Who wants a list of the best restaurants or best dishes at the end of the year? Surely by that point, it all becomes irrelevant. January will hit hard. Pockets will be barely jingling with change and heads will be desperately trying to shake the after-festivities fog.
I’d rather seek out the good stuff to eat now, when we’re not even halfway through the year and the sun is out and my body can still take it. It gives me months to eat up and stock up.
I’m figuring you will feel the same and so here is my list of the best dishes I’ve eaten in London so far this year. You decide whether to eat them now or wait until winter dreariness sets in.
Cornish pollock with langoustine, gavi di gavi & wild garlic polenta
With a pollock fillet as big as a brick and a light but springy zestiness in the wild garlic polenta heap, this dish satisfied in both flavour and size. Did I break into the langoustine shell with my teeth to ensure I didn’t miss any of that sweet, sea flavour? You better bet I did.
Bread & butter
Rather than getting down on a place if the bread is the best dish it serves, we should celebrate that. Noble Rot had a lot of hype to live up to, with its head chefs previously having run the kitchens at The Sportsman in Whistable, one of my favourite restaurants on the planet. It didn’t quite match up to the effortless exquisiteness of the latter, but it definitely didn’t disappoint. When the bread dish was served, with an actual sour sourdough, a treacly soda and a dripping-in-butter-so-much-my-fingers-were-coated focaccia, it set the tongues wagging and the mood for the night.
Portobello mushroom, bagna cauda, raw turnip, rye
This dish shows you don’t need meat to make a plateful. Savoury, intense and unique with mellow, crunchy and smooth textures, the humble mushroom is elevated to levels of flesh and delight alongside its turnip friend.
Longhorn beef, pomme dauphine, asparagus, black garlic, truffle, dandelion
But then there are times, you just want meat and for those times, Pidgin more than delivers. The beef – rare and with notable fat still on, waiting to be chewed and savoured. The potatoes – soft like mash on the inside, crispy like roasties to crunch through on the outside. The asparagus – left in spears for presentation but plenty of sliced bottoms because that’s all what we want really. I could go on, but the fact is, this was utter perfection.
Poached eggs, sourdough toast & black pudding
Truth is, I don’t often go out for breakfast. It’s one of those meals – like a Sunday roast – I believe is most often done better at home. Frank’s proved me wrong though. Perfectly orange, runny yolks met soft and spiced black pudding in a Match.com approved relationship. To think, I waited so long to venture two minutes away from home and try this new breakfast favourite.
Grilled squid & chorizo
When you go to Escocesa (and you must), make sure you sit at the bar. That way, you can not only watch the chefs in all their glory, but you can also watch every dish they are expertly preparing to make sure you order them all. This was perhaps the finest cooked squid I’ve ever had, soft to cut, soft to bite, matched perfectly with crispy, meaty chorizo and a not-so-small dash of smoked paprika. Transferring you to climes much warmer than our fair shores allow.
I don’t often go back to the same restaurant, opting instead to try new places and new foods whenever I can. So it is a testament to Gokyuzu that not only have I been back again, but I have eaten there once a month since the beginning of 2016. And – I could have eaten there much more than that. With barbecued meat so tender and so smoky, you really have to stop yourself from devouring the whole lamb and a selection of bones to pick and chew from so perfectly charred, it’ll be a small miracle if you don’t develop the same addiction to this place that I have.
What are the best dishes you’ve eaten this year? I’d love to hear your recommendations. Let me know in the comments section.