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By Andy Hayler | February 11 2013
When you desire a discreet dinner with friends or business colleagues, you do not always want to sit amongst strangers in a large restaurant.
Many restaurants offer private dining rooms, but even at top restaurants these can be surprisingly disappointing. In a new series I will feature the very finest private dining rooms available around the world, combining world-class cuisine with elegant surroundings.
We begin the series with a hidden gem in the heart of London. The famous Ritz hotel, whose history stretches back to 1906, has a very grand and famous main dining room, but few know about The William Kent House. This was an 18th century townhouse at the side of what is now The Ritz, originally built by architect William Kent in 1743. It remained as a private residence until 2006 when The Ritz converted it into a private dining venue.
the lobster beautifully tender, the lemon providing just the right balance of acidity
The house has five smart rooms of assorted sizes, but the most beautiful of these is the William Kent room itself, seating up to 24 guests. This has a spectacularly ornate Renaissance-style ceiling with deep red silk wallpaper, thick carpet and a majestic mahogany dining table. It is a genuinely striking room, and at a function that I hosted here recently there were audible gasps from guests as the door to the room opened. The adjoining room can be used as for cocktails and canapés before dinner.
A pretty room is only part of what is needed for successful private dining: the food and service are at least as important. Fortunately the Ritz meets a high standard here. Since 2004 its kitchens have been revitalized by chef John Williams (MBE), serving dishes that draw on classical French technique, but can be light in style too. An example is native lobster with fennel and lemon, the lobster beautifully tender, the lemon providing just the right balance of acidity. This might be followed by milk-fed lamb from Pauillac in France. Desserts include lovely old-fashioned crepes Suzette, flambéed at the table, or lighter options such as apple mousse with champagne and elderflower sorbet. The service quality is as good as you would expect in a setting like this, the waiters highly professional. I have eaten several fine meals at The Ritz in the last few years: the food and service is of a very high standard indeed, and for private dining there is no more elegant room in London.