My now annual review of the top 10 restaurants that I enjoyed over the past year comes to you a little later than last year due to galavanting off to Madagascar and Kenya for Christmas and the New Year. I think it’s fair to say that for many, myself included, 2012 was a momentous year, one that will go down in the annals of history as a very fine vintage in the life of London. It was no different in the culinary sphere. I got to enjoy some very fine food and have an ever expanding list of restaurants I really want to try. This list reflects the places that I dined in between January and December 2012. With the exception of first place, where there was a clear winner, the margins were narrow between the remainder of the very fine members of the top 10.
1. By a country mile, the winner goes to Dabbous; the finest creation by Ollie Dabbous on Whitfield St. Superlatives would not do this establishment justice. The lengthy waiting list of customers wishing to dine at this establishment is an accurate reflection of enthusiasm people have for the venture. It presents simple, elegant and delicious creations in a casual yet professional surroundings with excellent staff. It also offers great value for money. A special mention goes to Oskar’s cocktail bar downstairs which also serves some food in addition to some of the best cocktails in London. Splendid.
10. Morito. This is a great tapas restaurant on Exmouth market. The restaurant is bright and airy and my assumption is that this is a reflection of the bright and airy disposition of the owners who present seasonal and sublime fare in delightful surroundings. Great for lunch, equally enjoyable for after work catch-ups.
9. 10 Greek Street. Grab a seat at the counter to watch the chefs prepare delightful plates for your consumption in this small venue in Soho. The daily changing menu reflects a fresh and innovative approach to food.
8. Polpo Farringdon. Great food in a lovely venue. It’s a lot easier to get a table in Farringdon than in the sister venues (also excellent). What’s not to like. Both food and service excel.
7. Burger and Lobster Mayfair. Since B&L opened, a host of others have sprung up around London. The Mayfair venue is the original and the only one I have thus far visited. The menu is simple – burger or lobster. Both are awesome, as are the staff.
6. The Modern Pantry. For me, this is an established favourite that serves up great food no matter what time of the day you visit. I’m still not sure myself if I prefer their breakfast menu or lunch menu as both are favourites and offer good options throughout the menu. The design is clean and functional and the menu consistently serves up some of the best grub in London.
5. Vinoteca Soho. This could have been a risky venture. An already much loved Farringdon institution decides to open in Soho to much fanfare. The fanfare was warranted. Vinoteca continues to serves up simple and affordable fare in atmospheric surroundings, with an extensive and ingenious wine list to match. Anyone who has visited upon my recommendation has come back with rave reviews.
4. Hawksmoor Air St. I could just write steak and leave it at that. But it’s the type of steak that is so succulent that it seems to melt on the tongue as the flavour oozes throughout the body. That, and the caramel rolos are just a winner for me, as are the art deco venue and the friendly staff.
3. Jose Pizzaro’s. I can only say so many times that I love this place – the food, the staff, the location. It’s a winner. I’m tempted to buy Jose’s cookbook, but frightened that if I do, I should actually attempt his tapas myself rather than just popping in for lunch or dinner. I find it difficult to separate the ventures and decide which one I prefer – Jose’s or Pizarro’s. On my most recent trip, I had dinner at Jose’s followed by dessert and a sherry at Pizarro’s. If I say so myself it was an idea that was nothing short of brilliance.
2. Pitt Cue Co. I had the chance to visit on several occasions in 2012 and each time the food, music, drinks and staff excelled. The highlights for me are the pulled pork, the slaw, and the mash, topped off with oft too many whiskey sours. It’s a young, innovative venture and the manager (at least I think she’s the manager) is an impressive woman who keeps the operation in tip top shape. More power to her.