Where To Go When You Can't Get Into Sessions Arts Club guide image


Where To Go When You Can't Get Into Sessions Arts Club

Places to get a special dinner that’ll help you forget the fact you wanted to be riding the lift up to Sessions Arts Club.

In a Grade II-listed building on Clerkenwell Green you’ll find a restaurant. A towering, beautiful, balconied restaurant of the most Condé Nast proportions, home to flickering candle flames and charming staff who serve nonchalantly elegant food made for swilling and seducing over. It’s called Sessions Arts Club, and you probably can’t get a reservation there. Neither can we—so we made a list of great alternatives.


Quality Wines

If dancing flames and a chintzy feel is essential to your evening, wander up Farringdon Road to Quality Wines. Ever since it first opened, QW has quietly become one of London’s most gorgeous and intimate places for dinner. Initially more of a wine bar than a restaurant, the little corner spot is now a destination thanks to the consistently delicious quality of food. Things change regularly, from lobster rolls to osso bucco, but there always tends to be a distinctly Italian touch to things on the menu. If it’s got lardo, order it and don’t hesitate on the cannoli. 

You can’t help but be immediately wooed by the old-school elegance of this French bistro above The Three Compasses in Farringdon. Light pours into the loft-like space during the day, lanterns glow at night, and chalkboard menus lean against the wall like Gallic butter-worshipping scriptures. There’s a confidence to Bouchon Racine that you can taste in every impeccable chip dunked into your rabbit’s mustard sauce and in every spoonful of luscious crème caramel. But it’s also felt in other ways too. The staff exude wiseness and we’d take a tête de veau or burgundy recommendation from them like we would a prescription from a doctor.

Decimo is a high-fashion restaurant that has aptly hosted many big-deal fashion events and is, well, high in the sky due to its 10th floor location at The Standard, London hotel in King's Cross. This is where you should go when you want to eat a caviar-covered tortilla under the guise of ‘baby deserves a treat’. Don’t skip the tacos, margaritas, or opportunity to have your catwalk moment strutting across the restaurant—call ahead and request one of the corner, top-view tables.

Yes, Sessions serves excellent food and makes you feel like an A-lister as soon as you step inside, but a big part of the charm is its confidence. The air of assurance that tells you it’s going to be a great meal before you even take a bite, is something you can find at this EC1 Farringdon-via-Florence trattoria. We knew this within minutes of our first visit to Brutto and you probably will too. Maybe the £5 house negronis will make you think, ‘yes these people get it’. Or the heaped bowl of grated parmesan that arrives wordlessly with your tagliatelle al ragu. Perhaps it will be the gargantuan hunk of lusciously sweet and bitter tiramisu that comes later. Whatever it is, take our word for it, you will be charmed.

There’s something about not being able to get a reservation somewhere that makes you want it that much more. Like the exclusivity of dinner means you’ve finally made it, you can go home and brag about it to your friends now. It doesn’t get much more exclusive than a 10-seater omakase spot in Mayfair. Roji’s intimate set-up, with wooden wrap-around counter seating, gives everyone a front-row seat to the open kitchen. It’s special, it feels like a very bougie dinner party, and you’re paying £170 for it so you better get a good close-up of that o-toro to post on your Instagram story.

This might be London’s most charming restaurant. Not in a trendy, art-covered walls, balconies overlooking diners kind of way. But in a, been around since the ‘80s, snug table arrangements, and a private upstairs dining club that’s very if you know you know, kind of way. This 18th-century townhouse is very old Soho, from the cramped white tablecloth-covered tables and the menu scrawled on a chalkboard, to wax candles poking out of wine bottles. Plus booking a dinner will involve plenty of European-inspired dishes and zero waiting lists.

Part of Sessions’ drama lies in its artfully distressed walls, flickering candles, and general aura that a modern day Miss Havisham would hold up the bar here. Only she wouldn’t be wasting her time alone, she’d be having an illicit affair. Brunswick House's dramatic chandeliers, chic antiques, and rustic Georgian mansion setting (in Vauxhall) feels like it's where that 21st-century Miss Havisham lives. The menu, with British-leaning dishes like courgette fritters with coconut yoghurt, crab egg noodles, and a burrata omelette, all mean that you’ll have a memorable meal in a romance novel-worthy setting.

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photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Where To Go When You Can't Get Into Sessions Arts Club guide image