The Royal College of Physicians has opened one of the world’s most important specialist libraries, the Dorchester Library, for private dining. The dramatic and historic location is available immediately for Christmas bookings.
The decision adds a major new dimension to the choice of locations offered by the RCP, currently holder of the ‘World’s Best Convention Centre’ title. Until now, the importance of maintaining an environment that conserves the unique collection of medical books, manuscripts and artefacts housed in the library have militated against dining. However, its systems for temperature control and humidity are now sufficiently sophisticated to allow food to be served, and the venue can accommodate silver service dinners for up to 120 people.
The RCP believes that the availability of the location for fine dining will prove a very popular option. “When we take potential clients on facility tours, we regularly receive requests for dinners in the Library, which has numerous features that will distinguish any event,” explained Clive Ostler, RCP’s General Manager, Marketing & Facilities: “So far, we have had to resist these, but we’re delighted that we can now offer a dramatic, inspiring location that will make any meal especially memorable.”
The decision extends the range of options available to RCP client organisations. It will complement such locations as the evocative, oak-panelled Censors’ Room and the dramatic, modern Council Chamber.
The Dorchester Library houses one of the most significant collections of medical rare books in the world, covering a range of subjects reflecting the broader education and interests of physicians of the day. In the 17th century the RCP’s library was regarded as the country’s most important library of learning outside Oxford and Cambridge.
These rare books show the evolution of one of mankind’s most important activities and continue to be a valuable resource for research; the books can all be viewed by appointment in our Reading Room.
It is also architecturally significant, being one of the most pioneering aspects of Sir Denys Lasdun’s award winning design for the home of the RCP, overlooking Regent’s Park. The building is Grade 1 listed.
The Library is a two-storey structure placed over the College’s main foyer. Its interior space is simple, and superbly open, with double volume ceiling height and skylights.
A large portrait of the medical pioneer William Harvey, which was saved from the Great Fire of London, presides over the room. The sweeping double doors are of rich brown African muninga wood. Every wall, on both the ground and upper floors, is lined from floor to ceiling with the historic books that are testimony to the pedigree of the country’s oldest medical institution.
The RCP has a reputation for fine dining. In addition to catering for numerous national and international conferences and events, its kitchens provide for a range of the College’s own medical ceremonial dinners and receptions. Catering services are provided by Fare of London, which last year created a special 12-course dinner, based on a carefully researched 17th century banquet, to mark the 350th anniversary of Sir Hans Sloane, one of the RCP's earliest Presidents.
As required, events in the Dorchester Library can incorporate butler service and bespoke menus can be developed. Where possible, herbs and plants from the RCP’s own medicinal garden are used in cooking.