Another year of eating out and travelling comes to an end and I got try some amazing dishes, both sweet and savoury, not only in London but around the UK and indeed the globe. I can't wait to see what 2019 will hold when it comes to all things culinary! What was your favourite dish of the past 12 months?
CHEESE TOASTIE WITH CREAMED SCRAMBLED EGGS AND HOMEMADE BAKED BEANS @ EARLY BIRD, HELSINKI / FINLAND
This was an utter game changer when it comes to brunch and I wish I didn't have to travel all the way back to Helsinki to order it again. Simple sounding on paper (though when is a cheese toastie ever a bad idea), this was executed beautifully and I still dream of those creamed scrambled eggs that were like nothing I ever tasted before.
PRAWN LAKSA @ SAMBAL SHIOK, LONDON / ENGLAND
2018 was the year I got obsessed with laksa, a type of spicy noodle soup, hailing from South East Asia, that is warming, comforting and full of amazing flavours. The best version I have found so far a little closer to home has to no doubt be Sambal Shiok's offering on Holloway Road. This newly opened spot's menu is all about the laksa and rightly so because they make a bloody fantastic bowl of it for a great price. Sadly no longer a secret gem but one definitely worth queuing for.
BLUEBERRY AND WATERMELON SMOOTHIE BOWL @ CRATE CAFE, CANGGU / BALI
CARROT DONE THREE WAYS @ PIDGIN, LONDON / ENGLAND
My budget doesn't tend to stretch to haute cuisine on a regular basis but Pidgin is a gem of restaurant in the heart of East London that serves fine dining dishes at a very reasonable set menu price, in an unpretentious and welcoming restaurant space. The menu changes weekly and you can see the high level of craft that goes into every course served. On the occasion of our dinner here in the summer, my dining companion and I were simply stunned by this vegetable course and the intense flavours of the humble carrot it managed to deliver. Simple ingredients were elevated into something truly special and unforgettable, with a plate of carrot, lime peanut, lemongrass and ricotta delivering on every front. If you want a special meal in London that is worth a few pennies more my vote is for Pidgin, you'll sample dishes you won't forget in a hurry.
CORN FRITTERS WITH BEETROOT KETCHUP AND POACHED EGGS @ THE DISPENSARY, WINCHESTER / ENGLAND.
If I am honest the brunch game has not been at it's best in London for a while, after a wave of Antipodean inspired cafes opening a few years back I haven't had a standout brunch in quite some time, with most cafes veering into the VERY overpriced and bland when it comes to my favourite mealtime. I wasn't therfore expecting to have one of my best brunch experiences in a long time in a quaint English city like Winchester, which I visited for a pre-hen do weekend in the countryside, and was thus pleasantly surprised when the bride to be took us to this fantastic little spot in the centre of town.
The entire menu sounded fabulous (soft boiled duck eggs and parmesan soldiers with truffle and duck fat anyone?!) and way more imaginative than what I have seen in London of late and the corn fritters I went for in the end, served here with an incredibly tasty beetroot chilli jam, feta, perfectly poached eggs and rocket was not only a feast for the eyes, presented beautiful on equally eye catching plates (I am a sucker for good tableware), but was cooked to perfection and shock horror only cost me £9! London you better get your brunch game back on point because wow was I surprised what gems you can discover just a train ride away with added countryside as bonus!
PRINCESS CAKE @ BAGERIET, LONDON / UK
I've written about Bageriet's fantastic cinnamon buns before and if you are after a sweet Scandi treat, their tiny bakery, tucked away on a side street in the heart of Covent Garden, is the one for you. Their stand out baked good for me however has to be their take on the Prinsesstårta, a brightly coloured cake fit for a princess (a Swedish princess of course, to be precise Prince Carl's daughters during the late 19th century who were particularly font of this cake in their time) which consists of layers of light sponge, raspberry compote, vanilla custard, fresh cream and is encased in vibrant green marzipan. It is truly scrumptious, not too sweet, and almost like eating a cloud and boy once you have had your first slice here you will be planning a return visit asap. If you haven't had your very own piece of princess cake yet I suggest you make it a priority in 2019.
HAKE WITH ASPARAGUS, JERSEY ROYAL POTATOES AND A TRUFFLE (YES MORE) MUSHROOM CRUST @ BLANCHETTE EAST, LONDON / ENGLAND
BROKEN EGGS WITH FRIED POTATOES, GARLIC & PRAWNS @ CASA MACARENO, MADRID / SPAIN
Without a doubt part of the reason why this meal was so special was because of the company I enjoyed it with. I had been ditched by my planned travel companion for a weekend in Madrid a few hours before our flight but through my amazing network of friends quickly ended up agreeing to an impromptu late Friday lunch with a local friend of a friend who was up for showing me one of her favourite neighbourhood authentic tapas joints, Casa Macarano, and it definitely did not disappoint!
We got on like a house on fire, ordered plenty of fantastic wine and I left her in charge of the ordering, she of course in the know of what was good. Everything we ate was great but somehow this dish, essentially fried eggs, juicy prawns, fries and garlic was the stand out, true comfort food with its salty, juicy and crispy flavours, all beautifully coming together. I've been dreaming of this dish on many hungover occasion since and I, for sure, will return to Madrid one day to not only order this little star of a plate again but also to see the friend I luckily made that day for life.
VEGETABLE TAGINE @ AL FASSIA, MARRAKESH / MORROCO
I had plenty of tagines on my long weekend trip to Marrakesh but this one stood out by a country mile. Served at Al Fassia, a restaurant solely run and staffed by women which is not a given in a mostly Muslim country, it was part of their vegetarian set menu which also had a fantastic selection of starter dips and olives and perfectly encapsulated all the rich, slightly sweet yet earthy flavours that make Moroccan cuisine so unique.
Served in an authentic tagging clay pot and with a side of bulgur wheat, it was a truly fantastic way to serve vegetables in a satisfying and filling way and I have since often tried to make something similar at home. If you go for one meal in Marrakesh go to this spot, booking ahead is almost always a necessity for a reason.
HALLOUMI FRIES @ YES YES YES, HELSINKI / FINLAND
I mean who in their right mind would say no to halloumi fries with pomegranates, yogurt dressing and coriander?! And they not only sounded amazing, looked insta food porn worthy but also tasted the part - crispy and salty with a hint of sweetness from the pomegranate. This was ultimate lux junk food worth every single calorie.