What’s my Weekend: Florence Knight

The head chef of Polpetto shares her weekend plans

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Being the head chef of a busy West End restaurant, completely free weekends are very unusual and I quite often escape to our house in the country. When I do stay in London I try to pack as much into the weekend as I can. It gives me an opportunity to catch up with friends while researching new ingredients and trying out new restaurants, so I tend to cram it all in. I’m a real Soho girl: I live and work here and it’s a real privilege to have such easy access to so many excellent shops, bars and restaurants.

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Image: Jenny Zarins

After work on a Friday I usually start off with a cocktail at the Ape & Bird Public House, above (142 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8HJ, 020 7836 3119, apeandbird.com), the cocktail bar is a great place to unwind after a hard day in the kitchen and they have an interesting drinks list. For dinner I’ll go to Koya Bar, below (50 Frith St, London, W1D 4SQ, koyabar.co.uk). The chef there is the lovely Shuko Oda and I can always find something new and inspiring on the menu. Ingredients will include highly seasonal and occasionally quite unusual produce but always expertly prepared.

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They don’t do desserts at Koya, so I have to get my sugar fix at Gelupo (7 Archer Street, London, W1D 7AU, 020 7287 5555, gelupo.com), for me the best ice-cream shop in the world. The selection changes regularly and they also have a great list of sorbets.

If I’m feeling in the party mood I’ll end up in the Groucho Club (45 Dean St, London, W1D 4PZ, 020 7439 4685, thegrouchoclub.com) where I always bump into people for a chat and a laugh. Occasionally we’ll sing the night away and head to Karaoke Epoc (Adanami Shobo bookshop, 30 Brewer Street, Soho, London, W1F 0SS). The lounge is at the back of a Japanese bookshop that has a big Dry Cleaners sign on it. So Soho.

For me Saturday morning means Maltby Street Market (Maltby Street, London, SE1 3NP). It has two distinct parts, the first of which is packed into a run of stalls close to Maltby Street itself, and the other, more seriously foodie part is spread out under the arches at Spa Terminus. I love looking at the antiques and reclaim at Lassco (41 Maltby Street, London, SE1 3PA, lassco.co.uk) and then go to visit friends and suppliers like St John’s Bakery, below, who sell the best jam doughnuts in London (72 Druid St, London, SE1 2HQ, 020 7553 9842, stjohngroup.uk.com,), Natoora (Arch 1 Discovery, Dockley Road next to the Railway Bridge, London, SE16 4QT, natoora.co.uk) and England Preserves (Arch No. 2, 148 Spa Road, London, SE16 4EJ, 020 7064 1761, englandpreserves.co.uk).

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I almost always have lunch at my favourite restaurant, 40 Maltby Street (40 Maltby Street, London, SE1 3PA, 020 7237 9247, 40maltbystreet.com). I’m a huge admirer of the seasonal unfussy menu and the “natural wines” they serve are delicious and practically hangover- free.

For shopping I love Liberty (Regent Street, London, W1B 5AH, liberty.co.uk) and Dover Street Market , below (17-18 Dover Street, London, W1S 4LT, 020 7518 068, london.doverstreetmarket.com). The Rose Café is one of my favourite places in Paris and they have a little outlet on the fourth floor at Dover Street (17-18 Dover Street, London, W1S 4LT, 020 7518 0680), where Rose herself occasionally makes an appearance bringing lots of beautiful cakes.

I love old things, so I often pop in to William Vintage (2 Marylebone Street, London, W1G 8JQ, 020 7487 4322, williamvintage.com) to see my friend William Banks-Blaney. William sells vintage couture and he has single-handedly transformed my wardrobe.

I also love Gray’s Antique Market (Gray’s, 58 Davies Street & 1-7 Davies Mews, London, W1K 5AB, 020 7629 7034, graysantiques.com) and Ullman’s (36 Greville Street, London, EC1N 8TB, 020 7405 1877, arullmann.com) in Hatton Garden is one of my favourite places for antique jewellery.

The Society Club of Soho (12 Ingestre Place, London, W1F 0JF, thesocietyclubsoho.wordpress.com,) is a beautiful little cocktail bar and literary salon in Silver Place run by my friends Babette and Carrie. You can pet the dogs, read a book, have a drink and chat to the beautiful Auntie Vi, who is a living oracle of the old, real, better Soho.

I always like to squeeze in a trip to Thai Massage (19 Newman Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 1PF, 0207 631 1114, spaandmassage.co.uk) but more often I’ll go to Step-in Reflexology in Rupert Court (4 Rupert Court, London, W1D 6DY, 020 7434 3228). Working as a chef means that I’m on my feet sometimes for 18 hours at a time and I discovered the benefits of reflexology on a recent trip to Singapore. It’s great for circulation in the feet and legs and usually boosts my energy levels.

We go to a different restaurant every Saturday night, so recently I’ve been to Berner’s Tavern, above (The London Edition Hotel, 10 Berners St, London, W1T 3LF, 020 7908 7979, bernerstavern.com), Foxlow (69-73 St John Street, London, EC1M 4AN, 020 7014 8070, foxlow.co.uk), Pied Nus, below (19 Blandford St, London, W1U 3DG, 020 7486 3353, piedsnus.co.uk, @_PiedsNus) and Blanchette (9 D'Arblay St London, W1F 8DR, 020 7439 8100, blanchettesoho.co.uk,). The variety and quality of new restaurants here is incredible - it’s a very exciting time to be involved in the industry.

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Sunday morning is always spent in Regent’s Park (Chester Rd, London, NW1 4NR) with my husband and dogs. Having access to London’s parks are one of the great things about living right in the centre. Regent’s Park is my favourite and it gives the chance for the dogs to go crazy and catch up with some old friends.

Then it’s off to Marylebone Farmer’s Market, below (Cramer Street Car Park, Marylebone, London, W1U 4EW, 020 7833 0338, lfm.org.uk). Held in the car park behind Marylebone High Street, it is a fabulous place to collect fresh produce and avoid supermarkets. I stock up on all manner of fresh cheese, bread, meat and vegetables and say hello to the other regulars. Next to the market on Moxon Street is Ginger Pig (8-10 Moxon St, London, W1U 4EW, 020 7935 7788, gingerpig.co.uk) and La Fromagerie (2-6 Moxon Street, London, W1U 4EW, 020 7935 0341, lafromagerie.co.uk,), two of the nicest food suppliers in that part of town. Ginger Pig sells beautiful meat and the best sausage rolls, while La Fromagerie has the best selection of cheeses imaginable. Last shopping of the day is Monmouth Coffee (27 Monmouth St, London WC2H 9EU, 020 7232 3010, monmouthcoffee.co.uk) to stock up on the most essential commodity of the week!

Sunday lunch is always a good old traditional roast at home. It’s my favourite meal of the week and gives my husband and I a chance to cook and eat together and catch up. Afternoon tea on is always spent en famille at Maison Bertaux (28 Greek Street, Soho, London, 020 7437 6007, maisonbertaux.com), a local institution and meeting point for the less alcohol-inclined residents of Soho. It’s a great place to have tea from a pot in a nice china cup and eat a delicious chocolate éclair. You can also see the works of the latest artist they are exhibiting.

We live in the centre of Soho and Sunday evening is the quietest time of the week. The street noise is at its lowest and even the buildings seem to breathe a sigh of relief, so it's a good time to prepare for the coming week.

Florence Knight studied at the London College of Fashion before deciding to follow her passion for food, enrolling at Leiths School of Food and Wine. In 2010 she joined Polpetto, the small Venetian-inspired restaurant owned by Russell Norman, where she soon became head chef. Polpetto will reopen in its new location in Berwick Street, Soho, in February. She is also the author of A Cook and her Cupboard, Saltyard Books, £26.

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