Louisa Walters highlights where to eat out on Christmas Day
Traditionally I cook a full turkey roast lunch with all the ‘allowable’ trimmings but last year the extended family were away. As there were only four of us it seemed like a good excuse to go out! I discovered that lots of restaurants are in fact open on Christmas Day and if you steer away from the top London hotels and the gourmet restaurants, it doesn’t have to cost the earth either. However, do bear in mind that most restaurants pay their staff double to work on Christmas day, and this will be reflected in the price.
We chose Bellanger in Islington for our ‘going out’ Christmas lunch last year. This is a traditional French brasserie from Corbin and King with some German influences on the menu. They were running the regular all-day brunch menu with a few specials, including roast turkey. There was something rather nice about being out on Christmas Day – there was no traffic, it was easy to park, we experienced a lovely bonhomie in the restaurant and best of all I had no shopping, cooking, serving or clearing up to do! It was also quite a novelty not having to have turkey! Bellanger is open this year too.
Also in Islington, the wonderfully cosy authentic French restaurant La Petite Auberge has a really well priced Christmas Day menu (£37.95) with typical French dishes such as baked camembert and grilled duo of seabass and trout as well as seasonal treats such as gravadlax and traditional roast turkey. There are veggie and vegan options and great desserts including crepe Suzette. There is another branch of this restaurant in Cockfosters, which has a more elaborate menu for £65. Open since the beginning of this year, this branch is bright, fresh and modern with beautiful interiors and a stunning bar.
Kentish Town’s award-winning pub The Grafton is a lovely cosy spot for Christmas Day. Set across two floors with a wrap-around bar, this charming Victorian pub is a true north London gem. Tuck into dishes from the festive set menu (two courses for £28 or three for £33), including orange and cardamom cured salmon; turkey breast with all the trimmings; and Christmas pudding with whipped brandy cream.
The Summerhouse in Maida Vale is a lovely bright space which, despite being canalside, is beautifully warm and inviting in winter. The £80 set menu features butternut squash soup; smoked salmon rillettes; pithivier with wild mushrooms, spinach & goat’s cheese; halibut with Loch Duart salmon, dauphinoise potato and saffron butter sauce; roast turkey or steak for meat lovers. Chocolate plate surprise, Christmas pudding or warm pecan pie are the dessert choices, followed by a cheese course and tea or coffee with mince pies. On the same road in Maida Vale (and under the same ownership), The Waterway has a simpler menu for £70 a head in a more rustic setting. Both restaurants are charging only £40 a head for children aged 7-12.
If you’re looking to stick with a family favourite, Amaretto restaurant in Edgware, Hendon and Golders Green is amazing value for Christmas Day: three courses plus a prosecco bellini for £29.50. Go traditional with smoked salmon to start and roast turkey to follow, or stick with the Italian classics – insalata caprina and fileti de spigola (fillets of seabass in a butter and wine sauce). In true Italian style, dessert is panettone and ice-cream for dessert in true Italian style.
If you fancy heading into central London, take in the beautiful skyline views with a three-course festive brunch at the laid back yet luxe Bōkan restaurant in Canary Wharf. Towering 39 storeys above the streets of the capital, Bōkan offers 360-degree show-stopping views of London, experimental cocktails and phenomenally executed dishes. Head Chef Aurélie Altemaire has created a seasonal and stylish three-course menu with a unlimited prosecco, house wine, beer and soft drinks for £75 per person.
For an aromatic spin on the traditional Christmas lunch head to The Cinnamon Club in Westminster for a unique modern-Indian style celebration in the beautiful surroundings of the former Westminster library. For £100 per person including an aperitif, enjoy a four-course feast and an aperitif of Christmas punch. Delicious starters include Keralan style soup flambéed with brandy; tandoori dishes; chickpea and sesame cake with smoked aubergine chutney; stunning meaty/fishy or veggie mains with coconut ginger sauce, garlic naan crumble and other Indian delicacies. Decadent desserts include chef Vivek Singh’s signature garam masala Christmas pudding with nutmeg custard and green cardamom brulee with rose petal biscotti.
Modern pan Indian restaurant Baluchi is also open on Christmas day. Located in The LaLiT London, a stunning boutique hotel (formerly a school) near Tower Bridge, Baluchi is housed in the original wood panelled Great Hall. Christmas Day is priced at £70 per person for three courses. Dishes include home-cured smoked salmon with avocado puree and marinated globe artichoke to start; turkey with kadhai spices and cumin potatoes to follow and Nimboo panna cotta with Christmas pudding ice cream, burnt brandy cream and naankhatai crumb.
If you’re happy to splash the cash but want to stay out of central London, Sopwell House and St Michael’s Manor in St Albans are each laying on a full-blown Christmas Day extravaganza, and so is the Laura Ashley Hotel in Elstree. Expect to pay well in excess of £100 per head.
A version of this feature has previously appeared in the Jewish News