33 Of Our Favourite Women-Led Bars, Restaurants, And Cafés

The women-led restaurants, bars, and cafés our stomachs are always happy to support.
A profile photo of Adejoké Bakare.

photo credit: Harriet Langford

There are some seriously excellent women at the forefront of the London hospitality industry. Women with the ability to make you say profound things like ‘fuck me, that’s good’ about a cauliflower and groundnut soup. Women who are revolutionising the common toastie and turning them into truffle-packed bready dreams. Women who can make bergamot margaritas so good that you’ll forget your own name. Onwards for some—note, this is by no means an exhaustive list—of the women-led spots we won’t shut up about.


photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch



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Missy Flynn is co-owner of Rita’s, a Soho spot where you can get a taste of Americana and a chilli water-laden jalapeño gilda. If candlelight and great music are your thing, you’ll love it here. On any given night this spot is crowded with groups of Prada loafers and acrylic nails. Stop by for dates, drinks, and a cardiac-inducing chicken parmigiana.

This is the mother of Italian restaurants in London. Opened by Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray, The River Café is still run by Rogers and serves the kind of Italian food we take for granted these days. Fresh tagliatelle. Radicchio salads. Pomodoro sauce. You name it, they probably made it famous at restaurant-level first. But the most important thing? The Hammersmith restaurant is still doing it very well.

Adriana Cavita’s eponymous Marylebone restaurant serves excellent Mexican dishes in beautiful surroundings. This is prime third date territory, to make eyes over an utterly divine pig’s head tamal, or the perfect spot to feel fabulous with a friend, sharing refreshing mooli ceviche and aguachile rojo. Despite the luxe atmosphere, friendly service and the bustling open kitchen adds a homely warmth.

We challenge anyone to go to Mukbap (in any mood) and not leave happy. You can’t go wrong with pleasingly stuffed, crispy pajeon, delightfully chewy and saucy tteobokki, and richly flavoured jjigae. Plus, there’s the chance that the owner of this vegan Korean spot in Shoreditch, Grace, might slip you a tub of sticky beans with the bill because you said you liked them.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

London is blessed with plenty of West African options, but none of them are like Chishuru. Joké Bakare’s cooking had people flocking to the pint-sized original Brixton location and its two-floor evolution on Great Titchfield Street has got the room to seat them. The terracotta tones are warm, the spicy okra martinis lethal, and the peppersoup broth is the drinkable kick up the arse that everyone needs. There isn’t a similar restaurant in Fitzrovia, nor the whole of London.

This tight-knit Malaysian restaurant has gone from street stall, to pop-up, to food hall concession to, now, its own small, superb space in Clapton with chef and founder Abby Lee at the helm. Flavours dance around Malaysia and Singapore, from five-spice pork and prawn bean curd rolls to sensational Sarawak black pepper chicken curry. It’s all deeply flavoured, aromatic, and enlivening stuff.

Maureen Tyne cooks out of her own bustling home kitchen, and once you get over the fear of trespassing, this Brixton spot is about as nourishing as it gets. After a tentative poke of your head into Maureen’s front garden, you’ll find trays of golden deep-fried chicken being passed around, dumplings bobbing in a big pot of oil, and somewhere a phone ringing while another is being answered. Maureen herself is in the heart of it all, serving her excellent Jamaican food.

In Ria’s, a charming Notting Hill wine bar-cum-pizza place, Ria Morgan has created a toasty little spot where you can enjoy excellent Detroit-style pizza and maybe spot a dog wearing a £48 COS sweater. Friends lean back on the cushioned oak benches—pét nat in hand, whipped ricotta and tomato slice on the mind. A dinner here can never not feel intimate.

Florence Mae Maglanoc is the co-founder of the Maginhawa Group (who are behind spots like Panadera Bakery, Guanabana, and Mamasons). Donia is their latest restaurant and while Filipino in essence, the Soho spot feels as London as a packet of Buzz Sweets. Traditional caldereta is interpreted into a shimmering lamb shoulder pie, and cloud-like pandesal bread is served with glowing chive butter. Everyone in the minimalist room is taken away by an exhibition of maximalist flavour.

It’s not just owner and head chef Faye Gomes’ cooking that has people coming back again and again, it’s her heartwarming hospitality too. Customers soon become regulars at Kaieteur Kitchen and at this homely Guyanese restaurant in Elephant and Castle, one visit does not equate to one plate of food. You may come for a mutton lunch but leave it to Gomes and you could find extra roti and a side of okra in your doggy bag too.

Koya is head chef Shuko Oda’s delicious temple of noodles and soups and all manner of good things, and it legitimately can lay claim to having some of London’s best udon. The Japanese restaurant, with locations in Soho, the City, and Hackney, is a great place to eat at the bar with a friend or two or to even eat solo should you have an hour to yourself.

Headed up by chef owner, Chantelle Nicholson, Apricity is a globe-trotting fine dining spot in Mayfair. They’re serious about sustainability, but as soon as the food hits the table, or one of the expert servers nudges you towards a tangy pickled blackberry manhattan, it’s clear that satisfaction trumps stuffiness. You can kick it a la carte, but the memorable seven-course tasting menu is under £100.

Margaux Aubry is the woman behind Naughty Piglets, a France by way of Brixton spot that serves sharing plates of creative French food paired with natural wines. It’s the sort of food that will impress a date and make your mouth happy. What we love most about this place, though, is the intimate atmosphere, genuinely friendly service, and crème caramel dessert. Even if you’ve dragged yourself from Crouch End to eat here, they’ll make you feel like you’re part of the neighbourhood.

photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch



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The head chef at Sabor, Nieves Barragán Mohacho, previously worked her magic at Barrafina before setting up this tapas spot in Mayfair. Head to the ground floor for countertop service and an ever-changing menu of fresh fish and Basque specialties. Or wind your way up the spiral staircase to the main restaurant for small plates that meander from Adalucía to Galicia.

How many people have we bought Asma Khan’s cookbook for? Hundreds, thousands, possibly millions. OK, we’re being dramatic but the point is we’re huge fans of Khan’s Indian cooking. The all-female kitchen team at her Darjeeling Express restaurant in Carnaby Street whip up puchkas, tangra chilli garlic prawns, and our personal favourite, the aubergine curry. Even on busy nights, Asma still walks around the restaurant, welcoming guests and making us feel like we’re eating this top-tier meal at our really fun, really popular friend's house.

Bao is a cool, cult restaurant with consistently excellent Taiwanese food, impeccable branding, and a KTV room in their Borough Market restaurant, that makes it the perfect place for every situation. It was founded by Erchen Chang and brother-sister duo, Shing Tat and Wai Ting Chung, and their confit pork bao is one of London’s most iconic dishes. Plus, it’s now easier than ever to get your Bao fix with restaurants in Soho, Shoreditch, Borough Market, and King’s Cross.

The Begging Bowl isn’t just the best Thai restaurant in Peckham, it’s one of the best Thai restaurants in London. Head chef Jane Alty is the woman behind their menu of charcoal-grilled celeriac, garee braised beef curry, and spiced nut larb. It’s a relaxed neighbourhood spot that’s perfect for a big, group sharing situation. Make sure you get involved in the whole deep-fried sea bass with kohlrabi, roasted rice, and plenty of chilli.

Arguably one of the most celebrated female chefs in the country, Clare Smyth is the chef patron at her synonymous fine dining restaurant. A converted townhouse in Notting Hill, Core is the restaurant you go to when you want to do the whole fine dining thing without risking a shred of celeriac on a bed of edible leather being your dinner. The British food here is perfectly executed, exciting, and most importantly, extremely tasty.

Seeing as we spent the entirety of our childhoods having full-body wrestling matches over who gets to hold the remote, we find it incredibly impressive whenever siblings open a restaurant together. Ifeyinwa Frederick and her brother Emeka are the co-owners of Chuku’s in Tottenham, a seriously feel-good Nigerian tapas spot. It’s home to a knockout caramel-infused kuli kuli chicken, blueberry-topped plantain waffles, and traditional classics like sweet okra.

Aptly located on Maiden Lane in Covent Garden, Lady of the Grapes is a charming little wine bar owned by French sommelier Carole Bryon. We’ve been here on dates, with mates, and for several Emergency Wine Situations. You know, like when it starts raining and your umbrella fails, and you need a little vino, stat. Expect candlelight, natural wines, and cheese.

The concept of this fantastic Italian spot is simple. A troupe of female chefs, known as the mammas, cook a menu of regional Italian food. Every few months a different mamma takes charge, and the focus shifts to a new region. But what you really need to know is, if you’re able to walk back onto the King’s Road at the end of the night without clutching your stomach like a pregnant celebrity on their first cover, then you’re doing this place wrong.

Gaia Enria is the founder of Burro e Salvia, a cool little pasta bar in the heart of Shoreditch. The pastas here change monthly, which means we’ve lost some great loves along the way. If you do fall madly in love with any particular pasta, they hand-make a variety of shapes and fillings daily in their on-site pastificio, so you can take some away to cook at home.

Monica Berg is a bartender turned industry leader and one half of the team responsible for Old Street’s Tayēr + Elementary. The bar section is walk-in only and the look is part izakaya and part Apollo 11 with added negroni tap. Monica also has her own liqueur, Muyu, and set up Back of House, a digital platform where employees can anonymously flag instances of harassment and discrimination.

photo credit: Mere

This spot is Permanently Closed.

If you’re a fan of a certain cooking show, then you’ll probably know exactly who Monica Galetti is. This celebrated chef is the founder and director of Fitzrovia’s Mere, a fine dining restaurant that runs like clockwork. Each explanation of a tomato fondue, top up of your wine glass, and angle of a pomegranate here is as carefully considered and scheduled as a royal wedding. Nothing here is an accident, especially how excellent everything on their classic French, with a touch of the South Pacific, menu tastes.

With Milk is a great little coffee shop in Tottenham owned by sisters, Hana and Lela Mamma, with a little assistance from their adorable pet dog Tekka. Not only do they make a mean turmeric latte, they have a changing menu of sandwiches and sweet treats that always hit the spot. They also make celebration cheese cakes (note: cheese cakes, not cheesecakes) that look like they’ve been dragged through a fairy woodland in the best possible way. Plus, there are plenty of gluten-free options and their huge croissants are fantastic.

Whisky expert Mia Johansson is the woman responsible for Swift, a go-to cocktail bar in Soho. The easygoing atmosphere and excellent drinks here are difficult to match, even in this part of town. At street level, there’s a shiny art deco-style bar that’s good for grabbing a beer or sipping martinis, while downstairs there’s a moody whisky bar with red booths. When the cocktails are this good you can be forgiven if ‘one more’ turns into several.

Anyone who’s anyone around east London knows about Lucky & Joy’s sesame noodles. Within no time the Chinese-influenced restaurant, headed up in the kitchen by Ellen Parr, has become a part of the furniture on Lower Clapton Road. Their sweet, savoury, and spicy noodles have certainly helped this, along with regulars like grandma’s potatoes and those lusty turnip cakes.

Freddie Janssen’s Snackbar is so much more than just a Dalston cafe. It’s a place to hang out, munching dill pickle hash browns or enjoying brunch in the backyard garden. Much of the menu and experimentation comes from Janssen’s own travels (and cravings), and you’ll soon learn that they’re often aligned to your own. See: that kimchi BEC (bacon, egg, cheese).

When you think of London’s most tranquil areas, Shoreditch is near the bottom. That said, Shoreditch is home to one of London’s most tranquil restaurants in Rochelle Canteen. The space in an old school playground, that Margot Henderson and Melanie Arnold created, is modestly brilliant and the same goes for the modern British food. Whether it be a crab and radicchio salad later on, or several bottles ending with a tarte tatin.

Owned and run by Lungi Mhlanga, The Treats Club is a Hackney doughnut shop that’s every sugar head’s dream. It’s the spot for things like doughnuts stuffed with Nutella fudge brownies, salted caramel hot glazed doughnuts, and smores hot chocolates. And lucky for literally everyone, they’re totally vegetarian and halal too. Yes, even the marshmallow fluff.

Owned by Mursal Saiq, Cue Point is a British Afghan BBQ spot in Walworth’s Orbit Brewery and is making some of the most exciting smoked meats around. Sink into a silver tray of oak smoked brisket and stewed aubergine, or get the weekly large plate special for a bit of everything. 

We have more feelings for this Xi’anese restaurant than we did our ex who we shared three long years of our lives with. Why? Because you can’t beat the spark you get with the liangpi noodles at Master Wei, no matter how defined your jawline is. Guirong Wei’s Bloomsbury spot has some excellent biang biang noodles and a spicy cumin beef burger that is a staple.

Sambal Shiok is a casual Malaysian spot in Highbury which is the place to get laksa in London. As well as serving some seriously satisfying laksa, owner and chef Mandy Yin’s menu includes things like prawn noodle salad, Malaysian fried chicken, and black bean tofu.

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A modern West African restaurant that doles out thrills, comfort, and chilli in equal measure—Chishuru isn't just one of Fitzrovia's must-visit restaurants, it's one of London's.

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Master Wei is an excellent casual Chinese restaurant in Bloomsbury, serving Xi’anese specialties that are worth going out of your way for.

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