We all know that cookery is the new rock and roll, but where to go if you want to learn the basics or improve your technique? Here's our round-up of London's best places to learn to cook, whether you're a keen amateur or don't know your béchamel from your bouillabaisse. And if you're stuck for a present for your loved one, their vouchers make great gifts.
The great thing about Atelier des Chefs isn't the gleaming kitchens or wonderful cookware shop in the basement, but the wide range of courses they offer, and the fact that you get to do as much or as little a you like. I sampled their fab half an hour 'eat on the run' special, where for £15 for you can drop by and learn to cook a specific dish and then sit down and eat it with your new chums. With a glass of good wine for £3.50, it's got to be the best sub-£20 lunch bargain in the West End, though the 60-minute £36 supper classes run it a close second. Their Gourmet Gift Cards make a perfect present.
What makes Billingsgate isn't just the fact that it's focused on fish and seafood but that it's upstairs from London's main daily wholesale fish market, and many of its courses start there, browsing and selecting what you're going to cook and learning how to spot quality – which is great for taking the fear out of fish cookery. Being a fish course, a lot of the focus is on preparation and knife technique – skills you'll have for life – but you also get to cook – and eat – some delicious fresh fish too. They also have great masterclasses with top seafood chefs, as well as brand-new 'Seafood Discovery Lunches' for 2014 – both of which will make top gifts for a foodie.
Winners of the 'Best UK City Cookery School' award this year, this is one of the longest-running and best all-round cookery schools in central London, and has excellent facilities and high quality teaching, but there's nothing at all cheffy about this place. Indeed the emphasis is on hands-on learning for all ages and levels of competence, and the teaching is fun, inclusive and authoritative. Their six-week intermediate course, covering all aspects of cookery, from pastry to sauces to meat and fish, is a great all-round skills primer for the keen amateur cook.
The only purely Italian cookery school in central London, run by Giancarlo and Katie Caldesi, who don't only teach their native Tuscan cuisine but indeed cookery from all the Italian regions, in exciting, interactive classes that involve everybody. Classes are energising and instructive, and very hands-on, and you get to cook – and eat – a lot. Come hungry, and if you can visit their fab café-restaurant on the next corner, which is truly one of central London's best Italian restaurants and a great place for a Christmas treat.