The Best Restaurant Cookbooks
Cookbooks are truly magical things. We would know a thing or two about that having written a couple of them are ourselves (yes, that’s a shameless plug and yes, you can buy all the MOB Kitchen cookbooks in our online shop, thanks for asking). Restaurants are also truly magical things – they're like little distinct and separate worlds where you can go and lose yourself for a couple of hours and come out, blinking in the sun, with a sense of renewal and a newfound zest for life. Unfortunately, a lot of our fave restaurants have been shuttered up for the last year or so of lockdown and we’ve not had much of that escapism since. Fortunately, a lot of our favourite restaurants have written cookbooks where you can attempt to cook some of their most iconic dishes in your own kitchen.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “why would I even attempt to cook a recipe that’s designed to be cooked by a professional chef?” To which I say, “well, why the hell wouldn’t you?” before hastily adding the caveat that although these cookbooks have been written by top, top chefs none of them have been designed for chefs. They’ve been written with home cooks like you and me in mind. People who want to replicate the sensual experience of the River Cafe in our living rooms but haven’t got the foggiest idea of where to start. The answer, it turns out, is the River Cafe cookbook. Go figure.
From Islington’s Trullo to Copenhagen’s Noma, a lot of the world’s very best restaurants have got cookbooks that are worth exploring and experiment with, MOB. These aren’t just cookbooks you can cook from but cookbooks that you can pore over and leave on your coffee table over the weekend. They’re the restaurant cookbooks that are conversation starters and an instant way to prove to your guests that you have class and sophistication. These are, very simply, the best restaurant cookbooks you need to have in your life.
Dishoom: From Bombay With Love
The Dishoom cookbook isn’t just a brilliant cookbook – it’s a tender, affectionate ode to Bombay (aka Mumbai) which throws you straight into the hustle and bustle of the city’s streets and cafés through the enticing toasted cumin seed-scented narrative that’s weaved throughout. The difficulty of the recipes in this book ranges from startlingly simple to incredibly complicated, though, nothing is out of the realms of possibility if you’ve got enough time on your hands.
Bestia: Italian Recipes Created in the Heart of L.A.
This cookbook comes from the folks behind L.A.’s super popular Italian restaurant, Bestia, so expect to find it filled with recipes for everything from fist-sized meatballs to delicate agnolotti made with cacao pasta dough. It’s unlikely you’re going to be jetting abroad anytime soon so this might just be your next best chance to taste some proper Italian regional cooking by way of sunny Los Angeles. All, of course, from the comfort of your own kitchen.
Trullo is a seriously good restaurant that doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you’ve never been, you should really go at the next available opportunity. While it’s never going to be the same as experiencing high-end service and having your wine poured by someone that knows what they’re talking about, the Trullo cookbook is a great way to get some of Tim Siadatan’s cooking on your dinner table. Expect lots of pasta recipes within these pages; the combination of British produce and Italian techniques resulting in recipes like tagliarini with raw green and yellow courgette or sea bass carpaccio with blood orange and fennel. It’s a goodie, MOB.
Moro: The Cookbook
Sam and Sam Clarks’ first cookbook was an instant and enduring success when it was released in 2003 and its popularity has only increased since, selling over 100,000 copies to date. The duo’s London restaurant is known for its deft handling of the food from Spain, North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean and this cookbook offers you a chance to do some of that handling for yourself. Recipes for almejas con manzanilla (that’s clams with sherry to me and you) and Malaga raisin ice cream are all-timers. Get Moro: The Cookbook if you're serious about good food made by good people.
Towpath: Recipes & Stories
This cookbook from the inimitable Towpath Cafe is as sturdy and lovely as the canalside spot itself – a treasure trove of Italian-inspired recipes that sit snug alongside stories taken from, and lush photographs taken of, the cult Hackney cafe. Recipes for TC menu specialities are present (look out for the hefty cheese toastie) as well as more typical Italian bangers like aubergine parmigiana. Nothing’s too fancy and all of it’s easy enough to make on your lonesome.
Black Axe Mangal
If you really want to replicate the full experience of eating at Black Axe Mangal at home you’re probably going to need a fuck-off set of speakers and a home tattoo kit. If you’re only really fussed about replicating the food element, then all you’re going to need is the Black Axe Mangal cookbook. Chef Lee Tiernan's Highbury restaurant is renowned for its punchy flavours and recipes for dishes like pig’s cheek and prune doughnuts and squid ink flatbread with smoked cod’s roe are just that. This ain’t your mama’s cookbook, MOB. Unless your mama was Joan Jett. In which case I am very, very jealous.
The Book of St JOHN
St JOHN is more than a restaurant, really: it’s a mecca for anyone who loves food. Everyone from Anthony Bourdain to Diana Henry has waxed lyrical about the Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver’s restaurant over the years and, having eaten there myself, it’s not hard to see why. If you can’t make it down to the restaurant for whatever reason, then his cookbook – which contains over 100 recipes from the annals of the St JOHN hall of fame – is your next best option. Dishes lean British until they’re practically vertical; duck fat toast, braised rabbit, and ox tongue all making star appearances. A cookbook for those who care.
Kricket: An Indian-inspired cookbook
Will Bowlby is a clever, clever man and this cookbook is a clever, clever way for you to get a taste of what his restaurant Kricket is all about. Everything from snacky street food favourites like bhel puri to decadent main plates kid goat raan are present and correct with most of the recipes being fairly user-friendly. Sure, there’s a few that might come across as a little challenging but they’re more than worth the effort and, well, I believe in you. And isn’t that enough?
The Quality Chop House Cookbook
Two words, MOB: confit potatoes. They’re one of the many, many wonderful things about dining at Quality Chop House and the fact that they’ve provided the recipe for those lovely little cuboids of blissfully fatty carbohydrate in this cookbook is a reason enough to buy yourself a copy. Not only does it have a recipe for that GOAT side but it’s also got 260 pages of beautiful photography and equally enticing dishes for you to make. If you’ve ever wanted to know how to cook the classics, this is the book for you.
The Noma Guide to Fermentation
Rene Redzepi and David Zilber are the people responsible for cobbling this nerdy, in-depth guide together. As innovative and exciting as a meal at Noma would doubtlessly be, the recipes in this cookbook afford you a pretty exciting opportunity to try your hand at fermentation for yourself. The majority of this “guide” is delivered in the form of step-by-step instructions and how-tos that should hopefully make sure you avoid botulism. Master this cookbook and you’ll be making everything from kimchi and sauerkraut to kombucha and miso in no time flat. Or as much time as it takes to ferment those things. I’m no scientist.
Asma's Indian Kitchen: Home-cooked food brought to you by Darjeeling Express
Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express is a wonderful restaurant with a wonderful ethos that you should absolutely eat at. If you aren’t able to get a reservation at the moment – and that wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest – you should try your hand at some of the recipes in her cookbook while you wait. Recipes take influence from home cooking as well as Asma’s royal Mughlai ancestry and perfectly toe the line between approachable and impressive. Asma’s channa dal recipe will change your life.
Sardine might have shut up shop but the impact of Alex Jackon’s restaurant lives on. Espousing the benefits of simple, seasonal Provençal cooking, Sardine is a cookbook rammed to the gills with recipes that have been split into the categories for spring, summer, autumn and winter. Spring might mean slow-cooked broad beans; summer, a tomato and tapenade tart; autumn offers the chance for a squash and mussel soup, and winter calls for a pot-au-feu. This is a cookbook that you will return to time and time again until the pages wear thin. Get yourself a copy.
River Cafe 30
The subheading for this cookbook is “simple Italian recipes from an iconic restaurant,” and, yeah, I don’t think I could have put it better myself. A meal at the River Cafe can never be truly replicated in a flatshare in London Fields but using this cookbook to whip up some divine pasta or a pared-back panzanella salad is the best chance you’re going to get, MOB. It’s a beautiful, sturdy hardback that will look great on your bookshelf and let everyone who visits your place know you’ve got impeccable taste.
Momofuku: A Cookbook
“Fusion” might be something of a cuss word in the culinary sphere today but there’s no denying that David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook is fusion food at its finest. The Momofuku restaurant group is expanding on the daily and this book is a testament to why the food cooked by Chang et al has experienced such vast success. The cookbook is packed with kochukaru and f-bombs and some pretty outrageously time-intensive recipes. The ramen broth alone takes eleven hours to prepare. But don’t let that stop you from giving it a whirl. Momofuku: A Cookbook is not for beginners. It’s for food obsessives.
Jikoni: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from an Immigrant Kitchen
Ravinder Bhogal’s cookbook is a whirlwind tour of the kind of boundary-bending dishes you can expect to get from her Marylebone restaurant. Recipes for prawn toast scotch eggs and Ovaltine kulfi sum up the hybridized cuisine you’ll find within the cookbook’s pages. Bhogal’s passionate voice and friendly approach to cooking also make its presence felt throughout. The Jikoni cookbook that’s suitable for any level of skill in the kitchen, just so long as you love to eat delicious food and aren’t afraid of getting stuck in.
Berber & Q
Berber & Q's cookbook is the perfect charcoal-crusted addition to your cookery book collection. Featuring over 120 barbecue recipes (including Berber & Q's legendary cauliflower shawarma), it's filled with grilling techniques garnered from New York, the Middle East, London, North Africa and beyond. Buy this one if you're after big, brash flavours packaged up in glossy fashion.