Nicholas Balfe

Nicholas Balfe’s Top 5 Modern British Restaurants

Nicholas Balfe, chef/patron of Brixton institution Salon, shares his Top 5 modern British restaurants in London. In fact, he goes one step further by sharing his favourite dish at each one…


Peas and Ticklemore at Lyles. Nicholas says, ‘James Lowe is, in my mind, the undisputed champion of British seasonal cooking. He’s been a huge inspiration to me over the years, and his pared back, understated approach produces dishes that are beguilingly elegant both to look at, and to eat. His Peas and Ticklemore dish is so much more than its simple title would suggest; a masterclass in expert sourcing and balance of flavour and texture, as well as being a perfect expression of British summer ingredients.’

Lyles, Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JJ

Sager and Wilde Pasta

Pasta at Sager and Wilde. Nicholas says, ‘the menu at Sager & Wilde seems to go from strength to strength, packed full of interesting yet accessible dishes to compliment their incredible wine list. Head Chef Chris Leach has nailed the ‘things I want to eat’ idea, with the pasta dishes always standing out. Homemade spaghetti with slow-cooked Datterini tomatoes, roughly torn basil and lots of good olive oil were a real winner recently.’

Sager & Wilde, Arch, 250 Paradise Row, E2 9LE

Ellory Crab

Crab, Chilled Almond Soup and Grapes at Ellory. Nicholas says, ‘this riff on the Spanish classic Ajo Blanco, which marries dressed white crab meat with a silky almond emulsion sums up everything that’s great about Head Chef Sam Kamienko’s cooking – zingy, fresh, exciting and delicious. Service from Front of House duo Ed and Jack is also top notch, and you’re only a short stroll from London Fields if you fancy a lie down in the park afterwards.’

Ellory, 1 Westgate Street, E8 3RL

XO Linguine

XO Linguine at The Other Naughty Piglet. Nicholas says, ‘everything I ate at The Other Naughty Piglet was spot on, but two months later, I am still thinking about the XO Linguine, and I’m not at all surprised to see it’s still taking pride of place on the menu. The linguine has just enough bite,  whilst the homemade XO sauce almost has a European twist, studded with tiny nuggets of air dried ham and salted anchovies. On top sits an impressive (and very Insta-friendly) soy cured egg yolk. Unctuous, packed full of umami, and incredibly moreish.’

The Other Naughty Piglet, 12 Palace Street, SW1E 5JA

Ox Heart Kebab at Frank’s Café. Nicholas says, ‘we first did this dish at Frank’s when I worked there back in summer 2012, but chef Joseph Ryan – my old Sous Chef at Salon – has definitely made it his own. The ox heart is marinated and seared on their impressive wood-fired grill, then served with seasoned yoghurt and pickled cabbage sitting on top of a fluffy, warm flatbread. Perfect summers evening fare after a few leisurely Camparis overlooking south London.’

Frank’s Café, 10th Floor, Peckham Multi-Storey Carpark, 95A Rye Lane, SE15 4ST