An important consideration for a Group Travel Organiser is finding an enjoyable spot to stop and eat. From fine dining experiences to sampling some of London’s finest, Amy Moore outlines some of the most group friendly eateries guaranteed to suit any itinerary.

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‘Taste’ was held at Regent’s Park, London

Celebrating 40 years in the restaurant business, Bella Italia is a pizza chain with a strong Italian influence. Established in the 1970’s, the restaurant has since seen an expansion to more than 90 sites worldwide, specialising in unique pasta, pizza and sharing platters. Though what sets this venue apart is its belief in the ethical sourcing of seafood products, mirroring a dedicated support to sustainable fishing. There are three Bella Italia sites situated near Berkshire. On Queen Victoria Street in Reading, a restaurant is conveniently placed a short walk from Reading Rail Station, where dietary requirements are well catered for within an organic venue setting. A large car park is stationed nearby offering a short stroll over a luscious riverside scene. Tables for up to 10 people are available to book at a number of venues via the online booking system. Large parties are recommended to contact the restaurant prior to arrival. A select number of restaurants provide braille and large print menus with step free access to toilets. GTW recommends researching appropriate destinations before making a booking.

The Mint Leaf Restaurant and Bar boasts a centralised location in the West End, placed mere minutes from Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus. The restaurant serves up a menu of decadent Indian dishes sourced from international ingredients. Considering an area that is well known for its theatre hotspots, the restaurant provides a specialised pre theatre menu for guests. There is a maximum table booking for 20 people online with select menus on hand for larger groups. Dietary requirements are well catered for in a space that has been neatly sectioned by dark walnut panelling, inviting a rather romanticist feel to an otherwise intimate dining experience. The restaurant can comfortably accommodate up to 220 guests seated or 500 standing. The Jalpur Room can accommodate a further 65 guests seated, or 90 standing for a more upmarket canapés and drinks reception. The room can be easily adapted to suit group requirements. A high tech audio visual system has been installed to attract group business, inclusive of a projector and additional connections for laptop if needed. An evening menu at the bar offers a generous selection of light bites with cocktail master classes on hand for groups of 4+ at a small fee.

MAIYANGO RESTAURANT

Hotel Maiyango Restaurant provides the ultimate fine dining experience

The award winning Hotel Maiyango Restaurant provides the ultimate experience in dining. Awarded an AA Rosette for Culinary Excellence, the destination practically demands a presence within the Good Food Guide. An open terrace on the third floor of the establishment invites sublime panoramic views of a distinct Victorian skyline, with the hotel a two-minute stroll from the burial site of King Richard III. Formerly a shoe factory, the rich colour scheme combined with an authentic rustic charm welcomes guests to sample seasonal treats cooked by Chef Nick Wilson. The restaurant is open Monday to Friday from 0700hrs and 0800hrs Saturday & Sunday for breakfast, brunch and all day dining. A cocktail mixology master class is available to book for parties of up to 50 people, highly recommended for team building exercises or to adequately suit a GTOs itinerary. Maiyango offers an exciting venue with a real focus on quality combined with its own quirky sense of style. Outside catering is an option at locations within a thirty- mile radius. Specific rooms at the site are convenient for business or leisure, with The Grand Hall located nearby, boasting a spectacular meeting space for up to 200 delegates.

Can’t decide on a place that tailors to all tastes? Those looking for something more convenient could choose to visit Za Za Bazaar located in Bristol. Situated amidst a harbour side setting, guests can enjoy a fixed price buffet dining experience offering a salad stand and sushi, amongst other gourmet delights. The appeal of global cuisine, live cooking demonstrations and exceptional cocktails invite an active atmosphere within a vibrant, urban-like setting inspired by the night markets of Asia. Derivative of the Za Za Tribe, known for their predominant imagination, the spacious eatery can comfortably accommodate groups of up to 1000 people within the biggest restaurant in the UK. Bookings of more than 50 people should be organised with the restaurant directly. Those lucky enough to visit could choose to embark during Happy Hour which is between 1700hrs and 1900hrs daily, offering two for one deals on select cocktails and bottles of wine, with specialised rates on international beer brands.

A LOOK FORWARD: THE GOOD FOOD SHOW 2014

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The Good Food Show features live cooking demonstrations. FOREVER BETTER

The Good Food Show is to be held at the NEC Birmingham on November 27-30, 2014. An event for the avid foodie, featuring an impressive display of independent food and drink produce, as well as some other well-known brands. The Producer’s Village invites an active food market, where guests can purchase favourable items on display. The Supertheatre sees live cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs in attendance, including the Hairy Bikers and James Martin. The Good Food Kitchen offers the opportunity to enjoy a sit down lunch inspired by recipes from the leading magazine. A limited number of school groups are permitted but, should be booked well in advance of the event, which is held seasonally throughout the year. Visit www.bbcgood foodshowwinter.com for more information or contact the Groups Box Office on 0800 358 0058 to make a reservation.

FOOD FOCUS: TASTE OF LONDON

Taste of London’s prestigious opening event was hosted on Wednesday, June 18 at Regent’s Park. Although we got lost trying to find the entrance of the enormous venue, it is conveniently placed an approximate 15 minute walk from the underground tube station. The summer event runs for roughly four days throughout the year, with clear skies inviting a rather fancy dress code.

Once arrived, the spread proved reminiscent of a World Travel Market type affair, with restaurants displayed serving vast international fare. Though I wouldn’t consider myself an avid foodie, the most memorable stalls proved to be Duck & Waffle, which sold a combination of spiced pig’s ears and fried chicken necks. The Mahiki Cocktail Bar provided a unique ‘tiki’ experience with a stand derivative of a more upmarket island destination. A vibrant display of fruit mastery welcomed guests to the Taste of Thailand exhibit, with bold lettering carved into watermelon and the like.

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GTW received a warm welcome from the Mexican Tourism Board

GTW was invited on behalf of the Mexican Tourism Board, having received a warm introduction by the charming (and patient) Agnish Ray, Senior Account Executive for the MSL Group. This was their first time exhibiting alongside the company, following an announcement made in June 11, 2014. We weaved in and out the maze of stalls to the far end of the complex. The stall presented a somewhat vibrant affair, with multi-coloured bunting and piñatas to match, with an ultimate aim to offer a unique “taste” of Mexico. I was impressed by the makeshift minibar which had been erected on behalf of Amathus Drinks, a London based drinks specialist selling a variety of tequila based cocktails. We were invited to take part in a tequila and mezcal demonstration; mezcal characteristic of its smoky nature combined with exotic fruit juices native to the country. The discovery of real chillies in a sample of beer gave the liquid that expected Mexican kick.

Cooking up cuisine was London’s Mestizo Restaurant serving a traditional ‘Mole;’ an authentic Mexican sauce made from over 30 individual ingredients. On hand was a sweetened chilli and chocolate dish – my favourite of the night – comprising of stringy chicken with a texture similar to that of the popular pulled pork. We were advised that most Mexican families have their own ‘Mole’ recipe. Not a fan of the spicy, we got to sample some internationally sourced guacamole, smooth and creamy with diced onion not appearing too overpowering to the senses. An authentic Mariachi band performed an ensemble later in the evening.

The Mexican Tourism Board offers fantastic business opportunities for groups with allocated destinations available to book. See www.visitmexico.com for more information. With a base in London, MSL Group work alongside the Mexican Tourism Board to improve branding and communication. See www.msllondon.com for more information.

Taste of London will return on November 20-23, 2014 with an exhibition held at Tobacco Dock. See www.london.tastefestivals.com for more information.

GROUP FRIENDLY EXHIBITORS

Barbecoa, Greater London

Barbecoa is a deluxe steakhouse founded by Jamie Oliver. The site overlooks the stunning structure of St. Pauls Cathedral. A private dining area is available to book for up to 40 people with the restaurant able to accept bookings for up to 220 people. Email events@barbecoa.com

Maze, Grosvenor Square

Groups can enjoy Michelin star service at Gordon Ramsay’s London based restaurant Maze. Specialised menus are available for parties of 13 or more. Creative table layouts can seat up to 20 guests at a time. Email groupsandevents@gordonramsay.com to make a booking.

Shake Shack, Covent Garden

Shake Shack offers American- style cuisine at an affordable price. Reservation not necessary for smaller groups but it is advised that larger groups call ahead. GTW recommends the Lil’ Shroom Burger. It even has a tailored menu for dogs. Visit www.shakeshack.com and search by location.

The Begging Bowl, Peckham

The Begging Bowl has received an average 4.5 star rating, serving up an ultimate taste of Thai Street Food. Menus are based on a two people share scheme with the restaurant also accepting reservations for eight to 10 people. Those waiting may receive a 10% discount card for use at The Montpelier Pub situated two minutes away. Email eat@thebeggingbowl.co.uk