Everyone needs a little indulgence now and then, but if you want to indulge like a pro, take a leaf out of the royal book and make your dinner reservation (or lunch or breakfast or all three), a truly extravagant affair.
From hotel dining rooms that were frequented by the Queen to exquisitely-designed restaurants dripping in luxury, Britain has plenty of seriously sumptuous spots in which to dine.
Here are 10 of the most impressive.
1. Claridge’s, London, England
Dating back to 1856, this five-star Art Deco icon has long been a popular haunt of both the British Royal Family and various European royals. Its esteemed reputation was cemented when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited in the 1860s, which quickly encouraged other royal visits from abroad – later, during World War Two, the hotel was used by exiled leaders, including the kings of Norway, Greece and Yugoslavia. The royal love affair has since continued: the Queen Mother was a frequent guest, and her favourite table at the restaurant was reputedly always dressed with sweet peas.
To be honest, it’s not hard to see why this seriously lavish venue caught the attention of the very highest of high society over the centuries. The Royal Suite sums up the venue’s dazzling credentials, featuring a grand piano used by Gilbert and Sullivan, a personal butler around-the-clock and design touches paying homage to Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation, the celebratory dinner of which was held at Claridge’s, naturally.
2. Inverlochy Castle, Fort William, Scotland
When your dinner surroundings include period furniture pieces given as gifts by the King of Norway, you know you’re dining somewhere with a royal seal of approval. This handsome 19th-century castle in the Scottish Highlands also received high praise from Queen Victoria, who spent a week at Inverlochy in 1873 while on a trip to Balmoral and declared – after a week of painting, sketching and admiring the stunning Highlands scenery – “I never saw a lovelier or more romantic spot”.
Inside the hotel, things are no-less impressive, including Inverlochy’s three dining rooms, led by world-renowned chef Michel Roux Jr. Dinner is a high-end affair, but an inclusive one, as there are separate vegan and vegetarian menus, plus afternoon tea and a suitably mammoth whisky list featuring some mighty single malts.
Widely cited as the oldest restaurant in London, Rules was founded in 1798 and has played host to various royal personalities since then. Perhaps most famously, Edward VII (when he was Prince of Wales) used to have his own table on the first floor, where he would entertain his mistress, actor and producer Lillie Langtry. Allegedly, a door was even built in the room to keep these encounters as covert as possible. The room is now named after Edward VII.
The interior is grand and filled with art, antiques, velvet-lined booths and general Old World charm. As well as plenty of royal blood, Rules has also fed and watered its share of celebrities, including Charlie Chaplin, Joan Collins and Harrison Ford, as well as appearing in several films, including the James Bond hit Spectre.
This magnificent country house hotel has played host and home to a staggering number of royal figures since it was built in 1666 by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham. Frederick, Prince of Wales, lived at Cliveden from 1737-1751, Queen Victoria visited eight times (once including an entourage of around 90) and in more modern times, Meghan Markle stayed at Cliveden the night before her wedding to Prince Harry.
If Meghan visited the Cliveden Dining Room during her stay, she would have been in for a treat. With nods to Art Deco opulence, it’s a beautiful space focused on fine-dining, also offering views over the magnificent green swathes of the estate gardens. Then there’s the French Dining Room, decorated with panels purchased by then-owner William Waldorf Astor from Château d’Asnières, a 17th-century French castle, resulting in a gloriously ornate Rococo-style private dining room to wow one and all.
5. Undercroft Café, Windsor Castle, Berkshire, England
What better place to feel like royalty while you eat and drink than a royal residence still owned and used by the Crown. It’s also the oldest occupied castle in the world and has housed 39 monarchs since it was founded in the 11th century by William the Conqueror.
Boasting rows of beautiful stone arches, the Undercroft Café is Windsor Castle’s first cafe and was originally used as a cellar to store beer and wine, after being built as part of Edward III’s renovations to the castle in the mid-14th century.
With some parts dating back to 1270, Hever is perhaps best-known for being the home of not one, but two of Henry VIII’s wives. Anne Boleyn lived there as a child (the Boleyn family owned Hever for almost 80 years during the 15th and 16th centuries), and the castle was later owned by Anne of Cleves while she was married to Henry, remaining with her until her death in 1557.
Visitors can still soak up the historical royal atmosphere by dining and supping at one of Hever’s many restaurants and cafes, including the decidedly upscale Loggia Bar, where you can enjoy a glass of prosecco overlooking the lake in the gorgeous Italian Garden.
7. Cardigan Castle, Ceredigion, Wales
The first version of this now-sprawling castle is thought to have arisen around the 11th century, signalling the beginning of a colourful and battle-strewn history. It’s been the home of Edward I and Katherine of Aragon, but these days is now a historical site open to visitors, many of whom come to enjoy its acclaimed restaurant Cegin 1176 (‘Kitchen 1176’ in English). The restaurant is named after the year of Wales’s first Eisteddfod, an annual festival of Welsh culture which first took place at Cardigan Castle and is still celebrated today.
In contrast to the castle’s appealingly ancient stone exterior, Cegin 1176 is a slick, modern eatery, with floor-to-ceiling glass panels that look out over parts of the grounds. Vegetables, fruits and herbs served in the restaurant are even grown in the castle garden.
8. Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire, England
If you want to go all-out when it comes to surroundings, there are few better places than the Wernher Restaurant at five-star luxury hotel and mansion house Luton Hoo. Although the current building dates back to the late-18th century (it was owned by the Earl of Bute, a former Prime Minister), the grandiose dining room was remodelled in the early-20th century by the Ritz London’s architects, which perhaps explains its aesthetic – the marble panels, crystal chandeliers and thick, boldly coloured fabrics are modelled on the Palace of Versailles. It’s quite the setting for any meal.
There is a royal connection or two, of course. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip stayed at Luton Hoo during their honeymoon in 1947, and King James I is thought to have stayed at the first house that stood on the site in 1611.
9. The Goring, London, England
It’s no surprise that the closest hotel to Buckingham Palace is popular with the Royal Family. In fact, the Goring was awarded a Royal Warrant (a mark recognising that a company is officially used by the British Monarchy) by the Queen in 2013 for its hospitality services. It also became temporarily known as “the annexe to Buckingham Palace” during the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953, due to the large numbers of royal figures from around the world who lodged there for the event.
The Queen was also known to enjoy a December festive lunch at the hotel. Should you wish to do the same in the Goring’s Dining Room (which holds a Michelin Star and three AA Rosettes), it’ll set you back a five-star price, as will the menu year-round, in fact. If you want to really feel like royalty and you’re feeling particularly flush, accompany your meal with a magnum of Krug Grande Cuvee champagne, currently priced at £580.
10. Fawsley Hall Hotel & Spa, Northamptonshire, England
If you want to feel not just like royalty while you wine and dine, but specifically like Henry VIII attending a particularly indulgent banquet, try dining in the aptly named Tudor Great Hall of this grand royal manor. The cavernous space dates back to 1537 and is filled with tapestries, period furniture and intricate wall carvings. It’s a space fit for any king or queen, including Queen Elizabeth I, who visited Fawsley several times and even had her own ‘Queen’s Chamber’.
If the grandeur of the Tudor Great Hall is too much for you, try the slightly more informal (but still notably smart) 16th-century Cedar Restaurant, or just lounge over a drink in the Tudor Bar, formerly the estate’s multifunctional brew house, where beer was brewed and laundry was cleaned.