Praise the Lord: lockdown has lifted. (We know it lifted a while ago, now; but as far as we’re concerned, we can’t reiterate enough how wonderful that news is.) Finally, we can attend weddings in all their crowded, joyful glory; we can queue for jam-packed, overpriced clubs; we can host house parties without having to work out which members of our social group will have to be axed this time, thanks to the rule of six.
But amidst all this wildly uninhibited reopening, the choice of where to go and what to do can be a little overwhelming. Finally, we can do anything and go anywhere; and that makes something as simple as going for dinner bizarrely complicated. So we’ve done the hard work for you; we asked 10 Michelin star chefs for their favourite restaurant of all time. And we have a feeling their answers will make choosing where to go a whole lot easier…
#1 Tom Kerridge loves: The Sportsman, Whitstable
Tom Kerridge is certainly a chef who needs no introduction. We assume you’re heartily fond of his gourmet Fish & Chips at Harrods, and that you’re no stranger to Kerridge’s Bar & Grill: his elegant restaurant housed at The Corinthia Hotel. And in latest Kerridge news, he’s even curated an all-day dining menu at the Knightsbridge-based Pavilion Club: a brand new private members club with — no doubt — exceptional food.
And when it comes to his favourite restaurant (excluding his own, of course), The Sportsman pub in Seasalter, Whitstable, wins out every time. “[Chef] Stephen Harris is the epitome of great British cuisine, and his restaurant reflects that in the best possible way,” Kerridge enthuses. “The Slip Sole in Seaweed Butter is one of the most simple and delicious dishes I’ve ever had. Homemade butter with local seaweed and fresh, locally caught fish? It doesn’t get any better than that.”
#2 Victor Garvey loves: The Ritz Restaurant
Ever been to SOLA? We’re betting you have; it’s now a staple of the Soho dining scene, thanks to its sublime modern Californian cuisine. If you’re a SOLA regular, you’ll be familiar with the light, elegant dishes typical to the ‘Sunshine state’, as well as with the East Asian cooking influences. The man behind this Soho culinary gem is Victor Garvey, who started his career in Barcelona before travelling all over the world — Los Angeles, Tokyo, Copenhagen, you name it — before arriving in Soho.
And when it comes to Garvey’s favourite restaurant, we’d bet good money it’s one you’re highly familiar with. “As soon as you walk into the incredibly-appointed early 20th century dining room of The Ritz Restaurant, you know you’re in for a treat,” Garvey explains. “Generously spaced tables, faultless service; and some of the most delicious and precise classical French cooking around. There is one dish that for me is peerless: the Parmesan Custard with Madeira Sauce. A lighter than air — yet somehow rich — expression of high grade parmesan accentuated with a black truffle and Madeira glaze, served with a black truffle gougere: it’s as close to perfect as cooking gets.”
The Ritz Restaurant
#3 Gary Foulkes loves: Roka
If you’re a seafood sort of chap (and, with our stellar recipes for mussels, paella and barbecued scallops, we’d certainly hope you are by now), you’ll most likely be no stranger to Gary Foulkes’ seasonal, sustainable (and breathtakingly elegant) seafood restaurant Angler, poised at the top of South Place Hotel.
And where Foulkes’ favourite restaurant is concerned, he’s opted for Japanese cuisine in the form of the much-beloved Roka, emphasising that “everything you order is incredible, and the service is always spot on.” In true Foulkes fashion, his regular order includes dishes that don’t hold back on the fish: he’ll often be found ordering the kuruma-ebi (black tiger prawn tempura with crushed wasabi pea and chilli mayonnaise), among other delectable dishes.
#4 Mark Birchall loves: Frantzén
The man behind the Moor Hall Restaurant With Rooms, Mark Birchall has seen Michelin stars and AA rosettes flooding in like there’s no (culinary) tomorrow; not to mention his stellar establishment being crowned ‘Restaurant of the Year’ at the National Restaurant Awards. His specialty is creating produce-driven menus inspired by home grown ingredients; and it’s a specialty that’s certainly served him well.
And when it comes to his favourite restaurant, Birchall has singled out Stockholm treasure Frantzén. “It was an unforgettable experience and, I think, one of the most exciting counter-dining concepts in Europe,” Birchall tells Gentleman’s Journal. “When I visited a few years ago, I went there straight from the airport for a lunchtime booking at 1.30pm and didn’t leave until 10pm! There’s so much creativity, technique and quality in every corner of the menu. The chefs involve you as much as possible, so you feel like you’re part of the kitchen; you’re guaranteed to witness some incredibly skilful cookery.”
#5 Jason Atherton loves: Frantzén (too)
What are the chances? A whole world’s worth of restaurants out there, and two Michelin star chefs choose the same one as their all-time favourite. If one thing’s for sure, it’s that Frantzén is most certainly worth a visit next time you’re in Stockholm (or why not go for broke, and plan a visit to Stockholm just to visit this particular restaurant? There’s certainly something about it…)
If you’ve ever been to Pollen Street Social or City Social, you’ll be familiar with Atherton’s work. It’s not just those two, mind; Atherton is the brains and soul behind The Social Company, whom we also have to thank for such culinary stalwarts as Berners Tavern, Social Eating House and many others. About Frantzén, Atherton says he’s “recently fallen in love with this 3 Michelin star restaurant which offers a mind blowing experience, serving delicious food inspired by modern Nordic cuisine with influences from Japan.
“I love the crudo with hiramasa, otoro, frantzén “prestige” caviar and fermented apricot,” he continues. “The food combined with the atmosphere makes you lose all concept of time — it’s an outstanding culinary experience you shouldn’t miss.”
#6 James Lowe loves: 40 Maltby Street
If you’ve ever been to Lyles in Shoreditch, you’ll know that James Lowe knows his stuff. Having been inspired by Heston Bluementhal’s The Fat Duck, he vowed to open his own restaurant one day: and the result was Lyle’s in 2014, which swiftly earned its Michelin star before being ranked number 33 on the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” list in 2019.
And when it comes to 40 Maltby Street — located in the warehouse of Gergovie Wines — Lowe is full of unstinting praise, declaring that it’s long been his favourite restaurant in London. “Stevie is a brilliant chef, and they always have the nicest team at the bar,” he says. “The menu changes each week — lockdown saw them do the best sandwiches in London, and the wines they import are from some of the most interesting winemakers in the world. The food is always lovely, [it’s] always great value for money and the place continues to go from strength to strength.”
40 Maltby Street
#7 Tom Brown loves: Black Axe Mangal
Having been a finalist on the Great British Menu, Tom Brown is the chef behind Cornerstone: the effortlessly cool Hackney Wick seafood restaurant that sees seafood lovers — and, indeed, food lovers — flocking from every corner of London to set foot through those doors.
And where Brown’s favourite restaurant is concerned, the theme of chic, stylish, enviable cool continues: he’s chosen Black Axe Mangal, whose cool credentials are off the charts. “I personally think it’s the best place in London,” Brown enthuses. “Every aspect is complete perfection, and the food is unbelievably tasty. It’s one of those restaurants you look at and wish yours was as cool as theirs!” — although we’d hazard a guess that Cornerstone and Black Axe Mangal are very much in the same league, cool wise. “My go-to order is the lamb offal flatbread and grilled hispi cabbage with shrimp butter,” Brown concludes.
Black Axe Mangal
#8 Rafael Cagali loves: Noble Rot (and others)
If you’ve ever been to Da Terra (you’d be right in thinking it’s the one located in the Town Hall Hotel), you’ll have borne first hand witness to Rafael Cagali’s exquisitely experimental cuisine, which brings together both the flavours of his origins and his culinary experiences over the years. Originally from São Paulo, Cagali is another chef influenced by The Fat Duck, where he worked with Blumenthal, before later taking the helm as Head Chef at Aulis. Da Terra opened in 2019; cut to today, and it’s twinkling away with two Michelin stars to its name.
Cagali was hard pushed to name just one restaurant; so we’ve bent the rules, and allowed him to name several. He notes the “great food and great wines” of Noble Rot; and he also applauds the “elegant fine dining” at Clare Smyth’s Core in Notting Hill. He finds the Cumbrian L’Enclume a “great getaway experience”, and recommends the “nice Italian tapas and vermouth bar” at Soho-based Mele e Pere. Finally, he fondly describes East London’s Brawn as a “great local restaurant”, and describes Yashin Sushi on Argyll Road as “top quality”. We reckon that’s enough to be going on with for now.
#9 James Knappett loves: Alinea
James Knappett is the Chef Patron at Fitzrovia restaurant Kitchen Table; and he’s also recently joined the team at the much-beloved Chelsea institution known as the Cadogan Arms pub, as Culinary Director. We’ve waxed lyrical about the great British pub before, and the Cadogan Arms is undoubtedly one of the greatest around — and having reopened last month, it’s bounced back bigger and better than ever. Under Knappett’s watchful eye, you can expect to see dishes like Prawn Cocktail with Marie Rose and Herb Salad and Welsh Mangalitsa Pork Chop doing the delectable rounds.
When it comes to Knappett’s favourite restaurant, however, there’s nothing British there; you’d have to make a quick trip across the pond to visit this one — and from the sounds of it, that’s a trip you’ll want to make. Knappett has chosen Chicago-based Alinea; and he doesn’t hold back on his enthusiasm for the place. “I first visited it 11 years ago and nothing has beaten it since then,” he explains. “I was amazed and inspired by the level of different techniques from start to finish: so many dishes required culinary techniques that I have never seen before, which is obviously very hard to come across these days. Head Chef and Owner, Grant Achatz is truly at the forefront of modern culinary creativity.”
#10 Asimakis Chaniotis loves: Old Town 97
Asimakis Chaniotis takes the helm as Executive Chef at Fitzrovia restaurant Pied à Terre, about which you might have heard us extol the virtues before; but that would be for good reason. It’s the longest standing independent Michelin Starred restaurant in London; and Chaniotis packs his menu with his delectable classic French cuisine, while providing ample nods to his Greek heritage.
And when it comes to his favourite restaurant, you’d just have to hop on over to Soho to take him up on his recommendation (which, in turn, we’d highly recommend you do — the man knows his stuff). He’s put a spotlight on Chinese restaurant Old Town 97, which proudly resides in the heart of Chinatown. “It closes at 3:30am every day, and I often go there after a busy Saturday night service at Pied à Terre,” Chaniotis explains; adding that he’ll often be found ordering the Spicy Beef Tripe.
Old Town 97