Chef Clare Smyth: My Life in London

30 Aug 2018 | Updated on: 27 Sep 2022 |By Annabel Harrison

The Michelin-starred chef on oysters at Bentley’s, why 2012 was London’s moment and sustainability, one piece of cling film at a time

I can see why the name Core appealed to Clare Smyth. She possesses a remarkable attention to detail. After half an hour in her company, I find it entirely plausible that she cares just as much about the pips of her portfolio as its shiny surface.

We meet at Core, her debut restaurant in Notting Hill that opened last year, on a day hot enough to bake eggs on the tarmac. In rather stark contrast to one of her most well-known bosses – she was chef patron at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay for four years – Smyth is softly-spoken and considered. And modest, considering she’s had 10/10 in The Good Food Guide, five AA rosettes and an MBE for services to the hospitality industry. She also won the Catey Chef of the Year Award 2016 and Michelin Female Chef 2017.

Home is… Wandsworth.

My typical day… starts with emails straightaway and walking the dog – I have a West Highland terrier, who’s very happy on Wandsworth Common. More emails and anything from meetings to buying art, at the moment, to interviews, designing and speaking to suppliers. Then it’s into the food and cooking and service. My days are diverse. I really enjoy designing things – since we opened, I had these tables in my head that I wanted to have made, and [the designer] has gone away to see if they’re possible. All of the art [in Core] is British – that’s important to me.

Luxury is… fine wine and art. And fashion, and cars. Jewellery! I like nice things and see lots of things as investments – fine wine and art are great things to own and collect.

My favourite London museum… Natural History Museum.

My favourite London building… Houses of Parliament.

My favourite London park… Hyde Park – all summer long. You come out of the tube and you hear Rod Stewart or The Killers playing. It’s amazing!

If I had an unexpected 24 hours to fill in London, I would… There are certain things you just have to do, like going to the ballet or a show. I love shopping in Bond Street and the Burlington Arcade’s boutiques. I’d have lunch at Jean-Georges at The Connaught, cocktails at The American Bar at The Savoy and I love oysters at Bentley’s on Swallow Street. Oysters and champagne, with the piano playing – the perfect end to the evening, particularly in the winter when it’s cold outside and native oysters are in season.

My favourite London memory… 2012 – it was just the best year. It was the year I launched a partnership with Gordon [Ramsay] in his flagship restaurant and we had the Olympics and the Jubilee. The atmosphere was amazing. It was so special across the whole city during that time. It was a wonderful year.

Film that reminds me of London… Skyfall.

Dream dinner party guests… My regular customers and my closest friends, because I never get enough time with them. I am very lucky – I get to meet a lot of people and do lots of special things so the real luxury, when I feel comfortable and at home, is being with my closest friends.

If I could jet off to one place right now, I’d go to… Botswana, on safari.

Why sustainability matters to me… Chefs are very close to nature so sustainability is something that’s all around us every day. We know what’s wrong, and we need to do something about it. We are constantly trying to find ways of correcting things – I have questions all the time. A couple of months ago, I asked – what do we do about cling film? So we found a company that will collect and recycle it. It’s all these small things we can do. It should be a part of what we do every day. We need to question everything we’re doing