My Life In Food: Nicola Lamb
My Life In Food: Nicola Lamb

My Life In Food: Nicola Lamb

Pastry chef Nicola Lamb is a master of her craft, having trained at top London and New York bakeries including Ottolenghi, Dominique Ansel and Little Bread Pedlar. She is also behind a popular Substack, Kitchen Projects. As she releases her first book, Nicola shares her favourite places to eat, top entertaining tips, and the one meal she always goes back to…
By Heather Steele

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The restaurant from my childhood that will always stay with me is without a doubt Good Friends. It was our local Chinese restaurant in Brighton. We’d go there at least once a week. It was our family spot (and has now sadly closed). I remember ‘bringing your new boyfriend to Good Friends’ was always a huge deal, proof that things were getting serious! That was the real hard launch into our family – showing them ‘our’ restaurant.

I’ll never forget the magic of making jam tarts with my nanny Carole. What was this magical playdough you could also eat?! I still feel that way when I make pastry, to be honest.

I don’t have a favourite chef – but I do have a favourite baker. I think Darcie Maher is a genius. She runs Lannan up in Edinburgh, and is setting a new standard for bakeries with the amount of care and creativity she puts into every pastry she makes.

In terms of best restaurant experiences, I’ll go anywhere the Vietnamese/French pop-up Ha’s Dac Biet goes. The team was in London recently and they’re always doing events in NYC. I’m hopeful they’ll open a full-time space soon. Since moving to north-east London, I've been a frequent visitor to 01 Adana and Umut 2000 in Dalston. No notes, ever.

Load the table up with crisps, pickles and candles before people come over and it SETS THE TONE. Always have more crisps to refill.

I find steak tartare irresistible – it’s the one dish I’ll always order if I see it on a menu. On the drinks front, I’ve been loving vermouth and soda lately. And a Paper Plane cocktail, which is bourbon, amaro, Aperol and lemon juice.

One of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had was a total surprise when staying at this remote B&B in Scotland. The owners cooked us lamb from their farm and it was a total riot. The food was wonderful, but the atmosphere was just brilliant. I’m lucky to have access and go to so many incredible restaurants, but it's rare to get the combined alchemy of great food, drink and atmosphere rounded off with a little touch of the unexpected. I had a similar experience at Bar Ganbara in San Sebastian – go there, get the mushrooms. Feel joy.

I love Sundays as it’s the day my weekend begins. My newsletter Kitchen Projects goes out at 8:30am every week, so I always wake up at 7am and make tea, and re-read it and watch it go out. Then the day is wide open – I usually go for a walk or visit Kossoff’s bakery on the way to my sister’s house to see my niece and nephew, and go to the farmers’ market. I usually batch cook a big soup or stew to put us in good stead for the week ahead too.

Nicola Lamb

My idea of a perfect Sunday lunch is definitely at home. Ideally not at mine: I hate tidying my own home after a roast, but will gladly wash up at someone else’s. Or dim sum – that was our Sunday lunch growing up (my dad is from Shanghai/Hong Kong) so that always feels right.

For a spring/summer brunch, pan con tomate is unbeatable. Maybe with some eggs on the side. In the winter, I’m very partial to a classic bagel brunch with all the trimmings, lots of cream cheese and good smoked fish.

My favourite place to buy ingredients is Newington Greens. It always has the goodies – I’m very lucky to have it on my door stop. For specialist ingredients, Sous Chef has everything and it’s always top quality. I also buy directly from independent suppliers like Pump Street and Shrub.

My most used ingredient is butter, without a doubt. I get through it at an alarming rate.

I have a few favourite dining companions. For exploring new flavours, I love eating with my friend Claire – when we take trips together, it’s like being in a pinball machine of snacks and restaurants. She’s always happy to take a detour to try a random bakery, and always does so much research about everything we need to try on the trip.

When you have good friends over, I cannot tell you what a hit super-crispy jacket potatoes and lots of picky sides is. It’s so easy, but opening some tinned fish, bringing out all the condiments, grabbing some nice cheese, making a few pickle plates and throwing a quick salad together is just so satisfying. It’s no stress for you, so you can just enjoy chatting and hanging out.


My friend and I always talk about what we would make for Julia Child. I think she’d be such a gracious and fun guest. I’d make her my fried bread-and-butter pudding with caramel mandarins.

The secret to hosting a good dinner party is preparation. I’m lucky that, having worked in kitchens, doing pre-prep just comes naturally to me. If I know I’m having people over, I start preparing the day before and it lowers the stress of getting the meal out. Also: crisps, pickles and candles. Load the table up before people come over to set the tone. Always have more crisps to refill, too.

We do a Thanksgiving potluck dinner every year and it’s so much fun to see people really bring it with their dishes. This year I made a mashed potato pie (rosti crust, mashed potato filling, scalloped potato top) which was so weird but delicious. Thanksgiving is all about coming together and embracing the chaos.

When you have good friends over, I cannot tell you what a hit SUPER CRISPY jacket potatoes and lots of picky sides is.

For food on-the-go it’s got to be the Pret porridge. I love it so much. On the go, I always have great confidence that a banh mi will hit the spot, and there are plenty of great spots all around London.

For a quick mid-week meal, tomato and egg stir fry with rice is so good. Or dumpling soup. Frozen dumplings are such a great time saver. I always eat them with Mama Yu’s Original Chilli Oil.

The most decadent meal I've ever had was when I was lucky enough to eat at Endo at the Rotunda – that was both decadent and light. I love the way sushi can really toe the line between those two things.

I love all of Nigel Slater’s atmospheric Kitchen Diaries. For baking, some of my favourite cookbooks for inspo are Jam Bake by Camilla Wynne, More Than Cake by Natasha Pickowicz, Dappled by Nicole Rucker and the Beatrix Bakes books by Natalie Paul.

For more from Nicola, follow her at @NicolaLamb, visit & sign up for her Substack at SIFT by Nicola Lamb (Ebury Press, £30) is available to buy now. Photography by Sam A Harris.

Nicola Lamb

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