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Where the chefs eat: Romy Gill shares her 7 favourite London restaurants

The British-Indian chef and broadcaster reveals her must-visit foodie spots in the capital, from a Michelin-starred Indian restaurant in Mayfair to fiery Thai food in Peckham

Romy Gill, the renowned British-Indian chef, author and broadcaster is a regular on our TV screens, from BBC’s recent Ready Steady Cook reboot, as well as appearing on Celebrity Masterchef and Sunday Brunch. Awarded an MBE in the Queen’s 90th Birthday Honours list in 2016 for her services to the hospitality industry, she’s known for her flavour-packed Punjabi and Bengali-inspired dishes, as well as her acclaimed cookbooks. Here, Romy shares her favourite London restaurants.

Where The Chefs Eat

Romy Gill’s favourite restaurants in London

Carousel

I had to have this at number one on my list, because Carousel completely changed my life. Back when I had a restaurant in Thornbury, just outside Bristol, they invited me to do a guest chef residence there. That was seven years ago and I’ve been going back ever since. I particularly love their new space on Charlotte Street, which has a beautiful bar that serves great wine by small producers. The bar food is fantastic too – they make their own sourdough, which is delicious, and they do great fried chicken with pickled cucumber. I also love their vegetarian dishes, where you get things like pumpkin and hispi cabbage with ricotta.

Romy Gill Reveals Her 7 Favourite Restaurants In LondonPin

Then, of course, the chef residencies are brilliant. I love the fact they bring chefs in from all over the world, giving you the opportunity to try food you might not get the chance to try otherwise. The last one I went to was with Alice Arnoux, who’s a young French chef. I’ve also eaten great food from Angela Hartnett there, as well as the Glaswegian chef Julie Lin. Plus, it’s great value – you pay around £65 for the guest chef events and the food is always so exciting. 

19 – 23 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1RL
carousel-london.com

Noble Rot

I’m a big fan of Noble Rot. I often find myself in the Soho one, where the food is more European influenced, but I also love the original on Lamb’s Conduit Street, which has a more British menu. That’s where I tend to take people when they’re visiting from abroad and they always love it – especially the name, which makes them laugh. All the produce they use is so good, particularly the meat, which they get from Coombeshead Farm in Cornwall. My favourite dish is the lamb sweet bread, but they also do great fish – I remember having a delicious Cornish lemon sole with butter and anchovies there once. The roast quail is excellent too.

Romy Gill Reveals Her 7 Favourite Restaurants In LondonPin

They don’t have many puddings, but last time I went I had a great buttermilk panna cotta. I usually order three or four different dishes and then share them among friends. I’m Indian and we’re all about sharing when it comes to our food, because we like to taste different things. The flavours at Noble Rot are always spot on, with great seasoning – and, of course they have wonderful wine. 

51 Lamb’s Conduit Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 3NB
noblerot.co.uk

Pahli Hill Bandra Bhai

The head chef at Pahli Hill is my dear friend Avinash Shashidhara – I call him Avi – and I truly believe he’s one of the most underrated chefs in London. He worked with Ruth Rogers at The River Café for ten years and then he decided to open his own restaurant serving the cuisine of Karnataka, where he was born and brought up. I like to go for the set lunch menu, which is a thali spread, but there’s plenty to love on the à la carte menu too.

Romy Gill Reveals Her 7 Favourite Restaurants In LondonPin

The restaurant is around the corner from the BBC, so I tend to go there when I’m filming something. I’ll order the Mangalore bun and Scottish crab Sukha, which is spicy and delicious, and on the grill, he does these amazing Scottish langoustines as well as perfectly spiced lamb chops. For pudding, the mango tart there is another level – he only does it when mango is in season, but it’s really good. There’s also the bar downstairs, Bandra Bhai, where you can get amazing cocktails. 

79 – 81 Mortimer Street, Fitzrovia, London W1W 7SJ
pahlihillbandrabhai.com

Sabor

I’ve known the chef at Sabor, Nieves Barragán, since she was at Barrafina and I think she’s fantastic. For me, she’s one of the best women chefs in the UK. Her ethos is less is more – she’ll do ten things, but they’ll be the ten best things you’ve ever eaten. At Sabor there’s the ground floor and the upstairs, and the menu is slightly different depending on where you sit. I prefer being upstairs, where you get specialities from the Galicia and Castile regions. My favourite thing on the menu is the octopus, which she poaches and then grills. She keeps the flavours simple – butter, oil and maybe a little garlic or paprika.

Romy Gill Reveals Her 7 Favourite Restaurants In LondonPin

If you’re going with a few people, order the whole sucking pig to share. They roast it in a traditional wood fired oven and it’s brilliant. If you sit downstairs, it’s more about the small plates, but the vibe is always very buzzy. I love the beautiful blue tiles in there; they were the inspiration behind the blue I used in my bathroom at home. Just make sure you book in advance, because walking in and getting a table is almost impossible. 

35 – 27 Heddon Street, Mayfair, London W1B 4BR
saborrestaurants.co.uk

Jamavar

The food at Jamavar is something I grew up eating, because they have one in Mumbai. It’s one of Samyukta Nair’s restaurants, along with Bombay Bustle and MiMi Mei Fair, and I really admire her and how powerful she’s become on the London restaurant scene. The restaurant is all about combining different flavours from across India, and they do that so well. I usually go for a few dishes from the tandoor, where they do great spiced prawns, chicken and lamb chops.

Romy Gill Reveals Her 7 Favourite Restaurants In LondonPin

There are very few places in London that do a really good biryani, but this is one of them. To make it right, it takes a lot of time and requires slow cooking; there, they have one chef solely dedicated to cooking the biryanis, which is why they’re so good. I also love their Laal Maas, which comes from Rajasthan and has to be made specifically with Rajasthani chillis. Jamavar is somewhere I’ll go for a special occasion because it’s not cheap, but for me it’s more than worth the money as the food is so good. 

8 Mount Street, Mayfair, London W1K 3NF
jamavarrestaurants.com

Jikoni

The founder of Jikoni, Ravinder Bhogal, is a good friend of mine – we met through the industry and as women in hospitality, we need to stick together. Her ancestors are from Punjab but she was born in Kenya, and ‘jikoni’ means kitchen in the Kenyan language of Kiswahili. The food here is a real melting pot of different flavours and cuisines. There are Indian dishes, but also lots of Middle Eastern and Asian influences. I celebrated my 50th birthday at Jikoni, which was a lot of fun – especially because the cocktails there are so good. My favourite is their pomegranate Negroni.

Romy Gill Reveals Her 7 Favourite Restaurants In LondonPin

There are so many great dishes to try, but I always order the crispy aubergine, which is really sweet and comes with sticky garlic rice. The okra fries are amazing, and of course the prawn toast scotch eggs that they’re famous for, which come with banana ketchup. And you can’t leave without ordering the banana cake, which comes with miso butterscotch and ovaltine kulfi. For me, the food there is the like the very best kind of home cooking. 

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

The Begging Bowl

This spot in Peckham was around before any of the places like Kiln or Som Saa opened up, and they do amazing Thai food. The restaurant is headed up by Jane Alty, who’s a fantastic chef – another one that I think is hugely underrated. For me, the best thing on the menu is the deep-fried whole sea bass, which comes with green mango and roasted rice. It’s just so spicy and yummy. She also does an amazing papaya salad which is really fresh and these great larb spiced cashews. In celeriac season, you have to try the charcoal grilled celeriac, which comes with a kind of peanut butter and pickled ginger.

Romy Gill Reveals Her 7 Favourite Restaurants In LondonPin

The vegetarian dishes are all full of flavour, and Jane also really understands how to make great gluten free dishes, as a lot of Thai food is naturally gluten free. Peckham isn’t a part of London I spend a lot of time in, but it’s always worth a trip there for a meal at The Begging Bowl. It’s a lovely neighbourhood spot in a really up-and-coming part of town, plus the food is really affordable. 

168 Bellenden Road, Peckham, London SE15 4BW
thebeggingbowl.co.uk

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