Is the King's Road back in the limelight? The best new restaurants, Chelsea
With Chelsea Flower show (about) to come up roses, here are the restaurants around King's Road we love most, including foodie enclave Pavilion Road
Where to eat, Chelsea, London
In the sixties, it was a hotspot for the Swinging youth culture, with the likes of Twiggy and the Stones flocking to once cool, now classic, restaurants like La Famiglia and coffee shop?
Then it became Sloane Ranger central in the late 70s and 80s with the General Trading Cafe (are you old enough to remember that? ). Bluebird was well before its time with its gorgeous food hall and terrace. It lost its way at one point, yet now is sparkling again with executive chef Simon Gregory and the terrace has to be one of the most sought out al fresco dining spots in all of London.
It now seems Chelsea is back on the gastronomical map, with plenty of new one-off restaurants, from Putney's relocated Enoteca Turi to one of the prettiest foodie enclaves in the capital, Pavilion Road, where the owners of Clivedon & Chewton Glen are opening Hans Bar & Grill. Eating in Chelsea has never been better.
To help you navigate its revamped restaurant scene, Culture Whisper brings you a guide to the very best Chelsea restaurants (plus some of our old favourites).
The best restaurants in Chelsea, London
Chelsea's gain is Mayfair's loss. After 25 years at The Square, Phil Howard – one of the capital's best and most respected chefs whose alumni are a who's who of the London restaurant scene – has relocated to Chelsea.
Elystan Street, just up the road from the Chelsea Arts Club is as sophisticated and ambitious as The Square, though decidedly less formal. Think an outrageously good "quenelle" of beef tartare served on an artichoke heart, or divine cod roasted to a crust at the top (and close to sashimi in its depth), with a topping of plump golden raisins and sharp lime, accompanied by delicately spiced cauliflower. For dessert, picture fig almond and pistachio tart with goat's cheese ice-cream. The almost all British cheese board is very good too.
Price: £180+ for two including wine
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Bluebird's new culinary direction
Bluebird is back on form after a few years when it seemed to have lost culinary direction and had a succession of chefs. Now Simon Gregory is happily ensconced and brings his vast experience as executive chef of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants and the hip Shoreditch Ace hotel to making Bluebird vivacious and fashionable again. Bluebird really comes into its own with its courtyard dining. The restaurant has collaborated with The Botanist, Islays first and only dry gin, to create a herbaceous menu and gin garden in the courtyard. Complete with a self-garnish table, crates of shrubs and botanicals, varying shades of pink blossom trees and bright summer flowers.
To coincide with the Royal Wedding, Bluebird have teamed up with Notting Hill's Pearl & Grove bakery to create an afternoon tea based on the flavours of Harry and Megan's cake: that is elderflower, lemon and gin! There are delicate sandwiches, scones and triple layered Victoria sponge cakes too. All for £28.50 a head. More regularly, Bluebird's menu includes plenty of seafood including Szechuan & five spice squid, and a lavish lobster spaghetti. It's the place to come for traditional summer desserts like pavlova and Eton Mess given a makeover.
Price: £150+ for two including drinks
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Chicama brings sophisticated seafood Peruvian style to Chelsea
Come summer, our thoughts turn to seafood and Chicama specialises in Peruvian seafood. Hence the dishes to choose are ceviche, tiradito and spectacular crisp seabass with chilli sauce. For weekend brunch, the savoury waffles, made with quinoa or sweet potato are a great choice alongside Pisco sours and Mezcal cocktails. There's an impressive vegetarian menu too.
Price: £160.00+ for two including drinks
The best outdoor eating in Chelsea - The Ivy Chelsea
Love or hate The Ivy's High Street expansion, the Chelsea Ivy outpost along with the Soho original remain in a class of their own. What sets Chelsea apart most of all is the incredible, huge garden, planted with no expense or foliage spared and it is stylishly furnished too. The Ivy has the appealing buzz of a confidently successful brasserie that knows the foibles of its well dressed, monied regulars. The food is good without being outstanding though that's not really the point of being seen here. Best are old favourites like steak tartare, fish cakes, shepherd's pie, plus there's a good choice of substantial sandwiches from BLT to crab and smoked salmon. It's a lovely place for breakfast, and prices are keener than many of the cafes scattered around King's Road.
Price: £80.00+ for two including drinks
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The smart take-out - impeccably soured salads at Natoora
This is food porn for cooks and shoppers, the best of the best produce from Sicilian Marena tomatoes (as served at Brat) to gariguette strawberries, dreamy burrata, the caviar of lentils and delectable Original Beans chocolate – for every bar purchased a tree is planted. The great news, I discovered only very recently, is that every day they prepare exceptional fresh salads upstairs using their wonderful ingredients. Lentil salad with roast courgettes and ribbons of carrot, garlic labneh and pistachio dukkah was one of the best takeout salads I have eaten and I am definitely copying the recipe. Perfect sustenance with a bottle of blood orange juice enjoyed on the slate bench thoughtfully provided on Pavilion Road.
Prices: under £20.00 for two
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Plant to plate - family style with The Gladwin brothers cooking from their farm Rabbit
Bringing the country to London, the gorgeous, ebullient Gladwin brothers (the kind you'd like to introduce to your parents and ultra-foodie) are deeply committed to plot to plate dining and foraging/wild food. And with a farm of their own, they can really make this happen.
Most of the produce and the interesting vinegars and charcuterie (try smoked grouse with gorseberry flowers) come from the family farm in West Sussex, and, what's more they own the beautiful Nutbourne vineyards (I've visited them and they're in the pastoral setting of one's dreams) which produce very decent English wine, including a sparkling fizz..
Two of the Gladwin brothers are based at the restaurant – Oliver front of house and Richard running the kitchen whilst the third brother Gregory is on the farm. They were among the first to offer 'mouthfuls' as a separate, now much imitated 'snack' course. It is small plates style eating which means the costs can quickly mount up, but with food this fresh, original and prepared with considerable technical prowess, we're not complaining. The menu is dotted with dulse, pickled elderberry, buckthorn, even Sunday roast lamb has wild mint and fillet of hake is scattered with salsify and buckthorn.
The posh Viennetta dessert is decadently unmissable enhanced with salted caramel and good chocolate.
Price: £120.00+ for two with drinks
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The vegan future: Wulf & Lamb
A relative newcomer within the Pavilion Road foodie enclave, this is high-end 100% plant comfort food. For breakfast: beetroot hummus with smashed avocado looked gorgeous though a mere one slice of sourdough and the ackee scrambled egg just didn't float my boat. Lattes are available with freshly made almond milk though that costs an extra £1.50. Far better are the salads, burgers, vegan macaroni cheese and an impressive lime cheesecake. The chef Franco Casolini is from Vanilla Black, one of London's best vegetarian restaurants. Outside seating makes it a good place for a quick post shopping lunch or pre Royal Court supper.
Price: £40.00+ for two including drinks
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Why we are in the kitchen at parties: Tom's Kitchen, better looking and tasting than ever
It's home from home for many local residents who circulate the room air kissing as they go, so it always feels convivial and buzzy. The new interior has made the space seem more airy and the copper bar is beautiful. Tom Aiken, of Tom's Kitchen, used to run a 2 Michelin star restaurant Pied a Terre and is now as passionate about running extreme marathons as running more informal restaurants with the emphasis on interesting and authentic producers. It is especially good for breakfast with inventive comfort dishes including brioche French toast with caramelised eggs and cinnamon cream. There's an excellent Vegetarian Full English including plenty of avocado toast. To coincide with Chelsea Flower Show, feast on a joyous summer menu £29.00 for two enticing courses: cured salmon with rose petals, fresh ricotta with gremolata; chicken schnitzel with raw courgette cashew mayo or courgette and pistachio risotto and, for pudding lovers, baked rhubarb tart.
Price: £90.00+ for two including drinks
Puglia without leaving Chelsea: Enoteca Turi
After 25 years in Putney, Enoteca Turi is wooing Chelsea Green with masterful, elegant pasta dishes and a superlative, 450+ cellar wine list. Owner Giuseppe Turi is a former sommelier who's worked in many of London's top hotels. Imaginative pairings of regional Italian dishes with wines that enhance them is what makes Enoteca Turi so special, particularly for those of us who love fine wines, yet can be a little daunted by a long wine list. We adored too the house made grissini, a rare sighting. Be sure to order pasta: probably the best and most elegantly comfortable place to enjoy pasta caio e pepe tortelli served with diced and seared cuttlefish or crab pasta with somewhat subdued chilli. Mains are not so memorable. We suggest moving straight to impeccable desserts including a deconstructed tiramisu with marsala ice-cream or a seven layer chocolate and hazelnut cake with olive oil ice cream.
Price: £180.00+ dinner for two including wine
The date night restaurant - Medlar
This is the kind of special neighbourhood restaurant we all wish was on our doorstep. It's a worthy special date night restaurant. The menu reads confidently of a chef-proprietor with a deep understanding and love of good food. It is French accented yet drawing inspiration from all over Europe. Any restaurant offering triple roast chips with béarnaise has to have its heart in the right place! What's more there are warm madeleines with the blood orange sorbet and cannele Bordelais with griotine cherries and chocolate ice-cream. Staff are attentive and refreshingly don't give a lecture on how to eat the food, nor do they insist on reeling off every producer and ingredient. It is old-school with modern edge. Good for discreet liaisons too.
Prices: £120.00+ for two including drinks, less on the set menu
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The redefining gastronomic luxury opening to look forward to: Hans' Bar & Grill - The Chelsea enclave of Clivedon & Chewton Glen
For all of us fortunate enough to have stayed at either Clivedon or Chewton Glen, we know they specialise in unabashed luxury and ensuring every guest feels utterly pampered. So the news that they are opening their first stand-alone brasserie in Pavilion Road is truly exciting.
Operating all day from breakfasts of egg benedict and steak tartare through to evening, chef Adam England (formerly of La Pont de la Tour) will offer contemporary takes on classics including his signature duck breast and confit salmon with goat's curd and cucumber.
Chocolate will be central to the menu, inspired by the restaurant's namesake Hans Sloane, who first brought chocolate to London: expect highly creative chocolate desserts and drinks.
The interior promises to be very special: mixing white fluted timber walls with the original yellow brick, pale oak floors, velvet bespoke chairs, white marble and black oak tables.
Prices & pictures to follow soon. More details