro favourites. Hearty and rich food still ticks a lot of veggie and plant-based boxes. The carbonara is tender strips of celeriac topped with an egg yolk for richness, and wood-fired leeks with a great vegan ricotta. A popular haunt for LGBTQ+ and as generous to vegans and veggies as the old school meatheads. The seating is soft, lighting low, buzz good. Nessa in Soho is a 2023 newcomer that attracts a younger long luncher. The wine list is a mix of funky and classic. Lunch from £70.

86 Brewer Street, W1F 9UB,

The Marksman

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Tables 11 and 12 sit on a platform immersed in the reassuring burble of a much-loved pub, yet also slightly removed. With St John veterans at the helm, this gem of a Dickensian boozer delivers British pub dining, and lunching. Go for creaking floorboards polished by time, pickled bits, smoky bits, piggy bits, and hefty cuts of meat, fish and pies to share. Order a Gibson, Champagne with a few oysters, Hereford wing ribs with bone marrow and parsley salad, chips, then cheese and brown butter and honey tart, and expect to spend, with wine, about £75-a-head.  The classy European wine list errs on the natty — look, it’s E2 — but not to its detriment.

254 Hackney Road, E2,

The Camberwell Arms

The Camberwell Arms

High ceilings, lots of natural light, reclaimed oak tables and chairs, menu on a dusty blackboard… Frank Boxer, brother of Jackson, is third generation restaurant royalty and has cleverly disguised one of London’s best restaurants as a welcoming pub. Chef Mike Davis is an alumni of Canton Arm’s Trish Hilferty and serves good British seasonal bits with Italian flair. You know lunch is a long one when at the end of service, all the staff sit down and eat the leftovers. Grab a huge pie to share for cosy feels. Book table 100, a banquette in a nook that looks over the kitchen, and expect a bill of £40ish a person.

65 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR,