After originally studying architecture, it wasn’t until a stint on Masterchef in 2011 that Elizabeth Haigh realised that cooking was her true calling – she went on to become the founding head chef at Pidgin in east London, guiding the popular neighbourhood restaurant to a Michelin star barely a year after opening. She now runs Mei Mei in Borough Market, which fuses her Singaporean-British heritage and fine dining experience with a passion for wood-fire cooking. From her ultimate comfort food to her pick of the best sushi restaurant in London, here the chef reveals her favourite places to eat out in town.
Favourite London restaurants
As both my husband and I work on our business, we rarely get time off together as a family – but when we do, it’s a real treat to take our son to the Wolseley for breakfast or lunch. The service there is second to none. It’s the type of place that you know you’ll always be greeted well, and so much care and attention is given to the guest that you don’t feel like you’re in a big restaurant but rather someone’s grand home. I went there for a meal when I was 34 weeks pregnant – as soon as I sat down, they offered me an extra pillow, and when they overheard my son make a fuss about wanting something off-menu, they went out of their way to make it for him with a big smile. I’ve never seen my son so happy in a restaurant before.
160 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1J 9EB
I met chef Endo when he came to Mei Mei for dinner, and he had just opened Sumi in Notting Hill. I come here for the small but lovely selection of sushi, handrolls and temaki. I’m also a big fan of the plates of vegetables and the rice dishes – I tend to find that whenever I come, I just want to keep ordering more and more from the menu. The intimate atmosphere makes it a perfect date spot or somewhere to come for a girl’s night out. I recommend asking for sake to match whatever you’re eating, and that you enjoy the evening watching the chefs work away in the open kitchen.
157 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, London W11 2RS
For me, this is the perfect spot to go to get away from the hustle and bustle of Borough Market. In the morning I’ll often stop by to order their salmon plate for breakfast, while after work I’ll swing by for dinner, which usually involves ordering a bit of everything on the menu. My favourite place to sit is by the window where I can watch the market – I’m happiest with a coffee in one hand (I’m a big fan of their lovely ceramics), a Flor pastry in the other and a bowl of their 26 Grain’s porridge. It’s become a second habit in the mornings now.
2-3 Stoney Street, Borough Market, Southwark, London SE1 9AA
I regularly make the trip to Smoking Goat when I’m pottering around Shoreditch or east London. I particularly like the fact that they have a section on the menu dedicated to laab – as well as a good balance of vegetable, meat and fish dishes. You can tell they supply their ingredients well and even proudly list where they’re from on their menu, and that quality is reflected in their cooking. I have always been a big fan of the Super 8 group, after their success with Kiln and Brat, and find with coming to Smoking Goat I never fail to be greeted with a warm smile, buzzy environment and great selection of cocktails/mocktails to match the food.
64 Shoreditch High Street, Shoreditch, London E1 6JJ
I’ve been an avid fan of Chris Leachy’s food ever since he opened his first Manteca restaurant in Soho – now that he has a permanent spot in Shoreditch, we’ll be venturing to east London a lot more. Their home-made charcuterie and pasta dishes are great – especially as they’re suitable for our son’s palette too – and I can’t help but order the pig head’ fritters, with not one, not two but three pasta dishes on the side. I always make sure to leave room for a main course too though, which is usually the pork chop.
49-51 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3PT
Natural wine? Check. Great food? Check. Opposite my own restaurant, Mei Mei? Check. For me, Elliot’s is the perfect spot in Borough Market after I’ve been wandering around the different food stalls or working a long day at the restaurant. I love their newly renovated space, perching up on the bar there, or sitting on a table outside with a glass of wine and watching the people go by. It is an unwritten rule that when there you must try at least three of their snack dishes: my favourites are the cheesy puffs (with seasonal truffle) and their pizzas.
12 Stoney Street, Borough Market, Southwark, London SE1 9AD
Hainanese chicken rice is the ultimate comfort food for me. There’s something about the fluffy, garlicky rice and the silky soft poached chicken combined with spicy chilli sauce that makes it irresistible. There are very few places in London that do this national dish, so we made it our mission to re-create it well at Mei Mei. I pair it with a hot Milo (chocolate malted drink) or a Teh Tarik, a pulled sweet Assam blend tea. When it’s sunny and I’m sat on one of the stools there, I close my eyes and listen to the hustle of the market and the noise from the traders and try to place myself back home in Singapore right there and then.
Unit 52, Rochester Walk, Borough Market, Southwark London SE1 9AF