We all have them. The unassuming hole-in-the-walls. The neighbourhood stalwarts. The back alley finds. Nothing beats returning to your favourite hidden gem restaurant safe in the knowledge the food will be impeccable, the service unparalleled and your regular drink already on ice. But where do London’s leading chefs go for their own retreat from the unending cycle of new openings and critic-chasing?
Here’s your chance: we caught up with nine of London’s leading chefs to get the inside scoop on their favourite under the radar restaurants in London.
“Head chef Andrew is the most creative chef I have ever met. His modern take on Chinese food without losing authenticity is so refreshing and very much respected. They also have a cocktail bar hidden within their restaurant that serves up amazing cocktails and snacks.”
Innovative dim sum and reworked Chinese classics from a real ‘chef’s chef’, set in a delightfully light, relaxed space in Pimlico. Head Chef Andrew extensively travelled across Asia before taking the reins at his dad’s former restaurant, and you can tell: ingredients and textures often stray from the beaten path with wondrous consequences.
Choose the 8 course tasting menu for the best value meal you’ll experience this side of Christmas and don’t be shy when it gets to dessert; they save the best until last.
Where to find it: 70 Wilton Road, Pimlico, SW1V 1DE
“It’s been a favourite of mine since the day it opened”
Gunpowder breezes through the perfect neighbourhood restaurant checklist: cosy interiors with tables just close enough for neighbourly menu-tip but not eavesdropping, pitch-perfect service, a succinct menu of non-stop hits, and most importantly, the gutsy home-style cooking of the venue’s owners. Go with a couple of friends, order everything – skip the spicy venison and vermicelli doughnut at your peril – and then return a week later to check out their equally stonking sister restaurant across the street, Madame D’s for more of the same beauty.
Where to find it: 11 White’s Row, Spitalfields, E1 7NF
“For their radical approach to the London food scene”
Tucked away on a side street in Clerkenwell, Anglo has been quietly wowing guests, critics and fellow chefs since the moment it opened in 2016. Their relaxed, accessible approach to set menu dining completely turned traditional notions on their head. Here, in an unassuming room, culinary heights are vaulted and new frontiers broken down as they whisk you through a 7 course-plus-snacks journey of unadulterated deliciousness. Settle in for the ride and emerge, breathless, afterwards with change from £50 still in your pocket. Wow.
Where to find it: 30 Cross Street, EC1N 8UH
“The food is consistently good and I love its hole-in-the-wall atmosphere, it makes you think you’re in your own little world”
Jose is a little slice of Spanish foodie heaven, perched on a corner of Bermondsey Street. What it lacks in size (and seats), it more than makes up for in panache; the daily changing menu of tapas, cheeses and charcuterie never fails to disappoint. The rotating range of croquetas are a must-try whatever the weather, and Pizarro has a masterful hand with seafood. Our advice: make a beeline for the bar on a Saturday afternoon, tee up a couple of glasses of wine from the excellent list alongside a few snacks and see where the afternoon takes you.
Where to find it: 104 Bermondsey St, London SE1 3UB
“You can’t beat their slurpy slurpy udon and great sake”
The original Koya stormed onto the restaurant scene in 2011 and quickly established itself as the best udon noodle joint in town (by a stretch). It may be closed now, but its little sibling and next-door neighbour has stepped up to fill its shows and with an extra bonus: breakfast. Their take on English Breakfast is a match made in heaven: rich broth with succulent noodles topped with fried egg, bacon and shiitake mushrooms – is guaranteed to set you up for a great day, or put you right after an even better night before.
Where to find it: 50 Frith Street, W1D 4SQ
“Top quality ingredients and simplicity”
You might be wondering what place a Michelin-starred restaurant has on a guide to hidden gem restaurants in London, but hear us – and Francesco Mazzei – out. Its unassuming position on Chiswick High Road and focus on unfussy, ingredient-driven dishes ensures it flies relatively beneath the radar of the trend-hunters, making it a perfect hidden gem outpost. Inside, the relentless pursuit of sourcing the highest quality produce and ingredients galvanises is king, and results in dishes that are staggeringly simple yet groaning with flavour. Sublime and unmissable magic.
Where to find it: 301 – 303 Chiswick High Road, W4 4HH