Meet 3 London Superchefs Whetting our Appetites

No longer is British food the butt of gourmand's jokes. Meet three of London's superchefs who are making the city one of the world's finest dining hotspots

It’s hard to believe that British food was once the butt of international jokes. ‘Boring, bland and boiled,’ declared US food writer Andrew Zimmern of 1980s British fare. ‘One cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad,’ said Jacques Chirac when he was president of France.

What a difference a few decades makes. Today, London is considered to be the culinary capital of Europe, attracting foodies from all over the world eager to savour the city’s unique dining scene. London now boasts some of the world’s most exciting Michelin-starred restaurants, including Amaya, Barrafina, and City Social, but it’s leading the way in gourmet street food, molecular gastronomy, and immersive experiences where food meets art.

Driving this culinary revolution are London’s chefs, who hail from all corners of the UK and abroad, armed with skills in even the most remote of cuisines. Thanks to them you can travel to Spain for breakfast, Sweden for lunch and Peru for dinner, all without leaving the city.

But what draws the world’s best chefs to the UK and what do they recommend for an authentic taste of London? We caught up with three of the city’s finest chefs to find out what’s cooking in the capital this month. 

Dan Doherty – English Roots

Dan Doherty's cuisine at Duck & Waffle
Dan Dohery's inspiration is English seasonal produce (Courtesy Duck & Waffle)

British chef Dan Doherty grew up in Shrewsbury, UK, and trained at Michelin-starred restaurant 1 Lombard Street under Herbert Berger. He then became executive chef at Duck & Waffle – known as the UK's highest restaurant as it's on the 40th floor – open 24 hours a day.

"I'd love to think that growing up in the English countryside inspired me to be connected to farms and nature, but if it did it was subconsciously. I turned 16 when I left for London to do my apprenticeship so I probably took the beautiful surroundings for granted.

London stands out because of how cosmopolitan it is, with so many different backgrounds that are reflected in the dining scene. We have everything, every cuisine and always to a high level. One no longer needs to search out Michelin-starred restaurants for a good time.

I love produce, and I love being creative. British strawberries and asparagus are amazing, but right now it's all about our game. It's nice to have familiarity but also to think outside the box a bit. Duck and waffle is our signature dish, featuring confit duck leg, buttermilk waffle, fried duck egg and mustard maple syrup.

I like people to smile and enjoy themselves at the restaurant. Seeing people come back and getting to know our guests is so important to me. Working at the top of the UK’s highest restaurant is pretty, but logistically quite tough. The view more than makes up for it though!"

Josè Pizarro – Spanish Style

Jose Pizarro, London
big flavours from simple ingredients (Courtesy Jose Pizarro)

Pizarro worked at the award-winning Meson de Doña Filo in Madrid before coming to London. He opened his first solo venture, Josè Tapas Bar in 2011, quickly followed by Pizarro Restaurant, and Josè Pizarro Restaurant in 2015.

"I moved to London in 1998, and it’s amazing how much I loved this country from the moment I arrived. I grew up in a small village in Extremadura in rural Spain, and my family were famers, so I was around food daily. I grew up with the best vegetables and the best meat you can get. Those flavours stayed with me.

Spanish food is all about quality, simplicity and big flavours. I wanted to show London what Spanish food is really like—that it’s based in the quality of the ingredients. I think we have amazing ingredients here in Britain too. We have the best asparagus in the world! I buy as much of the ingredients I can here and I prefer to keep ingredients seasonal, especially as customers want that too. It also means I can offer people the best things at the best price.

Garlic prawns with radishes, Jose Pizarro
Garlic prawns with radishes from Jose Pizarro (Courtesy Jose Pizarro)

I have three restaurants in London now and they are completely different. At Josè, I set out to make a proper tapas bar, the kind you would find in Spain. People can stand up, you can go there and stay as long as you want. Pizarro is still quite casual but it’s more sit-down dining. My new restaurant, José Pizarro, is a mix of everything I’ve done in my career. 

These days, Spanish food is very popular and I am so happy to be one those who brought Spain to London. There’s nothing better in life than to enjoy good food!"  

Cyrus Todiwala – India Meets Britain

Cyrus Todiwala, OBE
Cyrus Todiwala, OBE, melds British and Indian flavours (Courtesy Cyrus Todiwala)

Bombay-born Cyrus Todiwala worked as Executive Chef at the Taj Hotels in Goa before moving to London and opening Café Spice Namaste, Mr Todiwala's Kitchen, The Park Café, and Assado restaurant. In 2012, he cooked the first luncheon for HM The Queen's Diamond Jubilee tour featuring a dish called the Country Captain.

"Growing up in India and working within the industry there has been of monumental importance for me. The streets of Bombay are a gold mine to whet one’s appetite. It set the foundation for me and has always prompted me to be inquisitive and learn as I go along. There are just so many flavours and dishes in Indian cuisine that every day is a new cuisine discovery if one wants it to be.

Cyrus Todiwala's spicy fish
Spicy fish in Mr Todiwala's kitchen (Courtesy Cyrus Todiwala)

At Café Spice and Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen, we tell the kitchen to be creative and give people as much variety as possible. At Assado the cuisine reflects on how the Portuguese influenced Goa. At The Park Café, our full British breakfast uses sausage and bacon that are organic British Lop from a small farm in Chesham. 

The most frightening part of cooking the first luncheon for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee tour was keeping it quiet. The dish I cooked, the ‘Country Captain’, is an Indianised version of a shepherds pie, using special aged mutton. We now serve at Café Spice.

Britain is at the very epicentre of the world’s creativity and culinary progression; it’s a melting pot of world cuisines. Even my cuisine is as British as it is Indian. In London we have some of the most discerning palates in the world and I am thrilled to be at the centre of this explosion of food and flavour."

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Read a review of Sackvilles here.