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. Maybe.
The best restaurant cookbooks, just like the best restaurants in London and the wider world, are a really varied bunch. From the gorgeous Indian dishes Asma Khan shares from her family cooks in Ammu to Jon Chantarasak's bright, bold, and beautiful Thai cooking in Kin Thai, there really is something for everyone when it comes to the best cooking books of 2023.
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 restaurant 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).
Mezcla, Ixta Belfrage
What: After starting her culinary career at NOPI, Ixta moved onto Ottolenghi's test kitchen, where she spent five years contributing to the Guardian and New York Times. From there, she co-wrote the bestselling Flavour and now she's gone solo. Mezcla promises 'recipes to excite' and certainly delivers, with unique combinations like chicken with pineapple and 'nduja or habanero and prawn lasagne.
Buy now: Mezcla
On the Himalayan Trail, Romy Gill
What: Indian food writer and chef Romy Gill is back with another beautiful exploration into into regional Indian food. This time, she's on the Himalayan trail through Kashmir and Ladakh, shining a light on this lesser-known region of India, which has been heavily influenced by Mughal, Persian, Afghan and Central Asian food over the course of history.
Buy now: On the Himalayan Trail
Meat-free Mexican, Thomasina Miers
What: Wahaca founder Thomasina Miers has done a great deal to make Mexican food accessible in this country over the last decade. Her latest book tackles vegetables with typical gusto, serving up everything from breakfasts to tacos, enchiladas, smoky salsas and tempting puds. Essential for Mexican food fans.
Buy now: Meat-free Mexican
Berber & Q: On Vegetables, Josh Katz
What: A second book from Berber & Q head honcho Josh Katz, who now has a little restaurant empire to look after with Carmel joining the stable this year. His latest book tackles veggies - something that Berber & Q has always specialised in - and shares tips, tricks and recipes behind those incredible, smoky veg dishes, including the famous Berber & Q cauliflower.
Buy now: Berber & Q: On Vegetables
The Pig: 500 Miles of Food, Friends and Local Legends, Robin Hutson
What: Anyone who loves food, hotels and the notion of rural life at its self-sustaining and delicious best will love this homage to hospitality, as seen through the lens of Robin Hutson and his much loved Pig Hotel Group. It’s a serious tome, more coffee table than kitchen, with arresting pictures that surf across the pages and well-chosen recipes that beg to be tried. Stories about staff and artisan suppliers abound bringing personality and a sense of extended family to the pages. The book moves chapter by chapter across nine counties in Southern England, from one hotel to the next – a dish here, a boot room there, a story about seafood sustainability alongside foraging escapades. It’s a cornucopia of edifying vignettes and an insight into the mind of one of the great hotel entrepreneurs of our day.
Buy now: The Pig: 500 Miles of Food, Friends and Local Legends
The Last Bite, Anna Higham
What: Anna Higham has done as much as anyone to shape the face of sweets and desserts in London over the last few years, knocking out treats galore (not least those amazing brown butter cakes at Flor). The Last Bite delves into her methods for devising and making desserts, and shares 150 recipes as well as a load of plated seasonal desserts to impress your guests. This is a must-own for aspiring pastry chefs.
Buy now: The Last Bite
Kin Thai, Jon Chantarasak
What: Fresh off his appearance on Great British Menu, Jon Chantarasak has released his debut cookbook, and it’s packed with colourful dishes that go big on flavour. Jon guides you through Thai cooking from snacks and salads to stir-fries, soups and more, with dishes like Roast Duck and Lychee Red Curry (gaeng daeng bpet) and Langoustine and Rhubarb Hot and Sour Soup (dtom yum goong).
Buy now: Kin Thai
Ammu, Asma Khan
What: Asma Khan’s debut cookbook ‘Asma’s Indian Kitchen’ was a smash hit, scooping a number of awards thanks to Khan’s very natural cooking and writing style. Her second book, Ammu, promises much of the same, with a book’s worth of new recipes inspired by her mother. Khan has always been an engaging storyteller and though the book is worth its price for the fantastic recipes alone, it’s also a fascinating insight into the connection between food, family and love.
Buy now: Ammu
The Garden Cafe Cookbook, George Ryle
What: George Ryle’s Garden Cafe Cookbook is a unique look behind the scenes at one of London’s true hidden gem restaurants. Since reopening in 2017 with Ryle at the helm, the Garden Cafe has gone from a bog-standard sandwich and cake offering to one of the most pleasing outdoor restaurants in the city. The cookbook lifts the lid behind day-to-day life at the restaurant, as well as sharing Ryle’s most popular seasonal recipes.
Buy now: The Garden Cafe Cookbook
Tarkari, Rohit Ghai
What: Tarkari, meaning 'vegetable' in Urdu, is Rohit Ghai's first book and hopefully not his last - the London-based chef has seen phenomenal success at restaurants Kutir and Manthan, introducing the city to a lesser-seen side of Indian cuisine. For a Michelin-starred chef, Ghai’s recipes are remarkably accessible, making this an essential purchase for any keen home cooks.
Buy now: Tarkari
Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love, Yotam Ottolenghi
What: The Ottolenghi team are back, this time with a slightly different theme. Over the course of time we’ve seen Yotam Ottolenghi slowly adapt his recipes to home cooks - his first books were in-depth recipes, famous for their long, exacting lists of difficult-to-find ingredients. With ‘Simple’, he reduced the recipes to a more easily-digestible format and Shelf Love does that again, this time empowering his mighty Test Kitchen to come up with adaptable recipes that can fit around the contents of your cupboards. If you often stand in front of your fridge and try to puzzle together dinner from leftovers and tins, this is the book for you.
Buy now: Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love
Chasing Smoke: Cooking with Fire Around the Levant, Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich
What: Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich’s latest book is a beauty - the Honey & Co pair are back with more Middle Eastern magic, this time with a firm focus on the grill. The book is more reflective of their menu at underrated restaurant Honey & Smoke, where dishes revolve around the grill. Sure, there’s a good helping of fish, seafood and meat but there’s plenty for vegetarians to get stuck into here as well, including dishes like burnt aubergine, charred egg yolk, tahini and chilli sauce, and grilled peaches with almond tahini and charred endive.
Buy now: Chasing Smoke: Cooking with Fire Around the Levant
Ciudad de Mexico, Edson Diaz-Fuentes
What: Santo Remedio head honcho Edson Diaz-Fuentes is the perfect guide to take us on a tour of Mexico - the Mexico City native runs one of London’s most electric taquerias and here he shows off the diversity of Mexican cuisine, from coastal favourites like Tacos de Pescado Estilo Baja to an incredible Oxtail Mole. Helpfully, Diaz-Fuentes also includes regular substitutions for tricky to find Mexican ingredients, making his recipes accessible even for less-equipped home cooks.
Buy now: Ciudad de Mexico
Bread Ahead: The Expert Home Baker, Matthew Jones
What: You want to know how to make those doughnuts? Of course you do. The Bread Ahead cookbook spills all the baking secrets, from sweet staples like Victoria sponge, choc chip cookies through to more complex bakes like millefeuille and babka. Baking books don’t always explain everything as precisely as you might like, but Bread Ahead’s instructions are detailed and exhaustive, so even novice bakers will find themselves ably supported.
Buy now: Bread Ahead: The Expert Home Baker
Sambal Shiok: The Malaysian Cookbook, Mandy Yin
What: After years of packed restaurants and many thousands of fiery laksas, Mandy Yin has finally managed to release a cookbook, packed with all the recipes that have made Sambal Shiok one of London’s most popular restaurants. All the signature dishes are included - the outrageous curry laksa, Malaysian fried chicken, prawn fritters, spiral curry puffs, flaky roti canai, beef rendang, sambal mapo tofu and more, all with pictures and stories from Yin’s Malaysian home.
Buy now: Sambal Shiok: The Malaysian Cookbook
Sicilia, Ben Tish
What: Another beautiful book from chef Ben Tish, this time exploring the culinary delights of Sicily. Once upon a time we thought of Italian food as a simple, uniform entity, but writers like Tish have done much to introduce us to the wonderful differentiations of Italy’s regional cuisine. Sicily is particularly unique - a melting pot of Italian, north African and Middle Eastern influence, and Tish makes a dependable guide, showing off the rustic and the refined sides of Sicily’s cuisine.
Buy now: Sicilia
Aegean, Marianna Leivaditaki
What: Greek chef Marianna Leivaditaki grew up on the Cretan coastline, and found her way into food when she took a job at Moro as a waitress. With hard work, persistence and passion she entered the kitchen and discovered a calling - now she is head chef at much-loved Hackney hangout Morito, where her laid back Mediterranean cooking has proved enduringly popular. Her book oozes passion for the food of her home, and her recipes are accessible but utterly delicious - a tough balance to strike.
Buy now: Aegean
The Hand and Flowers Cookbook, Tom Kerridge
What: Tom Kerridge's two Michelin star pub The Hand and Flowers is still the only pub in the UK which holds this accolade, and it now has its very own cookbook too. Inside, you'll not only find recipes for some of the pub's most famous dishes such as slow-cooked duck with duck fat potatoes and gravy, but you'll also get an insight into how such a successful establishment is run.
Buy it: The Hand and Flowers Cookbook
Jikoni: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from an Immigrant Kitchen, Ravinder Bhogal
What: Since opening London restaurant Jikoni back in 2016, Ravinder Bhogal has been lauded for her refreshing and inventive style of cooking. She has now put together some of her favourite 'immigrant' recipes (called so because they take influence from a number of different cultures and traditions) together in this cookbook so that you can try recreating her food at home. Expect recipes such as skate with lime pickle brown butter, and banana cake with miso butterscotch and Ovaltine kulfi.
Buy it: Jikoni: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from an Immigrant Kitchen
Kricket: An Indian-inspired cookbook, Will Bowlby
What: 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
Dishoom: From Bombay with Love
What: 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
Black Axe Mangal, Lee Tiernan
What: F.K.A.B.A.M (Formerly Known As Black Axe Mangal) 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
Big Mamma Cucina Popolare
What: 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
Moorish: Vibrant Recipes from the Mediterranean, Ben Tish
What: Ben Tish has had a big hand in some fantastic London restaurants - Norma and The Princess Royal in Notting Hill for example, which both serve some captivating food. Tish is a chef who loves to explore the interesting borderland cuisines that meld all sorts of different dynamics, and he does this in Moorish to great effect, exploring the wide range of influences that have shaped Moorish cuisine over centuries. This 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
Silo: The Zero Waste Blueprint, Douglas McMaster
What: 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 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
Pollen Street: The Cookbook, Jason Atherton
What: 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
Like the finer things in life? You might enjoy our round-up of the best tasting menus in London. Or if you love a bargain, head to the other end of the scale and check out London's best cheap eats, as chosen by us.