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Best restaurants for a business dinner in the Solent

By Steve Charnock
17 January 2022

Organising a work event can sometimes prove a little tricky. You have to judge the tone, the attendees and the level of formality. Book a local pub for a meeting of the board of directors and you may receive a few disapproving looks. Similarly, you don’t want to be reserving a table at an exclusive three Michelin starred-restaurant in Fitzrovia to discuss tenders for a new photocopier provider. 

If the brief is ‘business dinner’, you know there’s a level of sophistication and quality that will be required in a venue. Slightly more buttoned-up and decorous than a ‘regular’ business breakfast or lunch, what’s needed is a comfortable and quiet space that’s elevated by quality dining and excellent service.  

There are more than a few such places in the Solent area of southern England that tick those boxes. We’ve cast our net and reeled in some of our favourite catches from this picturesque coastal area. And here they are: 

The Elderflower 

Location: Lymington 

The Elderflower  in Lymington 
The Elderflower 
in Lymington 

Let’s begin with an award-winning restaurant that’s highly-esteemed in the Solent and New Forest: Lymington’s The Elderflower. A truly gorgeous Grade II-listed building on a toytown cobbled street, this place is famous in the area for its high-end British and French cuisine. The head chef/proprietor Andrew du Bourg has experience working in 5* hotels and Michelin-starred places, so the gastronomy side is in talented hands. With the front of house ably conducted with aplomb by his welcoming wife Marjolaine. 

For the full culinary experience, tasting menus are very much part of the service offered. If, however, that doesn’t sound conducive for a more discussion-led business dinner, you can always order from the à la carte menu. It offers a host of creative modern dishes, with locally-sourced ingredients, all cooked using traditional French techniques. 

Bookings are essential, as you can imagine. Service is at set times and the restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesday, so it’s worth conducting a little research on potential timings. Do contact the owners in advance for bookings of more than six too. Provided you’re not planning a conference-size meeting, you’ll be accommodated (tables and chairs may just need to be rearranged). 

In their words: “The Elderflower is operated from a grade 2 listed building in a cobbled Quay Street in the heart of the beautiful Georgian town of Lymington. Sited between the New Forest district of Hampshire and the west Solent.” 

“Experienced husband and wife team Andrew and Marjolaine Du Bourg aim to provide you with the perfect dining experience for their guests. Their aim is to bring fun back into dining out, encompassing imaginative cooking, relaxed but efficient service in a stunning venue.” 

Top features: Fine dining, historic surroundings, quaint quayside location, high end wine list, superior service. 

La Regata 

Location: Town Quay, Southampton 

La Regata in Southampton
La Regata in Southampton

If your preference is for a slightly more informal style of eating, with dishes arriving at different times and the kind of genial, social ambience that goes along with it, then we can heartily recommend La Regata. As authentic a tapas experience as it’s possible to achieve without the effort of customs and two and a half hours spent at 35,000 feet, this quayside Iberian eatery is a real treat. From the decor to the food, the wine to the service, it’s like holding a business lunch in Seville. Only you’re in Southampton. 

You can, of course, enjoy the variety and talking points that ordering from the tapas menu offers. Then there’s the conviviality of sharing that Spanish classic, the table-dominating paella. Perhaps La Regata's finest dish comes from the main menu, however - the popular Cordero Iberico, lamb in a red wine and apple jus, served with capers and potatoes. Another option is the whole suckling pig. You will, however, need to give a little notice if that’s something your party’s likely to order. Plump for that and it’ll be a dinner no one around the table will forget in a hurry… 

In their words: “We are an authentic Spanish restaurant less than a 5 minute walk from some of Southampton’s top hotels, dock area, and the main shopping centre. When you visit us you are bound to find something you love!” 

“La Regata offers a selection of fresh fish and meat main course dishes, from tortillas to chorizo, pulpo gallega to fabada asturiana. Your taste buds will be tantalised and your hunger more than satisfied. Come on down to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or a family dinner with us. We can cater for up to 100 guests with additional seating outside.” 

Top features: Authentic Spanish tapas, welcoming and friendly service, great atmosphere. 

The Royal Hotel Restaurant 

Location: Ventor, Isle of Wight 

The Royal Hotel Restaurant on the Isle of Wight

If haute cuisine or tapas in relatively intimate surroundings doesn’t appeal, perhaps you’d prefer the opulence of a traditional grand hotel. Considered by most on the Isle of Wight to be the island’s very best hotel, the restaurant at this four star establishment is now making waves in its own right. The building itself has plenty of history. Open since 1832, The Royal has featured in every single Michelin Hotel Guide since 1911. 

Being a hotel, those enjoying this Victorian restaurant’s high ceilings, crystal chandeliers and delicious modern British food are primarily guests staying overnight. Non-residents are very welcome too of course, but advanced booking is heavily recommended. 

Should your event grow into something closer to a business function or you anticipate the need to utilise meeting room space while dining at The Royal, just speak to a member of staff. They’re adept at hosting corporate functions and have plenty of options to suit whatever your requirement may be. 

In their words: “As one of only thirty venues to be listed in the famous Michelin Guide since its inception, we aim to give diners an exceptional culinary experience. Our menu reflects the abundance of quality produce harvested from the Isle of Wight's bountiful coast and countryside. Enjoy exquisite seasonal food matched with a selection of fine wines.” 

Top features: Excellent cuisine, grand hotel atmosphere, elegant setting, attentive service. 

The Briny 

Location: Southsea, Portsmouth 

The Briny in Portsmouth
The Briny in Portsmouth

It can take a lot of effort behind the scenes to create somewhere that appears effortlessly fantastic. There’s an air of the easy going to proceedings at this family-run Southsea restaurant, but don’t let the relaxed aura deceive you - plenty of hard work has gone into this Scandinavian coastal-inspired waterside venue. As you can imagine, the seafood is the reason to book, with the cocktails just one of the reasons to stick around. 

The panoramic views of the Solent offer are genuinely quite stunning and there’s a slickness to the service and a real confidence to the design choices and furnishings. So when the bill lands, you may be pleasantly surprised. Before then, you’ll have ample opportunity to enjoy locally-caught fish in a relaxed but highly enjoyable environment.  

In their words: “Serving up excellent food and drink with a casual beachfront vibe is our passion. The Briny is a culmination of years of experience, brought together by the newest generation of restaurateurs in our family.” 

“Panoramic sea views from every vantage point, combined with our exceptional level of customer service make us a must-visit on the South Coast. Our ingredients are sourced from the best suppliers, where possible locally and our team will always be happy to share with you the journey of our food from farm or sea to plate.” 

“Our team of chefs are passionate about showing ingredients the respect they deserve and you can enjoy watching them create your very own masterpiece in our open kitchen.” 

Top features: Beautiful views, friendly staff, relaxed atmosphere, tasteful decor. 

South Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are areas packed with culinary gems and perfect spots for a business dinner. These are just our top four picks, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find plenty of high quality options. Best of luck with your booking and enjoy your evening, wherever you end up.