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The RIBA (Restaurant)

Picture of The RIBA in Fitzrovia, London

66 Portland Place, Fitzrovia, London, W1B 1AD
Cuisine: Modern European
Tel: 02076310467 | Email to The RIBA | | Transport: Oxford Circus | Write review

The RIBA Review

Best for: Showing off to friends in that “there’s this little place that I know” kind of way.

Great: Culture, desserts and destination dining.

There’s an epidemic amongst my closest friends: an unstoppable outbreak of incurable itchy feet. One of my bezzies just left London for Nottingham, two will be setting up home in Toronto this summer, and one pal is swapping Kentish Town for Singapore next month. Two others are scouring foreign job ads with the fervour of a couple in desperate need of some athlete’s foot ointment.

I’m starting to worry it’s something I said. Maybe I’m lacking a spirit of adventure, but after almost seven years as a resident, I can’t imagine living anywhere but London. I was reminded exactly why while walking to my latest restaurant review: The Restaurant at RIBA. 

It was one of those days where London was behaving itself. Unseasonable, late evening sun shimmered off the Thames as I crossed Blackfriars Bridge en route to RIBA’s home in Portland Place. There was the parade of black cabs to be dodged on Victoria Embankment, the crowds gathering for the evening’s performances in Theatreland. Even the normally reliably hateful Oxford Street seemed more tolerable under the dusky glow of the now setting sun. 

So far, so familiar; sights commonplace to tourists and Londoners alike, but the best thing about our London is that no matter how well you know it, there’s always something new to delight and surprise.

RIBA turned out to be one of those surprises. After all, who would think to have dinner at the Royal Institute of British Architects?

I’m now going to blow this well-kept secret wide open, as everyone should give it a try. The Grade II listed, 1930s building, as you’d expect for the home of British architecture, is striking and grand. It’s to my shame that I’ve probably walked past it countless times without taking any notice. It made me think, what else am I missing, ambling round the capital with headphones jammed in my ears, never looking further than the back of the head of the person in front of me. It'd be daft to leave now with so much to see.

Inside, and up the sweeping staircase, the restaurant, housed in the Art Deco inspired Florence Hall, is huge and airy, with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook a pretty but equally vast terrace. As I say, London was having a good day, showing off how lovely it could be in the sunshine, so the terrace was chocka. Not sure how much use they make of the space during 99% of the year.

Exhibits are dotted around the room and, as visitors mill about taking them in, what could have felt intrusive, actually lent a buzzy atmosphere to the dining room.  

My pet peeve is tiny tables cramped together, but there was no danger of that. As a party of two, we were seated at a big, round table on a comfy leather banquette. As a double bass and keyboard tinkled in the background, we took in the neat and thoughtful menu. 

When the courses were delivered, they were mini exhibits in themselves. Some, like the black leg chicken consommé, arrived as a series of ingredients, to be artfully constructed at the table. 

The mains were just as attractive. My seared sea trout was perfectly cooked, crispy on the outside but the flesh was still tender and delicately flavoured. Accompanied by saffron mash and crab ravioli, it was certainly memorable. 

Having said that, the star course was dessert. Salted caramel seems to be the dessert du jour, but it demonstrates the imagination of RIBA’s chefs to combine it with panna cotta. The result was mouthwatering. I took a picture of it on my phone and have caught myself drooling over it many a time since. Meanwhile, my companion’s dark chocolate and hazelnut tart was deliciously bitter, betraying the quality of the ingredients used. 

RIBA’s restaurant is usually open from 12-3pm for lunch, and Tuesday is the only evening you can dine there. This gives it a rather exclusive feel. It is clearly a destination restaurant for those in the know. You are now in the know, so you must go. Unless you’re planning to flee London, that is. I know I’m not. 

So farewell, friends; you can keep your “adventures" and so-called “unbeatable life-enriching experiences". With lovely surprises like The Restaurant at RIBA to be discovered, I think I’ll be sticking around in London for a long while yet, even if I’m the last one standing. more

Customer Reviews for The RIBA

Average (based on 2 votes): 2 Atmosphere: Value: Quality:

The following customer reviews are not endorsed by Fluid London and are simply those of users who wish to publish their independent experiences of The RIBA.

“I had lunch at RIBA, in March this year (2012) whilst visiting London, with my brother, who is London based and a very good friend of long standing who also lives in London. We went to the restaurant on a recommendation from a reliable 'foodie' source so arrived with high hopes and expectations! On arrival in the foyer of the imposing RIBA building it seemed an unlikely venue for a fine dining restaurant. Up a flight of stairs to the dining room and I must admit to feeling a little apprehension. We were warmly greeted but the dining room is very large and at first impression a bit cold and barn like. We were shown to our table by the Maitre de who was very attentive and quickly ensured that any apprehension was dispelled. We were seated on one side of the restaurant with plenty of natural light from the tall, floor to ceiling windows and were immediately put at ease by our waiter. The lunch menu was interesting and varied with both 'Table D'hote' and 'A la Carte' options and the wine list is comprehensive. We sampled widely from the 'A la Carte' menu; scallops and wild rabbit starters; beef and fish for main courses and delicious desserts featuring exotic chocolate concoctions. The courses were punctuated by 'amuses bouches' from the chef which were a lovely touch and we shared a plate of excellent cheeses before finishing the lunch with coffee and 'petit fours'. The wines which accompanied the meal were very enjoyable although I must confess that I cannot remember any of them to name! The service throughout our lunch was impeccable; attentive without being in anyway intrusive and our party all felt we had enjoyed an excellent lunch and eqally importantly an enjoyable experience. My early apprehension on arrival was quickly dispelled and I know I can speak for my lunch companions in saying that we were delighted with our experience at RIBA. A very big thankyou to all the RIBA restaurant staff!”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
John Filmer, Sydney, Australia (8 years 10 months 1 days ago)

“Food was dull, service offhand and a trial of English language comprehension for the waiters. But the setting is gorgeous.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Beverley Brown, London (13 years 6 months 11 days ago)

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The Royal Institute of British Architects Restaurant has contemporary cuisine with fresh ingredients and friendly service.

Updated 13/06/2007

Additional Information

Special offers, discounts and deals at The RIBA

25% off your total bill when quoting W1B1AD when booking. This offer is valid until the end of July.

Updated 27/06/2007

The RIBA Hire Details

The RIBA has hosted countless conferences, meetings and other corporate events as well as weddings, receptions, dinners and Christmas parties. Our 23 rooms include a wide range of fully equipped environments, from small meeting rooms to a lecture theatre for 400.

Situated on Portland Place, just five minutes walk from Oxford Circus, it is easy to get to and from, by bus, Underground or car.

Updated 13/06/2007

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