Trends in London’s dining scene indicate that things are changing. Recently we have seen an increasing number of female chefs and restaurateurs showing us that they, too, can stand the heat in the kitchen.
Clare Smyth, who climbed the ranks at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay to become its chef patron, has opened Core in Notting Hill. Her fine dining British cuisine, focusing on a tasting menu, has already made an impression.
"Brought up on a farm, you understand from an early age just how good our ingredients are and how important it is to support local producers," Smyth explains. "As chefs, we have access to some of the finest native produce in the world in Britain, and I want to continue to celebrate that in every menu." (92 Kensington Park Rd, W11 2PN).
At the Four Seasons hotel at Ten Trinity Square, La Dame de Pic also opened in 2017, with Anne-Sophie Pic at the helm. The first woman in France to hold four Michelin stars – the third in her family to do so – remembers when she told her father that she wanted to be a chef. "He wept with happiness, though he did worry for me – he knew it was a hard, physical job," she said in a recent interview.
The latest restaurant in her ‘Pic’ collection, and her first in the UK, brings out the "haute" in haute cuisine and sets the scene for her French creations, which were awarded a Michelin star last October (10 Trinity Square, EC3N 4AJ).
Hélène Darroze is the grande dame of culinary excellence in London. The Frenchwoman comes from a line of chefs and is the UK’s only female double Michelin-starred patron chef.
"So many people have played such an important role in influencing my career. It would certainly be my family, particularly my grandmothers – and chef Alain Ducasse," she explains, referring to the French chef with whom she perfected her culinary expertise.
Her eponymous fine dining restaurant, Hélène Darroze at The Connaught hotel, reflects her passion for food, and if the luxury ingredients with matching prices are too eye-watering, her three-course lunch menu is far more affordable.
Even if it’s not the time for three-course haute cuisine, there’s always time for dessert. At Hotel Café Royal, where the Papillon restaurant is known for its desserts, executive pastry chef Sarah Barber guarantees to put a smile on anyone with a sweet tooth.
"It was time to give desserts a temple," she explains. Her creations include an elaborate ‘Jaffa Cake’ (a decadent chocolate slice with tangy orange jelly). She, too, credits her family for her success: "It was my grandfather, who was head chef at the hotel in the 1970s, that I have to thank. It was because of him I became a pastry chef, and the chef I am today."