And so December is here, and in a break from recent tradition, doesn’t appear to have brought the plague with it. You can’t win ‘em all.
That said, we’re not knee-deep in mulled wine season just yet; Grinches needn’t head into hiding just yet. Here’s what to get up to in London this weekend.
The restaurant: Bouchon Racine
While chef Henry Harris’s Knightsbridge favourite Racine has long been closed, he’s recently made a welcome return to London — albeit on the other side of town. Harris and Dave “Jolly” Strauss (formerly of Goodman and Rockfish) partnered earlier this year and have now relaunched the Three Compasses in Farringdon. Strauss is in charge of the pub, Harris the restaurant. Head in for rustic French cooking that changes daily. The wine is similarly French and Harris and Strauss, both quiet going types, have a bar stocked to bulging with digestifs and all sorts of other tonics.
66 Cowcross Street, EC1M 6BP, bouchonracine.com
The bar: the Bishop at the Berkeley
Is it a bar? Is it a pub? Is it a restaurant? It may be all three: on request they’ll mix up a crisp, eye-widening Martini; the place looks like the smartest Scottish bolthole of a boozer, all wood in green, while the food is finely cooked and the warming kind. This being the Berkeley, even the bar snacks — Welsh “rare-bites” et al — are smartly done, while the beef Wellington is a contender for the best in town. As December bites, it is somewhere to be merry. We were. Very.
The Berkeley Hotel, Wilton Place, SW1X 7RL, the-berkeley.co.uk
The show: A Christmas Gaiety
The Royal Albert Hall is, as has been written elsewhere, something of a North Star at Christmas; consider it a guiding light in its way. This Saturday night show still has a few tickets left and sees drag queen Peaches Christ team up with conductor Edwin Outwater for a self-styled camp Christmas bash. Think of it as a festive queer variety show, where the worlds of drag and classical collide to stunning effect. The San Francisco-born show is already a long-running success, but this year marks its debut in the beautiful Hall.
December 3, Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, SW7 2AP, royalalberthall.com
The party: Penelope’s at Amano
A sobering thought that “new” hotel Amano in fact opened in May. Now the stylish spot has a new restaurant of sorts, which combines Israeli cooking with Spanish. In reality though, as the photos attest, it is angling to be somewhere more like Mayfair’s Isabel — which is to say, you’ll eat, but you’re really here to party. They’re big on the cocktails and have DJs playing every Friday and Saturday night. Those who enjoy a taste this weekend may want to return on December 17 for the inaugural “Isramani” party; dancing on the tables is strongly encouraged.
Amano, Drury House, 34-43 Russell Street, WC2B 5HA, amanogroup.de
The booking: Mangal II at Rita’s
Perfect weekend fare, this, but they’ve gone and booked it in for a Tuesday which feels… rogue. Or a way to get punters in on a traditionally quiet evening, depending on how you look at it. However cynically you’re seeing it, the pairing is a neat one. Mangal II’s acclaimed Sertaç Dirik is hosting the evening, alongside Rita’s Gabriel Pryce, with Dirik cooking over the diner’s charcoal grill for the evening. Expect exceptional Turkish cooking in Americana-styled surrounds.
December 13, 49 Lexington Street, W1F 9AP, ritasdining.com