What’s the secret ingredient to making a perfect soup? We asked some of London’s cooks just that: what’s the thing that makes their most iconic soup taste so damn good? Their answers may surprise you, but follow their guidance and they will almost certainly lead to you to stew nirvana.

(Of course: remember that many of these restaurants are struggling at the moment so if you can support them by buying merch, takeaways, produce or meal kits then definitely do.) 

Matzo ball soup at Monty’s Deli

‘We add a tiny bit of monosodium glutamate (MSG) to our matzo ball soup. It’s perfect. There’s still a lot of negativity towards the stuff, which I don’t understand, given the overwhelming evidence that it’s completely safe.’ Owen Barratt, chef

Squid, potato and tomato stew at Stoney Street

‘North African spice mix ras-el-hanout is always really good in soups. If you rub vegetables in it and roast them before adding to the soup it helps deepen flavours.’ Alex Hely-Hutchinson, founder

Minestrone at Jolene

‘It’s really important to start a minestrone with a good base. Adding a parmesan rind adds umami to any soup, elevating flavours with its saltiness. It’s also a great way to use up something that would normally go straight in the bin.’ David Gingell, chef

Egusi at Chuku’s

‘Dried crayfish is a great way to add umami flavour to this Nigerian soup. We wanted ours to be a dish for everyone so found a vegan alternative: kale and melon seeds.’ Emeka and Ifeyinwa Frederick, chefs and founders

Osso buco at Quality Wines

‘When we’re making this veal stew we put star anise in with the sofrito [base sauce] and take it out after the braise. Using it sparingly boosts savoury flavours in the stew without giving it an obvious, unwelcome aniseedy note.’ Nick Bramham, head chef

Beef soup at Bao Soho

‘We skim and reserve the fat that floats to the surface. Adding it back in towards the end brings out the essence of the aromas from all the other ingredients.’ Erchen Chang, head chef

We tried all of London’s best restaurant DIY kits.

Top London chefs share their three-ingredient recipes

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