1 | For Cosy Nights Out: Lodge d’Argent (above)
For something truly festive that doesn’t involve unruly hoards of people, try swish City venue Coq d’Argent, where they have once again set up an alpine winter wonderland to get guests into the cosy Christmas mood. Don’t worry – it’s all very much heated, and the food and drink is designed to warm the cockles too.
Snuggle up under fur blankets to enjoy the traditional, hearty dishes you could expect to find in the French Alps. We’re talking many variations of Tartiflette (basically potatoes with melted Reblochon cheese, onions and bacon), plus oozy Raclette, venison burgers and a whole set of wintery deserts matched with Hennessy Cognac. This is what winter is all about.
No. 1 Poultry, London, EC2R 8EJ; coqdargent.co.uk
2 | For Vietnamese Sharing Food: House of Ho
New to Fitzrovia is the second House of Ho (the other has been satisfying Soho diners for two years now but, since this latest one is so smart, it shall henceforth only be known as Ho to avoid confusion). The pretty townhouse has four floors, the first two comprising a splendidly tasty Vietnamese restaurant with private dining and a low-lit bar up top.
All the dishes are eminently shareable, which is just as well because there are too many good ones to choose between if going solo. Start with salty crispy squid and Black Angus fillet of beef wrapped in juicy Betel leaves, served with a rich satay dip. The dumpling offerings change daily. Move onto none other than the Shaking Beef, which is a 21-day aged fillet that melts on your tongue and, though there are a lot of bold flavours bombarding the menu, is markedly subtle (and simply awesome).
Just be warned: the soft-shell crab starter comes amongst theatrical hullabaloo as a giant disc-like plate is planted on mini trestles atop your table, taking up all the space. Amid the abundance of dried chillies is some beautifully crunchy crab but don’t go eating the garnish or you might get a shock. It’s not entirely certain why all the chillies are there but the effect is certainly impressive, so order this one if you want to seem like the cool ones in the house.
1 Percy Street, London, W1T 1DB; houseofho.co.uk
3 | For A Souped-Up Italian: Pizza Locadeli
If you’d rather stick to the more comfortable date night fare of pizza, then you can find a ridiculously good one at Pizza Locadeli. Located in the Old Post Office in Angel, it’s only open until mid next week, so get in there while you still can to sample absolute delights from Plaxy and Giorgio Locatelli, the brothers behind Michelin-starred restaurant, Locanda Locatelli.
This is a more easy-going, slightly groovier outpost of the Mayfair staple and, as well as the usual toppings, is offering the Tartufo (with Taleggio and fresh black truffle) and the Seaside (tomato, mozzarella, prawns, swordfish, clams and salmoriglio). There is also a selection of antipasti and plenty of Aperol Spritzs to go around.
117 Upper Street, London, N1 1US; locandalocatelli.com
4 | For Pre-Dinner Tipples: Bar 8
Smart new Mayfair restaurant 8 Mount Street has been impressing the locals for a few months now after the previous incarnation made a shock exit. And they have just opened up their snazzy basement bar for those all-important aperitifs, so stop here for a drink before dinner. Or three.
Marble tables, deep green leather and golden finishings will greet you as you head downstairs to Bar 8, where the wine list includes lots of grower champagnes and the shelves house an edifying selection of whiskies. Signature cocktails include the Jade, which mixes Japanese green tea with Sipsmith gin, Sauvignon Blanc syrup, egg white and lime juice. Overall, this is one sleek option.
8 Mount Street, London, W1K 3NF; 8mountstreet.com