By Sophie Marie Atkinson.
We’ve all been there; hammering on the kitchen door of a particular restaurant demanding to know how they made the chicken THAT DAMN SUCCULENT. No, just me?
Well, even if you won’t admit it, I’m sure you’ve walked away from more than one London restaurant wishing you could have had even just a few minutes with the master behind the meat (or veg, chutney, corn bread, or whatever tickles your taste buds).
So, from Mexican street-food to high-end Indian fare, here’s a look at some the London restaurants bold enough to open their kitchens to the hoi polloi.
Franco Manca, classes currently only available at the Chiswick branch.
If you've never paid a visit to one of the four Franco Manca branches of these now-cult Neapolitan restaurants, you've never truly experienced pizza. The pillowy dough; the organic, locally-sourced toppings; it's no wonder Franco Manca is often hailed as the best pizza in town. And now, NOW, they are prepared to share their much-lauded secrets. Fools!
Learn how to correctly kneed the slow-rising (20 hours!) sourdough; what toppings to use and where to get them (broccoli on a pizza? Who’d a thunked it?) and how to replicate the effects of their wood fire 'tufae' brick ovens - in which the pizzas in question are cooked for a mere 40 seconds – in your own home.
A bargain at just £20 per person, and you won’t walk away even remotely hungry, trust me.
To book, call Franco Manca Chiswick on 020 8747 4822.
Theo Randall at The InterContinental, 1 Hamilton Place London W1J 7QY
On the other end of the price spectrum, but very much worth the expense, lies the Theo Randall masterclasses, which take place within the realms of Theo Randall’s restaurant, in the chi-chi Inter Continental London Park.
Famed for his simple, rustic cooking that utilises seasonal fare, the man himself allows a handful of lucky guests an insight into his kitchen every Saturday morning. Each week he explores a different theme such as pasta and risotto, or seafood, demonstrating how to make up to five mouth-watering dishes.
Once the lesson is over, guests are treated to a wine tasting session with the Head Sommelier; a three-course lunch and a copy of Theo’s book, Pasta. Well worth the £200 price tag.
To book, call Maria on 0207 318 8747 or by email her at email@example.com
La Porte des Indes, 32 Bryanston Street, London, W1H 7EG
Boasting the accolade Ethnic Chef of the Year 2012, Mehernosh Mody – head chef at multi award-winning La Porte des Indes – offers guests the opportunity to witness him in action.
La Porte des Indes offers up a unique style of Indian cooking inspired by the French Creole cuisine of Pondichéry and other former French trading posts in Southern India, and dishes here include Cassoulet de Fruits de Mer, a rich seafood stew simmered in 'vindai' spices, and Poulet Rouge, shredded chicken marinated in yoghurt and red spices served in a creamy sauce. Dribble.
Held on the last Friday of every month, the classes, priced at £45 per person, take place from 12pm with a 3-course lunch from 1.30pm onwards. Guests will also receive a signed copy of the best-selling La Porte des Indes cookbook, a complimentary spice mix and a certificate.
Along the way, Mehernosh will offer indispensable advice and tips on the huge array of herbs and spices that are the mainstay of Indian cooking, including how to source, prepare and store them. Suggestions will also be given on the best food and wine pairing options.
For details visit www.laportedesindes.com/london/indian-cooking-classes
Benito’s Hat, various locations around London.
Despite scoring highly on the cheap-and-cheerful front, Benito’s Hat serves up my absolute favourite burritos in London. And they know how to mix mean margarita too. What’s not to love?!
And now, with the help of founder Ben Fordham and his trusty cohort/head chef Felipe Fuentes Cruz, punters can learn how to whip up their own spicy salsa, make delectable tortillas from scratch and even how to recreate the divine cocktails.
Ben and Felipe are as enthusiastic and approachable as they are knowledgeable. They even dish out awards (in the form of great gifts) for the best team effort. At £15 a head, including food and drink throughout the evening, these classes are an absolute steal.
The next class takes place on November 27. Miss it at your peril. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Mon Plaisir, 19-21 Monmouth Street, London WC2H 9DD
Eager to please high-brow dinner party guests? Then the monthly cooking classes at Covent Garden's Mon Plaisir French restaurant might be for you.
A purveyor of some of the finest French cuisine found this side of the English Channel (Charles de Gaulle himself dined here in 1942), on the first Monday of every month the owner of Mon Plaisir throws open his door to share with diners the secrets behind what is often said to be the best steak tartare in the city.
For just £29.50, guests will enjoy Champagne on arrival, followed by an appetiser and demonstration by the brains behind the outfit, owner Alain Lhermitte or chef Frank Raymond. And then – Pièce de résistance – your chance to make the famed dish yourself. Then sit back, enjoy a glass of wine (or an extra two for just £10) and sample your wares, served, as it should be, alongside chips and salad. Dessert and coffee are also included in the cost. Mon dieu!