Despite hailing from Australia, Skye Gyngell has been well and truly embraced by the British culinary scene and is regarded as one of our most acclaimed chefs. After training in Sydney and then Paris, Skye moved to London to work at The French House before taking on the role of head chef at Petersham Nurseries. It was here she honed her distinctively seasonal cooking, creating dishes inspired by what she saw growing around her. In 2014 she opened her first solo venture, Spring at Somerset House, bringing her flair to the heart of the West End. Here, Skye shares her favourite London restaurants.
Where The Chefs Eat
Skye Gyngell’s favourite restaurants in London
One of my favourite new restaurants in London is Cycene at the Blue Mountain School. I went for the first time recently and it was an incredible experience – I can see why they’ve just been awarded a Michelin star. The space itself is beautiful – it feels like you’re in an art gallery or an exhibition space rather than a restaurant. I’ve never been anywhere similar in England; I’d imagine it’s the sort of thing you’d find somewhere more like Copenhagen.
The food was absolutely delicious – I had the reduced tasting menu and it was well paced with gorgeous flavours. We had some amazing oysters to start, which were served warm with cucumber butter. We finished off with a traditional tarte tatin, which was one of the most delicious I’ve ever eaten, certainly outside of France. The restaurant hasn’t been open very long, but it really was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time.
9 Chance Street, Shoreditch, London E2 7JB
The River Café
An old favourite I go back to time and time again is River Café. There are a lot of memories for me there. I had a very close relationship with Rose Gray; she and the restaurant’s co-founder Ruth Rogers influenced me enormously in terms of being women operating in a very male space. They also shifted the boundaries around seasonality and focusing on produce-driven cooking.
I like to go on the weekend for lunch in summer, because it’s heaven to sit outside. The menu changes quite often, so you never know what you’re going to get until you’re there, but I usually have a pasta dish as they’re so good. Their ice creams are exquisite as well, especially when it’s hot. For me, it’s an iconic London restaurant.
Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, Hammersmith, London W6 9HA
I live in west London where, traditionally, it has been hard to eat out, as there hasn’t been an abundance of great restaurants in the area. But that’s starting to change. There’s a Japanese restaurant that has opened on Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill called Sumi. They have a very well-curated menu of Japanese dishes, and the food is delicious.
The flavours are super clean and it’s very fresh – it just feels so good for you, so healthy. I usually go for a mix of things, sashimi, sushi and they have a few warm dishes and salads. They make this fig salad, which sounds a bit weird – I don’t think you’d see it anywhere in Japan – but it works. The restaurant itself is aesthetically pleasing, too – all light wood and clean lines – but not in an overly-designed way. It felt like a breath of fresh air when it opened.
157 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, London W11 2RS
One of my all-time favourite restaurants in London has to be Lyle’s. The chef James Lowe is someone who I admire; his cooking is thoughtful and intelligent. I particularly enjoy the guest series he runs because they’re always really interesting. It’s such a great opportunity to discover chefs from places like Mexico, Korea or Argentina.
James always said he did it because it was a lovely way for him to learn more, and it feels like that, like a real collaboration. One of the best ones I went to was with Elena Reygadas, who’s a Mexican chef who has a restaurant called Rosetta in Mexico City [The World’s 50 Best Restaurants has just named her as the world’s best female chef of 2023]. I loved getting to try her food. In general, I like the fact that James is committed to cooking seasonally and working with small farms. The restaurant itself is housed in the old Tea Building on Shoreditch High Street, so it has these high ceilings and big windows. There’s a bit of a utilitarian feel to it, but it doesn’t feel cold at all.
56 Shoreditch High Street, Shoreditch, London E1 6GY
I can’t list my favourite restaurants in London without mentioning Quo Vadis. It’s just such a gorgeous place and Jeremy Lee is a legend. I’ve known him for 100 years and we’ve worked together on many different projects. He’s the ultimate host and so different to me – I’m quite shy and I never like going into the dining room, whereas Jeremy just owns that dining room. It feels almost theatrical going to Quo Vadis when Jeremy’s there. It’s also a beautiful restaurant, housed in an iconic building in a brilliant location.
Obviously, the food is lovely as well. Jeremy does this incredible salsify wrapped in very fine filo pastry with lots of cheese all over the top, and the eel sandwich there is really good. And then, of course, he’s famous for his mad desserts. They’re very unruly but completely delicious. Mine are totally different, they’re super neat, so it’s brilliant to crack into his and make a mess.
26-29 Dean Street, Soho, London W1D 3LL
If there’s one place in London that reminds me of the food scene in Melbourne, it’s Manteca, a cute-looking, neighbourhood restaurant in Shoreditch. In Australia we have many Italian and Greek immigrants, so we’ve always had incredible Italian restaurants and that’s why our coffee culture is so strong. There are also loads of delicious pasta restaurants in Melbourne, and Manteca reminds me of those.
They cure all their own meats in-house, so it’s nose to tail, and I’ll usually start with a plate of prosciutto, salami and coppa before moving on to the pasta. The hand-rolled pasta dishes are traditional, like cacio e pepe, but done in a contemporary way. For me, it’s the ultimate comfort food. It’s definitely the kind of place where you can put your elbows on the table and soak up the sauce with a piece of bread.
49-51 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3PT
There’s a little restaurant just down the road from where I live in Shepherd’s Bush. It was started by a couple of locals – they do dinner but they also do these simple breakfasts, which is when I like to go. It’s just so nice to have somewhere local that’s great for brunch. They have amazing breads, delicious homemade jams and excellent coffee.
It’s very pared back and minimal, but everything is done so well. I’m a big fan of one-off, almost hole-in-the-wall places, which is what this is. It’s tiny, it only seats about 12, and it’s fantastic to see young people doing something for themselves, off their own backs. If you don’t eat in your area, you won’t keep it going, so I think it’s very important to support these kinds of places.
163 Askew Road, Shepherd’s Bush, London W12 9AU