The ultimate breakdown of London’s most stylish front of house teams

From old bastions of traditional uniforms to more contemporary workwear tailoring, the best-dressed restaurant staff in London help elevate the mood of some of London’s finest dining rooms.

From old bastions of traditional uniforms to more contemporary workwear tailoring, the best-dressed restaurant staff in London help elevate the mood of some of London’s finest dining rooms. 

Plenty of things make restaurants special places. We like soft amber lighting and cosy corners and comfortable, preferably leather-clad chairs… solid, un-wobbly tables and some dark wood panelling, perhaps just a little art and, of course, food that brings as much satisfaction to one’s heart as it does to one’s belly. Details are everything in a great restaurant but one often overlooked facet of the experience is the staff uniform. Usually the last thing on the checklist for opening a new dining room, staff uniforms are integral to setting the right tone and can help feed the mood of a dining room. Even some of the world’s greatest restaurants can get it wrong. Copenhagen’s noma just posted a snap of their front of house team, dressed in a sad symphony of muted hessian shirts and navy chinos, looking like a group of Amish young tories trying to win an electoral seat in Salisbury. Not what you’d expect from such an accomplished establishment, but it just goes to show how staff uniforms are often overlooked, even the best restaurants.

Fashions come and go, but the style of a restaurant dining room can hang in the balance of a well thought through uniform — it is, at the very least, a marker of thought and attention from restaurateurs who care about every little bitty bit of the experience. 

Fortunately London is blessed with a heap of restaurateurs who consider staff uniforms as more than a mere functional requirement, but as an opportunity for expression. Here are the best dressed restaurant teams around.

St John

The Michelin-starred St John has been at the forefront of a certain English style since the nineties. It launched a nose-to-tail cookery ethos that captivated chefs the world over and with a lineage of creativity and an eye for detail – chef and co-founder Fergus Henderson was a trained architect whilst his business partner Trevor Gulliver opened The Fire Station restaurant near Waterloo in the early nineties – it’s little wonder the sense of style in the restaurant is so strong. Aside from sparkling fashion-forward collaborations with Drake’s and Junya Watanabe, St John is one of those timelessly fashionable places. Henderson is rarely out of a Margaret Howell suit, usually a navy number with a wide pinstripe, whilst Gulliver’s look could be best summed up as a “French winemaker chic”: a functional, well-fitting shirt (he’s previously stated a love of Brooks Brothers) topped by a waistcoat or canvas gilet. The staff uniforms are simple and stylish. The buttoned-up white butchers coat with black St John lettering on the right hand breast, untucked with an apron beneath (an important note for both looks and functionality) with a gently used tea towel popping out from the waist. It’s the entire ethos of the place summed up in three items of clothing and service accessory.

River Cafe

Ruth Rogers’ timeless Italian restaurant in Hammersmith is unimpeachable in its sense of good taste. The food is straightforward and delicious and unpretentious and the dining room itself cossets guests in a particularly charming way. There’s a certain brightness about the River Cafe. Perhaps it’s the light swimming through those floor-to-ceiling windows, reflecting the Ionian sea blue of the carpet that envelops the room so perfectly. It’s a room marked by colour that’s completely unique in London. So many restaurants offer subdued hues in their staff uniforms beiges and darker tones which are handy for hiding a stain during service but not here. Here, bold pinks, electric greens and almost Yves Klein blues are the tonal trademarks of the shirts donned by the staff. It feels like a pop-art deployment of excitement and vibrancy that adds something unseen in the increasingly limewashed palette of London’s restaurant world.

Sessions Arts Club 

Sessions Arts Club is a space that, once sought out via a discreet red door and ascension to the fourth floor, oozes style. Florence Knight’s tenure as head chef is coming to a close, so expect some forthcoming changes to the style of cooking come Springtime. The staff uniforms however are likely to remain as beautiful as ever. The team wears stunning, well-designed uniforms, created in collaboration with TooGood and restaurant founder and artist, Jonny Gent. It should be noted that St John co-founder Jon Spiteri had a hand in the opening too, his sense of good taste remaining a touchpoint across London in his current role at The Portrait. The team at Sessions mostly wear wafting, breezy white shirts, dresses and trousers painted in bright pastels. These artistic flashes of greens and corals and blues reflect the colour palette inspired by Gent’s own Boath House hotel near Nairn, Scotland.  

Bistro Freddie 

Occasionally a staff uniform needs a level of stylish functionality matched by simplicity. The answer can often default to a chore jacket, a sensible enough choice with its thicker than average fabric, sturdy construction and origins in European workhouses: it can make a lot of sense for adoption and adaptation in restaurants. The modern Bistro Freddie uniforms are so much more than that though. The jackets here are cut slightly longer than a traditional chore might be, with an open top button revealing a lapel-like shape, a subtle nod to formality. The chefs behind the open kitchen match the mood, with crisp, perfectly fitted short sleeved white shirts (ideal for keeping sleeves out the soup) layered under a pristine white apron. No chef’s jacket, no toques: this is the new comfortable attire of today’s best kitchens.

Spring at Somerset House

There’s a whiff of art-school about Spring, in the best possible way. The glamorous team of twenty-somethings are always knowledgeable and charming; a louche attitude personified. The food is a mirror of this in a way, one of the most elevated and elegant British restaurants in London with an approach to seasonality and food waste that should make any punter pay sit up and pay attention. The style is undeniably appealing too: staff wear an off-white smock-like waistcoat layered atop a horizontally striped long sleeve tee in various colours and this simple but effective go-to works as effortlessly as its intended. Skye Gyngell has built such a gorgeous restaurant and the staff wardrobe fits the mood of the space impeccably. 

Bar with shapes for a name  

The only bar making the cut is one of London’s best. 🔶🟥🔵 (or: bar with shapes for a name) is the result of a bauhaus inspired vision translated into a drinking space with sublime results. It’s full of angular corners and well-crafted cocktails with staff uniforms adding eccentricity, function and form. Lane Forty Five created the jumpsuit: a sleeve cut to three quarter lengths and rolled, with a white shirt underneath, revealing a smart, sensible comfort that’s as playful as it is practical. The uniform denotes colour, a nod to playfulness reflected in the menu, practicality, as a jumpsuit is immensely comfortable for longer shifts, and with a slightly cinched waist, a silhouette any fashion house would be proud of.

The Ritz

The sartorial elegance of St James’s leads us to The Ritz; a bastion of finery, and a temple of old-world restaurateuring. The formalities of the dress code ties for gentlemen, elegant wear for ladies, zero tolerance towards anything remotely sporty encourages guests to feel the part. It means those in the dining room can live in the world that The Ritz so judiciously maintains; a bye-gone era of history and tradition. The food naturally reflects these same hallmarks, the finest British and French ingredients and techniques all accumulated in plush, unapologetic luxury. Carrying that tradition through the staff uniforms, it’s customary these should vary depending on rank; a wonderfully arcane system of differentiation within the dining room staff. Commis waiters wear jackets whilst chef de rangs, who run sections in the room, are in tails, white waistcoats and a white bow tie. For the more senior head waiters, it’s black versions of each. Sommeliers, fittingly, are denoted in the dining room by a burgundian waistcoat whilst senior managers are in tails and striped trousers. The whole thing is a ballroom dance.

Maison Francois

One of the finest newer French restaurants to hit London in the past few years, Maison Francois might be best known for the pate en croute and the oeuf en gelee, but the swagger of the restaurant extends well beyond the delicious fare and the grand-yet-discreet dining room. The sartorial style adorning the front of house team is courtesy of Drake’s, the Anglo-American inspired clothing brand we all wish we could afford. Their house style fuses an across-the-pond preppiness with a casual English charm. It’s the sort of place to find the best fitting jeans of your life matched with impeccable black loafers. If you’ve got the cash, it’s some of the best contemporary tailoring around, and clearly caught the attention of Maison Francois. The gentlemen in the dining room wear bespoke Drake’s jackets whilst Savile Row pioneers The Deck — the female-forward bespoke tailoring outfit who were the first women’s atelier to have a Savile Row shopfront dress the ladies in some of the finest staff uniforms you’re likely to see in a London restaurant.