As 2016 draws to a close I thought it was only fitting to look back at some of my favourite foodie highlights of the year, a year that saw me fortunate enough to travel to some amazing places around the world including New York, Helsinki and Berlin.
Let’s hope there will be a lot more tasty things to come in 2017 with some excited trips in the pipeline as well….
BEST NEW OPENING @ MORITO HACKNEY ROAD, LONDON
I was over the moon when this little gem opened just around the corner from me. Why? Well the fusion of tapas and Middle Eastern dishes served here works a real treat with every dish bursting with unusual, fresh and vibrant flavours. It is food made for sharing and one that will make you want to try the entire menu and come back for repeat visits when your belly doesn’t fit in anymore.
Morito for me stands for the best of London's restaurant scene- it is affordable, doesn’t play it safe when it comes to flavour combinations and unusual ingredients and puts a big fat smile on your face with every bite you take. The must try dish? Basically everything but if I had to pick one it would have to be the fried aubergines with date molasses and feta – you will never look at aubergines in the same way again…
Pizza is one of those things that is hard to get completely wrong but equally hard to absolutely nail. I had heard a LOT of good things about Roberta’s before my visit but luckily for once this place was worth all the hype. Yes, it has all the trimmings of a typical hipster dining spot- no reservations, achingly cool waiters and an outdoors seating area with a slightly tropical vibe but boy do they also know how to make incredible pizzas.
My choice of pizza here, the Cheesus Christ- a beautiful marriage of mozzarella, Taleggio, Parmigiano, black pepper served on the most incredible of thin yet crispy dough base was out of this world. I have had some great pizzas in my time including in Rome but this was something special. If you love pizza make this your first stop on any trip to New York.
BEST BURGER @ SHISO BURGER, BERLIN
I have to admit I consciously limited my burger intake in 2016 after too many years of too many, in my case veggie, burgers- London it seems engulfed in a never ending craze for this type of food with the likes Meat Liqour, Honest Burgers and Lucky Chip commanding ridiculous queues to get your hands on what is essentially a greasy filling between two pieces of bread. However I couldn’t help but make a visit to Shiso Burger on a birthday trip to Berlin this February after I found out that the burgers served here came with an Asian and to my delight fishy twist.
Yes, of course there are meaty burgers on the menu too but where Shiso excels and ticks a box that barely any burger joints in London do, is in their offering of fish based burgers that really make this place a pescecatarian’s dream. There is a salmon burger served with cream cheese and miso sauce for that Asian twist, a tuna burger served with Shiso leaf lettuce, coriander mayo and teriyaki sauce or what I went for on this occasion the rather incredible Ebi burger- a huge and juicy black tiger prawn served in a delightfully fluffy burger bun and combined with a honey and ginger mustard sauce and chili mayo.
In fact if my tummy had allowed I would have happily sampled all three in one sitting - this was inventive and delicious cooking that made burgers exciting again. London burger joints take note, Shiso does something no one else is doing here at the moment and I sure will be back to try more of their (non meaty) burgers that are far from predictable.
BEST COCKTAIL - CHAMPAGNE PAPI @ 7 TALES, LONDON
Order the champagne Papi at this super cool Japanese inspired basement cocktail bar in Farringdon and you will be served quite the spectacle. I won’t reveal too much but a vending machine, absinthe infused sugar cube presented in a baggy and a kinder egg style plastic bubble are all part of the final drink which also happens to be damn delicious. Not cheap at £15 a cocktail but worth every penny.
BEST DESSERT @ DOMINIQUE ANSEL, NEW YORK
Hands down the best dessert of the year has to be the frozen s’more from Dominque Ansel bakery. Enjoyed on a blasting hot New York summer day, this custard ice cream covered with crispy chocolate wafer and enrobed in modified frozen marshmallow is without exaggeration absolutely out of this world.
Luckily for Dominique Ansel has actually just opened his first bakery in London so all I can say is get yourself down there ASAP and be prepared to have your mind blown, I would even go as far that it is worth a trip to New York alone...
BEST THAI @ ROSA’S THAI, LONDON
2016 also saw me discover Thai food, in previous years being a little reluctant to explore this type of cuisine after a bad takeaway experience. Well one only gets older and wiser of course which is why I finally gave it another go and immediately fell in love with the fresh, spicy and gluten free (all noodles are made from rice) nature of the Thai dishes I began to try. Starting conservatively by ordering pad thai’s, I soon discovered Thai curries and quickly became obsessed with the depth of flavour and spice in red curries.
I tried A LOT of Thai takeaways along the way this year but Rosa’s stunned me with the consistently high quality of food delivered that allows you to have restaurant type food in the comfort of your own home. I am still ordering my way across the menu but their salmon red curry and signature aubergine are absolutely to die for while their pad thai is a classic executed perfectly here. I will be making many more hungover orders from Rosa's in 2017 and hope you will too.
BEST RESTAURANT LOCATION @ SKIFFER, HELSINKI
A picturesque tiny island off Helsinki’s coast that only has enough space to house a pizzeria and during the summer months also happens to serve some of the finest pizza and Aperol Spritz’s around…. sound too good to be true? Well Skiffer is very much reality and probably the most special spot that I have enjoyed food at this summer.
If ever you want that true holiday feeling here is the space, away from civilisation (well a 4 minute ferry ride from the mainland at least) and overlooking the vast coast this is as unique of a setting as you will ever enjoy pizza in. I already can’t wait to return next summer!
BEST BRUNCH @ PAPERBOY PARIS
Service may have been a little rude (or maybe just Parisian who knows..) but I absolutely adored the brunch “package” offered here that allows you to enjoy both sweet and savoury flavours as well as some of the most delicious bread I’ve had in a long time. For around 25 euros each you get a hot or cold coffee, a fresh juice of your choosing, a big bread basket full of unusual flavours and textures that is served with some fantastic jams and a homemade peanut butter and too finish things off a savoury main that comes with a sweet treat on the side. Sounds like a lot of food? Oh it is and you will eat until you physically cannot fit another bite in, so delicious is every component served.
My eggs royale were cooked to perfection and shared the plate with an equally fantastic slice of thick and juicy banana bread that was topped with peanut butter, banana and whipped cream. This isn’t your every day, run of the mill brunch or fry up and it is all the better for it in my eyes. We need this kind of inventiveness in London when it comes to brunching and I can only recommend an early morning trip here for anyone going to Paris in 2017 before the inevitable queues of local Parisians that know what’s good begin to form outside.
BEST COFFEE @ GRIND LONDON
I’ve continued to be quite the coffee snob this year, more often than I would like to admit sending back a badly prepared cappuchino (if you care to know it has to be skinny and extra dry for me), but to my positive surprise I’ve had consistently great coffee at every single of the Grind outlets around London. What’s more they don’t only serve great coffee but each location has a unique and very well conceived concept with my particular favourite being the Wes Anderson-eqsue Clerkenwell outpost with all it's luscious pink velvet seats and pastel tones. Don’t waste your time getting a terrible coffee at Starbucks and the like- there is likely to be a Grind near you wherever you are in London serving some stellar coffee.
BEST ROOFTOP BAR @ NETIL 360, LONDON
Yes, I visited some amazing rooftop bars in New York with views over the impressive NYC skyline, Le Bain in particular being located so high up a skyscraper itself that you felt almost able to touch the clouds, but Netil 360 is where I had some of my favourite memories this summer.
It’s rooftop views may be a little more humble, just about able to see our more subtle high rises in the city and a not so glamorous view of London fields, but this place just has a certain vibe about it with its fairy lights and open plan feel that makes it utterly charming. Enjoying the stars over London with one of their Aperol Spritz pints in hand ( a drink basically invented for me) this was the perfect place to start many nights out in London and I cannot wait to return when they open their doors again in 2017.