London’s top chefs and restaurateurs are often asked where they eat on a day off. Judging by the high quality of books they’ve been churning out, it would seem the answer is at home in front of their laptop. Here’s our pick of five of the best — from beef to beetroots via liquid nitrogen.
The prices shown are all RRP, and yes you can get them much cheaper at well-known online retailers.
Hawksmoor At Home
by Will Beckett and Huw Gott
A meaty read in more than ways than one, this beef-loving book from London’s favourite steakhouse group is a couple of years old now, but still the best in its field. Alongside recipes from the restaurants — including fish, veg, puddings and cocktails, as well as steaks — its pages are filled with nerd-pleasing information on breeds of cattle, the slaughtering process, different cuts and the history of eating steak. Useful how-to guides include making the best burger, cooking steak perfectly and creating top chips; there are also recipes for all manner of relishes and condiments. Ideal for the meat-lover in your life.
by Sabrina Ghayour
(Mitchell Beazley, £25)
West London supperclub host Sabrina Ghayour released Persiana — her first book — earlier this year, and it became an instant best-seller. The glossy, tactile-covered hardback bursts with 100 vibrant recipes from the ‘southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea’ — in other words, the Middle East. Full-page photos of colourful dishes allow this book to feel at home on your coffee table — but with a focus on simple and accessible recipes, it really does belong in the kitchen. If you’ve eaten at her supperclub, the idea of recreating her brightly flavoured food will be instantly appealing; if you haven’t, then you really should do soon. Spaces are becoming increasingly hard to come by as her name grows, and the success of this book will only make matters worse.
by Yotam Ottolenghi
2010’s cookbook Plenty was a big hit for Yotam Ottolenghi, and Plenty More continues exactly where it left off. The Israeli-born chef — who runs Nopi in Piccadilly Circus, as well as Ottolenghi cafés in Belgravia, Islington and Notting Hill — once again puts the focus on vegetables. In fact, this book is completely vegetarian — even though he himself isn’t. Recipes include sweet and sour leeks with goat’s curd and currants, ricotta and rosemary bread pudding, and membrillo and stilton quiche. All 150 of them come with thorough instructions, introductions from the chef and full-on food porn imagery. Like the dishes that his restaurants are known for, they are invitingly vibrant, fresh and seductively spiced. This is vegetarian cooking to win over meat-eaters.
by Heston Blumenthal
The liquid nitrogen-loving Dinner chef isn’t known for his simple and accessible cooking. In fact, we’re not really sure you’re meant to cook from this beautifully illustrated hardback at all. Sharing the same focus as Dinner, it’s all about modern and interpretive reworkings of historic dishes, ranging here from 1390 to 1816. The book includes detailed histories of their origins and discussions on related elements of the ways eating and drinking has evolved over time, along with recipes that — theoretically, at least — allow you to recreate the intricate meals served at the two Michelin-starred Knightsbridge restaurants. Most of them require days rather than hours, specialist equipment and some fairly unusual ingredients, so consider cooking from this more of a project than a lunch — but even if you don’t end up making them yourself, seeing the inner workings of dishes such as meat fruit is fascinating.
Hunan: A Lifetime of Secrets from Mr Peng's Chinese Kitchen
by Qin Xie and Mr Peng
This intriguingly titled and beautifully bound book is a fitting tribute to a restaurant which is a quirky London institution. It includes 70 recipes for dishes which you’ll find served at Hunan on Pimlico Road, which chef Mr Peng opened in 1982. At this restaurant — which is considered one of the best Chinese eateries in London — there’s no menu. Diners are simply asked if there’s anything they don’t eat and how spicy they like their food, then it arrives in waves. Like the restaurant, recipes mix traditional and interpretive cooking, so expect in-depth and time consuming recipes rather than anything that can go from wok to table in five minutes. If you’ve tasted the exhilarating flavours of Hunan, this really won’t put you off.