- Winner of the One to Watch Award 2022
Named after suffragette Emily ‘Pem’ Davidson, Sally Abé’s flagship restaurant is located within Hilton’s Conrad London St. James and has a largely female team back of house. Women occupy the majority of leadership roles within both The Pem and the hotel it is based in. Such a setup might (sadly) be a rarity in the restaurant world but Abé is clear that the venture isn’t just there to make a point about women in hospitality and that it should be judged on its own merits, of which there are many.
Abé cut her teeth cooking at top London restaurants – most notably The Ledbury – before dazzling at Fulham’s The Harwood Arms (it retained its Michelin star and was named as the best gastropub in the country at the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs awards under her four-year tenure).
The 70-cover restaurant’s menu is distinctive and clearly penned by a chef that came up in kitchens that prioritised proper cooking over fiddling around with squeezy bottles. Dishes that rarely leave the menu include Abé’s much-loved knife and fork bacon - generous hunks of house-cured meat served with onions and sour cream - and perfectly cooked Cumbrian sirloin of beef with wild garlic, turnip and mustard.
With its red and pink colour palette and a theatrical yet informal approach to service, The Pem is no shrinking violet. “For me, going out for dinner is about having fun,” says Abé. We couldn’t agree more.