Inside Quaglino’s, The First Restaurant Queen Elizabeth II Visited

Food & Drink

The second you descend into Quaglino’s opulent underground restaurant, you can’t help but feel like you’ve wandered into another era.

Founded in 1929 by Giovanni Quaglino, the iconic London restaurant built a reputation for itself as the home of fashionably late dinner-cum-dancing evenings and the go-to night out for many curious royals, including Queen Elizabeth II.

Quaglino’s was actually the first public restaurant the Queen visited after her coronation in 1952, making it the first public restaurant any reigning monarch had ever eaten in.

And that was just the start. In the subsequent decades Princess Margaret enjoyed a permanently reserved table at the restaurant, Prince Harry and Prince Philp made a number of visits, and it is even rumoured that Princess Diana used to sneak through the kitchen to access her table unseen by paparazzi.

In fact, the royal love affair with Quaglino’s seems to date back to Princess Diana’s illustrious step-grandmother, Dame Barbara Cartland. When the romance novelist visited the restaurant in the 1930s, she claimed to find a real pearl in an oyster.

Still, the restaurant hasn’t always been as lucky as the Dame.

Though Quaglino’s has long been a destination for glamour and extravagance—offering high-end food, cocktails and live music—such things fell out of fashion in the late 1960s.

After being sold to a succession of hotel companies, dwindling trade forced Quaglino’s to shut its doors in 1977. But not for too long.

With a similarly aristocratic bent, Sir Terence Conran’s restaurant group purchased and relaunched the restaurant in 1993, with a small facelift and big media presence, before handing it over to D&D London in 2014 with yet another spruce-up.

The thing is, these so-called refreshes have done very little to change Quaglino’s. In the best and most charming of ways.

At almost 100 years old, this restaurant is timeless. Magnificent. All sweeping staircases, gold décor, mirrored walls, sparkling stages, and a central bar so grand you can’t help but get up and have a boogie around it.

Which is, of course, only helped by the fact that they host extraordinary musical acts every day of the week. Many of whom lean into the venue’s 1930s British Jazz and Blues legacy.

And then there’s the food.

It’s not the same that John Torode cooked when he worked at Quaglino’s as a sous chef in the ‘90s, or the same that future-billionaire George Soros served as a waiter in during the ‘40s, but it’s not far off.

The revamped menu, created by Head Chef Jack Smith, is a celebration of contemporary European cuisine with a heavy nod to retro dinner classics.

Personal favorites include whisky & maple cured salmon (with fennel, pickled mooli, cucumber, and horseradish cream), yellowfin tuna tartare (with avocado emulsion, pickled cucumber & apple, seaweed cracker, and Tobiko caviar), and the chargrilled Chateaubriand (with chestnut mushrooms, persillade, bordelaise, and bearnaise), but you can go retro with a roasted corn-fed chicken supreme if you fancy.

The Art Deco cocktail menu, which features a selection of refreshing and floral-heavy aperitifs, is a lovely new-but-old touch, too.

Very ‘Quags’, as Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous would appreciate.

Put simply, this is a restaurant with excellence in its veins. And long may its reign continue.

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