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

The women-led restaurants, bars, and cafés our stomachs are always happy to support.
28 Of Our Favourite Women-Led Bars, Restaurants, And Cafés image

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 of the women-led spots we won’t shut up about. 


photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch



Elephant and Castle

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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, so expect competition for seating in the evening. The homely Guyanese restaurant in Elephant and Castle is a restaurant where one visit does not equate to one plate of food. You may come for a mutton lunch but you will also leave with an oxtail dinner.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch



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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 solo should you have an hour to yourself. Besides the noodles, order some of their sides—the pork belly will make you very happy, as will the Japanese-style fish and chips.

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 à 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 the most about this place, though, is the intimate atmosphere and genuinely friendly service. Even if you’ve dragged yourself from Crouch End to eat here, they’ll make you feel like you’re part of the neighbourhood.

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. 

The kitchen at Sessions Arts Club, a Clerkenwell modern classic, is led by Florence Knight and its British and European-leaning food hits many marks, specifically the ones named crab croquette, panisse, and squid. It’s all lovely, plate-mopping stuff that effortlessly pairs style and comfort. And of course, it’s special. Not in a way that has you worried about dropping aioli or calamarata sauce on yourself, but in a way that knows it isn’t just the brilliant food that has you coming back, it’s everything.

Missy Flynn has been at the helm of Rita's since its Dalston days and over a decade later is still an integral part of what makes the restaurant, now in Soho, such a fun place to be. It's a place where flickering candles, an excellent playlist, and a funky lambrusco are happily paired with a cardiac-inducing chicken parmigiana, care of co-founder and chef Gabe Pryce's American-leaning menu.

Spicebox Restaurant Walthamstow is permanently closed

Spicebox Restaurant Walthamstow


Don’t be fooled by the narrow doorway and takeaway-style countertop by the door, Walthamstow’s Spicebox explodes into an airy dining space complete with a jewel-toned pile of amber and fuchsia cushions (the exact same colour as their pickled onions), hanging plants, and skylights. Grace Regan’s plant-based Indian cooking is bright and feel-good, just like the space it’s served in. Don’t leave without trying the tarka dhal.

Chishuru is all about vibrant personality and bolshy West African flavours. The menu of Adejoké Bakare’s supper club-turned-restaurant reflects the owner and head chef’s excitement and innovation. And the results, like groundnut cauliflower soup or goat ayamase, are truly spectacular. Her Brixton restaurant is currently closed ahead of a new site opening in 2023—it's one of our most-anticipated openings of the year.

photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch

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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 cooking. The all-female kitchen team at her Darjeeling Express restaurant in Kingly Court whip up puchkas, tangra chilli garlic prawns, and our personal favourite, the aubergine curry. Be sure not to skip the tamarind dal. 

Bao is one of those cool cult restaurants that pops up on every Londoner’s list of go-to spots. The food is consistently excellent, the branding impeccable, and ever since they opened their KTV room in their Borough Market restaurant, there officially isn’t a single situation this place isn’t perfect for. Founded by Erchen Chang and brother-sister duo, Shing Tat and Wait Ting Chung, 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 Core. 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 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. 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 classics like sweet okra, so make sure you come when you’re ‘proper ravenous’ so you can try as much of the menu as possible.

Aptly 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, or you discover you were wearing your shirt inside out for the entirety of that meeting and you need a little vino, stat. Expect candlelight, natural wines, cheese, and yet more 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. Home to the best cacio e pepe in London, La Mia Mamma now has a second restaurant on Hollywood Road in Chelsea, and a Notting Hill deli.

Gaia Enria is the founder of Burro e Salvia, a little pasta bar in the heart of Shoreditch. Unfortunately, you can’t form a deep relationship with any of the pastas here, as they change the menu monthly, which means we’ve definitely lost some great loves along the way. If you do fall madly in love with any particular pasta, be sure to get some to take away and cook at home. Small but undeniably cool, Burro is one of our all-time favourite great little places to impress potential dates and family.

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. It’s a place where you’ll sit with a bowl of lardo-covered fried rice in the day, but lean against the counter in the evening. Not because it’s comfier, but because angling yourself with a cocktail and a £15 sandwich while French hip hop plays requires a very specific lean. 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.

If you’re a fan of a certain cooking show—cough, MasterChef, cough—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 is an accident, especially how excellent everything on their French, with a touch of the South Pacific, menu tastes.

With Milk is a sister act. Not the kind that involves Whoopi Goldberg and Maggie Smith in habits, but a sister act nonetheless. A great little coffee shop in Tottenham, it’s owned by 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 (read: they’re dressed with flowers and herbs). Plus, there are plenty of gluten-free options and their huge croissants are quite frankly, f*cking 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. Hit it for a drink before dinner or a date, or for a nightcap when you and a mate look at each other at 11pm and say ‘just one more?’. But 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. 

Few restaurants hold the excitement for almost unending possibility but guaranteed deliciousness as Freddie Janssen’s Snackbar. The Dalston cafe is so much more than just that. It’s a place to hang out indoors or out, munching dill pickle hash browns or enjoying an impromptu taco night. 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. Way below somewhere like Highgate, but above, let’s say, Old Street. 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 have 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, Treats Club is a Hackney doughnut shop that’s opening in March. It’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 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 any time we’re “in the area” (read: travel an hour out of our way for noodles).

Sambal Shiok is a casual Malaysian spot in Highbury which is the place to get laksa in London. As well as serving up 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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