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A year in food: my 2014 “best of” (and 2015 wishlist)

Is it a bit of cliche to do a round up post for the year? Anyway, I enjoyed writing this one as it gave me a chance to talk about some places I never got to write about before on here – although you might have seen them ad nauseam on my Twitter and Instagram. How ironic! Sometimes the places I enjoyed the most didn’t make it to the blog due to lack of time, chasing the ype and life generally getting in the way – and it’s something I want to rectify in 2015 (#goodintentions). 

Here’s my personal best of, and waiting to hear about yours!

 

Best Italian

Well you all know I love good old-fashioned Latium and it’s a relationship that has been going on for a few years – but to spice things up a little, I do sometimes cheat on it with some new hot Italian new entry that looks promising. My 2014 “scappatella of the year” crown goes to Frescobaldi, a new opening in the Piccadilly-Mayfair area. Yes, THOSE Frescobaldi of wine royalty fame have a stake in it, and yes it is heavily focused on wines – from the elegant rooms decorated with painted grapes, to the sleek climatised cellar – but the food is nothing to sneer at.

The former chef of Zafferano and Shoreditch House dishes up a menu of Italian classics and innovative, airier dishes (that I see as more authentic, as I’ve ranted many times about Italian cuisine being intrinsically healthier and lighter than the cream-and-pancetta fest peddled by most). On opening night, the beetroot salad and the petit fours were inspired – less so a garlic heavy lobster linguine- but I’ll be seeing them again in 2015 and indulging in a glass or two.

frescobaldi london

A few images from Frescobaldi – check out that three-coloured beetroot salad.

 

Best Asian

If you also follow me on Instagram (you don’t?! it’s @orientespresso, click away) you already know: Somsaa, Somsaa, Somsaa. The 3-months residence at Climpsons Arch of two young chefs with serious Thai credentials (Bo.lan kitchen, anyone?) has been widely celebrated by critics and foodie types. I am not sure I am either, but Somsaa has seen me so often that it may have looked like proper stalking on said two young chefs and on their charming restaurant manager (former Goodman). Hey, I admitted to a bit of harmless chef worshipping in my post about the most hannoying habits of food bloggers.

At Somsaa I celebrated my birthday, my new job, cried over said new job first bumpy rides onto a glass of excellent “Kung Fu Girl” California Riesling and eaten an inordinate amount of their grilled chicken, sour soups and seriously fishy papaya salad – Isarn style please! All I want from NYE is a permanent venue for them so I can keep stuffing my face when I get nostalgic about South East Asia, and have a great time.

somsaa london

Yes, the pictures suck – the Climpsons Arch’s space is dark and broody. But don’t let this stop you catching the Somsaa popup wherever it reappears in 2015!
Special thanks to our friend Thorsten for modelling the dish!

 Best ramen

Wait, wait, isn’t ramen Asian? Well, in my book ramen is its own food group so deserves a special mention. I dug into and slurped my way through some commendable bowls this year, and also got my wish of more tonkotsu in East London (looking at you Tonkotsu East). In my eternal quest for the best ramen, I even made it to Paris where after a 1.5 hour long queue I finally tried the famous Naritake ramen, outstandingly rich and satisfying. I also tried Sasuke, a very authentic looking  Soho place serving a very solid ramen although the price can add up with “compulsory additions”.

But the best so far, for value and flavour, has to be at Kanada- Ya – a small joint with a strange name and sometimes unreliable opening hours and no reservations, and I wrote about it here. Slurp on!

Best “Unexpectedly Good”

When I got an invitation to check out The Jones Family, I first thought “what? where?“. Then I realized that it was indeed, as the nice PR girl mentioned, just next door to my former flat in Shoreditch and that I passed by a thousand times, glanced in once and dismissed it as yet another clever concept riding on the hipster/retro/party wave that has engulfed my once beloved area. Yet, reading about the serious restaurant and hospitality credentials of the team behind it (a “family” of longtime F&B professionals rather than a cynical marketing plot) convinced me to give it a try, and I am glad I did.

The upstairs area may be your typical post-work drinking hole and yes, the décor can be a touch Shoreditch-cheesy, but the music changes once you get downstairs.   A vast open kitchen hides a Jasper oven ; the staff was competent and cheerful; and we sat for a serious feast from the grill. Both the surf (ahi tuna steak) and the turf (ribeye steak) were excellent, the cocktails proper punchy, but the stole was shown by the unlikely hero: the truffled Mac and cheese. I don’t like M&C as a rule (snobby Italian that I am) but the Italian waitress vouched for it and we had to try it – and it is indeed amazing if you’re a fan of the less gloopy, more crunchy type. In short, I invite you to look behind the appearances and to give the Jones Family a chance to welcome you.

 

Best in “(my) Neighbourhood”

As you may have noticed, this year I did not just made a big move back from Singapore to London, but also changed postcodes- from Shoreditch to outer Hackney, in the Wick. So for the love of precision (and also so that I don’t have to decide between two favorite places) I elect as “my local place for 2014″

- for Shoreditch/Hoxton: 8 Hoxton Square. I can’t fault this place: the service, always upbeat and passionate about the food no matter how busy the place, the creative but solid small plates, the inventive mains (a seabream with chanterelles and saffron left me literally scraping the plate). The menu changes constantly and you may have a not-so-great dish occasionally, but never a bad time – especially when the house red is #2.50 a glass and comes from my native Abruzzo. Cheers to that!

- for Hackney E9: The Adam and Eve – a lovely, historic, slightly fraying at the edges local pub whose kitchen has been taken over by chef Matt Chatfield and the great produce from the Cornwall Project. Whilst our new house was under refurbishment, many times we seeked refuge into the superb comfort of roasts, the savouriness of the veggies, and most of all (quoting my friend Tim @clerkenwellboy here) *THAT * scotch egg. Now that the house is almost done, we are so addicted that we still end up for Sunday roast almost every week and consider ourselves fortunate it’s walking distance (although I’ll soon need elasticated waistband trousers).

 

Best “random find”

Although it may not seem like it, I am not AS obsessed by food as to plan my every single meal out or move big distances to some place to try – I am far too disorganised for that, plus I had an unusually disorganised year even for my standards with the house move and so on. Day in day out, if I am around on errands I often do grab the first decent looking thing available. Most times is just filling grub, occasionally is a great find- and this was the case with Piebury Corner, a little shop located near Highbury Corner (see what they did there) and serving excellent homemade pies, proper mash, peas and gravy for very reasonable prices. Their kidney pie and the Stilton and beef are favourites of mine, but go explore more of the range if you happen to be in the Holloway/Highbruty & islington area.

 

Best Street Food Event

I reluctantly called this “street food” as it’s becoming such a cliche’ and often a marketing gimmick to sell overpriced food without having to think about where or how people will eat it, plus the excuse of not giving you a napkin. But for the lack of better wording, this will do. It’s hard to say how an event or concept is “better” than another, as they are hardly comparable – all have their particular vibe, size, moment of the year etc. and the presence of lack thereof of a handful of traders can make a big difference. After all the disclaimers, I should proceed without further ado to name KERB (Hackney Wick and Clapham), Street Feast Dalston and the small but promising winter new entry Turntables as my faves for 2014.

kerb london, turntables london

 

Best of the best

Lyles – as I wrote extensively about it, I won’t repeat myself, you can read my (slightly gushing, I admit it) blog post here. I know, Lyles has a become a bit of a darling of the blogging scene – but don’t let this discourage you, you can still not be a bloggerati and enjoy it, take it from me.

 

My 2015 Wishlist:

– The Dairy, Clapham: the foodie crowd loves it, so I’ll have to check it out to see if they’re right.

– Peckham Refreshment Rooms: my boyfriend can’t stop raving about it, so I’ll have to check it out to see if he’s wrong.

– Spring: I can dream, can I? Maybe if I get a bonus

– The Square: just because

– The Sportsman in Kent

– in general, eat more good food outside of London

 

That’s all folks! What were your favourite restaurants in 2014? Let me know in the comments!

 

P.S. My favourite foodie trip in 2014 was to Laos – you can discover why here.

 

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. let’s do the Square together. On my list too!

    • Yes. Let’s go and eat ALL THE FOOD (let’s leave the diet at the door ;)

  2. some great choices on there

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