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The best UK restaurants for a party

It’s party season, so what could be better than gathering friends and family at a restaurant where you can stay up late, drink, dance, and eat sensational food, with no clearing up? olive picks five of the best

Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds

As its name suggests, Belgrave is primarily a loud, lively late-night bar and gig space, but food has always been at the heart of this hip, multi-storey operation. Its monthly street-food festival (look out for the Christmas special with a choir and brass band, 12 Dec), has launched celebrated Yorkshire names such as Bundobust and Harrogate’s Stuzzi, and Belgrave’s main bar is the permanent home of two of Leeds’ hottest street-food slingers: Patty Smith’s burgers and Dough Boys pizza.

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The latter serves its NYC-style slices until 1am at weekends, meaning that, if you’ve hit the bar’s superb collection of craft beers too hard – look out for ales from North Brewing Co., a new micro-oufit co-owned by Belgrave – there’s always salvation on hand in the shape of Dough Boys’ ricotta ‘get through this’ pizza, its self-explanatory ‘sausage fest’, or the ‘Paul & Linda’, a sensational veggie slice of preserved artichoke, Sicilian olives, smoked mozzarella and caperberries. Those Patty Smith’s burgers, cloche-steamed and served in a brioche bun, are some of the best you’ll eat outside London (open until 11pm, burgers from £5, pizza slices from £2.40)

The essentials

Signature drink Beavertown Brewery’s ultra-hoppy pale ale, Gamma Ray (pint from £3). 

Hearty dish to line the stomach The Dirty Burger, a ground-steak patty with homemade cheddar sauce, pickles, chipotle mayo and incredible skin-on, rosemary salted chips (£7.50). 

Expect to hear On Saturday nights, cutting-edge beats ranging from party hip-hop to the out-there sounds of Flying Lotus. 

Quieter space, if you need a breather Near neighbour, North, a connoisseur’s craft beer bar. 

New Year’s Eve plans Ticketed funk gig with the Haggis Horns (£15), otherwise free entry. Watch the fireworks over Leeds at midnight from Belgrave’s quirky rooftop garden. 


Ernest, Newcastle

Just outside the city centre, hidden among the artists’ workshops, galleries and creative spaces that are slowly transforming industrial Ouseburn, Ernest is a friendly, boho café-bar where affordable, locally-sourced food gives way, after 9pm, to boozy nights of comedy, anarchic ‘disco ping pong’ and dance-music. Most of that noisier action is kept in a back room, leaving diners and drinkers free to kick back in the quirkily decorated café, with its mirror balls and impressive collection of Star Wars figures. While it uses vegetables from Byker Community Farm and meats from traditional Northumbrian butchers, chef Richard Phillipson’s menu is global in its outlook.

It ranges from cracking fish finger sandwiches and Ernest’s famous topped flatbreads, to a lamb and apricot tagine with pomegranate tabbouleh, or confit duck leg with puy lentils, bacon and kale. Local craft beers from breweries such as Tyne Bank and Anarchy are prominent at the bar (look out for Wylam Brewery’s majestic Jakehead IPA from £4.20 a pint). The Ernest team also makes its own sodas for mixed drinks – try the house mint and lime ginger beer with rum – and will launch a cocktail menu this month (from £6.50). (Smaller meals from £4.50, mains from £7.50)

The essentials

Signature drink Bloody Mary with homemade horseradish vodka (£5). 

Hearty dish to line the stomach Ernest’s classic chorizo hash topped with poached egg and hollandaise (£8.50). 

Expect to hear Everything from acoustic acts to bangin’ techno. Magic Waves’ monthly electro shindig (12 Dec) and Moon Rocks’ (19 Dec) leftfield disco nights are popular. 

Quieter space, if you need a breather The beautiful, traditional Cumberland Arms

New Year’s Eve plans Free entry, DJs, all-night drinks license – now that’s what you call a party! Food until 9pm and tables can be booked in advance. 


Hoi Polloi, London 

Restaurateurs Pablo Flack and David Waddington know how to put on a show. In its original incarnation, their first East London restaurant, Bistrotheque, was also an alternative cabaret spot famous for its tranny lip-synching contest. Located in the über-trendy Ace Hotel, Hoi Polloi is a more sedate affair but nonetheless of a piece with this buzzing, multi-faceted space. After dinner, (which runs until 1am) diners are less likely to order a taxi than disappear downstairs into the hotel’s dark and edgy basement club, Miranda, for live music and trendy DJs. Hoi Polloi, by contrast, is sleekly designed in that modern Scandi-cum-LA way, where ergonomic minimalism meets natural finishes of wood, stone and leather to create something warm and sexy.

The sharp food, created by chefs Simon Gregory and Ken Tolley, is very London and very now in its freewheeling internationalism. This is a menu where an Asian chicken broth; a dish of charred lamb, smoked onions, chard and dukkah; and something as traditional as roast chicken with greens and aïoli, all sit together happily – and all taste fantastic. (Starters from £7, mains from £14)

The essentials

Signature drink Bibi Spritz; a sharp livener of Aperol, Campari, grapefruit juice, Tanqueray gin and ginger ale (cocktails from £7.50).

Hearty dish to line the stomach Cheeseburger with dripping-cooked chips (£14.50). 

Expect to hear Music is curated by cult local DJ, The Lovely JonJo, whose soundtrack evolves into pulsing dance-music at night. Brunch sessions include a string quartet playing pop hits. 

Quieter space, if you need a breather Try the lobby bar of the hotel itself or book a bedroom, from £129 (acehotel.com). 

New Year’s Eve plans Breakfast Can Wait is the hotel’s annual blow out. Expect DJs, dancing and pop-up surprises. The new rooftop club/bar offers awesome views of the London skyline. 


Merchant’s Tavern, London 

This collaboration between Angela Hartnett and her real-life partner, head chef Neil Borthwick, is the best of both worlds. Housed in a Shoreditch warehouse space – one that’s been given a very handsome Mad Men-style makeover – it comprises a fantastic, cosy bar serving excellent cocktails with DJs playing until midnight and, beyond the glass partition, a quieter restaurant serving very impressive, seasonally driven modern European food.

Neil is all about the sympathetic presentation of impeccable ingredients, and his cooking is precise, unflashy and flavour-focussed. Dishes such as roast quail with remoulade, hazelnut pesto and pan-fried foie gras, or deep-fried oysters with pickled ginger and chilli, crisp shallots and an oyster cream are firm MT favourites, as is Neil’s pork belly with black cabbage, quince jelly and ‘forgotten’ carrots (so-called because they’re marinated in aniseed, ginger and cumin and left to roast for hours). 

Over Christmas, larger parties can eat from set menus (from £40) that include goose with all the trimmings or chestnut tagliatelle with mushroom and pecorino. Foodies, meanwhile, will love the Kitchen Counter (five courses, 10 people, £500), where you can chat to the chefs and, later, take home goodie bags that include signed menus and the Tavern’s gorgeous madeleines. They stop serving dinner at 11pm Monday to Friday, and at 9pm on Sundays. (Starters from £7.50, mains from £15; merchantstavern.co.uk)

The essentials

Signature drink Prescription Redux; Moskovskaya vodka, Pierre Ferand dry Curaçao and fresh lime over homemade lemon sorbet (cocktails from £6.50). 

Hearty dish to line the stomach Ox cheek with smoked creamed potato, pickled red onion, greens, and a black pepper crumb (for two, £36).

Expect to hear The UK’s biggest music nerds DJing esoteric, all-vinyl sets on the bar’s incredible audio system, all overseen by Spiritland

Quieter space, if you need a breather Nearby, the Clove Club bar offers sanctuary and sensational Michelin-starred snacks. 

New Year’s Eve plans DJs until midnight with the bar open until 2am (set dinner menu around £60-70pp).


Quaglino’s, London 

The roaring 20s may be long gone, but in this corner of Mayfair, Quaglino’s offers a contemporary take on Gatsby-style, late-night glamour. With its mezzanine bar and sweeping staircases, this is a huge art deco showstopper with a stage hung with red velvet drapes, where musicians and DJs play every night. At weekends, tables are cleared to create a dancefloor and regular acts such as the all-female High On Heels and MKM Collective keep the party going until 3am.

The food has a suitably retro-modern feel with chef Mickael Weiss putting his own polished spin on such grand brasserie classics as oysters, caviar, seasonal veloutés and beef tartare. Start with a glass of Veuve Cliquot (£13.95), before moving onto Quaglino’s seafood cocktail – an elaborate salad of lobster, langoustine, Devon crab and marie rose sauce – followed, perhaps, by the sharing Chateaubriand with caramelized shallots, bordelaise and béarnaise sauces and wilted baby spinach and silky, butter-rich pommes mousseline on the side. (Starters from £8.50, mains from £15.50)

The essentials

Signature drink Fresh As a Daisy; a long drink of Hendrick’s gin, elderflower cordial, apple juice and mint (cocktails from £12.50). 

Hearty dish to line the stomach Bubble ‘n’ squeak, charred leeks, sautéed mushrooms and glazed baby onions (£15.50). 

Expect to hear Tasteful acoustic acts early evening and, later, funky covers of classic/pop hits and smooth dance music.

Quieter space, if you need a breather Chilled-out American sister bar-restaurant, Avenue, just 150m away.

New Year’s Eve plans Various packages available, from champagne and canapés at the bar, through to dining and dancing in the restaurant until the wee hours (£70 – £180pp). 


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