If memory serves, Auberon Waugh remarked in his autobiography that it was the sight of a room full of lonely diners one Christmas that sold him on the idea of family life. For some, it is the sight of their families that sells them on hotel dining rooms. For those of you who adore your relatives, but wouldn't mind a breather on New Year's Eve, here are some restaurants open at Christmas and New Year. The prices are high, but they include all sorts of pampering: welcoming drinks, nibbles, music, confetti, that sort of thing.

London

Halcyon Hotel 129 Holland Park Avenue, W11 (0171-221 5411). Harvey Nichols- issue London hotel, favoured, publicists would have it, by Hollywood's A-list. Maybe. Certainly the Pinters have eaten there, Christmas day lunch and New Year's Eve 3 courses pounds 65; other days pounds 29.

Lanesborough 1 Lanesborough Place, SW1 (0171-259 5599). A London hospital transformed into a luxury ship by a Texan entrepreneur. The dining room is the former operationg theatre. Christmas lunch pounds 88, New Year's Eve pounds 210.

Savoy Strand, WC2 (0171-836 4343). The entrance is the only street in Britain where one drives on the right. Great martinis in the American Bar. Ties, jackets and no jeans, please. Gala New Year's Eve dinner in River Restaurant pounds 280.

Avon Vellore Restaurant Bath Spa Hotel, Sydney Road, Bath (01225-444424). The Forte Organisation refurbished this hotel some six years ago, and though snooty critics hate to admit it, Rocco and Co made an excellent job of it. Food is good, service top notch. New Year's Eve gala dinner pounds 149.

Buckinghamshire Bell Inn Aston Clinton (01296-630252). The owners, the Harrises, are the bon viveurs of Buckinghamshire. New Years Eve candlelit dinner pounds 79.

Cambridgeshire Midsummer House Midsummer Common, Cambridge (01223-69299). Chefs come and go, but this elaborate set-up is still thought the place for special occasions. New Year's Eve dinner about pounds 70.

Derbyshire Old Vicarage Ridgeway Moor, Ridgeway (01142-475814). Lovely old vicarage just outside Sheffield. The cook and co-proprietor Tessa Bramley, is an inspiration to up and coming women chefs. Christmas day lunch pounds 59, New Year's Eve dinner pounds 55. December menu normally pounds 35 per person; bistro pounds 20 per person. Vegetarian dishes.

Dorset Summer Lodge Evershot (01935-83424). An immaculate country house hotel frequented by gardening enthusiasts. Flowers stunning, food and wine not bad either. Christmas Day lunch pounds 47.50, New Year's Eve 6-course gala diner pounds 85. Normally pounds 32.50 for 5 courses. Vegetarian dishes.

Edinburgh Caledonian Hotel Princes Street (0131-459 9988). Edinburgh's best hotel serves great cream teas. This abiding respect for the goodies in life bodes well for its Christmas Day lunch in Carriages Restaurant pounds 51 (children under 8 free, 8-12 pounds 21); or La Pompadour pounds 70, children 8- 12 pounds 35. New Year's Eve: pounds 185 for dinner, bed and breakfast.

Glasgow One Devonshire Gardens 1 Devonshire Gardens (0141-339 2001). This must be where it was decided to make Glasgow the "city of culture". Very civilised place. New Year's Eve dinner pounds 65.

Gwynedd Penmaenuchaf Hall Penmaenpool, Dolgellau (01341 422129). Described by The Good Food Guide as a "truly fabulous Victorian mansion", it commends the wine list and expresses interest in new chef Sue Kessek. Christmas lunch pounds 35. New Year's Eve dinner dance pounds 55.

Hampshire Gordleton Mill Hotel Silver Street, Hordle, near Lymington (01590-682219). Converted mill in enchanting location in the New Forest. Food tends to be French. Christmas lunch pounds 55. New Year's Eve pounds 85 for gala dinner.

Kent Eastwell Manor Eastwell Park, Boughton Lees (01233 219955). Mock- Jacobean house in large estate. The GFG commends use of game from the grounds, and flair of chef Ian Mansfield. New Year's Eve dinner dance pounds 95.

Lancashire Northcote Manor Northcote Road, Langho (01254-240555). Chef and co-proprietor Nigel Haworth is regarded as a serious talent. Here he emphasises local produce. Chirstmas lunch pounds 75. Major credit cards.

North Yorkshire Burlington Restaurant Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey, Skipton (01756-710441). Former coaching inn owned by the duke and duchess of Devonshire. New Year's Eve dinner dance pounds 70.

Oxfordshire Lovells at Windrush Farm, Old Minster Lovell (01993-779802). Converted farmhouse in splendid grounds. Food a stately procession. Christmas lunch pounds 55.

West Sussex Angel Hotel North Street, Midhurst (01730-812421). Pit-stop for sybarites in the most beautiful pocket of the Home Counties. New Year's pounds 65.

Emily Green

Comments