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Chelsea Flower Show: The best restaurants nearby, from Stanley’s to Daphne’s

Mama mia: chef Roaya Saleh serves dishes inspired by her Bahraini childhood at Villa Mama’s (Press handout)
Mama mia: chef Roaya Saleh serves dishes inspired by her Bahraini childhood at Villa Mama’s (Press handout)

Famous for boots and buns, football and fashion, Chelsea is a contender for being the quintessential London neighbourhood, home to mods in the Sixties, punks in the Seventies and the gilded youth of London ever since — even if they’re still living with their gold-plated parents.

Take a stroll down the King’s Road, the supercar-clogged artery that serves as Chelsea’s high street, and it is impossible to imagine the area as the bohemian artists’ colony it once was. Still, for those who can afford it, the famously upmarket district is home to some superb places for its well-heeled residents to wine and dine, ranging from cosy but sophisticated boltholes to some of the fanciest fine-dining experiences the capital has to offer.

Bargains, alas, are hard to find, though one will find the usual chains (Five Guys, Polpo) lining the King’s Road and clustered around Duke of York Square by the Saatchi Gallery, where there’s a decent food market on a Saturday, too.

The annual RHS Chelsea Flower Show (23-27 May in 2023) is the most atmospheric time to visit, with many restaurants — including several of those below — putting on special menus. But Chelsea is a delight whatever the time of year. So from Peruvian in pastel-pink surroundings to a garden of delights, three Michelin stars and Sunday roasts, here are 17 of the best restaurants in Chelsea: come and see how the other half eat.

Number Fifty Cheyne

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

Live the full Chelsea fantasy in one of the prettiest corners of SW3, with riverside views from the first-floor dining room and a ground floor of buttery leather furnishings, pressed white napery and pretty crockery all so civilised that even the most bad-tempered toddler (or dog) will begin behaving with finishing-school deportment — though the size of the bill might make adults throw a wobbly. Still, quality ingredients are cooked with skill: tranche of roasted wild turbot with white asparagus and champagne and caviar sauce or rib-eye of 45-day aged Belted Galloway beef from the grill. Lovely staff, too, and roast lunches served on both Saturday and Sunday.

50 Cheyne Walk, SW3 5LR, fiftycheyne.com

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

The proud holder of three Michelin stars since 2001, the flagship of the chef who Google declares the world’s most famous is a pitch-perfect reminder of why Gordon Ramsay became a celebrity in the first place: astonishing food. Ramsay is honest about rarely cooking here these days, with kitchen duties overseen by chef de cuisine Matt Abé, who took over from Clare Smyth’s hugely successful stint as chef patron in 2016. Fine French cuisine is the focus in this highly formal dining room: ravioli of lobster, langoustine and salmon is the signature starter, while Herdwick hogget with Jersy royals, young peas and mint is a full-flavoured main course. Choose between a la carte (£175) and tasting (£205) menus.

68 Royal Hospital Road, SW3 4HP, gordonramsayrestaurants.com

Villa Mama’s

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

The mama here is Roaya Saleh, a Bahraini chef who opened her first Villa Mama’s in suburban Manama in 2012 and now has three restaurants around the Middle East plus this one in London. It’s an evocative white-tiled spot that’s bright and breezy by day but most appealing in the evening when candlelight casts shadows upon the arches and cushions. Dishes inspired by Saleh’s childhood make a compelling case for never wanting to grow up: fabulous khubus flatbread to scoop up the signature “aubergine explosion” starter, then various chicken, lamb and fish specialities accompanied by fragrant rice and salads to share.

25-27 Elystan Street, SW3 3NT, villamamas.uk

Stanley’s

 (Justin de Souza)
(Justin de Souza)

Stanley’s is Chelsea aristocracy: not only did owner Hugh Stanley used to run the Sydney Arms nearby but he’s also the nephew of the Earl of Derby — don’t come expecting Turkey teeth and spray tans from your fellow diners. Dishes such as spring lamb with asparagus and cod with sea vegetables suit the indoors/outdoors setting, with a small orangery-style dining room giving on to an equally cosy courtyard planted with trees and flowers. For something cheaper, the Phat Phuc noodle bar next door offers some of the best-value food in Chelsea, though the all-alfresco seating is generally a more appealing proposition in summer than winter.

151 Sydney Street, SW3 6NT, stanleyschelsea.co.uk

Myrtle

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(Press handout)

Chef Anna Haugh is a familiar face from TV screens (most recently filling in for Monica Galetti on Masterchef: The Professionals) but the Dubliner is also on a mission to prove there’s more to Irish cuisine than Guinness and soda bread at her elegant little restaurant on a pretty street just of the World’s End stretch of King’s Road. A seven-course “Taste of Ireland” menu is the best way to immerse oneself in Haugh’s approach — Gubbeen cheese mousse from County Cork, poached wild seabass in burnt Irish butter from County Cavan — or there’s salmon, duck and black pudding on the three-course à la carte.

1a Langton Street, SW10 0JL, myrtlerestaurant.com

Le Petit Beefbar

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(Press handout)

With its cheesemonger (Paxton & Whitfield) and excellent new patisserie (Birley Bakery), villagey Chelsea Green does a roaring trade in local French expats — and they have this chic Monaco-based meat restaurant to come when they need a dash of Côte d’Azur glamour. Steak comes as wagyu, filet mignon, T-bone and Kobe beef; non-meat options include cauliflower steak and salmon with eel sauce. Sunday roasts of fist-sized Yorkshire puddings with Black Angus beef are also a good shout while it’s worth visiting just for the caramelised brioche French toast with salted caramel sauce.

27 Cale Street, SW3 3QP, beefbar.com

Daphne’s

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(Press handout)

Daphne’s has been a Chelsea fixture for more than half a century and will celebrate its 60th birthday in 2024. The Italian restaurant, named after its theatre-agent founder Daphne Rye, manages to combine home comforts with a sprinkling of Ivy-inspired glitz. The decor is quaint Italian trattoria by way of a Chelsea budget: the bar is topped with pink marble, vintage Venetian chandeliers tinkle in the breeze when the full-length windows are open onto the pavement. On the plate, simple Italian home cooking is at the heart of the menu. Dishes of vitello tonnato and melanzane alla parmigiana are calling to be passed around a family-filled table, while wild boar pappardelle and meatballs with roasted potatoes and tomato sauce provide filling fare that any nonna would be proud of.

112 Draycott Avenue, SW3 3AE, daphnes-restaurant.co.uk

Chicama

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(Press handout)

There’s a pastel-perfect, Peruvian dream waiting at the World’s End bend of the King’s Road: Chicama charms without putting even a smattering of meat on its menu. A daily delivery of Cornish seafood provides a pescatarian menu to soften even the most hardcore carnivore. Dishes range from a meaty portion of blackened octopus with confit potato and sundried tomato to a selection of ceviches, including a scallop edition with Jerusalem artichoke, swimming in truffle tiger’s milk. An essential but easily overlooked order is a snack of tapioca marshmallow — a savoury bite (made without eggs or sugar) flavoured with parmesan and fried to the point of considerable crunch.

383 King’s Road, SW10 0LP, chicamalondon.com

The Five Fields

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(Press handout)

Tuck away on a side street near Sloane Square, chef Taylor Bonnyman offers modern fine dining at The Five Fields. Named after the historic term for the surrounding area, the restaurant harks back to the time when Chelsea was more rolling greenery than Rolls-Royces. A produce-led menu mixes British-grown ingredients (often from its Sussex kitchen garden) with nods to London’s cultural diversity: born and bred Londoner Bonnyman serves his sea bass with rhubarb, curry and onion, and his foie gras with shimeji mushrooms. He and his talented team have a Michelin star for their efforts.

8-9 Blacklands Terrace, SW3 2SP, fivefieldsrestaurant.com

The Cadogan Arms

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(Press handout)

A posh local pub for posh Chelsea locals, The Cadogan Arms is just as welcoming if one doesn’t live within staggering distance of the King’s Road, though the tone of the place is resolutely SW3. There are French 75 cocktails poured straight from the freezer, pilsner made exclusively for the pub in Cornwall and a menu of zhushed-up pub-grub classics overseen by chef director James Knappett of two-Michelin-starred Kitchen Table. Expect beer-battered fish with triple-cooked chips, Cheddar and cabbage pie for veggies and ham, egg and chips made from the best British ingredients.

298 King’s Road, SW3 5UG, thecadoganarms.london

Elystan Street

 (Andrew Hayes-Watkins)
(Andrew Hayes-Watkins)

Phil Howard is a legend of London kitchens. Nicknamed “the chef’s chef” by many of his peers, his masterful stint at Mayfair’s The Square lasted 25 years, holding two Michelin stars for 17 of them. In 2016, he turned his attention to Elystan Street, a less formal, more neighbourhood-friendly setting for Howard’s acclaimed, seasonally charged food — there’s not a white tablecloth to be seen. A constantly changing menu focuses on bringing together ingredients that are at their best in the same months of the year: in spring, sea bass is paired with asparagus minestrone and garlic leaf pesto, while winter brings together venison loin with baked roots and pickled pear. The set lunch menu offers a bargain (for Chelsea) of three courses for £39.50.

43 Elystan Street, SW3 3NT, elystanstreet.com

Bluebird

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(Press handout)

Favoured by the Princess of Wales back when she was plain Kate Middleton and the site of many a gossip on a certain SW3-set reality television show, it does rather feel as if the best days are behind the main dining room at Bluebird, rather like its equally vast sibling Quaglino’s. The courtyard out front, however, parties on and remains one of the more fabulous places to see-and-be-seen in Chelsea while knocking back Champagne and cocktails while tucking into fishcakes, steak-frites and rotisserie chicken. If the weather’s not so nice, the Bluebird Café across the cobbles serves the same menu indoors from brunch until supper and there’s a kid’s menu, too.

350 King’s Road, SW3 5UU, bluebird-restaurant.co.uk

Claude Bosi at Bibendum

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(Press handout)

Named after the rotund mascot of the famed tyre company (and restaurant guide pioneer), Bibendum is housed inside historic Michelin House, a stunning Grade II-listed building built in 1911. Under the stained-glass gaze of the iconic character, French chef Claude Bosi mixes British and European produce with finesse: Brittany rabbit is accompanied by langoustine and artichoke barigoule, while Cornish turbot is served grenobloise-style. Upstairs has the two Michelin stars; downstairs is a casual but chic oyster bar serving prawn burgers and lobster rolls on a year-round terrace.

Michelin House, 81 Fulham Road, SW3 6RD, bibendum.co.uk

The Ivy Chelsea Garden

 (Paul Winch-Furness)
(Paul Winch-Furness)

The Ivy Collection — a culinary spin-off series inspired by the historic Covent Garden hotspot — has wound its way through most smart parts of London by now, but The Ivy Chelsea Garden is one of the earliest and most appealing of those venues. The familiarly glitzy decor is festooned with maximalist florals and greenery both real and illustrated, before the conservatory room towards the rear gives way to what is a rather lovely garden. The menu is much as one would expect: the restaurant’s signature shepherd’s pie makes a welcome appearance, while lighter — and well-heeled — appetites can tuck into lobster linguine and miso black cod.

195 -197 King's Road, SW3 5EQ, theivychelseagarden.com

Kutir

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(Press handout)

Rohit Ghai has helped earn Michelin stars for the likes of Jamavar, Gymkhana and Trishna. In 2018 the chef teamed up with longtime collaborator Abhishake Sangwan to open Kutir, an Indian fine-dining venue set within the swish quarters of a Chelsea townhouse. The surroundings may be distinctly residential, but the menu harks to the rural forests of India. “Expedition” tasting menus take explorers through dishes of quail naan with masala scrambled egg and truffle, onto lamb tandoori chops with black cumin and sprouts, before ending on a bhappa doi dessert of steamed yoghurt with pineapple and coconut. There are vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free menus, too, as well as an à la carte and set lunch.

10 Lincoln Street, SW3 2TS, kutir.co.uk

Medlar

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(Press handout)

Passengers trundling their way along the King’s Road atop the Number 11 bus may be intrigued by the classy-looking restaurant with its frontage thrown open in fine weather. This is Medlar, a sophisticated modern dining room owned by chef Joe Mercer Nairne and front-of-house David O’Connor. Menu prices encourage diners to order three courses (£70) rather than one (£45): crab raviolo with brown shrimps and leek fondue followed by chargrilled pork chop with peas and pecorino, perhaps, with a warm chocolate mousse and salted caramel tartlet for pud. Prices are slightly kinder for lunch while sommelier Melania Battiston has won awards for her wine list.

438 King’s Road, SW10 0LJ; medlarrestaurant.co.uk

Rabbit

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(Press handout)

Gregory, Oliver and Richard Gladwin might look the Chelsea part with their floppy hair and checked shirts but the brothers grew up on their family’s farm and vineyard in rural Sussex from where produce is now sent to supply the kitchen of their five London restaurants. What they don’t grow themselves is sourced from producers with the same ethos of minimal intervention, or foraged and hunted from the wild. It sounds rather worthy but rest assured that the mood is jolly rather than joyless, not least when plates of butternut squash ravioli or line-caught halibut arrive at the table. Tasting menus, Sunday roasts and a two-course set lunch for £18 mean there’s something for everyone.

172 King’s Road, SW3 4UP, rabbit-restaurant.com