In no particular order (just the order that things came to me on one hungry December commute home from work..), here are my favourite dishes from 2015. Some are from restaurants, many in London, some further afield and some are from pop-ups and food stands and one is even from Dominos. Some aren’t even edible, but drinkable. Whichever one may fall into, I whole-heartedly recommend it. It certainly helped to make my year.
Barbecue Ox Cheek Doughnut in Apricot Jam at Duck and Waffle, Heron Tower
2015 marked our first visit to Duck and Waffle. Obviously, the namesake dish was a highlight but it was the barbecue ox cheek in a squishy doughnut, rolled in paprika sugar and served in a pool of apricot jam that made it onto this year’s top dish list. Read a bit more about it and the other sweet v savoury plates we devoured here. We’ve booked Duck and Waffle again for early 2016 and I was lucky enough to receive this for Christmas, so expect to see more on the subject soon!
Lamb Belly at The Plantation, Poole
A massive plus of moving from the North to London is the spontaneous trips home I can take to my Dad in Poole. On a whim earlier this year I hopped on a train to join him for lunch, and it just so happened that the restaurant I was ready to suggest on arrival was the one he’d already booked for that day. It’s like we’re related! The Plantation is a beautiful conservatory come restaurant, serving really lovely and quite fancy food. If pork belly is on the menu I’ll often gravitate towards it but I’d never tried lamb belly before, which was divine. It was probably my favourite part of the several courses we devoured but the peanut brittle and ice cream with blueberry jelly that followed was pretty special.
Muscavado Tart at Cafe Murano, Covent Garden
But the award for my dessert of the year goes to… Cafe Murano. So good that I insisted on my family Christmas celebration being at Cafe Murano so my dad could try it, the Muscavado Tart is like nothing you’ve ever tasted before. It’s not what you’d expect when you order it and still a little confusing once you’ve seen it (see it here) but it’s incredible. Soft yet bouncy, sweet but a little tangy and utterly delicious – I could eat it forever.
Rib of Beef with Beetroot and Mushroom at Nada, Cologne
Fine dining in one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited brought me rib of beef with beetroot and mushroom. And potentially my favourite ever red wine, Black Print. If you know where I can get it in the UK, holler! Read more about Nada here.
Cheese Fondue at The Lodge, Clapham
I’m a fondue fanatic, which is why Jimmy’s pop-up in Clapham tickled my fancy. If you are too, a decadently cheesy, wine-y concoction served with crisp yet soft spuds awaits at the now permanent restaurant. Read my full review here.
Nobody does boeuf bourguignon like the French, obv, but I wasn’t prepared for the taste that Chez Papa, a tiny restaurant in Opéra, had waiting for me – so meaty, generous, rich and lip-smackingly good, that I don’t know that a day will come when I don’t compare every boeuf bourguignon I eat to that one. Not to mention the accompanying boulangerie potatoes…
At the end of the year, we were lucky enough to jet off to Cuba. The food we sampled when we took a few days out in Havana was really good – simple – but really good. Think roast pork with pineapple, rice, beans and root vegetables. This Munchies article is quite brilliant at providing a bit more insight when it comes to Cubans, their eating habits and their lifestyle. I’m here to talk caffeine though. The coffee in Cuba was on another level. And they know it. This coffee-avoider was drinking three cups of the stuff pre-brekkie every morning. The taste? Strong and caramel-y. You’d love it.
Porn Star Martini at Distrikt, Leeds
Angelica’s (another cocktail bar in Leeds) wet my passion fruit martini whistle but Distrikt well and truly bowled me over with their Porn Star Martini. What’s not to love about a sweet sweet cocktail served with a glass of champagne? Make it at home yourself with this easy Porn Star Martini recipe.
Salt Beef Sandwich at Monty’s Deli, Bermondsey
Move over Beigel Bake – this year Monty’s was crowned best salt beef in town, IMHO. Nestled beneath an arch in Bermondsey, in less than salubrious surroundings, served on paper plates and creaky canteen tables, the Reuben salt beef and sauerkraut sandwich with a side pickle is divine.
Frank’s Buffalo Chicken Wings at Domino’s, Nationwide
2015 was the year I discovered Frank’s. Thank you Domino’s, I will forever be in your debt. Tart but totally addictive, this hot sauce is great on everything but best of all on the pizza place’s chicken wings. Order some tonight.
Goat Kofta at Gourmet Goat in Borough Market, London Bridge
Have you tried goat? Tangy, light but meaty the goat kofta accompanied by lentils, soured cream and a chilli relish from Gourmet Goat, who have a stand at Borough Market, opened my eyes to this underrated meat.
Gin and Ginger Cocktail at Bombay Sapphire Distillery, Hampshire
A great day out that I cannot recommend enough – if you find yourself in the depths of Whitchurch, Hampshire, check out the Bombay Sapphire distillery. We booked the self-discovery tour (£15), which entails finding your way around some beautiful glass domes, gardens and info boards before being met in the botanical room by someone knowledgeable, who’ll take you round the working distillery, before you get to sip your very own cocktail. The cocktail I chose was a combination of Bombay Sapphire gin, martini bianco, elderflower cordial and fresh ginger, and it’s one I’ve been recreating for guests since. Sharply sweet and a little bit fruity, one is just not enough.
House Black Daal at Dishoom, Shoreditch
If you live in London you’ll have no doubt heard about or been to a Dishoom. It’s a modern Indian restaurant where you can have a bacon naan for breakfast and an indulgent mix of sharing things ranging from Gunpowder Potatoes to Chilli Cheese Toast to Murgh Malai come lunch or dinner. The restaurant in Shoreditch is my favourite and no doubt shockingly for those who know me and my meaty ways well, the vegetable daal they serve is high on my list of 2015 tastes (the infamous lamb plate is close behind). It’s creamy and dense, really tomato-y and excellent with a Peshwari naan.
Hawksmoor Breakfast For 2 at Hawksmoor Guildhall, Bank
The king of breakfasts is only available in one of the four Hawksmoor venues. It’s the one in Bank and it opens early, presumably for all the business buffs. There’s no point in ordering anything other than one of my top dishes of 2015, the Hawksmoor Breakfast for 2. Complete with smoked bacon chop, sausages, (made with pork, beef, & mutton), black pudding, short-rib bubble & squeak, grilled bone marrow, trotter baked beans, fried eggs, grilled mushrooms, roast tomatoes, HP gravy and unlimited toast, you won’t want to eat for days. But I’d recommend squeezing in a breakfast cocktail for good measure.
Small Plates Galore at Primeur, Cannonbury
Twitter made me aware of several foodie must-tries this year, but the best intro of all had to be Primeur. I was stalking the timeline of a local writer I like and noticed she was boooking a table at least once a week via the social media platform at ‘Primeur’. There’s not too much more research you can do on the place but basically it’s a small, dark venue, with big communal tables in Cannonbury. And at the time you could only get a table via Twitter. That’s not the case now. The menu is different every night and written up on a great big chalk board at the back. Plates are generally share-y, with the Beef Cheek and Pumpkin Something Or Other the standout dishes for me. If you go the menu will no doubt be different though. The red wine selection here is superb too, with lots of the bottles containing low intervention vino from lesser known vineyards.
Duck Massaman at Tai Corner Cafe, East Dulwich
This one is a little rogue. I’m not sure Tai Corner Cafe counts as a restaurant as it’s basically someone’s living room in East Dulwich, open of an evening for tai-lovers with a penchant for BYOB and cheap, authentic food. But there’s a sign above the door and the Duck Massaman was one of my 2015 highlights, so let’s call it a restaurant. A homely one.
Blue Cheese Chicken Wings at The Flying Pig, East Dulwich
Tuesday night at The Flying Pig is wing night. And you’ll be charged the small price of 35p per big, fat juicy wing in a choice of about six sauces / spices. My favourite is the blue cheese sauce. The wing itself appears to have come from a terra dactyl and the blue cheese is strong, creamy and topped with something green to make you feel better about trying to beat the wing-nomming record but only managing 20.
Carrot Cake at Gail’s Artisan Bakery, East Dulwich
Carrot cake is my go-to cake-with-tea cake. I’ve never made it myself because I’ve tasted how easy it is to get wrong and I don’t want to ruin it for myself. I have it on good authority that Nando’s does a fabulous fudgy take on the classic but it’s Gail’s triple layer lovely, oozing with cream cheese frosting that has won my carrot-craving heart. It’s divine, every single time. Should you be in the area, I favour the Dulwich Village venue, perfect in summer with its cute outside tables.
Fish Taco at Carousel (Rosie Birkett’s residency), Marleybone
While Rosie’s week-long run at Carousel was one of my fave foodie experiences of 2015, I let Alex have this one, because he bloody loved the fish tacos she served, and as a non-fish-eater, I couldn’t possibly comment. His three-word review? Fresh, unusual and filling.
Lomo Fillet Steak at Gaucho, Canary Wharf
I know I’m not alone when I say, I’ve had alot of bad steak at restaurants (and at home, but I’ve got it down now – good quality rib eye or fillet from the butcher, brought to room temperature, seasoned well, cooked hot and quick and left to rest for as long as it can be resisted!). Flat Iron, Hawksmoor, CAU and Tramshed are all good. But the best? Gaucho. The whole experience is incredible and the front of house are so well-informed. The meat is melt-in-the-mouth and so flavoursome that even the sauce-fanatic over here doesn’t neeeeeed the peppercorn or blue cheese goo (but it’s a nice extra!). For Argentinian steak that won’t disappoint, check out a Gaucho near you. And perve on my most-recent visit here.
What were your top eats of 2015? Where are you headed for 2016?