Few cities can boast of having as diverse a culinary scene as London can, and few have such a wealth of skill and experience that spans so many different styles of cuisine and restaurant. From homegrown talent to those drawn to the UK capital from far afield, London’s searing-hot dining scene is benefiting from a legion of aspiring – and inspiring – chefs that are marking the city out as one of true gastronomic clout.
Nowhere is this more evident than in those upcoming chefs of international pedigree who have chosen London in which to blaze their trail. American Chase Lovecky is one such chef. Having worked at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s famous three-Michelin-star restaurant in New York and later at David Chang’s equally renowned Momofuku Ko, Maine-born Lovecky eventually moved to London to work at The Clove Club in Shoreditch, helping the restaurant place in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list a year later. Now he has gone it alone with Two Lights (twolights.restaurant), a stripped-back, neighbourhood restaurant of ambition in Hoxton where modern US comfort food, such as its meat loaf, cheddar and jalapeno sandwich, sits alongside modern European-inspired dishes.
Then there’s 28-year-old Santiago Lastra, a former consultant chef at Noma in Denmark, the one-time Best Restaurant in the World, who has also chosen London for his debut solo venture. The Mexican-born chef, who has had experience in top kitchens including Mugaritz in San Sebastian, will open Kol in central London later this year. Kol will be a Mexican restaurant using British produce, with Lastra intending to change Londoners’ preconceptions about the cuisine of his homeland. If he’s good enough for Noma’s Rene Redzepi then Lastra is certainly good enough for the capital.
Kimberley Hernandez is another chef using her experience in some of the world’s top kitchens to great effect over here, and is helping put Chinatown-based Taiwanese restaurant XU (xulondon.com) on the map. Previously of Mathias Dahlgren’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Stockholm as well as Skin + Bones in Toronto and the two-star Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in London, the Canadian chef is now cooking up a creative take on classic Chinese and Taiwanese cuisines that is turning heads. Her Chinese dumplings alone make a visit essential.
Also making a huge impact on London’s Asian culinary scene is Mandy Yin. The Malaysian-born chef truly arrived in 2013 with the launch of street food stall Sambal Shiok, where she served up her now legendary laksa. In June last year Yin finally found a permanent home for her cooking, launching her debut restaurant (sambalshiok.co.uk) in Holloway. With ramen already a huge food trend in London, and laksa set to follow, you’ll be hearing much more about Yin in the near future. Chefs Zijun Meng and Ana Gonçalves know all about the move from street food to bricks and mortar, and also about hot food trends. At their moveable pop-up Tata Eatery, the pair made their Iberico pork katsu sandwich an Instagram phenomenon and created a craze for the dish across the capital. Now they are about to join forces with globally recognised bartenders Alex Kratena and Monica Berg to open Tayer + Elementary (tayer-elementary.com) in Shoreditch where they will once again be fusing their Chinese and Portuguese heritage in their cooking. Coming to an Instagram feed near you soon.
Another oft snapped dish is Jeremy Chan’s striking plantain, raspberry and smoked scotch bonnet, which he serves at his St James’s restaurant Ikoyi (ikoyilondon.com). His cuisine, which interprets West African ingredients, is provocative and challenging and won the restaurant a Michelin star last year. Ikoyi has been described as London’s most misunderstood restaurant but is now carving out a niche as one of its most exciting and interesting. With such a prodigious talent as the 31-year-old chef behind it, there’s much more to come from Ikoyi.
There’s also more to come from South Africa-born chef Dean Parker, who has stepped into the role of head chef at the just-opened Darby’s restaurant at Embassy in Nine Elms. It’s the latest project from The Dairy duo Robin and Sarah Gill, and their biggest venue to date. Parker has worked with the Gills at The Dairy in Clapham since its launch in 2013 and was head chef at their nearby Italian restaurant Sorella. At Darby’s, dishes are cooked over a live fire grill. Undoubtedly one of the most impressive launches of this year.
The Harwood Arms’ (harwoodarms.com) Sally Abé is another loyal chef making her mark. Abé worked at the two-Michelin-starred The Ledbury under Brett Graham for five years before leaving to join legendary chef Phil Howard at his new Chelsea restaurant Elystan Street, but has since returned to Graham to head up his Michelin-starred gastropub. Under Abé, The Harwood Arms’ reputation has been strengthened, with the Fulham establishment now sitting at an impressive number five in the UK’s Top 50 Gastropubs list.
Staying in west London, Chelsea has just welcomed the debut restaurant from another hugely talented chef who is finally stepping out of the shadows of her former mentors. Ireland-born Anna Haugh has worked with Phil Howard as well as Gordon Ramsay – launching his Battersea restaurant London House in 2014 – and has now just opened Myrtle, a restaurant that celebrates her Irish heritage. Not only is Haugh a fantastic chef, she is also a champion of better working conditions in the restaurant industry, with Myrtle putting a strong emphasis on its staff potential and empowering its team. Haugh’s is a voice you will most certainly be hearing more of in the coming years.
On the other side of town, fellow Irish chef Patrick Powell is just about to open his debut solo venture Allegra at the new 42-storey skyscraper Manhattan Loft Gardens in Stratford. Having trained at Dublin’s Michelin-starred L’Ecrivain under acclaimed Irish chef Derry Clarke and then at Wild Honey with Anthony Demetre, Powell most recently worked under Nuno Mendes for four years at Marylebone celebrity hangout Chiltern Firehouse. At Allegra he’s teaming up with developer Harry Handelsman (who opened Chiltern Firehouse with Andre Balazs) for an equally impressive seventh-floor restaurant accessed by a private lift that has an outside terrace and 360-degree views over London. The restaurant is said to be inspired by The River Café and has been designed to put Stratford on the culinary map. With such a pedigree behind it you wouldn’t bet against it succeeding.
You also wouldn’t bet against chef Tom Brown finally winning a Michelin star at his debut restaurant Cornerstone (cornerstonehackney.com). The former Nathan Outlaw protégé, who most recently headed up the two-star chef ’s London outpost Outlaws at The Capital before going it alone last spring, has wowed diners with the simple-yet-brilliant seafood dishes served at his super cool Hackney Wick restaurant. Brown is undoubtedly cooking some of the best seafood in the capital, with his potted shrimp crumpet the stuff of legend, and it seems inevitable that he will finally be recognised by the red book this year. Don’t expect him to stop there though; there’s much more to come from this brilliant young chef.
And then there’s Dhruv Mittal, the Cordon Bleu-trained chef behind the acclaimed Dum Biryani on Soho’s Wardour Street. Mittal has travelled extensively throughout India during his career to understand the country’s regional cuisines and has just opened his second restaurant, Lucknow 49 in Mayfair. Reflecting his time spent in the northern Indian region of Uttar Pradesh, specifically in the eponymous city of Lucknow, his new restaurant is claimed to be the only one of its kind in Europe, with dishes including whole moong lentils slow-cooked in milk for six hours.
From American and Mexican, to Asian, Indian and Irish, London’s restaurant scene is a melting pot of cuisines. Today London serves up the culinary world on a plate, so grab your knife and fork and get tasting what these brilliant upcoming chefs have to offer.