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Where the chefs eat: Judy Joo shares her 8 favourite London restaurants

The founder of Seoul Bird reveals her must-visit foodie spots in the capital for London’s hottest new openings

Judy Joo may have been born in New Jersey, but after living in the capital for the last 17 years we’re claiming her as a bona fide Londoner. The Korean-American chef, writer and restaurateur honed her skills working under Gordon Ramsay before taking to our screens in a variety of cooking shows, from Cooking with the Stars to Iron Chef UK, where she was the only female chef. In 2015 she opened the modern Korean restaurant JinJuu in Soho, and in 2020 founded casual dining spot Seoul Bird, which has locations in Westfield and Canary Wharf and serves Judy Joo’s signature Korean fried chicken. Here, she reveals her favourite London restaurants.

Where the Chefs Eat

Judy Joo’s favourite London restaurants

Kutir

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For a special occasion, I’ll go to Kutir, which is chef Rohit Ghai’s place in Chelsea. He was the main chef behind Gymkhana but then he left to start his own restaurants – Kutir was his first one. It’s in an old townhouse just off Sloane Square and the vibe is really intimate; it feels like you’re eating in someone’s home when you go there. The décor is gorgeous too, with lots of small rooms all covered in beautiful wallpaper, and the main dining room feels like you’re sitting in a jewel box. There’s also a tiny terrace where you can sit outside when the weather is nice. I always order the chicken tikka masala when I go, which I think is the best in town. 

10 Lincoln Street, Chelsea, London SW3 2TS 
kutir.co.uk

Plaza Khao Gaeng

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This restaurant on the mezzanine level at the Arcade Food Hall is headed up by chef Jane Alty, who’s doing amazing things with Thai food. In my opinion, this is the best Thai restaurant in all of London. It’s cheap and cheerful, and having a meal here feels like you could be eating in Bangkok. The food is very flavoursome and it’s all proper spicy, as Thai food should be. To start I always order the Miang Phuket, which is coconut, cashew and palm sugar. It’s so delicious – sour, spicy, tangy and sweet all at once. It comes with fresh betel nut leaves to wrap the coconut and cashew in, which are one of my favourite things to eat. Then I’ll order their fried pork dish, Khua Kling Muu, which has lots of chili and wild galangal in it, and a side of jasmine rice and fresh Thai vegetables. 

103-105 New Oxford Street, Fitzrovia, London WC1A 1DB 
plazakhaogaeng.com

Junsei

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I’ve always found it really difficult to find authentic yakitori in London, so I was thrilled when I discovered Junsei. It’s a bit of a secret spot, but it has cult status now because the food is so excellent. They use every part of the chicken on their skewers – from thigh and skin to gizzard and heart – and the way they cook them is very authentic. There’s a little bar that I sit at so I can watch them while they grill, and the guys who run it are super passionate. I love how they serve the skewers in the traditional way, with the egg yolk to dip them in, and I’ll usually order a rice donburi dish on the side and some sake to go with it. 

132 Seymour Place, Marylebone, London W1H 1NS 
junsei.co.uk

Socca

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This is one of the newest restaurants that I’ve been to lately, as it’s just opened, and it’s my new favourite place. It’s chef Claude Bosi’s latest opening and it’s been created as an homage to his mother and his Provencal roots. The vibe is casual fine dining – it’s home-style comfort food, but elevated. The ambience is lovely, with lots of traditional touches and nostalgic recipes on the menu; sitting in the back room, I felt like I was in Provence. 

I had some beautiful scallops when I was there, as well as langoustines and a shellfish chorizo rice – all the seafood there was delicious. I also really enjoyed Claude’s mother’s recipe for tripe and cuttlefish gratin. But if you only order one thing there, it has to be the socca. They’re chickpea pancakes that come with little dipping sauces like taramasalata and hummus, and they’re to die for. 

41A Audley Street, Mayfair, London W1K 2PS 
soccabistro.com

Roketsu

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One of the most special meals I’ve had in London was at Roketsu. It’s an elevated Japanese restaurant that serves a traditional kaiseki menu, where all the dishes are chosen by the chefs. It’s a very intimate space that only has around 12 seats. The menu has 12 courses and all of the dishes are small and intricate and showcase lots of different preparation techniques. What the chef chooses is always based on the season, and you never know what they’re going to serve you until it arrives. The chef there, Daisuke Hayashi, has been in training for years and is a protégé of the owner, chef Yoshihiro Murata. There’s a beautiful cedar wood bar and every dish that arrives is so elegantly presented, each one is like a miniature work of art. You have to book your table two months in advance and it’s very pricey, but it’s worth it as eating here feels almost like a royal affair. 

12 New Quebec Street, Marylebone, London W1H 7RW 
rokestu.co.uk

Apricity

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I absolutely love what Chantelle Nicholson is doing at Apricity. I think her whole ethos around creating sustainable, zero waste dishes is fantastic. There’s always something new on the menu there, and though it’s quite a small space and fairly sparse in décor, it feels very cosy when you arrive for a meal. All the produce she sources is just gorgeous, from the bread to the olive oil, and she always picks the best seasonal vegetables. The lettuce, for example, is always amazing – last time I went I had a super fresh salad made with lovely red butter head lettuce, which was really meaty. When I go, I’ll order whatever fish dish is on the menu, paired with some vegetables, and it’s always a beautiful dining experience. 

68 Duke Street, Mayfair, London W1K 6JU
apricityrestaurant.com

The Maine Mayfair

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If I’m in the market for something a bit splashier, I’ll go to the Maine Mayfair – I’ve had some really fun nights there. The menu is absolutely huge, with great steaks, mac and cheese and fish tacos. It’s kind of like all the greatest hits on one menu. My favourite dish there is the lobster roll, which I get them to serve to me in the main dining room, even though they only usually serve it in the other room, just because I love it so much. There’s live jazz music every night, very vintage and nostalgic, with guys dressed up in white Rat Pack tuxedos singing Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole hits. If you want to stay out later, on the weekends it turns into a bit of a burlesque show. Whether I go in for a quick drink or a meal and a show, it always feels very transporting. 

6 Medici Courtyard, Mayfair, London W1S 1JY
themainemayfair.com

Ino

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I’ve brought so many friends to this little gastro bar in Soho, and every time I do they fall in love with it just like I have. It’s the cooler little sister restaurant to Opso in Marylebone and it’s Greek-inspired too, but the dishes here are based more around the grill. It’s very casual, you can either sit at the little bar at the front or get a cosy table for two at the back. I always order the tuna tartlet when I go, which comes with a creamy fava bean spread and capers. You have to try the taramasalata too, which is topped with bottarga and a cured egg yolk. It comes with their hand stretched pitta bread, which they make in-house. There are also wonderful Greek wines and salads to round off the meal. 

4 Newburgh Street, Soho, London W1F 7RF
inorestaurant.com

Where the Chefs Eat

Judy Joo’s favourite local spots in Marylebone

Jikoni

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This is another local spot I spend a lot of time in. I love Ravinder Bhogal and what she’s doing there. She’s always changing the menu, finding fresh things in the market, and everything is absolutely delicious. She has beautiful drinks too, and I adore her and her husband. They work so hard and have so much passion. The food is always incredible and surprising, yet comforting at the same time. 

19-21 Blandford Street, Marylebone, London W1U 3DJ
jikonilondon.com

Yamabahçe

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When I’m rolling around Marylebone, I love popping into Yamabahçe, near James’s Street. It’s a casual Turkish pide place that was opened by Alan Yau’s wife, Jale Eventok, and it’s just gorgeous. They have the best Turkish breads that are all homemade and really nice salads and Turkish eggs; it’s very authentic. You’ll find me there a lot. 

26 James Street, Marylebone, London W1U 1EN
yamabahce.square.site

Fischer’s

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This restaurant at the top of Marylebone High Street is wonderfully old school, it feels like you’ve been transported to Austria as soon as you walk through the door. It’s always very crowded so it’s best to book if you can, but if you go early enough you can usually find a seat somewhere. My order is always the same: chicken schnitzel with extra lemon and a superfood salad on the side. 

50 Marylebone High Street, Marylebone, London W1U 5HN
fischers.co.uk

St John Bread and Wine

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This is my favourite new addition to the area. I’ve been frequenting it quite a bit since it opened up. It’s such a fun spot, and even if I’m not sitting down to eat there, I’ll often pop in to pick up a loaf of bread or grab an Eccles cake. The menu is always changing and everything on there is so fresh. I know I’m always guaranteed a great meal here. 

98 Marylebone Lane, Marylebone, London W1U 2QA
stjohnrestaurant.com

The Golden Hind

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Whenever a friend comes to visit from abroad, I’ll take them for classic fish and chips with mushy peas at the Golden Hind. It’s been running for over 100 years and they have a plaque on the wall showing how they’ve changed ownership over the years – I love places like that. You can choose between cod or haddock and the batter is always light and crispy. They also make a very good salmon fishcake, which I sometimes go for if I’m in the mood for something different.

71a-73 Marylebone Lane, Marylebone, London W1U 2PN
goldenhindrestaurant.com

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