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Five of London’s best female-led restaurants

For International Women’s Day, db rounds up five of the best London eateries run by female chefs and restaurateurs.

Though the hospitality industry still has a gender imbalance problem from bottom to top, there is a growing number of high profile restaurants driven by female chefs, patrons, and chef-patrons.

CORE – Clare Smyth


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CORE has earned heaps of praise (and three Michelin stars to boot) since opening in 2017, with Douglas Blyde giving Smyth’s Notting Hill restaurant a 99-point score for experience in the 2022 Wine List Confidential guide. While it takes a team to make a restaurant successful, chef-patron Smyth is the talisman, as head sommelier Gareth Ferreira put it: “She’s not just an incredible chef, she’s a good businesswoman”.

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Mere – Monica Galetti

An alumnus of Le Gavroche and one of the stars of MasterChef: The Professionals, Galetti runs this Fitzrovia restaurant alongside former Le Gavroche sommelier and husband David. À la carte dishes include delica pumpkin and mackerel, pigeon (served with beetroot, cabbage, broth and jus), and coconut mousse with kumquat marmalade, which is a nod to Galetti’s Samoan roots.

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Murano – Angela Hartnett


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Drawing on Hartnett’s Italian heritage, Murano in Mayfair opened in 2008 and achieved a Michelin Star within just four months. But, despite its status, the emphasis is still, in the words of the restaurant’s website, on “fun rather than fine dining”. But, don’t be mistaken, hearty dishes like duck fagottini (with a Moscato velouté) and a custard tart are executed with clinical precision by head chef Em Brightman, while maintaining a clear connection to their humble roots.

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Darjeeling Express – Asma Khan


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Khan’s restaurant, which recently returned to its original home in Kingly Court, has become a favourite haunt of celebrities, including Paul Rudd and Dan Levy. The all-female team expertly cooks dishes from across the Indian subcontinent, though Darjeeling Express’ celebrated Biryani Supper Club, described by Bloomberg as the “hottest ticket in London”, is perhaps the biggest draw (but if you want tickets, you have to move quickly).

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Sessions Arts Club – Florence Knight

Though rightly celebrated for its decor, Clerkenwell’s Sessions Arts Club matches and exceeds its style with the substance of Knight’s cooking. For example, eel, potato, crème fraîche and roe might seem humble, even old fashioned, but masterful technique makes a world of difference. Head of wine Molly Pepper Steemson co-curated the largely Italian list, and Blyde noted in his Wine List Confidential entry for the restaurant that the modus operandi for the wine selection was “less breadth, more depth” – a fitting summation of the establishment as a whole.

To find out more, click here.

To pick up a copy of the 2022 Wine List Confidential guide, click here.

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