Restaurateurs tend to dine out a lot, but not always for pleasure. They like to check the competition and often eat with a critical palate. But where do they go for pleasure? Which are the London restaurants to which they keep returning?
We asked them, and found some are posh. Some are local. All are worth trying.
A Wong: Chef Philip Howard of Elystan Street dines regularly at this modern Chinese restaurant in Victoria. “It is a great restaurant,” he says. “I love the people, I love the fact it is so casual and I love the food: It is delicious and interesting, with lots of variety. The dim sum is exceptional.” Favorite dish: Garlic steamed lobster, mung bean noodles, superior soy. 70 Wilton Road, SW1V 1DE; +44-20-7828-8931.
Bernardi’s: This Italian restaurant and bar in Marylebone is the pick of Finnish-born chef Helena Puolakka of Aster. “I go for the food and the atmosphere,” she says. “It’s a bit of a hidden gem. There is a really lovely buzz and a nice bar with good cocktails.”
Favorite dish: Burratina, purple sprouting broccoli, tomato & oregano. 62 Seymour Street, W1H 5BN; +44-20-3826-7940.
El Pirata: This Mayfair tapas bar is the haunt of Fred Sirieix, general manager of Galvin at Windows. “I have been going for years and it hasn’t changed,” he says. “They know me, they know the table I like, they recommend wines I will like and their jamón is the best in town.” Favorite dish: Langostinos al chef. 5-6 Down Street, W1J 7AQ; +44-20-7491-3810.
The Regency Club: This northwest London bar and curry club in Queensbury is brilliant, according to chef Carl Clarke of Chick ‘n’ Sours. Singer Lily Allen is a regular. “It’s an old pub serving incredible Kenyan-Indian food,” he says. “You wouldn’t know it is there and you buzz to get in. The food blows you away.” Favorite dish: Mogo fried cassava. 19-21 Queensbury Station Parade, HA8 5NR.
Bocca di Lupo: Soren Jessen, the Danish-born owner of 1 Lombard Street, can’t stay away from this pan-Italian restaurant in Soho. “I love the food, which is unpretentious and genuine,” he says. “I go there all the time, with the kids and for business meetings.”
Favorite dish: Pappardelle with wild-boar ragu. 12 Archer St, Soho, W1D 7BB; +44-20-7734-2223.
Golden Dragon: This Cantonese and Beijing restaurant in Chinatown is the pick of Fernando Peire, director of the Ivy. “It’s not as easy as you would think to get good dim sum in Soho,” he says. “A lot of it is frozen stuff, bought in. But here the food is great and incredibly good value. You are talking £15 ($21) a head.” Favorite dish: “Shark’s fin” (crab) dumpling soup. 28-29 Gerrard Street W1D 6JW; +44-20-7734 1073.
Hardy’s: Chef Raymond Blanc of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons is a fan of this longstanding brasserie and wine bar near his home in Marylebone. “It is a lovely place and it is still run as an independent bistro with lovely French food,” he says. Favorite dish: Roast grouse when in season. 53 Dorset Street, W1U 7NH; +44-20-7935-5929.
Casse-Croûte: This charming corner French bistro in Bermondsey is the pick of chef Tom Sellers of Restaurant Story. “The menu changes regularly and I love all their classic dishes,” he says. “They do their beef particularly well and the atmosphere means you could be in a busy bistro in Paris.”
Favorite dish: Beef. 109 Bermondsey St, SE1 3XB; +44-20-7407-2140.
Koya: Chef Stevie Parle of Pastaio enjoys eating alone at this udon noodle bar in Soho. “I feel relaxed and happy,” he says. “It is immensely restorative and the food is really good. I quite often go on my own.” Favorite dish: The specials board, all of it. 49 Frith St, Soho, W1D 4SG.
Moro: This Spanish-north African restaurant was a trailblazer when it opened in Clerkenwell in 1997. It’s the pick of chef Alexis Gauthier of Gauthier Soho: “People think the current fashion for tapas is new, but Moro should take credit. It’s a place that transcends trends and gimmicks.” Favorite dish: Steamed whole artichoke with salsa romesco. 34-36 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QE; +44-20-7833-8336.
Le Colombier: This brasserie in Chelsea is the pick of French-born chef Pierre Koffmann, who visits frequently. “It’s just the kind of food I like,” he says. “You’ve got snails, you’ve got kidneys, you’ve got oysters, langoustine and the ambience is always very nice.”
Favorite dish: Plateau de fruits de mer. 145 Dovehouse Street, SW3 6LB; +44-20-7351-1155.
Le Gavroche: This expensive French restaurant in Mayfair is the favorite of Chris Galvin of Galvin La Chapelle. “As a chef, I am always interested in technique and depth of flavors,” he says. “I always go to Le Gavroche. It’s a real treat.” Favorite dish: Milk-fed lamb. 43 Upper Brook St, Mayfair, W1K 7QR; +44-20-7408-0881.
Hereford Road: Chef Marianne Lumb of Marianne just keeps going back to this British bistro in Notting Hill. “I just want to devour everything on the plate,” she says. “It’s comforting and gorgeous.” Favorite dish: Sticky toffee pudding. 3 Hereford Rd, W2 4AB; +44-20-7727-1144.
Roka: This Japanese grill in Mayfair is the pick of chef Chantelle Nicholson of Tredwells. “The flavors are fresh and super satisfying. The wine list is also great. Now Roka has more locations, it means it is generally pretty easy to get to one of them last minute.” Favorite dish: Rock shrimp tempura. 30 North Audley Street, W1K 6ZF; +44-20-7305-5644.
Fiume: Chef Tom Aikens of Tom’s Kitchen lives near this new Italian restaurant in Battersea and has become a fan of Francesco Mazzei’s food. “Francesco’s a very good chef and you can get great pizza and pasta here. It’s a lovely place overlooking the river. My kids love it, too.”
Favorite dish: Truffle & Grana Padano Doughnut. Circus West, Battersea Power Station, SW8 5BM.
Holborn Dining Room: This British brasserie near Covent Garden is the regular Sunday haunt of Adam Handling of the Frog by Adam Handling. “I go there with my mates,” he says. “It is unpretentious, with food that is simple and delicious. I hate over-the-top-food. The lobster tart is one of my last dishes before I die.” Favorite dish: Lobster thermidor tart. 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN; +20-3747-8633.
Primeur: Restaurateur Emma Reynolds of Tonkotsu lives near this local in Stoke Newington and goes regularly with her wife. “It’s always reliable and excellent and fun,” she says. “We sit at the bar so we can watch the kitchen action. We probably go a couple of times a month and the menu changes daily.” Favorite dish: Onglet. 116 Petherton Rd, N5 2RT; +44-20-7226-52
Quality Chop House: This modern British restaurant in Farringdon is a favorite of Italian chef Francesco Mazzei. “The chef, Shaun Searley, is one of the best cooking modern British food right now,” Mazzei says. “I wish he got more attention. His ingredients are the best and the food is fantastic.”
Favorite dish: Confit potatoes. 88-94 Farringdon Road, EC1R 3EA; +44-20-7278-1452.
St John Bread and Wine: Chef Angela Hartnett of Murano is a regular at this casual British restaurant in Spitalfields. “I know this sounds stupid but you don’t have to think,” she says. “You can have a good time and relax. And because I live around the corner, I can always get a table.” Favorite dish: Cod’s roe with boiled egg. 94-96 Commercial Street, E1 6LZ; +44-20-7251-0848.
Scott’s: This smart fish restaurant in Mayfair is a family favorite for chef Jason Atherton of Pollen Street Social. “They look after us and cater for the kids who can just have fish and chips if that is what they fancy. The oysters are among the best in London. I go for business meetings, too. It feels glamorous.” Favorite dish: Sautéed razor clams. 20 Mount St, Mayfair, W1K 2HE; +44-20-7495-7309.