Your Favourite Chef’s Favourite Restaurants
Taste is subjective. What you like is not the same as what I like. What I consider to be good value for money is not the same as what you consider to be good value for money. That’s part of the beauty of life. Some things, however, are a little more objective than others. Like gravity, for instance. It’s indisputable that that is something which exists – stand under an apple tree for long enough and you’ll quickly find that out for yourself. But when it comes to whether that restaurant you love near Queen’s Park is actually any good or not, it’s much more up for debate.
The best way to find out what kind of restaurants you like the most is to eat as many as possible. There’s no Spotify-like algorithm to tell you what “Fans also like” and, even then, it’s likely that someone else’s dining experience is not going to be the same as yours. That’s always going to be the case and you should take every recommendation with a pinch of salt. But when it comes to knowing which places are worth trying in the first place, the best advice i can give you is to ask the people who really know what they’re talking about. The people with the best palates out there.
If you’re a fan of a restaurant and want to know where you should be eating next, the best way to know where else you should be on your radar is by asking the chefs who work there where they like to eat. The likelihood is that they won’t recommend the hypest place with the best press releases but a restaurant that deals in capable, honest cooking.
To help you kickstart that journey of discovery, and to direct you accurately towards some of the best restaurants in the UK, I asked some of my favourite chef’s what their favourite restaurants are. Here’s what they picked.
Marie Mitchell – Singburi
"What looks like an unassuming local restaurant, is quite possibly one of the best restaurants you might ever encounter. I often grapple with sharing this delight (it's known, it deserves to be even more known, but then I have to share it with more people), but somewhere this special needs to be experienced by everyone. BYOB, sit back, order everything off the specials menu and enjoy your tour of some of the best Thai food you'll ever eat. This is also my partner and I's restaurant, so it holds a very special place in my heart. We've still not been back post-pandemic for eat-in. We've had takeaway, of course, but once we've got a babysitter on speed-dial, we'll be there!"
Marie is the chef and co-founder of Island Social Club.
Budgie Montoya – Legare
"Choosing a favourite restaurant is difficult, I don't think I could choose one. That being said there are a couple of places that you'll usually find me whenever I do get a chance to eat out. Legare in Shad Thames is everything you want in your local neighbourhood restaurant. The food is always great with impeccable sourcing of ingredients and faultless cooking, the wine list has something for everyone and the service is attentive but relaxed. Kiln in Soho is consistently one of London's top restaurants and for good reason. More importantly for me, it has always served as a place of inspiration for Sarap."
Budgie is the head chef and owner of Sarap.
Helen Graham – Koya Soho
"For me, Koya Soho is an absolute timeless classic and probably one I go back to most frequently. It's a Japanese restaurant on Frith Street, and specialises in udon noodles. Though it was opened 12 years ago now, it still feels so contemporary – mainly due to their ever-changing specials board which always has some really exciting, fiercely seasonal dishes on."
Helen is the executive chef at Bubala.
Imogen Davis – Perilla
"I don’t get to visit here (or any of my faves) as much as I’d like, but it’s immediately the spot that springs to mind whenever anybody asks me for a recommendation. The setting is the most beautiful dining room that transports you to warmer climes, exquisite food by Ben and you leave feeling so well looked after by Matt & the stellar FOH team that I don’t think you can get any better!"
Imogen is the director of Native.
Akwasi Brenya-Mensa – Chishuru
"Chishuru by head chef and owner Joké Bakare in Brixton market is a firm favourite for me. It’s a really great example of contemporary West African cuisine, with a clever and playful ever-changing tasting menu. Some standout dishes I’ve eaten there include goat ayamase, ekuru, plantain and baobab ice cream and it’s always a joy to see what Joké comes up with next. Joké’s knowledge of West African cuisine runs deep and she strikes the perfect balance between tradition and innovation, it’s the type of place I’d bring a discerning aunty as well as a total newcomer to West African cuisines."
Akwasi is a cook, restauranteur and founder of Tatale.
Dom Fernando – Legare
"I discovered Legare by chance - actually, I lie. My family discovered it first and then told me to go there. I eat spicy food for breakfast, lunch and dinner on a daily basis - and on my off days when I want something creamy and light, but with a lot of flavour my go-to is Legare.
I love the interior - paired back, modern, cool and unpretentious. It’s got a neighbourhood Italian vibe with cosy candlelit tables and fantastic service. But I’m still yet to understand how food so good and tasty and can be executed in such a small kitchen space - it really is inspiring. Taking a similar ingredient-led approach as Paradise, you can really taste the freshness of their crudo, the creaminess of the burrata and the perfect cooking of their pasta. Don’t even get me started on their desserts…"
Dom is the owner of Paradise.
Jun Tanaka – Jolene
"Jolene in Stoke Newington. It’s my go-to place when I don’t feel like cooking at home and want something simple, easy and delicious to eat. I dine here at least once a month. They change the menu daily so it never gets boring. They serve simple Italian dishes to share and it’s great value. The ambience is inviting and the service is super friendly and knowledgeable. The head chef is Chris Woolard and I’ve been a fan of his since he was the chef at Primeur - one of their sister restaurants.The restaurant is owned by David Gingell and Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim and their ethos is to support ethical farming so the produce they use is exceptional."
Jun is the chef-patron of The Ninth.
Mitshel Ibrahim – Mangal 2
"My favourite restaurant is Mangal 2 in Dalston. I appreciate the integrity to their Turkish heritage throughout the menu and the food is always produce-led, much like Ombra. I always order the sweetbreads and last time I was there I had these Turkish style tacos which were truly mind-blowing! I saw somewhere that the father, Ali used to make Ferhat and Sertaç (his sons who’ve now taken the reins) work in the restaurant as punishment if they were badly behaved. It’s something I was also made to do at my parents’ restaurant in Milan!"
Mitshel is the head chef of Ombra.
Cherish Finden – East Coast Seafood Centre
"My favourite restaurant in the world is East Coast Seafood Centre in Singapore. My favourite dish there is the Chilli Crab which is so juicy and fresh, it is the best chilli crab in the world. It is a special place for me as I go there with my family whenever I go back to Singapore. The last time I went there was in 2020 and I can’t wait to go back."
Cherish is the executive pastry chef at Pan Pacific London.
Amy Poon - Various
"I don’t think it’s possible to have one favourite restaurant. There is so much more to dining out than the food on offer and in addition to the external elements – décor, tableware, ambience, staff, music etc. there is what you, the diner, bring to each experience that differs according to your mood, time of day, degree of hunger… There are a number of establishments around the world which have a special place in my heart – Rules where I got drunk for the first time with my father, Tableaux in Tokyo where I had my first taste of Sassicaia, Luk Yu Tea House in HK where my father would take me for breakfast with Willie Mak, Le Café du Centre in Geneva where we always went after service, New Ubin Seafood in Singapore where we would gather en masse with family friends whenever the children came home. If I had to pick one place in London, however, it would be The Four Seasons on Gerrard Street in Chinatown. You don’t come here for the starched Frette table linen or a loo you’d take a selfie in but what keeps me coming back is the “realness” of the place and the best plate of roast duck and rice in town. It’s honest and reassuring and refreshingly unbeguiling. The staff always ask after my parents. The décor says, “we haven’t bothered so focus on the food.” There hasn’t been a single occasion when I have dined here that I haven’t left replete and with a sense in my belly that things are just right."
Amy is the founder of Poon's.
Rosie Healey – The Real Wan
"The Real Wan is a southwest Chinese restaurant and I have never tasted food like it. Lea the chef-owner brings the food from her home town Guiyang to an unassuming small shop on a back street of a residential area in Glasgow. Where she serves the most delicious fresh Chinese food from her province. Everything is freshly made: the noodles, smoky chilli oils, fermented chilli sauces, and vegetables. Lea says in southwest China they worship spices in daily cuisine kind of like Indian food and you can really taste it, she wants people here in Glasgow to enjoy real Chinese food and realize that tasty food should exist around the corner of people’s houses, it's really seriously delicious."
Rosie is the head chef at Gloriosa.
Dane Barnard – St. JOHN
"For me, my favourite place to eat out has got to be St. JOHN and St John’s Bread and Wine – truly iconic for a reason! The restaurants are humble – a simple, no-fuss approach with a really relaxed vibe. They practice true nose-to-tail dining and make the most of every part of the animal, which as a chef is really important to me, and shine a light on ingredients that you don’t often find on restaurant menus."
Dane is the head chef at Humble Grape.
Rohit Ghai – Chotto Matte
"Last year I went to Chotto Matte in Soho for a pre-Christmas dinner with a couple of friends and it has become a new favourite of mine. We loved the vibe of the restaurant and had some great cocktails there. The food definitely lived up to expectations too and the high quality of the meat and vegetables was clear. The staff were wonderful and recommended some delicious dishes as I love spicy food. Highlights were cauliflower wings cooked on the robata grill and tempura spicy chicken with Peruvian rice."
Rafael Cagali – Various
"Whenever I’m in central, I try to pop into Mele e Pere in Soho. It’s an old school, family-run, Italian trattoria. It’s perfect for some light Italian snacks and a glass of homemade vermouth.
As a big lover of Japanese food, Yashin is by far one of the best places in London. The quality of the sushi is incredible, and the use of seasonal ingredients is really creative and experimental.
If you’re a lover for tapas, Barrafina is a no brainer. The restaurant has a great vibe, and the tapas is delicious and authentic."
Rafael is the executive chef and co-owner of Da Terra.
Saiphin Moore – Il Bordello
"My favourite restaurant in the UK is Il Bordello in Wapping. They serve classic Italian dishes, but what makes it special is the vibrant atmosphere there - a very old-school restaurant that's always packed, serving generous portions of really great comfort food. Every time we go it's always incredible. They use the freshest ingredients, especially in the seafood dishes. The team there knows their regulars by first name and always gives the best experience. It makes me feel like I'm being invited into their home. They've been around for almost 30 years and it's a local's favourite!"
Saiphin Moore is the co-founder of Rosa’s Thai.