Born in Luton and raised by Italian grandparents, it seems almost inevitable that Rob Chambers would go on to run one of the UK's most successful and highly regarded Italian restaurants - Luca in Clerkenwell. Even as a youngster, Chambers was inspired by sights, sounds and flavours of summer holidays in Italy with his grandparents, and by the time he was a teenager he had already set his sights on a career in the kitchen.
Chambers spent years honing his skills across various Michelin-starred London establishments, with stints at The Square with Phil Howard, The Ledbury and Locanda Locatelli each bringing their own challenges and learning curves for the chef. It was during his time at Locanda that he mastered the art of pasta-making - a key skill for the Italian-British chef that would later come into its own at Luca.
If Locanda Locatelli was the first big milestone of Rob's career, the next was still to come, when Rob joined the the brigade at The Clove Club. And good thing he did! It was there that he caught the attention of Clove Club co-founders Johnny Smith, Isaac McHale and Daniel Willis, who would go on to launch Luca in 2016 and eventually bring Robert in as the perfect half-British, half-Italian head chef for their modern Italian concept.
Known for British twists on Italian cuisine, Luca takes high-quality, seasonal ingredients from around the British Isles and Italy, combining the fresh and delicious flavours of traditional Italian cooking whilst bending the rules to make new classic dishes. It was everything that Robert had always desired, and it was immediately met with great critical acclaim from diners. Some seven years after opening, Luca received a Michelin star and the restaurant regularly appears in the upper echelons of SquareMeal's Top 100 London restaurants list.
We caught up with Luca head chef Rob Chambers to discover his top places to eat across the UK! Read on to find out Rob’s personal recommendations.
Rob says: 'What a special place Cartmel is, and this restaurant makes it even more special. I absolutely love the cooking at L’Enclume. Every single dish is completely memorable, and Simon Rogan’s ethos of growing vegetables, foraging, working and building relationships with local farmers and growers and sourcing locally is just wonderful. When London gets crazy and I need some quality time with my wife with some seriously good food, L’Enclume is the one.'
Where: Cavendish Street, LA11 6PZ
Book now: L'Enclume
Rob says: 'I love this place as it’s so different from the food I’m used to eating day to day. Stepping through the doors of Gymkhana off the streets of London, its slightly dark, luxurious feel and the pleasant aroma gets your appetite going crazy. The tandoori masala lamb chops, the lamb shank rogan josh and the chicken butter masala are all 10/10 dishes in my opinion.'
Where: 42 Albemarle Street, W1S 4JH
Book now: Gymkhana
Rob says: 'I love going to this place with friends. It’s a great place for sharing and so consistent. My first time visiting was about eight years ago and since then, every meal I have had there has been great. My favorite dishes are the venison puffs and the prawn and bean curd cheung fun, but every dish I’ve ever had there has been great, plus the cocktails are amazing too. The interiors upstairs and downstairs are completely different, so I always do lunch upstairs and dinner downstairs. I took my wife to Yauatcha on our first date, so we go back on every anniversary.'
Where: 15-17 Broadwick Street, W1F 0DL
Book now: Yauatcha Soho
Quality Wines, Farringdon
Rob says: 'Another excellent restaurant for sharing super tasty, well-cooked food with friends. Quality Wines has a significant focus on great wines, all served in a cozy atmosphere. Every dish on the menu both looks and sounds great, and their cooking is solid without being over-pretentious. It’s food that you can eat every day - I love places like that.'
Where: 88 Farringdon Road, EC1R 3EA
Book now: Quality Wines
TOAD Bakery, Camberwell
Rob says: 'I absolutely love the pastries here, both the sweet and savoury ones. The first time I tried them, they were so amazing that I went silent for minutes. If this place was around the corner from me, I would have a pastry and a coffee every morning. In fact, I’d have both a sweet and a savory one and maybe skip the coffee. A great way to start the morning.'
Where: 44 Peckham Road, SE5 8PX
Agriturismo Terranostra, Puglia, Italy
Rob says: 'Every time I head home to Campania to see the family, I love visiting Agriturismo Terranostra. Maybe I’m biased, as my auntie and uncle built this place on some family land they had. Over the years, I’ve seen it grow into something beautiful through their hard work. Everything they cook comes from their land. They rear their animals, grow the olives for their olive oil and grow grapes to make wine. The food is simple but packed with pure flavor, plus they have accommodation there and a pool, too.'
Where: 84020 Corleto Monforte, Italy
Looking for more recommendations? Check out some top favourites from Vivek Singh, Roberta Hall-McCarron and Andrew Pern for more of the UK’s top, must-visit restaurants.