This International Women’s Day, we’re rounding up a hit‑list of some of the best restaurants in the capital. They also happen to be places run by women.
Even as we start to write this out, we're already thinking of the loads of other places which we LOVE that have incredible female leaders. Some are floor managers, some are sommeliers, some are running the books. And some are also other incredible head chefs, but we tried to narrow this down to just 10. A difficult task in a city like London with this diverse and exceptional of a restaurant scene.
That said, this is an industry where we see just 17% of chefs identified as female. That's compounded by women in roles across the industry being affected by the pandemic at greater rates than men. This is why it's (unfortunately) still very important to highlight the businesses you can support to help #BreakTheBias.
Spring Restaurant, Somerset House
One of the most gorgeous dining spaces in London, Spring sits in a 19th‑century drawing room in Somerset House. At the helm is Skye Gyngell, formerly head chef of Michelin‑starred Petersham Nurseries. Skye’s focus is on sustainability and sourcing incredible British ingredients. She’s eliminated the use of single‑use‑plastics at the restaurant and has this exciting offer always on: “The pre‑theatre ‘scratch’ menu is made from ingredients that would otherwise have been wasted, and at three courses for £25 it’s an affordable way to support a good cause.” (—Evening Standard)
Modern West African food, cocktails, and natural wines in this south London gem from Adejoké 'Joké' Bakare, Head Chef and owner. What started as a supper club went on to win a prize for a permanent space in Brixton Village. “The restaurant is a complete and utter joy, wonderful in its informality and serving up incredible food,” explains The Independent's Molly Codyre.
This one isn’t even opened yet, but we can’t wait to check it out. The first recipient of the Michelin Green Star, chef‑owner formerly of Tredwells and All’s Well, Chantelle Nicholson is an inspiration. Her new place “will focus on the sustainability and wellbeing of its employees as well a green approach to sourcing and zero‑waste approach to cooking” explains Eater London.
Rochelle Canteen, Shoreditch
The icon that is this discreet old bike shed in an old school, but serving up simple and yet modern European food on a daily‑changing menu. It’s owned by the legendary duo that is Melanie Arnold and Margot Henderson. As they say, “We let our produce speak for itself, a gentle approach.” It’s an oasis of a classic in ever‑changing Shoreditch.
Sabor, Heddon Street
Previously of Barrafina fame, Nieves Barrágan Mohacho has gone on to win a Michelin Star at her own Galician‑inspired tapas bar. This little excerpt from the FT about Nigella Lawson’s review says it all really: “Everything about Nieves Barragán’s food makes me happy… It’s utterly exquisite yet exudes welcoming cosiness at the same time.”
hicce, King's Cross
A Great British Menu winner and former Murano head chef, Pip Lacey now has her own spot in Coal Drops Yard. And beyond the beautiful food that our founder recently had at a lunch there, the on‑site market store is also filled with artisan products—many that support small and local food & drink brands.
CORE, Notting Hill
Of course it’s hard to mention women leading the restaurant scene in London without mentioning the UK’s first female three‑star Michelin winner. Most headlines talk about her catering a royal wedding, but more importantly is this: during the first lockdown, her restaurant’s kitchen cooked 600 meals a week for charities and local hospitals. They also partnered to give thousands of “thank you” delivery burgers to NHS staff. (—The World's 50 Best)
Sessions Art Club, Clerkenwell
Vogue described this place in 2021 as the “Hottest London Restaurant of the summer”. Florence Knight (formerly of Polpetto) is an author and the food columnist at the Sunday Times. She’s now leading this gallery space and restaurant in what was a very long‑awaited return for her to the hospitality industry in London. It’s a stunning space with another menu that celebrates ingredients standing out on their own.
Tayēr + Elementary, Old Street
If you’ve followed us at all, you know we’re big fans of Monica Berg (and her partner Alex Kratena). She’s an icon in the cocktail world, and well loved and respected across the industry. In 2019, she won “International Bartender of The Year” at Tales of the Cocktail and “Bartender’s Bartender” by The World’s 50 Best Bars. She went on to co‑found P(OUR), a drinks industry non‑profit, as well BackOfHouse.Info, a free online resource to flag harmful behaviour, discrimination, and harassment in hospitality.
Made In Hackney, Clapton Common
Beyond a place to eat, this final one is about community. I was first introduced to this place by my lovely pal, Aurore (who did some seasonal recipes for us back in March last year). Founded by Sarah Bentley back in 2011, this is a food support charity for those in need and a plant‑based cookery school. Along with classes and skills development, they “prepare over 1200 culturally varied meals a week with regular input from our community meal service family on what dishes they’d like to see on the menu each week.” It’s nourishing on so many levels. We highly recommend a class where you can both cook (or forage) and eat with them.
—Sarah, founder of Citizens of Soil
Got other favourites? Share them with us on Instagram at @CitizensofSoil.