To many people, the borough of Kensington and Chelsea encompasses the sophistication of the capital in one neat little package; a postcard of leafy gardens, cobbled mews, designer boutiques, black lacquered gates, tiny dogs and lots of beautiful people (queue the Made in Chelsea theme tune). It has long been the home of London’s most exclusive bars, member’s clubs and shops – Raffles, Vivienne Westwood, Kensington Roof Gardens, to name a few. It was once the centre of the city’s music scene and the playground to the city’s most stylish bohemians but the area’s sky-rocketing price tags have driven much of that old, swinging personality out, giving it a reputation of outdated glitz and tourist honey traps. Yet plenty of its old soul remains. The area has been enjoying a nice little influx of young, fresh food and drink lately, making it a destination not just for moneyed Chihuahua-clutchers but for everyone. Pay a visit to this polished pocket of London for dazzling bars, surprising restaurants and an injection of some good old fashioned glamour.
Inspired by the food of coastal Peru, this Millennial-pink gem of a restaurant single-handedly changed our opinion of Chelsea’s dining scene. It has a sunny, plant-filled patio out the back and a dining room done up in blushing encaustic tiles, a marble bar and candy-pink velvet booths, with sharing dishes served on mismatched, hand-thrown ceramic plates and bowls in earthy pastel shades. Order a biting pisco sour and Peru(se) the menu while you snack on a few popped corn monkfish cheeks. Their fish comes fresh from Cornwall each day, thrown on the grill and served whole with avocado and jalapeño, or mango and hot aji chillies. And don’t even think about missing the blackened octopus, the turmeric-stained mussel curry or the seabass ceviche with grilled corn and pickled onion.
383 King's Road, SW10 0LP
Pick up freshly baked loaves, croissants and a fistful of famous filled doughnuts at the Chelsea branch of this iconic bakery. Not only can you pick up a coffee and peruse the day’s doughnut offerings at this little nook on Pavilion Road, but you can also learn how to make them yourself at their in-house cooking school, which offers everything from ‘Introductions to French Baking’ to lessons in perfecting a good old fashioned loaf of sourdough.
249 Pavilion Road, SW1X 0BP
Granger & Co.
Now a certified restaurant don, Bill Granger has expanded his mini empire by opening another branch of his eternally popular Aussie-style eatery Granger & Co. This one offers the same global, sun-drenched dishes as the others, with staples like crumbly coconut toast, ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter (yes please) and brioche rolls topped with chilli fried eggs on offer until 12pm. Drinks include a killer bloody mary (because hair of the dog is literally the only way), cacao smoothies and fresh juices, as well as Allpress coffee and some seriously good cold brew. At lunch and dinner time, you can expect more of this joyous seasonal cooking, with virtuous grain bowls, fish curries, high grade BBQ dishes and a pudding menu that you shouldn’t try and resist. Though it’s only been open a few weeks, this place crawls with activity all day long. Downstairs, you’ll find young families and Chelsea locals gathered at the tables in front of a giant brassy bar, while upstairs the elegant dining room gives a little nod to Bill Granger’s passion for the modern restaurants of Tokyo. Think 70s touches, fresh flowers, gold finishes, peach-coloured leather booths, big windows and a cracking playlist.
237 Pavilion Road, SW1X 0BP
Just as we were starting to think that the whole of Chelsea has gone dairy-free, we happened upon this little cheese shop just up the street from Granger & Co. Their counter is chockfull of traditional cheeses, with chutneys, crackers and booze on offer to go with them.
Stylish locals pour into this bright, friendly pub-turned-brasserie, which is done up like an inner-city farmhouse with glossy white tiles, scuffed wooden sharing tables, a curved marble bar and portraits of local farmers with chickens perched on their shoulders. The food is British, seasonal and damn satisfying, with a brunch, lunch and dinner menu rustled up by noted chef Tom Aikens. The hulking great French toast, which is topped with caramelised apples and vanilla ice cream, is big enough to pitch a tent on. The spatchcock chicken comes with charred broccoli and a spelt salad, while their famous egg dishes (Florentine, benedict, royale) are so good they have spilled over on onto the lunch menu. A burger is often the litmus test of a good restaurant, and Tom’s is pretty close to perfection – a hunk of juicy, glistening beef, pickles, a bouncy bun and hand-cut golden chips. If you like that sort of thing.
27 Cale Street, SW3 3QP
It probably helped that we were sitting next to a woman sipping an espresso and barking Italian down the phone, but a visit to this little corner café can feel a lot like slipping popping to Sicily for the afternoon. Drop by on a sunny day to sip strong coffee and fresh pastries under the orange-and-white awning, or for simple, deliciously Italian lunch food like tagliolini with homemade pesto, burrata with broad beans or citrusy salmon tartar.
44 Harrington Road, SW7 3ND
There’s nothing sweeter or more elegant than an éclair. Maitre Choux is a whitewashed patisserie specializing in dainty, artful éclairs. We’d say they look too good to eat, but we’d be lying.
15 Harrington Road, SW7 3ES
Hailing from Paris, this elegant bakery has been producing fine breads since 1932. This bright, airy outpost in Cadogan Gardens dishes up some of the best sandwiches in the area, piling seasonal ingredients onto their bouncy, lovingly-made bread, which has been handmade using recipes perfected over the last 80 years.
29 Cadogan Gardens, SW3 2TB
D. McKay Fruiterer
You may have noticed the stampede of gym bunnies bouncing around in expensive lycra in this part of London. While there are plenty of juice bars and health food cafes to cater to them, this historic fruit and veg shop serves up fresh juices squeezed from the organic produce on sale. Here, you can slurp everything from fresh OJ to celery, cucumber and spinach; pomegrantate and apple or watermelon. Just don’t ask for bee pollen.
19A Harrington Road, SW7 3ES
When it’s authentic Vietnamese food they want, Chelsea locals head to this neighbourhood noodle bar, who’s slightly amusing name has probably contributed slightly to its cult status. Slurp traditional phos (definitely the best in the area), creamy laksas or refreshing noodle salads in the outdoor courtyard, or at the little window at the entrance.
The Courtyard, 151 Sydney Street, SW3 6NT
Café de Nata
If you aren’t already harbouring a life-threatening addiction to Portuguese custard tarts, now is the time to start. This hole-in-the-wall café right by South Kensington tube churns out authentic handmade pastéis de nata; crumbly, buttery tarts brimming with smooth custard. Don’t mess about with just one. When they’re this good, you’re going to want to buy a box.
26 Cromwell Place, SW7 2LD
Browns & Rosie
If in ever in doubt, head to the great Exhibition Square, where you’ll find the likes of upmarket chains like Le Pain Quotidien or Fernandez & Wells, with plenty of outdoor seating. Close by, Browns & Rosie is a favourite of stylish young locals, who pour in (some of them in actual Kooples outfits) for Aussie-style brunches, lunches of seasonal garden produce and fresh Pablo & Rusty’s coffee. The rustic, homely interior is comfortable enough to bed down in for an entire afternoon, while the counters overflow with colourful salads, wraps, freshly baked breads and cakes.
10-12 Exhibition Road, SW7 2HF
When you’ve quite finished posing at the flowery, candy-pink exterior of this sophisticated Belgravia bakery, you’ll find homemade cakes, cupcakes and every other afternoon tea delight you can imagine inside.
116 Ebury Street, SW1W 9QQ