Since its opening in 1929, Quaglino’s has always been the place to see and be seen. It’s been London’s watering hole for A-listers, the arts set and royalty. Princess Diana snuck through the kitchens, a table was permanently reserved for Princess Margaret and it was the first public restaurant ever visited by a reigning monarch when the Queen and Prince Philip dined in 1956.
Having survived both the recession of the early 1990s and 2000s it has continued to be the go-to place for partying, entertainment and no doubt side of scandalous behaviour. When smoking was in, everyone turned into petty thieves stealing them and people dabbled in exchanges, passing tables between hands. In short, if Great Gatsby was real he would have most certainly partied at Quaglino’s.
And you can see why it’s retained its reputation as the place to go, the great art-décor style restaurant (which was once the ballroom of the Normandy hotel) is still every bit as glamorous as it once was; even if you’re more likely to now see Essex queens than actually royalty – the leopard print brigade was out en masse. With Instagram, there’s even more chance to be seen too – count how many photoshoots you see taking place outside the zebra striped loos. Descending down the iconic staircase the restaurant has that feel that anything could happen. Even if you’re visiting for brunch as we were, everyone will be dressed up as if they’re going straight onto a night out (which no doubt some will be, using the bottomless brunch as pre-drinks). This isn’t the place to roll out of bed and go hungover. Brunch here isn’t the cure to the night before, it isn’t an afterthought, it’s the main event.
Executive Chef Nuno Goncalves is at the helm of the restaurant cooking up vibrant dishes sitting between fine dining and comfort eating, the perfect midway point. Served every Saturday, the Q Brunch which can be upgraded to include free-flowing bubbles (they don’t hold back either) centres around the DJ and live saxophonist who play throughout. It’s hard to not want to go out after when you’re sipping on prosecco and generally feeling like you’re living your best life. Dishes range from poached eggs and crushed avocado to Jersey oysters, whole native lobster Thermidor and fillet steak.
Start with the Quaglino’s cocktail, a 2019 twist on the 1970s classic. Flabby lettuce leaves, watery shrimps and tangy sauce have been replaced with lobster, Atlantic prawns, Devon crab, avocado and a sweet mango salsa. For the hungry there’s the brunch burger, a Herefordshire beef burger loaded with streaky bacon, cheddar and, divisive but my favourite, gherkins. My sister, missing home decided the next best thing to going back, was to have the Cotswold’s chicken, a hunk of a chicken breast served with a smooth potato purée, earthy mushrooms and a rich sauce chasseur. There’s a delightful treacle tart, not to zesty and not to sweet served with a satisfying dollop of clotted cream and for those who like peanut butter, you can’t miss the peanut butter ice cream, its heavenly.
Quaglino’s has retained that feeling of old-school unadulterated extravagance. Maybe it’s the subterranean setting, maybe it’s legendary past, the free-flowing bubbles definitely help too, but for a couple of hours you can escape all that is going on, on the streets above and just have fun.
Q Brunch is served 11:30am -2:30pm every Saturday