We’ve all been there; we’ve visited one of our favourite restaurants and then weeks or months later tried to recreate those beautiful dishes at home in our own kitchen, only to be left with that old friend, the bitter taste of disappointment. Find solace in this, it’s not that you’re a bad cook, it’s just that you didn’t have the precise recipes, until now.
The best kitchens in London, the UK and across the world spend hour upon hour carefully honing each element of their recipes for guaranteed success each time they put a plate to the pass. This intricate development process is hard to recreate in your own kitchen, unless of course you have the restaurant’s cookbook. With more and more self-confessed foodies looking to whip up restaurant-quality food in their kitchens, chefs are increasingly relinquishing the secrets to their success through these books.
These teatime tomes promise us all, the regular punter, a little slice of our favourite eatery from the comfort of our couch. Being let in on the inner workings of some of the world’s greatest food minds almost feels like cheating, but who are we to argue with what’s on the bookshelves? Even if you’re not an avid cook, there’s something to be said for browsing the pages of a beautiful book about food, creating imaginary menus and then promising yourself one day you’ll actually pull through and make something (until then there are always the restaurants who offer delivery to turn to), maybe.
The best restaurant cookbooks, just like the best restaurants in London and the wider world, are a really varied bunch. From the Indian-inspired sharing plates of Kricket to the classic British nose-to-tail instructions of The Book of St John, there really is something for everyone when it comes to the best cooking books of 2020.
If you’re not a keen cook yourself then perhaps you’re perusing on behalf of someone else? The below books all make perfect presents and are even better when handed over with a gift voucher to go along with them – that way the lucky recipient can taste some of the dishes at the restaurant before trying to whip them up at home for themselves (or even better, for you).
Kricket: An Indian-inspired cookbook
The popular London mini chain of Kricket started off life as a pop up in Brixton. A few years later and the brand boasts three sites as well as this beautifully presented cookbook. Not only is the photography gorgeous and graphic, the recipes are a wonderfully spicy modern interpretation of Indian cooking from an Anglo chef, Kricket’s owner Will Bowlby. Tucked inside the pages you’ll find instructions for things like a fragrant sausage roll as well as a whole variation of curry sauces, cocktails, breads, pickles and chutney. The culmination of all these things creates the perfect small plates setup to share with friends and family.
Buy it: Kricket: An Indian-inspired cookbook, £26
Dishoom: From Bombay with Love
If you’ve ever visited a Dishoom branch and been left wanting more of that unctuous black dhal or have been transfixed by the game-changing bacon naan, now’s the time to invest in the restaurant’s cookbook. With a whole meandering tale pieced together throughout of the food stories of Bombay which inspired the group’s menu, this is more than just your standard cookbook; rather something akin to a foodie storybook. There’s a map of all the places the team recommend you go should you ever find yourself in the bustling Indian city and the pages are peppered with stunning imagery of people and places as well as the various recipes. With all of the chefs’ secrets spilled onto the pages you can make like for like dishes that are guaranteed to impress your friends. Be warned though, no compromises in authenticity mean sometimes tricky-to-get-hold-of ingredients and complicated techniques or long, slow cooking.
Buy it: Dishoom: From Bombay with Love, £26
Black Axe Mangal
This cult restaurant manages to retain a loyal fanbase of customers thanks to its ever-evolving menu of underused ingredients cooked over coals. The riotous, rule-defying position of restaurant owner and author Lee Tiernan might seem like a hard thing to put down in permanent form, given his disliking of rules, but pen to paper he put, and the results are worth reading. The recipes are a heady mix of globally influenced combinations with things like quail with shrimp sambal or charred sweetcorn and smoked roe’s butter on the line-up. In keeping with the restaurant’s rock and roll feel, the imagery is punk-esque with lots of dark, dreamy backgrounds and retro food styling.
Buy it: Black Axe Mangal, £24.95
Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes
Never was there a hotter new opening than Gloria in London. This Italian restaurant (confusingly owned by a French brand) has experienced nightly queues snaking out of its doors since its launch and now has its very own cookbook. This culinary bible takes inspiration from Gloria and its sister site Circolo Popolare as well as their Parisian counterparts. Expect step-by-steps on dishes like Risotto alla Milanese and Tiramisu.
Buy it: Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes, £27.95
Moorish: Vibrant Recipes from the Mediterranean
Ben Tish heads up Norma in London, which serves a wonderful blend of Mediterranean and North African plates. This hearty, heady spicing mixed in with crowd-pleasing classics like Italian pastas and risottos makes for a truly captivating cuisine. Moorish, Tish’s book, ensures you’re near-guaranteed to impress family and friends next time you cook for them with sharing-style plates that include recipes such as sobrassada and cornmeal breads or a watermelon and blue cheese salad.
Buy it: Moorish: Vibrant Recipes from the Mediterranean, £26
Hawksmoor at Home
Carnivores will love this piece of literature from the Hawksmoor team, a truly epic guide to steak and all sorts of sides. As well as recipes, this cookbook instructs readers on how to buy and cook the best steak, shares a method on how to make ‘the best burger in Britain’ and even includes a cracking beef Sunday roast suggestion. Alongside the food there are also cocktail recipes and wine pairing suggestions for various meals – a must for those who love to entertain.
Buy it: Hawksmoor at Home, £30
Max's Sandwich Book: The Ultimate Guide to Creating Perfection Between Two Slices of Bread
Our mate Max shook up the sandwich scene (yes, that’s a thing) in London when he came along and declared pre-cut bread sandwiches were a thing of the past. Max’s crazy creations immediately cemented him as the pinnacle of lunchtime dining, and even converted some fans to eating sandwiches at dinner time – a real shocker for us as fans of knives and forks. Max’s Sandwich Book allows readers a glimpse into how the chef comes up with such creations as well as detailing the recipes for classic sandwiches, simple ways to use leftovers up in between slices of bread, how-tos on breakfast baps and more.
Buy it: Max's Sandwich Book: The Ultimate Guide to Creating Perfection Between Two Slices of Bread, £14.99
The MEATliquor Chronicles: Chapter and Verse
This one’s a bit of a rambling collection which makes it feel more like a storybook than a recipe book, and for that reason we love it even more. Within this book are guest edits from people like Bone Daddies and Gizzi Erskine, as well a whole host of cocktail suggestions to ensure your dinner goes off with a bang, alongside rich recipes like spag bol or prawn cocktail given a decadent makeover. Additionally, in true MEATLiquor style, expect hearty fare like burgers, meatballs and more.
Buy it: The MEATliquor Chronicles: Chapter and Verse, £25
Asma's Indian Kitchen: Home-cooked food brought to you by Darjeeling Express
Shortlisted for a Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Award in 2019, this highly regarded guide to Indian cookery comes from the woman behind the Darjeeling Express restaurant. This premises has won legions of fans thanks to the homecooked comfort food it serves, with the odd twist thrown in here and there for good measure. With plenty of vegetarian recipes, drinks and sweet treats included, this is a great gift for anyone who enjoys cooking for mixed groups. Expect things like ghee-fried prawns, paneer korma and barbecued beef kebabs.
Buy it: Asma's Indian Kitchen: Home-cooked food brought to you by Darjeeling Express, £20
Mildreds Vegan Cookbook
Mildreds has been a veggie institution for as long as we can remember and is a popular pitstop for lunchtimes in Soho. To get a taste of the hearty, home fare in your own kitchen this recipe books offers a whole plethora of meat-free recipes. Meals aren’t reserved for mains either, with plant-based sweet treats like walnut, date and cinnamon rolls on the cards too.
Buy it: Mildreds Vegan Cookbook, £25
Silo: The Zero Waste Blueprint
This one comes with the seal of approval from a legion of chefs and industry experts. Silo, as you might know, champions a zero-waste restaurant format and its cookbook helps the everyday chef make the most of each last scrap. This, the writers say, is not a cookbook but rather a tutorial and so features information on how to minimise food waste as well as notes on why the restaurant has such a an exacting philosophy. There are founding principles to learn as well as tips and tricks, and then come menus full of surprisingly beautiful plant-based food that uses up every last bit of each ingredient.
Buy it: Silo: The Zero Waste Blueprint, £20
Pollen Street: The Cookbook
Jason Atherton’s properties are some of London’s best restaurants, with his playful and imaginative style ensuring they’re always packed with discerning diners. This book includes details for how to make some of the Michelin starred plates from Atherton’s Pollen Street Social restaurant and has recipes for canapes, afternoon tea, mains and more. Expect hyper-seasonal, complex cookery, but we promise the effort will be worth it.
Buy it: Pollen Street: The Cookbook, £50
Berber & Q
Know a barbecue lover? You’ve just found their perfect present. This charcoal-fuelled cookery course gives readers plenty of know-how for how to pull off the perfect summer party in the great outdoors. Recipes include veggie-friendly serves like the restaurant’s infamous cauliflower shawarma as well as more traditional grilled goods like hot wings and pil pil prawns. Our favourite has to be the sweet honeyed belly pork though, which is served with a zesty pineapple salsa for something a bit different.
Buy it: Berber & Q, £25
The Ritz London: The Cookbook
From the godfather of London restaurants comes this hallowed how-to. With a beautiful hardcover design and stunning photography throughout, this would make a pretty addition to your coffee table line-up as well as a companion for the kitchen. Expect all the pomp and majesty of the fine-dining restaurant’s menu with easy to follow (if intricate) how-tos. Recipes include things like a slow-cooked duck egg with pomme puree and truffle as well as braised short rib of beef with shallots. This is serious dinner party fodder.
Buy it: The Ritz London: The Cookbook, £30
River Cafe 30: Simple Italian recipes from an iconic restaurant
River Café has a number of cookbooks as it happens, but this latest one celebrates the restaurant’s 30th birthday and includes recipes in the style of the decade-defying dishes that have kept it at the top of its game for so long. We love the team’s confidence to conclude that they themselves are iconic, and we can’t really argue with it – this is comforting Italian cookery from a true London institution.
Buy it: River Cafe 30: Simple Italian recipes from an iconic restaurant, £30
Sardine: Simple seasonal Provencal cooking
Showcasing the often ingredient-led Provencal French cooking of the Sardine restaurant team, this is one for fans of gallic fare. Within the pages of this cookbook are recipes for all sorts of occasions – from simple suppers for two to sharing feasts for the whole gang. You’ll learn how to make classics like Bouillabaisse with homemade aioli and a chicken liver and cep parfait, with all recipes sectioned out into seasons so that you can make the most of the month’s star ingredients.
Buy it: Sardine: Simple seasonal Provencal cooking, £25
Leon: Naturally Fast Food
Okay, so Leon might not be classed as a restaurant – more a fast food joint – but its commitment to fast, fresh and healthy food has translated well to a whole series of cooking books. For us, this is the best of the bunch, with its two-section approach. The first half of the book sees recipes dedicated to keeping things under 20 minutes, while the second half is made up of ‘slow fast food’. This section introduces recipes that can be made quickly and then left to slow cook all day, for those moments when you’re at home over the weekend or working from your kitchen table and can leave a stew or sauce to bubble away over a few hours.
Buy it: Leon: Naturally Fast Food, £25
Honey & Co: At Home - Middle Eastern recipes from our kitchen
This one’s one for the aesthetes, who might prefer a cookbook for its good looks rather than its recipes. That’s not to say the recipes here are sub-par, rather to comment that the beautiful design of the front cover means this book doubles up as a coffee table decoration as well as an instructional manual. Recipe sections include meals for two, food to make for friends and leisurely weekend fodder. As the name suggests the recipes are all Middle Eastern in design, in line with the authors’ restaurant offering, and include wonderful veggie things like a cauliflower salad with amba and tahini and BBQ aubergines accompanied by a jewelled rice salad.
Buy it: Honey & Co: At Home - Middle Eastern recipes from our kitchen, £12.84
World renowned David Chang’s infectiously positive personality and wonderfully vibrant cooking have helped him win the hearts of fans around the globe and his cookbook helps bring this to life in your own kitchen. If you’ve seen Chang’s food programme on Netflix you’ll know that his repertoire spans both Asian and western cuisine resulting in recipes like the cult pork buns from his restaurant Momofuku – these use a blend of techniques which Chang himself labels as 'bad pseudo-fusion cuisine'. We’re here to argue it’s pretty good.
Buy it: Momofuku, £26
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking
Okay, this isn’t a restaurant cookbook per se but we couldn’t resist including it as it’s a bit of foodie bible. Author Samin Nosrat presented a TV programme of the same name as the book for Netflix and travelled across the world to understand the underpinning principles of all food cultures – categorising them as (you guessed it) salt, fat, acid, heat. With each recipe being built off these four principles the food in this book is simple but hugely satisfying and encourages instinctive cooking.
Buy it: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, £30
The Book of St John: Over 100 brand new recipes from London's iconic restaurant
Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver are well known in the restaurant industry for having boundless enthusiasm and a wicked sense of humour, and their book of over 100 recipes reflects these traits. The food celebrates, in line with the St John restaurant ethos, British cooking and highlights nose-to-tail eating. You’ll learn about stocks, braises and brines as well as butchery and pickling. Both sweet and savoury recipes are celebrated too, with combinations such as grilled lamb hearts with peas and mint and a cobbler made of peaches featuring within the pages.
Buy it: The Book of St John: Over 100 brand new recipes from London's iconic restaurant, £30
Trullo is without a doubt one of the best restaurants in London to eat pasta at. This recipe books allows us all into the behind the scenes of the kitchen team’s every-day and provides plenty of Italian recipes to see you through a comfort food crisis. As a number one best seller it’s safe to say the Trullo cookbook has been received well, thanks to pages full of pastas and more. Things you might learn how to cook include slow-braised lamb shoulder with peas or a simple plate of wonderfully chewy Tuscan pici (a pasta made from just flour and water and the signature dish of sister restaurant Padella).
Buy it: Trullo, £25
elBulli, which touts itself as the world’s most creative restaurant, is famed for its intricate recipes, so this is a cookbook for somewhat ambitious food lovers. We’re unsure whether anyone would actually attempt the laborious, intense recipes in this set of books which detail every single recipe created over seven years, but the pictures are enough to keep you entertained for hours. At £425 it’s a pretty punchy present for someone, but would make a beautiful addition to a bookshelf, and is a wonderful marker of the type of high-level food that has been created over the past decade.
Buy it: elBulli 2005–2011, £425
The Quality Chop House: Modern Recipes and Stories from a London Classic
Only released late in 2019, this is one of our favourite 2020 cookbooks to take us through the following few months and beyond. Having been established in 1869, The Quality Chop House has quite the history and has squeezed all the many years of its recipe knowledge into one beautiful cookbook. Expect great British cooking like roast dinners, beautifully stacked sandwiches and those famous crispy potatoes that you may well have seen on your Instagram feed. We also love that the book has plenty of notes for substitutions and seasonal tweaks you can make so that each recipe can be tailored to what you have in your cupboards or the time of year.
Buy it: The Quality Chop House: Modern Recipes and Stories from a London Classic, £30
The Moro Cookbook
Moro has long been lauded for its intoxicating cooking, specialising in tapas with North African influences. Plenty of the food in the restaurant is cooked over open flames, but that doesn’t mean the recipes don’t translate well to home cooking. In fact, the team has taken great pains to ensure the recipes included in the restaurant’s cookbook are just as delicious as the ones they serve to guests dining with them in situ. Expect spicy sauces, slow-cooked stews and plenty of veg-heavy dishes that are heady with carefully balanced spicing.
Buy it: The Moro Cookbook, £20
The Fat Duck Cookbook
Heston’s wacky style translates to a joyous cookbook of riotous fun and clever foodie fare. Within the pages you’ll find out how Heston founded The Fat Duck as well as being treated to a whole series of visually stunning pictures of the creative creations the chef is known for. Even if you have no intention of making the chef’s signature dishes, like the bacon and egg ice cream, it’s a fun read none the less.
Buy it: The Fat Duck Cookbook, £55
Like the finer things in life? You might enjoy our round up of the best tasting menus in London