Simply can’t stand this witheringly cold wintry weather a moment longer? Want to go out for dinner but are afraid you’ll be even colder than you are right now, reading this, and may start to cry? Never fear, Hot Dinners has come up with a list of places to warm the very cockles of your heart, not to mention your extremities.
Try any of the eating places on our list in the sure knowledge there’ll be an open fire of sorts, somewhere on the premises, to keep you toasty while you dine.
In Summer, the Albion's huge garden is a draw, but in the winter you'll want to sit in the snug interior with a real fire, just inside the front door - perfect to huddle around while trying out its award winning Sunday lunch. We recommend the rib of beef for two with all the trimmings followed by warm Madagascan vanilla rice pudding.
The Drapers Arms
This Barnsbury gastropub has much more offer than just its fabulous beer garden. In winter there are two open fires on either side of the downstairs dining area. The menu changes daily, but there's usually some sort of pie on offer to help you keep away the chills.
The Bull and Last
Avoid the upstairs dining room at this superior North London gastropub and book ahead to ensure you nab the large table on the ground floor next to the fire. Then spend the evening hogging the flames, feeling superior (and warmer) to all the other diners. Food-wise, they do a superior scotch egg, but you might be wanting something a little more substantial, so start with the trotter wontons and follow that up with roast venison and celeriac puree.
Lion & Unicorn
If you find yourself in Kentish Town and you’re looking for somewhere to warm up fast, head for the Lion & Unicorn for some good food and a chance to huddle by the fire. Soup of the day, venison sausage and mash, and hot sticky toffee pudding will warm your insides, and upstairs, The Giant Olive theatre company host nightly performances so there’s no need to race back out into the cold.
St John's Tavern
Like the sound of Jerusalem artichoke soup with truffle oil and chives, followed by pork belly with roasted cauliflower, sprout tops, quince aioli and sage jus served up to you in front of a burning fire? Then head to St John’s Tavern dining room where bread is baked daily on site, stocks are homemade, and ingredients are all sourced from around the corner. Oh, and there’s a lovely fire too.
The Charlotte Street Hotel
If you fancy a break from Oxford Street then why not pop into the Charlotte Street hotel for a spot of afternoon tea on the sofas around the fire in the lobby of the hotel? The Bloomsbury Tea comes with all your afternoon classics including smoked salmon bagels, roast beef and horseradish sandwiches, sweet patisserie and a range of teas and infusions to choose from. Or, alternatively stick to the champagne and just move a bit closer to the fire.
This longstanding modern tapas joint in Knightsbridge offers cutting edge Spanish gastronomy. Visit at the weekends for a three-course twist on the classic roast. Try rustic casserole of pork (cheeks, ear, trotters, chorizo) with Bierzo chickpeas, followed by flame grill baby lamb cutlets with garlic piquillo peppers and caramelized shallots, and finish with homemade Seville orange marmalade, raisin bread and yogurt ice cream – all served up in front of the fire.
Regularly referred to as London’s most romantic restaurant, you can blame your blushing cheeks on the roaring open fires at Covent Garden’s Clos Maggiore. Both its dining room and glass-roofed, blossom filled conservatory have log wood fires in the winter months. Add to this simple, Provencal food and an award winning wine list and it’s easy to see how a little bit of romance may be kindled.
This busy, buzzing pub in Hammersmith has its seasonal menu chalked up on board. Warm up with some hearty fare and warm your cockles by the roaring fire. The wine list’s vast and there’s a range of ales on tap. What more could you want from your local in the winter?
This old Victorian inn at Ladbroke Grove is set over three floors, with an open plan bar, lounge and bistro. Baroque antique mirrors, stained oak floors, Victorian chandeliers and wood paneling provide a marvelous background for a warm, winter hangout. Enjoy whole grilled black bream with salsa verde or onglet steak with triple cooked chips by the fire. Still can’t face the cold? Then crash in one of the 12 upstairs bedrooms..
Forget the normal tables, make sure you get a seat round the robata grill at this Charlotte Street restaurant so at least the front half of your body will enjoy being a decent temperature. A white miso soup with scallop will start you off nicely while you work out which skewers you're going to have from the robata grill.
White Horse, Parson's Green
This old boozer on Parson's Green has just emerged from an extensive refurb and is looking pretty damn good. Recline in an old Chesterfield aside the roaring fire and tuck into a changing menu of soups, hot pies and sweet English puds. We hear the ales are top notch too.
This Wandsworth pub is a big favourite of foodie bloggers and reviewers, recently hosting the infamous Scotch Egg Challenge. There's a huge roaring fire in the middle of the room (pictured on the right), perfect if you've just come in from a walk along the Thames. And we hear their burgers are mighty fine.
This relatively new opening on Clapham Common has proved to be a hit with the locals, and we were impressed on our Test Drive. So if you fancy taking some time away from the wind on the Common, try huddling around the fire here with one of their Rookery Coffees (Jameson’s Irish Whiskey and Patron XO Coffee Liqueur).
This cosy spot just south of Clapham Common has all manner of nooks and crannies so you can squeeze together to make the most of your fellow diners' bodily warmth as you eat. Or, you can sit next to or near the fire in the back section of the dining area. Lunch is strong here - doesn't a cheese toastie with chips or the pumpkin, feta and pine nut pithivier, spiced tomato sauce sound like it would do you the world of good?
This east London pub from the Martin brothers is a perennial favourite in this part of town and you can take respite from the cold by having dinner in the Red Room with its large open fire. Better still gather a group together for one of their feast menus and you can enjoy whole roast suckling pig with boulangère potatoes and sage gravy or a braised venison haunch with red cabbage and glazed onions.
This tiny Turkish restaurant gives more space over to its ocak grill than it does to the tables, so you’re bound to enjoy a toasty evening. Better still, it’s BYO so if all else fails, you can use a nip or two of a hipflask filled with raki to numb the pain of frostbite.
Also worth trying
The Goring Hotel has fires in both the dining room and the bar and the Jerusalem Tavern in Clerkenwell can do bangers in front of the fire if you're lucky enough to nab a seat on a cold day, And newly-opened tapas spot Salvador and Amanda in Bloomsbury also has a working fire.
Any more we've missed? Let us know...
Updated for 2012 by Jo Aspin – on twitter @ilovechilli