When you’re organising a business event that revolves around food, which meal you’re booking for can be extremely important. While the atmosphere of a business lunch may be slightly more relaxed than a breakfast or brunch, all three can be quite formal affairs. A business dinner, however? Well, that’s a slightly different proposition.
Most business dinners are somewhat more casual events. Perhaps due to the fact that they tend to take place outside of standard office hours. Yet while there may well be a more informal feel to proceedings, it’s a double-edged sword. It’s taking place outside of standard office hours. So you’d better impress your guests. This isn’t on the clock.
Impressive places to eat and discuss things of an evening that aren’t too stuffy, but are liable to wow those attending the dinner… they’re out there. Luckily for us in the Thames Valley, we have plenty of options that fit that criteria. Here are our top picks from across the region:
Location: Taplow, Maidenhead
This place is an easy-going French brasserie overlooking the river Thames, with a relaxed and friendly ambience. Making it an almost ideal setting for your next business dinner. When your guests discover it was set up by Alain Roux and his late father Michel Roux OBE, then see the views from the balcony bar, things go from ‘almost ideal’ to ‘absolutely perfect’.
Equi-distant between the Berkshire town of Maidenhead and the Buckinghamshire village of Taplow, right on the counties’ border, Roux at Skindles has a long and fascinating history. It’s built on the site of the old Studio Valbonne, once branded the world’s best nightclub. The glitter balls may be gone, but the glamour and class remains.
Looking for a little privacy? Enquire about the private dining space, ‘The Chairman’s Room’, an intimate space that can fit up to 14 people.
In their words: “Alain created Roux at Skindles in partnership with his late father, Michel Roux, as the type of place they would choose to spend time off with family and friends. It was a dream come true, their first opening together and a home from home. Their aim was to create the kind of round-the-corner brasserie they grew up with in France, hanging out with family and neighbours. It is the perfect Thameside venue either for a business meeting, family lunch or celebration dinner with friends.”
Top features: Culinary heritage and excellence, plenty of on-site history, excellent private dining room, stunning Thameside views
Location: Just north of Oxford city centre
Found in the most cosmopolitan area of Oxford, the chic and much-loved Jericho area, Gees prides itself on serving its community. Yet while it might well be a cherished local asset and a ‘neighbourhood restaurant’ at heart, that doesn’t mean Gees doesn’t welcome business bookings with open arms. Well, open menus, anyway.
There are higher end restaurants you can host your business dinner at in Oxford than Gees. Yet for all the on-plate opulence offered by multiple rosetted and starred eateries, few boast a talking point quite like the Victorian conservatory here. There’s a uniqueness to the room that your guests are sure to appreciate.
Exclusive hire is available if you anticipate your booking being particularly large. Otherwise, specific areas can, of course, be reserved. If you’d prefer a quieter area (the main glasshouse can get relatively boisterous in the evenings), just mention when booking.
In their words: “Gees Restaurant offers locals and visitors a uniquely rustic, Mediterranean dining experience set in a unique Victorian Glasshouse. Enjoy one of our expertly made house cocktails, dine in the light-filled conservatory amidst olive trees and plants, choose from a daily evolving seasonal menu inspired by the regional dishes of Spain and Italy, cooked on the wood fire oven and charcoal grill. We're open every day of the year... for morning coffee, weekend brunch, bite-size morsels, Christmas menus and dishes for sharing. Our menu is best described as Mediterranean, simply prepared and expertly cooked.”
Top features: Remarkable setting and aesthetics, good atmosphere, top service, exclusive hire options
Location: Windsor Racecourse Marina
A racecourse in the Berkshire countryside, set on a marina. It’s a unique setting to meet for a business dinner. But then GOGOS is quite a unique place. Rustic and meaty South African dishes mean the dishes may not be refined, but they’re certainly delicious.
Opt for a table out on the terrace in summer months and there are few finer views as the sun sets in the Thames Valley. Moored boats on the Windsor marina in the foreground, with the famous figure-of-eight Windsor racecourse in the background. Those vistas and the ‘espetadas’ meat skewers make a fine pairing indeed.
GOGOS is easily the least formal venue on our list, but it offers something quite different. It all depends on what you’ve got planned.
In their words: “The African meaning of 'GOGO' is grandmother and the restaurant’s ethos has been created to represent the spirit of letting granny look after you. A hidden gem overlooking the river - our lovely relaxed setting and friendly staff serve dishes inspired by the tastes of Africa, from our signature ribs and espetadas to our notable Marina breakfast. Our exotic cocktails and large selection of gins and wines are expertly produced by our knowledgeable team. Our business has been established around 3 key pillars: kindness, peace and prosperity.”
Top features: Unusual food options, tremendous location and views, friendly service, private hire available
Location: Woodspeen, Newbury
If you put emphasis on the ‘wine’ when you ‘wine and dine’ clients, you’ll perhaps want to head somewhere with an impressive wine list. The Woodspeen is award winning in this regard. With 400 wines to pick from, you may need a little guidance. Luckily, the staff are as knowledgeable as they are helpful.
Don’t worry if it’s the ‘dine’ part that excites you and your delegates, The Woodspeen are no slackers when it comes to the food. They can’t afford to be, not with a Michelin Star to their name. Expect innovative high-end dishes made with local meats, and vegetables picked from the grounds that day.
The modern dining area is fresh and full of light and greenery. The design and aura of the place almost has a Scandinavian feel to it. If your booking is large, you can reserve an area for private dining or, if you’re looking for something a little different, perhaps your group might enjoy a cookery course.
Found just on the outskirts of Newbury, parking is never an issue. Just be careful not to park on top of their carrots or herb garden. It’s never a clever idea to annoy Chef.
In their words: “A Michelin star restaurant and cookery school, set in a lovingly restored 19th century farmhouse, nestling in the West Berkshire countryside. We serve seasonal dishes, inspired by homegrown ingredients. With a Michelin star, award-winning wine list and a relaxed atmosphere. Designed to take full advantage of the breathtaking views over the West Berkshire countryside, with an open kitchen where you can watch the chef’s at work, creating their delightful dishes..”
Top features: Michelin starred, sun-drenched and plant-filled dining spaces, superior wine selection, cookery school, private dining room
Those are our top four picks, but really - this is just the tip of a delicious iceberg. The Thames Valley is something of a hub not just for business, but for high quality eateries that are ideal for a business dinner. Wherever you end up choosing, we’re sure you and your guests will enjoy yourselves. Bon appetit!