Who eats where: The Political lunch: Westminster rumours at the old GLC

Jonathon Carr-Brown
Sunday 26 December 1999 01:02

Britain's new political elite opt for convenience and discretion over style. The Marriot Hotel's Restaurant in the old County Hall fulfills both criteria. It is just five minutes walk across Westminster Bridge from the House of Commons and its well spaced tables, superb views and tranquil atmosphere have made it probably one of the most popular lunching venues for junior ministers Michael Wills, Mike O'Brien and Peter Kilfoyle, senior backbench MPs and government special advisers.

The People's Palace, in the Royal Festival Hall, has retained its mystique as New Labour's favourite haunt. New Labour media luvvies like Rosie Boycott, as well as party functionaries like Margaret McDonagh, the general secretary, frequent it.

L'Amico on Horseferry Road is the secret of the political world. Its Italian food is unremarkable but its private rooms have seen a wealth of intrigue between politicians and journalist.

Further afield, in Covent Garden, Rules, London's oldest restaurant, is still a safe bet for entertaining senior Tories or quangocrats. The tables are too close together but during the Tory leadership battle its Redwood wine provided a useful ruse for flushing out supporters of John Redwood. And in Soho, the Gay Hussar, famous for its heavy Hungarian cuisine, retains a place in the hearts of reconstructed old Labourites. Many special advisers and policy wonks still like reminiscing over a bottle of Bull's Blood in its cramped couch seats.

The Atrium is the quick, one-stop shop for political commentators who want to be seen with their quarry. Cabinet ministers Chris Smith, Peter Mandelson, Alan Milburn and Stephen Byers, are among those frequenting the Millbank eaterie. With the offices of Sky and the BBC's political unit looking down on it, the Atrium is for political show-offs.

Top Tories and government ministers are still taken to the Savoy Grill. Ken Clarke and Nicholas Soames are rumoured to have squatting rights and Gordon Brown is also said to be a fan. Failing that, Le Gavroche in Upper Brook Street is the up-market place to take a Cabinet minister for an evening meal.

Lower ranking Tories are also a fan of Michael Caine's Masham Street restaurant, Shepherds, which has a loyal clientele of civil servants and is always booked days in advance.

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