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19 of London’s top chefs name their ultimate comfort food —and where they go to eat it

·11-min read
A journey:  the food at Sabor by Nieves Barragán offers Londoners “a complete image of the gastronomic reality of Spain” says Quique Dacosta (Giulia Verdinelli)
A journey: the food at Sabor by Nieves Barragán offers Londoners “a complete image of the gastronomic reality of Spain” says Quique Dacosta (Giulia Verdinelli)

Andi Oliver

Chef-patron, Wadadli Kitchen

I am the biggest fan of a good pie, so the answer for me has to be The Pie Room at The Holborn Dining Room (252 High Holborn, WC1, holborndiningroom.com) and one of any of the pies that chef Callum Franklin and his sous chef Nokx Majozi deliver with such panache and love. They make a curried mutton pie and a suet pastry steak pie that I literally lie around dreaming about… There are few things as satisfying as perfectly-made pastry wrapped around a gloriously rich, deeply flavoured, perfectly seasoned filling. The Pie Room is sublime — it really is that simple.

Wadadli Kitchen, Unit 1, Hamlet Estate, E9, wadadlikitchen.com

Quique Dacosta

Culinary director, Arros QD

One of my favourite restaurants in London is Sabor by Nieves Barragán (35-37 Heddon St, W1, saborrestaurants.co.uk). The marriage between creativity and tradition on the menu gives Londoners a complete image of the gastronomic reality of Spain. Nieves manages to transport you to the north of Spain, in the duo she has created with the more traditional Asador where the cochinillo (suckling pig) is king, to the bar seating, where her imagination dances with the roots that tie all of us to the smells and tastes of when we were children. The black rice alone is worth a trip here.

Arros QD, 64 Eastcastle St, W1, arrosqd.com

Erchen Chang

Co-founder, Bao

I can always get a satisfying meal every time I go to 40 Maltby Street (40 Maltby St, SE1, 40maltbystreet.com). Steve Williams’s seasonal cooking has a way of beautifully putting things together. The temperature and balance of the dishes are always on point — hearty, crispy, rich, light and acidic all in a meal. I remember they served a game broth and it was a shallow bowl of dark magic. So beautiful and faultless. On top of that, they always pick the right wine to go with my meal; cherry on top of the cake!

Bao, across London, baolondon.com

Tim Healy

Owner, Joe Allen

Firstly the ultimate comfort food would have to be the fondant cheese and ham hock toastie that is the main stay at Cora Pearl (30 Henrietta St, WC2, corapearl.co.uk) and Kitty Fisher’s (10 Shepherd Market, W1, kittyfishers.com). It’s the perfect appetiser, a combo of melted cheese with flecks of ham hock and a dollop of homemade Branston pickle in a slider sandwich. Reminiscent of the Harry’s Bar sandwich served in grease proof paper, bar side.

The second is still to this day is the roasted bone marrow with toast and shallots, and the parsley salad at St John (across town,stjohnrestaurant.com). Both are starters, but in my experience, the starters are the opening act and never forgotten: they evoke memories or romantic dinners and family gatherings. By the way, all of the above should be washed down with a perfect Negroni — mine and my wife’s vice.

Joe Allen, 2 Burleigh St, WC2, joeallen.co.uk

Sally Abé

Chef consultant, The Pem

 (Red Agency/Borough Market)
(Red Agency/Borough Market)

My ultimate comfort food in London is the cheese, onion and leek toastie from Kappacasein Dairy in Borough Market (1 Stoney St, SE1, kappacasein.com). I love it because it’s the sum of the most perfect ingredients — you’ve got Poilane bread, the loveliest, “meltiest” cheeses (raclette, Montgomery cheddar, Ogleshield, comte), and four types of onions. Eating it feels like a big hug.

The Pem, 22-28 Broadway, SW1, thepemrestaurant.com

Tom Booton

Head chef, The Grill at The Dorchester

Tukdin in Paddington (41 Craven Rd, W2, tukdin.com) is one of my absolute favourites, a beautiful Malaysian restaurant and a hidden gem, run by Syed Fauzi Nagib. His beef rendang and curry puffs, made by his mother, are truly next level. It’s laidback and serves delicious food: perfect for a Friday night treat. I sometimes go with my kitchen team or if it has been a particularly mad week, I get some of my favourite dishes to takeaway and enjoy at home with a beer.

The Grill at The Dorchester, 53 Park Ln, W1, dorchestercollection.com

Francesco Mazzei

Chef-patron, Sartoria, Radici and Fiume

My favourite place in London for comfort food is Little Sardegna in Islington (170 Blackstock Rd, N5, @littlesardegna), where I order the malloreddus — a type of Sardinian pasta similar to cavatelli with sausage and tomato. Little Sardegna is like a second home for me and my family. As well as the malloreddus, I love to go there for a negroni and antipasti platter with Sardinian charcuterie and cheese that Marcello imports himself, served with carta di musica, a type of crispy Sardinian bread.

Sartoria, W1; Radici N1; Fiume, SW8; danddlondon.com

Andrew Wong

Chef-patron, A Wong

For comfort, I go to New Loon Fung in Chinatown (42-43 Gerrard St, W1, 020 7287 9026). Shun Lee, the owner, used to have a restaurant called Harbour City just two doors down; it’s where I went with my family growing up. It’s the type of place where you can relax, the kids can run around, and we know all the staff. What I like about it is Shun Lee: he’s a respected dim sum chef and very generous with his knowledge. I think it’s good to have a real friend from a different generation. We usually go on a Sunday and order the braised beef shin, salt and pepper pork chop and the suckling pig, which is only made at the weekend.

A Wong, 70 Wilton Rd, SW1, awong.co.uk

Samyukta Nair

Founder, MiMi Mei Fair

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

Scott’s (20 Mount St, W1, scotts-restaurant.com) is without doubt my favourite place when I’m looking for something comforting. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten there without ordering the octopus carpaccio and bakewell pudding with praline ice cream. The entire experience of dining at Scott’s makes me happy — it’s incredibly nostalgic as I have so many fond memories of meals there with my family over the years but also the food is incredibly consistent, which makes it my choice when I just want something familiar and delicious.

MiMi Mei Fair, 55 Curzon St, W1, mimimeifair.com

Chris Denney

Head chef and director, Fiend

My go-to, post-work, get-away-from-it-all destination is Uludag (398 Kingsland Rd, E8, 020 7241 1923) in my old neighbourhood, Dalston. It has surly staff with a “nan’s lounge” vibe and operates mainly as a heaving takeaway with an almost permanently empty restaurant in the back — my space! No need for a menu. I always have lahmacun — it literally means “dough with meat”. Think perfectly crisp flatbread with a mystery meat. No knives, no forks — grab, fold and scoff.

Fiend, 301 Portobello Rd, W10, fiend-portobello.com

Jackson Boxer

Chef-patron, Orasay and Brunswick House

There are many places which feed me well in London, but few which manage to combine deliciousness, soul, generosity and glamour with anything like the lavish excess of Jeremy Lee’s cooking at Quo Vadis (26-29 Dean St, W1,quovadissoho.co.uk). The perfect synthesis of exceptional produce, a supremely gifted and confident cook, gloriously fun Soho surroundings, and an ability to make puddings which incorporate cream, custard, chantilly and ice cream without seeming anything less than perfectly judged. I have eaten here more than anywhere else over the last few years, and there’s nowhere I suffered the absence of during lockdown more acutely.

Orasay, W11, orasay.london and Brunswick House, SW8, brunswickhouse.london

Richard Corrigan

Chef-patron, Bentley’s, Corrigan’s Mayfair and Daffodil Mulligan

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

The Quality Chop House (88-94 Farringdon Rd, EC1, thequalitychophouse.com) is unbeatable and somewhere that I’ll never tire of going to, whether it’s for a celebratory meal with my family or a quick lunch on my own. The head chef, Shaun Searley, has created a superb menu that celebrates the very best suppliers. The dishes change regularly but you’ll always find their legendary confit potatoes. For me, that’s comfort food at it’s finest. They’re the perfect hybrid of a chip and roast potato, so an essential accompaniment to the steaks and chops.

Bentley’s, W1; Corrigan’s Mayfair, W1; Daffodil Mulligan, EC1; corrigancollection.com

Rohit Ghai

Chef-patron, Kutir, and Manthan

I always come back to Korean fried chicken. In the early stages of my career, I used to get it between shifts from the markets in Delhi and it reminds me of being exhausted but happy, which is a common feeling for a chef. When I began working in Mayfair, I discovered Judy Joo’s Jinjuu in Soho and would order her extra spicy KFC. Nowadays I go to Judy’s Seoul Bird (Westfield, W12, seoul-bird.co.uk) as it’s closer to home and I can get it delivered — pure comfort.

Kutir, SW3; Manthan, W1; rohitghai.co.uk

Oisin Rogers

Landlord, The Guinea Grill and The Windmill

For me? The magnificent beef neck curry with a side of rice at Kiln (58 Brewer St, W1, kilnsoho.com), taken at an unsociable hour. I sort of treat Kiln like my local caff, being a short yomp from my gaffs [in Mayfair]. At Kiln the fatty neck has been rubbed with spices and slow-cooked high over the flames for hours before being chopped into the fragrant sauce of pounded pulses, spices and bulbs, then garnished with galangal and fresh zingy leaves. Besides, it goes well with beer.

The Guinea Grill and The Windmill, both W1, youngs.co.uk

Endo Kazutoshi

Chef-patron, Endo at the Rotunda

The River Cafe (Rainville Rd, W6, rivercafe.co.uk) is my ultimate comfort food place — let me tell you why. In 2007, when I moved to the UK, Rose Gray and I met at my former workplace and we had a great connection. Somehow, she organically became my mentor: me not knowing the language, or suppliers or the hospitality scene. She took me under her wing, and for those reasons, I associate River Cafe and the food as a place that feels like home. I go for grilled langoustines or the chocolate nemesis.

Endo at the Rotunda, 101 Wood Ln, W12, endoatrotunda.com

Max Rocha

Chef-patron, Cafe Cecilia

My favourite place in London to go for comfort food is Gerrard’s Corner in Chinatown (30 Wardour St, W1, gerrardscorner.co.uk), and I like to go with my Dad. We’ve been going since I was 15 and their dining room really feels like we are back in Hong Kong. The fried turnip cake with XO Sauce is a winner and the service is really great. I can’t recommend it more.

Cafe Cecilia, 32 Andrews Rd, E8, cafececilia.com

Hélène Darroze

Chef-patron, Hélène Darroze at The Connaught

When I worked with Alain Ducasse in Monaco, I was “adopted” by one of his sous chefs, Mario Muratore, and I visited his mama every week. She was a really good “cuisinière” — home cook — and I learnt a lot from her: pasta, gnocchi, torta, focaccia, all dishes with lots of generosity and taste. I found this again in the dishes of Café Murano (across London, cafemurano.co.uk), and it is now a place I love to go with my daughters. Their pasta is simple but amazing: the best carbonara according to my girls, and recently I had amazing crab spaghetti.

Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, Carlos Place, W1, the-connaught.co.uk

Chet Sharma

Chef-patron, BiBi

The place I find myself going back to most often is The Harwood Arms (Walham Grove, SW6, harwoodarms.com). It is everything you want in a good pub; great seasonal food, generous portions and an unfussy drinks list. The sharing board is always a good shout — it normally comes with two or three cuts from the same animal. Last time I ate there, the Aynhoe honey tart was a stand out.

BiBi, 42 North Audley St, W1, bibirestaurants.com

James Knappett

Chef Patron, Kitchen Table

It’s got to be Black Axe Mangal in Islington, now known as FKABAM (156 Canonbury Road, N1, blackaxemangal.com). Lee Tiernan’s food is exactly what you want to eat on your day off. My favourite dish is probably the bone marrow flatbread served with a parsley, pickled onion salad and their insane anchovy dressing. The recipe is in the BAM book, too, so even if you can’t get a table, you can give it a go at home. I’m so pleased they’ve reopened — it’s one of a kind.

Kitchen Table, 70 Charlotte Street, W1, kitchentablelondon.co.uk

Read More

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David Ellis reviews Café Cecilia: Calling itself a café is false modesty — this is the new ‘it’ place out east

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Chet Sharma on his debut restaurant Bibi: ‘Before, I knew I wanted this – now I know I need it’

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