Where the chefs eat: Asma Khan shares her 8 favourite London restaurants

The owner of Soho’s Darjeeling Express reveals her must-visit foodie spots in the capital, from Michelin-starred Chinese to a Thai twist on vegan

Calcutta-born British chef and restaurateur Asma Khan is one of the most admired women on the London culinary scene and a force for social change in the industry. Having started cooking Indian food at private supper clubs then pop-ups, she opened Darjeeling Express in Soho in 2017, going on to be the first British chef to star on Netflix hit Chef’s Table. Here, she shares her favourite restaurants in London.

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Asma Khan was born into a royal Indian family before moving to England in 1991 following an arranged marriage. She resolved to cook the Mughlai dishes of her childhood and, after graduating in law from King’s College London, she started cooking professionally at pop-ups at The Cinnamon Club and The Sun and 13 Cantons in Soho, before opening her own restaurant, Darjeeling Express, with a kitchen staffed by local immigrant women. Here, she reveals her go-to dining spots in the capital.

Where The Chefs Eat

Asma Khan’s favourite restaurants in London

A Wong

A Wong is the only two Michelin star Chinese restaurant in London – and what incredible work the head chef Andrew Wong has done. He is deeply immersed in thousands of years of Chinese culinary traditions, and has used that to deliver a menu that is steeped in heritage but, of course, has a twist to it. I always go with a Chinese friend who grew up in New York, where her father was the first tofu producer in Chinatown. She would help him out in the factory when she was a child, so she has a deep understanding of Chinese food. 

Where The Chefs Eat: Asma Khan Shares Her 8 Favourite London RestaurantsPin

We’ve done the entire a la carte menu – I love the French beans with wasabi soy and osmanthus jelly – and The Collections of India tasting menu. Often, vegetarians get a bad deal in fine dining places because they are an afterthought, but there is a whole parallel vegetarian tasting menu here. Everything is delicately done including dessert, where they have a fabulous steamed duck yolk custard bun. They also have a waiter whose job it is to top up your tea. The restaurant is not anything to look at, but if you want to blow someone away with excellent food, this is the place.

70 Wilton Road, Pimlico, London SW1V 1DE

Brasserie Zedel

Brasserie Zedel does incredible French food at an incredible price. There’s a fixed price menu for less than £20, so you get a really special experience in a grand location, but without the cost. I always order the beetroot, goats cheese and walnut salad and you definitely need the bread basket – it’s the best French bread ever. The desserts are wonderful – it’s the only restaurant where I’ve eaten a floating island, which is creme anglaise with a meringue on top, covered in caramel. 

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A lot of people don’t know that you can also eat in the cafe upstairs, where you have to order the carrot cake which is the best I’ve eaten. I go with friends or members of my team for a birthday or to reward them if we have had a tough service at Darjeeling Express. You get a very small bill, which doesn’t demean the quality of the food at all. A beautiful space, great atmosphere and fabulous service. 

20 Sherwood Street, Soho, London W1F 7ED


Silo in Hackney Wick is a zero waste restaurant – you can literally see that they don’t have any bins. Sometimes places that emphasise the health and environmental aspects of dining don’t really get the balance of flavour quite right, but founder and head chef, Douglas McMaster has created a sustainable restaurant for foodies. The Silo team cook on fire and everything has enormous flavour. The focus is on fermentation – a standout dish is the maitake mushrooms with miso and Szechuan peppers, which is earthy and wholesome. And their pollock with wild horseradish – oh wow, that is a very good combination. 

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I don’t eat the dessert because it has sake in it, but they have a dish called amazake (fermented rice) with raspberry chong (a Korean preserve) and I’ve watched friends literally inhale it. Silo is the place to get an experimental, but elegant and beautifully-made meal put together from ingredients that you have never heard of – or can even pronounce. 

Queens Yard, White Post Lane, Hackney Wick, London E9 5EN

Cinnamon Club

The Cinnamon Club is always worth mentioning because it was the first fine-dining Indian restaurant. A lot of MPs eat there; it is discreet, sophisticated and has excellent service, making it a great place to go for a work lunch or dinner. A dish that stands out for me is the venison loin with masala mash. It comes from the Balmoral estate and is very, very good – they do game extremely well here. And the clove-smoked saddle of lamb with keema saag is also beautifully done. 

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It’s the perfect place for people who aren’t that familiar with Indian food or don’t want too much spice. They make a huge effort with the presentation and the restaurant is a grand dining room with high ceilings, surrounded by books from the Old Westminster Library. And they do a good mocktail, like their bellini with apricot puree, spiced rose and ginger, as well as an excellent mango lassi.

The Old Westminster Library, Great Smith Street, Westminster, London SW1P 3BU

Cambio de Tercio

I’ve been going to the Spanish restaurant Cambio de Tercio since it opened in 1995 and it’s always packed. It is especially heaving at the weekends, when people spill out onto the footpath. It’s very atmospheric and chaotic, and brilliant for people-watching; you have waiters running across the road with plates of food during peak service because they have a tapas bar on the other side. 

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I don’t drink but I’ve been told the wines are fabulous, and they make an excellent artichoke dish with blue cheese. Artichoke isn’t often done very well – it’s not the greatest vegetable in the universe and I never cook it myself – so when I go out to places, I try the artichoke. They also do a great fried squid and I always have the taco with salmon and avocado. 

163 Old Brompton Road, South Kensington, London SW5 OLJ


This small Thai place opposite Earl’s Court underground station is so unassuming that you can walk past it without noticing – you can’t actually see where the entrance is, so you really have to look out for it. It is a completely vegan restaurant and I was dragged along there reluctantly by my son, but it really is an exciting place to eat. 

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They use vegetables in a very interesting way at Mali. There is a wonderful chickpea massaman curry and a dish called kao soi which is tofu and shitake mushrooms with pickled mustard in curry noodles, which is excellent. It’s a great place to go late at night if you haven’t eaten and the service is very fast. We went there a lot during the winter as they serve the kind of nourishing food that makes you feel restored.  

5a Hogarth Place, Earl’s Court, London SW5 0QT

Dinings SW3

I’m not usually a fan of fusion, but the chef at Dinings SW3, Masaki Sugisaki, does Japanese food with European elements – and he does it beautifully. The one thing I always have to eat there is a tempura shrimp slider, plus they have an amazing seafood salad and the best soft shell crab I’ve ever had in my life. The black cod is also good, and they do single hand-dived scallops.  

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A lot of the chefs came from Nobu and if you sit along the bar you can see them at work. Everything is beautifully presented, and so fresh. It is really something but a lot of people don’t know about it. It’s very small and exclusive, eating there feels quite magical. 

Walton House, Lennox Gardens Mews, Walton Street, Chelsea, London SW3 2JH

Brunswick House

I always take my cousins to Brunswick House when they visit from India and, because it is in Vauxhall, it is a destination restaurant for us, so I get to show them other parts of London where they don’t normally go. Brunswick House is a grand place to walk into and for me, this is the place for family dinners. 

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I’ve always loved their deviled egg with trout roe and the other thing I always order is the Brixham crab with egg noodles. For vegetarians, they’ve got a very nice grilled cauliflower with onion and coriander chutney – not everyone does cauliflower well, it can be very bland, but this one has a beautiful flavour going all the way through the dish. 

30 Wandsworth Road, Vauxhall, London SW8 2LG

Asma Khan’s new range of Indian ready meals is available now exclusively at Ocado

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