Destinations | Perfect Weekend

Hélène Darroze’s London

The fourth-generation chef from south-west France holds two Michelin stars – the first at her eponymous Paris restaurant and the second at The Connaught in London.

July 16 2011
Margaret Kemp

“Weekends mean family, friends and relaxation. Living in London, I probably see everyone who matters to me more than if I were in France. I’ve been going back and forth since 2008, and people are always asking how I juggle a career and two children as a single mum. It’s just a question of organisation, and always looking on the bright side.

There’s excitement on Saturday morning when my best friend, Caroline Rostang, arrives with Lily. We both have adopted daughters from the same orphanage in Vietnam, so Charlotte, who’s four, and Quiterie, two, are waiting with their coats on for their playmate.

We leave for Borough Market (pictured), an ideal location for curious kids and grown-ups. We may have breakfast at Roast, or buy fish and chips from a stall. Borough reminds me of my local Paris market on Boulevard Raspail, but it’s less snobby. It’s a great hunting ground for unusual vegetables, spices, honey from Hackney, and incredible cheese. Chefs never stop thinking of food. Caroline is looking for a London restaurant, so we might stop off to look at some possible locations.

Otherwise, we’ll all head for the Electric Cinema, where they have a kid’s club showing films such as Gulliver’s Travels in 3-D – very exciting. My girls will be multilingual, which I think is the finest gift one can give a child. I’m perfecting my English with them.

It may seem a bit of a busman’s holiday, but I like to go to The Connaught for Saturday brunch. I sit in a corner with the girls, my parents and my brother, relax, and see what needs attention. When I’m working, I rarely get a chance to leave the kitchen; it’s essential to see what’s happening from a customer’s point of view in order to improve.

I love spas and since Aman opened in The Connaught, I work out here with my trainer, Luca, on Saturday afternoons. Hauling pots and pans around puts strain on the body, so I need to stretch a lot.

Salloos is a great Saturday-night address, not too far from my apartment. When my friend Pierre Hermé opened his patisseries in London, he asked me to find a restaurant serving seriously spicy food. A friend told me about Salloos – it’s family run and specialises in Pakistani cuisine influenced by the owner’s mother. PH loves the shredded lamb cooked in wheatgerm with lentils and spices, a recipe that dates back to the Mughal Empire. There’s an excellent wine list but I find a nice beer goes down very well.

Sunday morning has to be a full English breakfast at The Wolseley, then we go to see the ducks and wander around Kensington Gardens. I love the London parks; they are quite unique. Sunday lunch is at child-friendly Bumpkin. The products are organic, and the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding are tops.

Notting Hill is my favourite film, and I save the area for Sunday afternoon. There’s terrific shopping. I dress the girls in clothes that are rock’n’roll, with classic attitude. Charlotte has a fur-collared coat from I Love Gorgeous, which she never wants to take off, and I bought Quiterie some Gruffalo pyjamas from Their Nibs, which sells quirky retro clothes.

On Sunday evening, if we’re staying home, I’ll buy a meal from The Grocer on Warwick and just add green salad. A real treat is to take the girls (wearing their pyjamas, I admit) to Pierre Koffmann’s at the Berkeley, where we eat Laverstoke Farm organic roast chicken stuffed with bread and garlic, early in the evening.

Last thing Sunday night I make a “to do” list for the week, switch off the two BlackBerries, then read a bit. I’ve just finished Michel Houellebecq’s La Carte et le Territoire, which was rather perturbing; nonetheless, after a few pages I’m ready to fall sound asleep.

See also

People, Chefs