As the woman behind Marylebone’s celebrated restaurant Jikoni, British chef and award-winning food writer Ravinder Bhogal knows her way around London’s dining scene. Whether it’s tracking down the best spots for a late-night supper, unearthing the most decadent puddings in the capital or supporting fellow female chefs, she’s got it covered. Here she reveals her failsafe foodie favourites, as well as the places at the top of her to-visit list.
I went there for the first time since lockdown the other day and it was just heaven to be back. This has long been my go-to restaurant, because having my own restaurant and working such long hours, there was nowhere else that would take us in post-11pm. I have wonderful memories of going in and being shown wonderful hospitality – they always remember you and make you feel welcome.
I also love that, despite being so beautiful, it feels like a restaurant for everyone; you could go there in a pair of jeans or a cocktail dress and you would never be made to feel out of place. They also have great lighting – I call it vanity lighting – which makes everyone look wonderful.
160 Piccadilly, St James’s, London W1J 9EB
It’s always a joy to come here because of chef Jeremy Lee – he’s just a wonderful guy. He makes the whole place so jolly, and you always know you’re going to have a lovely time when you go there.
The main reason I come is for his puddings, which I can never say no to – you get to that point of the meal where you’ve eaten enough and pudding is just a greedy luxury that you don’t need but want anyway. And when you want it, you hope it’s going to be worth the calories, and with Jeremy it always is. My favourites are his profiteroles, which are to die for.
26-29 Dean Street, Soho, London W1D 3LL
This is somewhere I’ve been dying to go for ages but just haven’t managed yet – even though they’ve been open a couple of years, every time we try to get a booking they’re too busy, so it’s at the top of my must-visit list. I just think it looks like a dream of a restaurant and I drool over their Instagram feed.
Plus, it’s headed up by another great female chef, Nieves Barragán Mohacho. I tried her wonderful Spanish food when she was at Barrafina – which I also think is exceptional – and now I’m dying to sample her dishes at Sabor.
35-37 Heddon Street, Mayfair, London W1B 4BR
I’m always more agreeable when there’s a plate of silky pasta in front of me, and Padella just does that so well. The other thing I like about it is that it’s so affordable – the food is really economical and it’s great to know a visit there is never going to batter your wallet.
I love their ever-changing plates of pasta and the specials they do, but for me it’s all about the cacio e pepe here – it’s their calling card, the dish everyone talks about, and it really is that good. I’ve never had a bad plate of cacio e pepe in there.
6 Southwark Street, Southwark, London SE1 1TQ
1 Phipp Street, Shoreditch, London EC2A 4PS
Campania and Jones
This is the most romantic Italian restaurant – it’s the kind of place that if you’re having a tricky time in your relationship and you go for dinner there, you’ll reignite your love for each other. It’s just got that dreamy magic.
You must order their sourdough bread and olive oil to start – I don’t know how they make the bread, but it’s exceptional – then try their simple stuffed pastas before finishing off with the tiramisu. I particularly love the outdoor tables here, which spill out onto the charming cobbled street – eating here feels like being on the set of a beautiful Italian film.
23 Ezra Street, Hackney, London E2 7RH
The River Café
This is the classic go-to London restaurant if you’re looking for grown-up sophistication – it’s a place I’ll always come if I’m celebrating something. The service is wonderful without fail, but it’s the produce that really makes The River Café stand out.
Because the ingredients are such high quality, I’ll always go for simple dishes – I particularly love their chargrilled whole squid with lemon and chilli, and of course their homemade pastas are wonderful. But really, you can’t go wrong with any dish here – they’re all incredible.
Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, Hammersmith, London W6 9HA
I love coming here to sit at their bar and order the most exceptional Thai food. It’s always difficult to know whether you’re going to get a table or not, because they’re usually so busy, but it’s worth the wait because the food is so good. Every dish is spicy and delicious, and I love that they use interesting cuts of meat. I always order their clay pot noodles – the flavours really wake you up.
There’s also plenty to keep you entertained here – they have these open fires in front of you and the cooks just seem to really know what they’re doing. I know from experience that kind of cooking is quite hard, but they just make it look really easy.
58 Brewer Street, Soho, London W1F 9TL
I can’t get enough of head chef Marianna Leivaditaki’s cooking. At Jikoni we try to cook in a very maternal way, and I think that she manages the same thing at Morito. She’s from Crete and I actually went there a couple of years ago and couldn’t get over how exceptional the produce was, the wild herbs and interesting greens, and she brings all of those things into her dishes.
Marianna has a new book out and I can’t wait to get my hands on that too, so I can cook her food at home – her Dakos salad is one of my favourite dishes. What I love about her food is that it’s simple, but in its simplicity it manages to somehow be exceptional, and I think that’s a mark of a really wonderful cook.
195 Hackney Road, Hackney, London E2 8JL
Ravinder Bhogal’s Jikoni: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from an Immigrant Kitchen was published by Bloomsbury on 9 July.
Jikoni is currently running their Comfort & Joy meal delivery service, fresh vegetarian and vegan dishes delivered straight to your door in fully compostable packaging, with every order providing a meal for a member of the vulnerable and homeless in London through their charity partner Nishkam SWAT.