Where the chefs eat: Sally Abé shares her 8 favourite London restaurants

The chef-director of The Pem reveals her must-visit foodie spots in the capital, from Michelin-starred West African food in Fitzrovia to the hottest new restaurant in Notting Hill

Nottingham-born chef Sally Abé first came to London in 2007, to undertake a year-long placement at The Savoy, and never left. Since then, she’s worked at some of the finest restaurants in the capital, including Gordon Ramsey at Claridge’s, The Ledbury and The Harwood Arms, London’s only Michelin-starred pub. In 2021, she was appointed consultant chef at Conrad London St. James and oversaw the openings of The Blue Boar and The Pem, where she’s currently the chef-director. Here, she shares her favourite restaurants in London.

Where The Chefs Eat

Sally Abé’s favourite restaurants in London


I recently went to Morchella in Exmouth Market for the first time, which is the new restaurant from Ben Marks and Matt Emmerson from Perilla. I’ve always loved Perilla, but Morchella has a more relaxed vibe and the dining room there had this really lovely feeling about it. It fascinates me how they take classic European dishes – and that’s exactly how they’re written on the menu – but then turn them into something completely different from what you’d expect. The snacks were the real highlight for me.

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The food spans across Greece, Italy and Spain, but every dish is a surprise. We had a spanakopita that you could eat in just a couple of bites, and these cod fritters with a romesco sauce, which came in the shape of churros. They also did a great vitello tonnato, where the veal was wrapped around the tuna. Everything was served in such an interesting way, it’s just really fun food. I also love the fact that the kitchen’s in the middle of the room there, so it feels really lively. 

84 – 86 Rosebery Avenue, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 4QY


I’ve followed Joké [Bakere] since she had a pop-up in Brixton Market and I’m so happy she now has her own permanent site in Fitzrovia. It’s still got the same DNA as the Brixton pop-up, but obviously it’s a lot more refined. The food is just amazing, all West African cuisine. They do this great whole deep-fried quail with a black sesame sauce, and then I had a goat curry the last time I was there, which was to die for. She also does these really nice little stuffed rice and coconut balls with green chilli sauce to start.

Sally Abé Reveals Her 9 Favourite Restaurants In LondonPin

Joké’s just a fantastic cook and I think it’s really interesting to get to experience flavours that I’m not necessarily familiar with having grown up in the UK. She’s going from strength to strength, having recently been awarded a Michelin star, and it’s so amazing to see. I think it’s so great she’s being recognised now; she deserves it all. 

3 Great Titchfield Street, Fitzrovia, London W1W 8AX

Bistro Freddie

Another of my favourite new London restaurants is Bistro Freddie, which is on the old Oklava site in Shoreditch. They serve super classic, great cooking – they’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, but it’s exactly the kind of food you want to eat. I like that it’s the kind of place you could happily eat on a Monday, Friday or Saturday; it’s not somewhere you feel like you have to dress up and save up to go there once a year.

Sally Abé Reveals Her 9 Favourite Restaurants In LondonPin

The menus are all handwritten every day, and I like how that gives the chefs the option to chop and change, rather than having to stick to the same menu for three months at a time. We had a huge beef pie to share last time I went, with chips. It came out and I thought, “We’re never going to finish that.” But then it was so good that somehow, I managed it. And you have to have the sticky toffee pudding for dessert – I’m a sucker for sticky toffee and theirs is great. 

74 Luke Street, Shoreditch, London EC2A 4PY


If I had to pick my favourite restaurant in London that’s a real stalwart, it would have to be Trinity in Clapham. It’s been there for at least 15 years, maybe longer, and it just gets better and better. Their signature dish is the beef tartare with caviar and bone marrow mayonnaise, which has been on the menu in one guise or another for years and years. That’s one of my favourite dishes in the whole of London.

Sally Abé Reveals Her 9 Favourite Restaurants In LondonPin

Everything they do there revolves around the seasons. I went last week and they’ve got white asparagus on the menu, with a wild garlic velouté to start. And then when I ate there last summer, I sat outside and had a courgette flower stuffed with a scallop mousse and served in a tomato sauce, and that was probably one of the most perfect summer dishes I’ve ever eaten. The wine list is amazing too. It’s the kind of place I always recommend if people are looking to splash out on a really good bottle of wine and have a long, leisurely lunch or dinner. 

4 The Polygon, Clapham, London SW4 0JG


Dorian is definitely the place to be in west London right now. I went recently and took my head chef and my sous chef, and it was just insane – even more so since they won their Michelin star. Max Coen’s cooking is so imaginative. Most of the things we had last time I went arrived on some bread or another, and in some restaurants that would be annoying, but actually you need the bread to mop up all the delicious sauces.

Sally Abé Reveals Her 9 Favourite Restaurants In LondonPin

We had a veal sweetbread that came in a hot sauce with a roasted scallop on a piece of toasted brioche. It was just those three things, but the quality of the produce is second to none. Obviously, they have their butchers shop just around the corner, so they age all their own meat, and the steaks are perfectly grilled over the fire. Last time I went I was very happy because I finally left enough space to eat dessert, so I could have their pistachio ice cream with caviar. It sounds weird but it actually works really well. 

105 – 107 Talbot Road, Notting Hill, London W11 2AT


I think there are a lot of places that do mediocre Spanish food in London, but Nieves Barragan’s take on it is just a completely different level. The suckling pig that she does at Sabor is one of the most amazing dishes I’ve ever eaten. You look at it and you think, “Oh yeah, that looks nice.” But then when you try it, you’re like, “Oh my god, I just want to eat this all day.” It’s perfectly cooked until it’s falling apart and then it has this lovely crisp shell on the outside.

Sally Abé Reveals Her 9 Favourite Restaurants In LondonPin

The tortilla there is incredible too. It’s just made with potato and eggs, but she takes the simplest ingredients and elevates them. The tortilla is just cooked in the middle – some people might say it’s undercooked, but obviously that’s how it’s supposed to be. You get all the flavours coming through, and the dish is just about letting those ingredients shine. I like sitting at the counter there, because then you get to watch the chefs at work and it always feels really buzzy and lively. 

35 – 37 Heddon Street, Mayfair, London W1B 4BR


I love Rita’s because the environment there is super chilled, and the cooking is just a little bit different from what you expect. It’s food that I wouldn’t cook for myself at home. All the dishes are very seasonal, but they have quite a lot of American influences – it’s kind of New York-style, but using British ingredients. And Missy Flynn, who runs it, is a complete mega babe, the way she glides along the floor and keeps everything under control. It’s a really lively Soho spot, but it’s no-nonsense cooking.

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Their signature is their jalapeno popper gilda; everyone who goes needs to start their meal with that. Last time I went I had a crab and endive salad, where the crab had this Louisiana-style seasoning that paired really well with the bitterness of the endive. They’ve got these little counter tables in the window, that I don’t think they book, so if you’re lucky you can rock up and see if they can squeeze you in there. Then you can people watch too, and there’s nothing better than people watching in Soho. 

49 Lexington Street, Soho, London W1F 9AP

Brunswick House

I tend to gravitate towards chefs that just cook whatever they want to cook, rather than what they think they should cook, and that’s Jackson Boxer all over. The space at Brunswick House, first and foremost, is just incredible – how could you not want to sit in a dining room surrounded by all those chandeliers? The service is always really laidback and friendly, and never makes you feel rushed. 

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The food comes sporadically, as it’s ready, and I love that as then you get to sit and pick and choose what you want, rather than having a set starter and main. He does these really amazing crab noodles, so I always order them, and the potato bread that he serves is to die for. Jackson’s cooking style doesn’t necessarily stick to a particular cuisine – he’ll use influences from all over the world, but then all the dishes come together well on the menu. The wine list is good too, because they don’t do crazy mark ups, so you can drink some pretty stunning wines without the eye-watering prices. 

30 Wandsworth Road, Vauxhall, London SW8 2LG

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