The epic adventure continues. The first 6 months of 2009 were busy, busy, busy! The second half of the year got only busier, although busy from an industrious perspective as opposed to socialising. In that respect the year splits easily into two halves. Before I launch into that, I want to share something else with you.
Another important part of summing up 2009 is sharing my favourite places and experiences, from that superb burger at Hawksmoor, to Txacoli at Terroirs, to black pudding and egg mayonnaise sandwiches at Fernandez & Wells. Oh, and don’t forget their fab breakfasts. Huge breakfast muffins from The Flour Station, discovered first there and purchased from them at market since, every day bubbles from Bisol Jeio Prosecco, which became a strong feature of the year via Bibendum Wine & my stall at Covent Garden, blosoming courgette flowers given to me by the gardener at the allotment at St James Park, to be later stuffed with cheese, battered and deep fried. Those lamb chops at Tayyab’s sizzling and sashaying their way from the kitchen. Wonderful meat from Paganum. Bones for stock and marrow from my friendly butcher at the new Ginger Pig in Lower Marshes when I used to work nearby. These are my fond memories and favourite experiences. Hope you get to enjoy some of them too.
Some of the pics are iphone pics so please forgive the poor quality.
So, my favourites of 2009 are:
Terroirs – Natural wine bar Terroirs off the Strand in London was one of my favourite haunts in 2009. Great wine, lovely food, decent prices, and a lovely bar that is conducive to a solo hour here and there with a good book, particularly for me after work or before a gig, the cinema, meeting a friend, whatever fills the later part of the evening. Go for sparkling red Boisson Rouge or Basque favourite Txacoli. The downstairs restaurant boasts a cosy atmosphere and delicious bavette. There’s bavette upstairs too with caramelised onion. It’s where I bring visitors and treat myself.
Vinoteca – another very special wine bar in Farringdon, another place with excellent bavette, I love Vinoteca. I attended tastings, dinners, and had wine with friends. Each evening was great. It’s a wonderful place, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Try the Arco Nova Vinho Verde.
Beuajolais – At the other side of the divide is London stalwart, French wine bar the Beaujolais. Cosy and rustic, I go to the Beaujolais to escape the madness, listen to good music and share bottles of pinot noir with friends whilst gobbling hard boiled eggs with chilli sauce. The very best thing about it is the atmosphere and the friendliness, it reminds me of a good Irish pub, except they sell wine. I love it. I’ve not eaten here, so can’t comment on the food, but I have enjoyed the cheese board in the past.
Fernandez & Wells – great breakfasts, fantastic lunches, lovely wine to sip on in the evenings while you tease a potato with some raclette. Cosy and bright with well informed attentive staff. I love it here. Go for the cassoulet at lunch (not every day), fab rolls with chorizo and manchego, huge bowls of salad and breakfast of english muffins with fried eggs and Italian sausages.
Chilli Cool – my favourite Sichuan restaurant in London, of those I have tried (Angeles, Bar Shu, Snazz). I love the firey cuisine, the flavours and the colours, Go for the grouper and tofu hotpot and the stir fried and stewed jack beans. Really great prices too. I think they achieve what higher end versions like Bar Shu do, but at much lower prices, without the frills and with all of the flavour. I hope they maintain it now that they’ve expanded.
Le Cafe Anglais -I’ve had several good meals in 2009 at Le Cafe Anglais. It’s gorgeous and decadant with excellent food, and really it’s as pricey as you make it. When not feeling flush, I have an hors d’ouevre and main course with some good wine, and it’s super affordable. Perfect pork belly with lentils, excellent label anglais roast chicken from the rotiserie, and lovely Sunday brunches. My favourite is ham and eggs with a bloody mary and, of course, that parmesan custard with anchovy toast, pictured above. I love it there, and I am sure that you will too.
New Tayyab’s – Spiritual home of the spiced lamb chop, with fasntastic curries and dals, favourites are masala fish, lamb chop, slow roast leg of lamb, and their fantastic vegetarian curries. An absolute bargain and BYO to boot. It’s near perfect.
Hawksmoor – ever before the advent of the Blaggers’ Banquet, I have been a fan of Hawksmoor. The best burger in town for me, fantastic steaks, great cocktails and a lovely convivial atmosphere. It deserves to be as popular as it is, and I look forward to Girls Steak Club there next month, and their new central location later this year.
Bibendum Wines – from the annual tasting in the Saatchi gallery ( I can’t believe I forgot this in the January roundup – it was immense!), to the bloggers tastings through the year, to the many wonderful wines that they introduced me to, Bibendum and the people involved, particularly Dan & Willie are responsible for my fantastic wine education in 2009. I’ve always loved wine, but my knowledge was limited. These guys, with their lack of pretension and great range, are now my supplier of choice. I eagerly await the annual tasting at the Saatchi Gallery in a few weeks time.
Antepliler – local Turkish restaurant on Green Lanes, I love Antepliler for many things, partiuclarly their lahmucan. Turkish flatbread with minced lamb, spices and onion, woodfired in their enormous wood oven. Friendly, traditional and extremely local, it’s a real gem. I’ve eaten there many times this year and look forward to my first meal of 2010 there. The only thing I wouldn’t recommend is the “spicy carrot juice” which I think is made of turnips and vinegar. Turkish people love it but my palate, not so much.
Yasar Halim – Fantastic Turkish food shop, bakery and patisserie on Green Lanes. The first time you see the goat head in the butchers, it’s a shocker, but beyond that is the feta and halloumi counter, the great and very cheap fruit & veg, and all of the Turkish specialties including wild garlic yogurt. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, baked ricotta cheesecake or apple strudel next door should sort you out, or borek for those who are savoury minded. If you have a child, they have child sized trolleys, which are the cutest things I think I have seen in a while.
Jai Shri Krishna – a local vegetarian Indian restaurant in Turnpike Lane which is fresh and fantastic value. Family run and really friendly, I don’t understand why Jai Shri Krishna isnn’t packed to the rafters every night. It’s BYO so bring a bottle.
Frank Hederman Smoked Salmon – From decadent lunches in Selfridge’s with champagne, to packets purchased and coveted at home, Frank Hederman Smoked Salmon was one of my favourite products of last year. I loved my trip to visit his smokehouse in Cork, and it was the first product that I sold on the stall with home made cucumber pickle and soda bread. Also recommended are his smoked mussels in vinaigrette which are nothing short of divine.
Brindisa Chorizo – my favourite chorizo is the cooking chorizo from Brindisa in Borough Market and lots of good delis around London. Spiced and piquant, it graces soups, brunches, breakfasts, sometimes it just sits on top of toast having been braised in cider. Whatever you do with it, it’s always perfect, I love it! It was a big hit at market in the chorizo and pork sausage rolls.
Slow Roast Pork and Pork Belly – it was the year of pork, wasn’t it? Particularly the slow roast. I experimented with recipes and learned alot. Slow long cooking is the very best, but good pork to begin with is the secret. My favourite is cooking for at least 8 hours so that the pork is in shreds and you can pull at it with your hands. So flavoursome and intense. Delicious.
Burnt Aubergine – I have slayed many an aubergine over the gas flame on my stove. It’s now my favourite way to eat it. Smoky and creamy, I’ve made relsihes and dips with it, and look forward to further experiments next year.
Brunch – BRUNCH! Now that was what 2009 was. I’ve always loved the brunch, but this year, a weekend hardly went by without a decadent one. The humble potato meets porky pig in a frying pan, add herbs and various or no accoutrements,a fried, poached or baked egg, and, kabam, fabulous brunch.
And those, my friends, are my favourite things of 2009. Looking forward to what 2010 and the next decade brings. I’m ready and waiting!