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These chefs, who between them run some of London's best restaurants, share their secret fine dining takeout tips.
By Alex Martin | April 20 2020
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the closure of some of the best restaurants in the world. As a result of the shutdown, the takeout industry in places like London and New York is booming as people seek their foodie fix in the safety of their own homes. While most takeouts won’t compare to the food served straight from the kitchen of your favorite restaurant, you can elevate it to a higher level in some surprisingly simple ways. These chefs, who between them run some of London’s best restaurants, share their secret fine dining takeout tips.
James Cochran is one of London’s most renowned chefs. He cut his culinary teeth working at The Ledbury and The Harwood Arms for nine years before opening his own restaurant 12:51.
“I always add soy sauce to a takeaway pizza, it brings out the sweetness in the tomato whilst intensifying the cheesy umami goodness.”
“Always order more naan than you need. With the leftovers, add cheese, lime pickle, plain yogurt, and chili sauce and grill for a delicious new dish, perfect for a weekend brunch or hangover snack!”
“Order a proper chicken shish kebab and when you’re waiting for it to arrive, make up a packet béarnaise sauce. Pour it all over the kebab when it’s all nice and hot. Game changer.”
Pip Lacey started her professional life as a graphic designer, but shot to prominence after winning popular TV show Great British Menu in 2017. She went on to open Hicce, which has since won acclaim from the city’s toughest critics.
“Even the worst takeaway pizza can be improved with a hit of chili. I keep lots of Thai green chilies in the freezer so I can add them to takeaway pizzas when needed. Also, if you ever see chili oil in a sachet, grab a few extras for future pizzas and go to town with it.”
“Whatever cuisine you decide to order, if they do chicken wings – add them! Chicken wings are always a good idea. Sushi: Always ask for extra wasabi with any Japanese takeaway. If the flavors are lacking then the wasabi will add a welcome hit of heat and always make sure you have soy sauce In the house.”
“Keep a jar of mango chutney in the house. They never send enough with the poppadoms and always get two poppadoms each so you’re not fighting over the crumbs.”
Tom Booton is the head chef at The Grill at The Dorchester, which relaunched last year with a new and improved menu. He has so far succeeded in throwing the 89-year-old restaurant back into London’s modern dining scene.
“If I get a burger delivered, I have to make my dirty mayonnaise for the chips. It’s made up of two parts mayonnaise, one part tomato ketchup, one tablespoon chopped capers & gherkins and a dash of tabasco to taste. I always have a pot of it in the fridge! It’s banging with a steak.”
Ben Tish is a protege of the formidable Jason Atherton and was chef director of the Salt Yard Group, responsible for a number of Michelin star restaurants in London. He later joined The Stafford group. He latest project, Norma, is one of the city’s best new openings in years.
“If I’m ordering an Indian, I’ll always get roti on the side. To refresh them, I get a frying pan very hot and then flash fry the roti on both sides for a minute or so. It gets them nice and fresh and crispy. Also chopped fresh coriander and a squeeze of lemon juice adds a zip to any curry if it needs livening up a bit.”
Martin Sweeney runs the kitchen at The Petersham in Covent Garden, the sister restaurant of the critically-acclaimed Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, London. He specializes in making best use out of seasonal produce, quality ingredients and Italian flavors.
“Unless you’re eating them right away, ask for just salt and add your favorite vinegar when you get home, this will keep the chips from getting sweaty and soggy in the bag. Mix brown sauce and vinegar and get dipping, it sounds odd but it’s a staple in Edinburgh and it works surprisingly well!”
“The most consistently disappointing thing about curries is the condiments. Knock up a quick raita at home from natural yogurt, cucumber and mint and keep a jar of good quality mango chutney handy. Give soggy naans a flash in the oven to re-crisp.”
“Fried chicken goes well with pickled gherkins – the salt and vinegar complement the hot, crispy chicken wonderfully. Slice up some gherkins at home for a sour refresher between bites of chicken. I’d also mix a bit of pungent blue cheese with jarred mayonnaise for a great cheesy dip.”
Sara Lewis has worked in many of the ctiy’s best restaurants, including the now-closed Grain Store and The Pilgrm Hotel in Paddington. She now works at the rooftop restaurant at boutique hotel Vintry & Mercer, one of the city’s best new hotels of 2019.
“For the two of us, our usual failsafe order is one crunchy starter, one rice, a veggie side dish, a main and a naan bread. Follow that equation and you can’t go wrong! I always love to make a dipping yogurt when we’re waiting for the delivery with natural yogurt, add a little smoked paprika and some lemon zest, some dried mixed herbs and finely sliced cucumber. To jazz up the rice dish, we always saute some onions, peas and egg with turmeric and occasionally a pinch of saffron so we can turn our regular pilau into a yummy fried rice.”
“If we are ordering a pizza, we love to add some fresh rocket and parma ham on the top and a drizzle of Spanish extra virgin olive oil. Delicious!”