14 Dec 2018 02:21pm

Restaurants: celebratory dining

Whether it’s an anniversary, Christmas, a reunion or simply a meal out with friends, food has played a central role in how people celebrate and connect. So as the holiday season roles in, here are our suggestions for three venues serving square meals worth raising a glass over


Beverly Hills Hotel
Beverly Hills, California, US

Anything at the Beverly Hills Hotel is special, but brunch poolside at the Cabana Café is one of the happiest ways to start any day. As they suggest, it’s as healthy as you choose, whether you go full on So-Cal – salads, acai bowls – or add truffle sauce to your eggs Benedict and banana Nutella brioche french toast.


The Kitchin
Leith, Edinburgh

In the delightfully non-rarefied air of The Kitchin, Tom and Michaela Kitchin’s restaurant, you can worship at the altar of Michelin and classic technique. But if any food can have a glint in its eye, it’s Tom’s – it’s delicious and playful, a mood bolstered by some of the finest – and funniest – staff anywhere. Egofree, fun, and it will be one of the finest meals of your life.


Le Grande’Vigne
Bordeaux-Martillac, France

When is fine dining not fine dining? When it’s as delightfully tongue-in-cheek as Le Grande’Vigne. Chef Nicolas Masse’s two Michelin-starred experience marries exemplary technique – as one would expect in the French heartland of Bordeaux – with a somewhat unexpected sense of humour.

The setting is also divine. On one side – well, all around the dining room, to be accurate – is Les Sources de Caudalie, a wine-influenced, relaxed luxury hotel and spa run by Alice Tourbier and her husband. On the other lies the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte vineyard, run by Alice’s parents.

Unsurprisingly, Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte wines play a major part in the dining experience, which may have the subtle nose of nepotism but, one dish, one sip in, you’ll see the real reason behind it. Masse’s menu celebrates the region and a wine that shares the same terroir as the majority of his ingredients is the perfect foil for some very clever, almost restrained cooking.

What’s most impressive about Masse’s dishes is their subtlety. The names may sometimes be playful and reverential – starters are called The Attack (and includes a dish called The Angry Egg), mains are divided into Salty Notes and Musk Notes – but are mostly named after a key ingredient: The Langoustine, Sea Bass from ‘La Cotinière’, or The Veal Chop, for example. And, whatever is on the plate is there to allow the natural flavour of that hero ingredient to shine.

The sea bass comes topped with a delicate, opaque sheen of lardo holding in place exquisitely diced vegetables – from the hotel’s own garden – which, while adding texture and richness, serves to bolster the clean, fresh taste of the fish.

Mackerel and cucumber is a work of art, but the memory is of the glorious fatty saltiness of the fish and the pureness of the cucumber. Best of all, however, is a simple, coin-sized tart of just-picked herbs on utterly perfect pastry that just sings of French gardens and long summers.

Service is, of course, exemplary – slick but also reassuringly human, in a very relaxed, calming room full of people eating and drinking, but also abuzz with conversation and an atmosphere of fun. It’s a balance many other Michelin-starred places should adopt.