Archive | January, 2012

Mishkin’s – Twice

29 Jan

I like to talk about how I am Jewish even though I am not (apparently half Jewish doesn’t count). I spent almost every Sunday of my childhood in Golders Green eating potato latkes, salt beef sandwiches, kosher sausages, cheesecake etc which does help with my pretence. I can at least claim that I have an encyclopedic knowledge of Jewish cuisine to people who do not know any better.

I don’t go to Golders Green much anymore and since Bloom’s deli has closed I am not really sure where the good places are to eat. This has meant I haven’t had a potato latke in years, probably one of my most favourite foods in the world. I was pleased therefore when Mishkin’s opened in Covent Garden. They describe it as ‘a kind of Jewish deli with cocktails’ and as I am ‘a kind of Jew’ I figured that would be good enough for me. Also, from the collection of restaurants Spuntino, Polpo, Da Polpo, Polpetto, Da Polpettopinopolpetti (one of these may not exist) I was more or less guaranteed a good time.

On a chilly day in December I crossed the river after work and hungrily hurried into the warmth of Mishkin’s. Tucked away into a corner sat Mark and his mother, Sheila, and I went to join them. I like the aesthetic of Mishkin’s, much like the others it has cool, rustic charm and yellow tinted lighting. I looked at the menu and said things like ‘ah yes, glad to see a potato latke here’ and ‘it will be interesting to see how their Reuben compares to my authentic memories of the sandwich’. In the end I ordered neither and opted for the Duck Hash, Fried Egg and Liquor because as the regular readers will have noticed I cannot resist an egg.

Just look at that plump, round, glowing yolk. Look at how it is just ready to burst with yellow creamy liquid. As already established I love egg, I also love fried potatoes and duck so you can imagine what I thought of the dish as a whole. It was comfort food in its most pure and perfect form. The liquor that I poured on top was essentially a rich and silky gravy, elevating it to something quite special. Thinking about this has tempted me to buy a whole duck so that I can recreate a really big portion of it. My belly knows no limits. We all dipped into each others dishes, but I am ashamed to say that I was incredibly greedy and was less inclined to share mine. Naomi did very well, Mark and Sheila had a comparatively poor deal.

Mark ordered Meat Loaf, partly in preparation for the meat loaf we were planning to cook the following week. I’ve always been wary of the appeal of said lump of compressed meat as I am not sure what can make essentially a loaf of minced beef taste that good. As we waited for our meal we were informed that Mark’s dish would arrive a bit late as the soft-boiled egg in the middle of his meat loaf had burst so the whole thing needed to be made again. My ears pricked up. It now had the makings of a promising dish. It was presented in a mini loaf tin and was glistening with meaty flavour. And eating it… lets just say trying this was confirmation that cooking our own would be a great idea. Unfortunately, my attempt at a soft-boiled egg in the centre was not as successful.

Sheila went for Oxtail Cholent with Barley, Beer and Beans. It didn’t look or taste quite as I had imagined it, being pale in colour and more creamy than meaty in taste. I thought it was delicious and much like the steak and eggs at Spuntino, this will be the one plate of food that I will order time and time again in the future. I’m having a bit of a love affair with barley and its many forms at the moment – if deep, warm, pure love were a texture, that would be it.

I had rice pudding for dessert and as there is no such thing as bad rice pudding it was good. Not the best I have ever had, but better than Ambrosia, and I do really like Ambrosia. Mark had Bananas Foster because I made him have it, which is unkind of me as I don’t think Mark really likes bananas. Cover a banana in caramel though and not even he could complain.

As it was approaching Christmas I treated myself to a mulled gin because lama lo? as my grandmother would say (it is Hebrew for ‘why not?’ – yeah, that’s right). I say I treated myself but it was actually Sheila who paid for it all and I am eternally grateful. I do like Sheila (not just because she bought me lunch).

So hoorah and l’chaim etc. I had a fantastic time. But I am not done, oh no. This post is titled ‘Mishkin’s – Twice’ for a reason and I think you can guess why. I went back a few days later, mainly because I had not tried the famous Reuben that everyone seemed to wax lyrical about even before they had tried it. I had bumped into a friend on my first visit and she confirmed that yes, I should try it and that was about all the encouragement I needed. Another stroll across the river after work led me back to Covvy G and into the embrace of Mishkin’s. This time round I was not given much of an opportunity to consider anything else on the menu as I was told I had about 10 minutes to order before the kitchen closed. Luckily I already knew what I wanted, but it did mean I forgot about the opportunity of bringing my lips to a potato latke once more which has made me sad.

I ordered Chicken Matzo Ball Soup to start as people seem to love this to infinity as well. Understandable as there are few things more comforting than chicken broth with dumplings – it is the perfect thing to eat when ill. I was a little underwhelmed by the soup as I found it rather bland. The matzo balls were boom and warm all the way through which was particularly nice as anytime I have it at home the centre tends to be cold. I know the flavour of the broth is meant to be subtle but a couple of shakes of salt wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Nevermind, I had the Reuben on Rye with Pastrami, Sauerkraut, Russian Dressing and Swiss Cheese to contend with next. Cripes it was mighty. I realised my first course was entirely unnecessary in my attempt to get full. From pictures I assumed that the bread to filling ratio was slightly off in the same way that an average sandwich shop panini always appears to be 97% ciabatta and 3% filling. I assumed wrongly, there was plenty of everything between the rye. I was pretty sure I had tried a Reuben before but after my first bite I knew I was mistaken – it didn’t taste anything like I imagined it was. I am afraid to say I was not that keen. It was very creamy from the dressing and cheese and a bit sweet from the pastrami. The sauerkraut wasn’t strong enough to cut through the richness of it which meant that the whole sandwich felt a bit one-dimensional. This made me sad, especially when it defeated me half way through and I had to give up. Not before I did that revolting thing of dismantling the sandwich and messily scooping out the filling I wanted – namely the sauerkraut.

It is partially my fault as I always seem to forget that I don’t like pastrami. Why have it when you can have salt beef? But I do miss that aniseedy rye I used to devour so greedily all those years ago in Golders Green. Will I ever taste it again? Oh Bloom’s, how you have left a loaf shaped hole in my heart. As my favourite Jewish saying goes, when one door closes another door closes. I left Mishkin’s the second time round a little disheartened. Isn’t it terrible how choosing the wrong thing on the menu will ruin a potentially good time?

I’ll be honest, I am not as discouraged as all that, I do plan to go back. Memories of the potato latkes of my childhood keep flooding back and a craving is developing that just won’t go away until it is satisfied. I often find myself distracted thinking of soft and crispy shredded potato and the smell which is like no other. Though Bloom’s may have let me down, I think Mishkin’s will be a very good place to start.



Restaurant Sat Bains

21 Jan

You may remember a little while ago I went to Fortnum & Mason to sample the food of Sat Bains. He left a comment on my blog explaining that the bits of puffed rice I so enjoyed the cardboardy taste of was the missing crackling I criticised about the dish. This made me exceptionally giddy because not only had someone read my blog, it was the man himself. It was my biggest blog success story yet and I think I rather excitedly told everyone I knew about it the next day.

Now you may also have noticed that a couple of weeks ago I listed my Top 10 Meals of 2011 and Restaurant Sat Bains came out tops. As lovely as it was, this was not referring to my F&M trip, but to a later excursion to his actual restaurant in Nottingham. I’m surprised Mark and I haven’t made it up there before as I think one of the first things he ever said to me was ‘yeah, and I really want to go to Restaurant Sat Bains’.

So early December we found ourselves sitting in Mark’s Nissan Micra in the car park watching one of the front of house staff peer at us from inside the restaurant in order that he open the door at just the right time. We tested his patience for a few seconds while I also got over a small bout of giggles, often incurred by excitement but also by funny situations, and we headed out the car and up the pathway into the warmth of Restaurant Sat Bains. The door was opened with grace and class.

We were given menus and we pretended to deliberate to stop ourselves from looking too greedy when we really wanted to shout ‘THE ONE WITH THE MOST FOOD’. There is choice between two tasting menus, one being smaller than the other. I was sad to wave goodbye to pearl barley, oxtail and smoked bone marrow as well as the apple-parsnip treacle sponge as part of the 7 courses. But then 10 courses does sound infinitely more appealing. On top of that we also decided to share Sat Bains’ winning dish from Great British Menu a few years ago – duck egg, ham and peas.

I also decided to go for the matching wines. I hoped that by going to more and more good restaurants I would begin to learn more about wine. Sadly, this is not the case, but I have learnt that it does get me pissed. I am a lightweight and just two glasses will have me gripping onto the table for balance. So obviously the promised ten glasses of wine to accompany my meal was a brilliant idea. I am telling you about my poor ability to handle alcohol in order to both explain and apologise about both my memory and the quality of the photos I took that night. I may not remember some of the finer details and almost every photo I took is completely blurred which is perfectly representative of my inebriation that night but is also a real shame because everything looked so exquisite. Ironically the only clear photograph was the following:

I will insert only the less awful of my poor collection of images and you will just have to take my word for it when I say something looked beautiful.

We had a very exciting amuse bouche titled NG7 2SA which is the postcode of the area. It was a horseradish panna cotta with nettle puree. Great to start things off with an easy texture (I’m like a baby, I love easy textures) and fresh savoury flavours. Palate definitely whetted. We were then presented with the famous duck egg. So it turns out that cooking an egg in a water bath at a very particular temperature for a number of hours will make it taste really really good. Like better than the extra £15 we had to pay for it. It created a wonderful thick, creamy and unctuous sauce over the sweet and refreshing peas and salty ham. I’ve never tasted anything like it and doubt I will again. There was a scoop of pea ice cream that stunned me with every bite because of the intense pea flavour. I would eat it again on a cone I enjoyed it so much, though maybe without a flake.

Now to hit the tasting menu. We started off with Scallop, Pork Belly, Crackling and Piccalilli. It was very similar to the pork dish we had at F&M so this time I took the opportunity to concentrate on the taste of the puffed crackling. The overriding taste was not of cardboard as I had originally stated, but of crackling. I now realise that I should probably not eat so fast in the future. Much like the one we tried before, this version with sweet scallops was very edible.

The next dish was another treat on the easy texture scale with ‘Fish Pie’. I think this was Mark’s least favourite dish because from what I remember it was ultimately some grated potato on top of some bits of flaky fish. Call me a girl of simple tastes or maybe even a girl who is boring, but I really liked it. It slid down my gullet like a treat and with minimal chewing effort. It wasn’t packed with flavour but because of that I found it comforting which I believe is the essential role of a fish pie, with or without the inverted commas.

Dish number three was probably my favourite. Another name in inverted commas, this one was called ‘Allium’. Apparently I am the only person in the world who didn’t know that allium means onion, something I found out when describing my meal to many in the weeks to come, and because of that I had no idea what to expect. I find my most favourite dishes are the ones that surprise me, and this one certainly did.  It consisted of a jar filled with french onion soup that was almost custard like in thickness and creaminess and onion oil, all topped off with crispy shallots. I am not a massive soup fan usually because it is the same with every mouthful, but when something has such perfect and intense flavour having just one substance to gulp down means that you can fully concentrate on what it tastes like. In this case a really good version of those onion ring crisps. Yes please.

English Duck with Asian Influences was a cold dish of duck liver parfait sandwiched between what I think was crispy duck skin. I enjoyed this very much and was glad we hadn’t peaked on protein too early as often a slab of hot meat will send me into a coma. The peanuts scattered around the sides were a welcome addition. This was followed by Salt Baked Celeriac with Chicken Juice. I don’t like celeriac as a well established rule. This stems from all the times when I was young where I would dip a spoon into a bowl of mash and bring it to my mouth expecting the bland comfort of potato only to be greeted by the taste of celery. I would despair at the cruelty of my mother and vowed never to eat it again. However, like most old laws, my prejudice against celeriac has now become dated. I am beginning to like it, especially when bathed in delicious chicken juice that I could have drank by the gallon. Just don’t try tricking me into believing it is potato.

Around this point my speech was becoming slurred and I was seeing double. Though I did manage to give off a responsible appearance as the sommelier (who was just brilliant) told me I was doing such a good job he would treat me to a bigger glass for my next course. I am not sure what job it was that I was doing so well but it is nice to have some appreciation all the same. Thankfully I was also presented with some meat to help soak up some of the alcohol in the form of Roe Deer, Cauliflower, Chocolate and Quince. Unfortunately that glass of wine really did take its toll on me all I remember is that I enjoyed it. 

I was offered a glass of port with my cheese course and I think my response was something along the lines of ‘OH MY GOD WHAT I WILL DIE’ so I didn’t take the sommelier up on the offer. The cheese course was a lot more exciting than the one at F&M but much along the same theme of a slice of cheese accompanied by some carbs. I shared with Mark some stilton with an eccles cake and truffle tournoise (I have no idea how to spell it) on top of some fried raisin bread. Mark asked if the tournoise was a brie as my sister who works in a cheese shop has been banging on about truffle brie since she started working there. We were told ‘no, it is a tournoise’ which is fair enough, but it tasted like truffle brie to me.

Three deserts followed after ‘The Crossover’ which was a blend of sweet and savoury flavours in the form of beetroot and goats cheese granita. Blackberries, Tarragon, Rocket and Vanilla was akin to the berry desert at F&M and was just as fabulous. So fresh! Chocolate, Coffee and Salt was a rich slab of a ganachy chocolate cake which was delicious but probably the least exciting dish on the menu. Sea Buckthorn, Pine and Meringue was most excellent. Almost like a sea buckthorn flavoured cheese cake, it was creamy but also had a great balance of sweet and sharpness.

We finished on a high and our bellies were the right kind of stuffed which means it didn’t involve pain. We were about to order some tea and ask for the bill but the sommelier stopped us in our tracks with another glass of wine and the words ‘I don’t know what you have done but they really like you in the kitchen’. Another dessert miraculously appeared and we were told it was inspired by cardboard and was cooked in a cardboard cup. It was the apple and parsnip treacle sponge I had lusted over only a couple of hours before! And I loved it!

We were then invited into the kitchen to meet Sat where I felt I had to explain that I do really like cardboardy tasting things, it was never a criticism. I would also like to take this opportunity to explain I do really like those onion ring crisps, so that is also not a criticism. As you can imagine I was very giddy and I found out he was not scary like I first thought – he was lovely!

I woke up the next day in a B&B wearing a hangover hat that I just could not remove and picked at the full english I had ordered the night before in a fit of hungry. The bacon was rolled into a sausage shape and I am still questioning why it was. On the long car journey back home Mark and I repeatedly asked each other ‘do you remember when we had that cardboard dessert?’. In fact we still ask each other that question but a little less frequently, maybe a couple of times a day. If that isn’t a sign of a meal well enjoyed, I don’t know what is.


14 Jan

Following our meal at The Vineyard Mark has suddenly become more enthusiastic about repeat visits to restaurants. From someone who used to balk at the idea of eating at the same restaurant more than once when there are hundreds of other places to try, I am not sure why his second visit to The Vineyard has inspired him thus.

Though I suppose during a visit to his parents’ up North, it is only natural that we dine at Northcote. Whenever I show people the area that I grow up I feel I have to take them to every single local restaurant or cafe that I have once enjoyed, or at least walk them round a long route just to point them out. I am not sure what this achieves but I do it anyway. So I can understand Mark’s enthusiasm, especially when a cheap lunch menu is on offer.

I did have a bit of a strop when I was guilt tripped into agreeing to order from the lunch menu after drooling over the a la carte. Why would I want chicken when I could order a dish (I can’t remember what the main component was) that came with fondue on the side? Well, precisely. But apparently I cannot spend what does not exist, that being the money in my bank account.

Like charm itself I sulked during the entire car journey and I sluggishly sat on the sofa in the living room at Northcote Manor, staring mournfully into the crackling fire. Our menus were handed to us along with some crackers and dip and within moments my mood spun 180 degrees into joy – the lunch menu and a la carte courses were interchangeable and for just a few extra pounds I wouldn’t have to endure the chicken. What made the menu even more attractive was that it gave wine recommendations alongside certain courses or particular meats and by the glass at not ridiculous prices. I didn’t have to play the game of yes the second cheapest wine looks good, I just picked the wine that went well with hare, my a la carte substitute.

I chose my starter based on the side that came with it. I am a sucker for potato skins, though my main experience of them tends to be on the yellow and pink rubber side (also known as ‘bacon and cheese’). The fact they came with leek and potato soup was irrelevant.

With few exceptions soup generally sends me into a state of depression. The only way I can describe this dislike is that it is just soooouuuuup. This one was not just soooouuuuup, but it was not Mark’s Potato Wrapped Wild Rabbit, Lentils and Bacon Foam.

Potato skins aside (which were very tasty topped with a goats cheese mousse, if not a little burnt), I was never going to win on this one. The potato was shredded, wrapped around the rabbit and fried in what I imagine was quite a lot of fat. Lentils are lentils, but the bacon foam was pretty good too.

I definitely upped the stakes with my main course of Loin of Hare, Potato Wrapped Homemade Black Pudding, Girolles, Celeriac Puree and Cherries.

I had tried hare once before at Launceston Place, it was braised and had a delicious pistachio crust. It was wonderful but did nothing to prepare me for the intensity of flavour of this particular loin. It had a strong iron taste almost like liver but with more depth and an almost disolvable texture that only needed a couple of chomps to disintegrate. I had the added joy of the black pudding that was treated like Mark’s rabbit. The girolles were delicate and silky on the tongue and the cherries cut through the richness and creaminess of it adding a welcome fruity tang.

Mark decided to splash out as well and ordered the Grouse Wellington, Sweet and Sour Turnip Puree, Roast Pear and Grouse Parfait.

That is what I copied from the website, but I have a feeling there was some apple on the plate, I just can’t remember so please forgive me. From August 12th Mark had been obsessed with trying grouse for the first time. He went through a phase of searching through menus to find the bird and alerting me to the restaurant and how much they charged for it whenever he hit the jackpot. I thought he may have built up his expectations until they were more than a little unrealistic but I needn’t have worried, he loved it. It really was very good. It came with crunchy balls of potato which were a welcome and moreish addition. Despite the success of this dish, I personally believe I won this round.

I was happy to revert back to the lunch menu for desert as it included the magic words ‘Rice Pudding’. I liked it very much because I love rice pudding and there is no such thing as bad rice pudding. It was sprinkled with yellow raisins which I like the taste of but the feel of one between my molars sends shivers down my spine much like the sound of nails on a blackboard may do to others. It came with roast pear and sorbet which did make it stand out from your average tin of ambrosia and made up somewhat for the unwelcome texture of the dreaded sultana.

I persuaded Mark to go for the Organic Apple Trifle, Sorbet and Crisps because I wanted it. Mark wasn’t so keen on the dense layer of apple jelly but I was happy to chomp on it. It came with a mini choc ice which made me say ‘oh yes I think so’ when I tried it.

The pudding round was a draw which meant that we both won. Mark may have argued otherwise but this is not his blog (this is, in case you are interested) so there. We returned to the living room for tea and coffee and I gazed into the crackling fire with contentment and slight discomfort from the pressure in my belly. I also had the delight of filling in a feedback card, a personal pleasure for me, with witty comments such as ‘free food next time please’ as well as plenty of high praise. If Northcote was local to me, I too would include this on my tour of must-eats.

Top 10 Meals of 2011

7 Jan

Ok, I admit it, I am the laziest blogger in the world. In 2011 I only recorded about 25% of my restaurant experiences which is ridiculous considering how good a culinary year it has been. So that is why I decided to make a new years resolution that in 2012 I will blog once a week. Although this is a resolution I will probably break (what are resolutions for if not for breaking?) I would like to last out for at least the first month, and as I only made this decision last night before I went to sleep I haven’t left myself much time to go through with it. So with the thought process that listing my top 10 meals of 2011 will mean just a few sentences I can probably snatch from old entries I have embarked on this task.

Of course, after assembling and reading through my list I have realised that I have only blogged about one restaurant out of the ten. More work and shame on me – I deserve it really. So with no delay, I present to you NAOMI’S TOP 10 MEALS OF 2011!

Numbers 10 to 4 in no particular order:

10. Spuntino

The long wait for a place to sit is almost unbearable once you know what is waiting on the other side – namely steak and eggs. It is difficult to pinpoint what exactly is so great about this dish, but the fact that it is so incredibly simple yet delicious is something to consider. Incredibly cool but not so that it has pushed over onto the side of irritating and inaccessable. The Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich will BLOW YOUR MIND.

9. Honest Burgers

The best burger I have ever had in my life and I have eaten a lot of burgers. Mark and I went with a friend Sally and her daughter after Sally and I had run a 5k. We waited in line for a long time with rumbling bellies (it appears the best places make you do that these days) but it was completely and utterly worth the wait. We were all speechless as we tucked into beautifully pink beef, strong cheddar and a delicious and sweet onion relish. The chips were triple fried and tossed in herby salt. It was so good we all returned the next week, waited in an even longer queue but enjoyed our burgers all the more as they tasted even better.

8. Petrus

No one seemed to like Petrus when it reopened, but all the reviews did mention canapes and an amouse bouche and there is nothing I like more than extra food. I was sold already. In the end the really great thing about my experience at Petrus was how much of a delightful surprise it was. The vibe was special occassion casual – though I felt I was somewhere a bit swish I felt totally comfortable slumping in my chair to stretch my legs out and rub my swollen belly at the end of the meal. I had a starter of partridge ravioli with confit leg and mushroom veloute which was just plain beautiful. Silky is the key word to describe that course, in flavour, texture and appearance. Desserts were also brilliant, Mark’s in particular which looked like a piece of art. There was a thin slice of jelly where a cross section of cherries created a pattern of pursed lips. You may think I am speaking metaphorically, but I am not that imaginative. It actually looked like that. Our special petit fours were forgotten at the end of the meal so I asked the waitress if we would get any and with tact and friendliness she made us believe we had not been missed off but they were on their way and no more than 5 minutes later they were in our bellies.

7. Anthony’s

I paid my sister a visit in Leeds while she was studying at the university which obviously warranted a visit to Anthony’s – the Gordon Ramsay of the town. Attracted by the very cheap lunch menu we ate food that I would have been happy to pay three times the amount for. Liza had bream with a jamon sauce which was hearty yet refined, and I went down the traditionally boring route by ordering chicken, but the marvellous twist is that it was the most delicious chicken I have ever eaten and also one of the most exciting dishes. Desserts sent us into raptures. Jasmine tea mousse with slithers of mango. Oh my days. On top of all this we got canapes, an amuse bouche, petit fours and a fluffy loaf of white bread with three different types of butter. All for just over twenty quid. I cannot reccommend this place enough. Everyone in the world go and if you don’t enjoy it you are the biggest fool in the land.

6. Pitt Cue Co

You know those times where you have something to eat be it a boiled egg or cheese on toast and it is more satisfying than a four michelin starred meal cooked by God? Yes well, the time I had wings from Pitt Cue Co definitely filled a hole that nothing else could fill. Hot spicy wings, cool slaw, ham hock salad, scorching hot day. Yes yes yes yes. My face was covered in hot sauce for the rest of the day which just served as a wonderful reminder to what I had eaten only hours before.

5. The Hardwick

Once Mark and I stayed in a Romany Gypsy caravan that just so happened to be in Wales. And because we just so happened to be there we visited some of Wales’ finest and also some of the not so finest (dodgy chinese one night when nowhere else was open and The Foxhunter). One night we had a tasting menu at The Crown at Whitebrook which was lovely but the portions were not tasting size, they were generous for even a full plate of food. I thought I was going to die at the end of it and I had to unzip my dress in the car park for the fear of fainting (nothing has ever felt that good since). The next day we went to The Hardwick for lunch despite still being full from the night before. We shared A Taste of Local Beef – Grilled Fillet, Ox Tail Suet Pudding, Burger with Creamed Mushrooms & Onion Rings, Braised Shin with Confit Shallots, Swiss Chard, Poached Carrots and Sauce Bordelaise, as well as a portion of triple cooked chips. You better believe everything was absolutely wonderful and the best taste of beef I’ve had in all my 24 years. It was a bitter sweet lunch as I was too full to eat as much as I wanted which meant I had to turn down pudding. Sob.

4. Mamuska

Mamuska is a polish restaurant in the heart of Elephant and Castle shopping centre. While everything is peeling and breaking away around it, Mamuska is comforting in that it is neat and not falling apart. When I first visited this restaurant I spent about £15 with Mark and we shared plates of pork dumplings, breaded chicken with mashed potato and carrot slaw, sauerkraut, borscht and pork croquette. It was heart warming, scrumptuous and much too much. It could have fed four people. That is why I love it so – unpretentious, authentic, finger licking food for under a fiver. The last time I went I visited it twice in a day and also found out that their shredded beetroot is something I will order on every subsequent visit. The diners are diverse, from polish to the local community to the trendy arty types from LCC and then of course me for as long as it exists.

So now all there is remaining is the final three. Again in no particular order, but they stand out from everywhere I have eaten at this year, and in my life come to think of it.

3. St John

I went here with Mark and Sally and Kim from work. It was one of those nights where the company and setting couldn’t have been more perfect. The bone marrow was everything I could have wished for and Kim’s stewed mutton with aioli gave everyone acute food envy. But nothing could beat the desire of the whole suckling pig being devoured by the stag party on the table next to ours. Sally’s dessert of eccles cake and lancashire cheese is now our tea time treat of choice. The noise level was loud and filled with happy chatter, understandably so. Sally went back a few weeks later to the bar and had some Welsh Rarebit and I was stuck at work when I got the good news via text. Mixed emotions of excitement and jealousy hit me and I did everything I could not to run out and join her.

2. Roganic

A couple of years ago Mark and I went to L’Enclume and had the best meal of our life. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard Simon Rogan was opening a pop up restaurant in London. I booked a table as soon as I was able but so had everyone else so I had to agree to a 9pm slot. Much like our meal at L’Enclume we had a tasting menu of wonder, like the plate of vintage potatoes in onion ashes, lovage and wood sorrel that surprised with amazing flavours and textures despite it being a plate of potatoes. Mackeral with elderflower honey was also divine. We ended up being the last people to go and we chatted with the friendliest front of house team in the world, in particular Jack Settle who on top of being fun and charming, gave us a tour of the kitchen and gave us some leftover bread rolls for our journey home. We ate them for breakfast the next day with huge grins as we relived the night before.

1. Restaurant Sat Bains

I can’t say much about this meal as there is a full blog to come in a couple of weeks, but I can say that the few hours I spent at Restaurant Sat Bains were probably the most pleasurable of the year. After sampling Sat Bains’ wares at Fortnum & Mason earlier in the year and being suitably impressed and an upcoming trip to Nottingham in tow it was only natural that I had another try of what he had to offer. And the answer is SO MUCH. His care and attention to making sure we had a good time was thrilling and heartwarming, so much so that I do not resent spending an extra £15 on his famous duck egg dish which was worth every penny.

So there we go. Other notable mentions go to The Hand & Flowers which everyone knows is brilliant. Also the free meal at Hawksmoor where Mark and I sat next to and chatted away with people we had only just met while we ate steak and were filmed for a promo vid. Their stilton mayonnaise is beyond heavenly.

Well done 2011. Lets hope 2012 is even better.