This year has been full of great food. Most of my choices are from Brighton and London, but a few standout dishes from my travels made the list too.
Every dish made a lasting impression and range from street food to fine dining. The one thing they have in common – they were all absolutely delicious.
Tomato, Bacon Curd & Marigold
at Silo, Brighton
I finally got round to having dinner at Silo back in October, and it was definitely worth the wait. Silo is the UK’s first zero waste restaurant, and their truly sustainable approach is a shining example of where we should be heading.
The standout dish for me was the Tomato, Bacon Curd & Marigold, made up of raw, sliced pineapple tomatoes with semi-dried cherry tomatoes underneath with bacon curd and marigold flowers. A gorgeous dish in both its presentation and taste. The raw tomato slices were super fresh and balanced out the much more intense semi-dried tomatoes and bacon curd (which reminded me of bacon jam) beneath.
Cured Salmon, Heritage Beets, Smoked Ricotta
at Cin Cin, Brighton
Cin Cin is one of the newest restaurants in Brighton and has quickly become the hottest name in town. Serving up authentic Italian antipasti, handmade pasta, aperitifs and Italian wines, in an open bar and kitchen setting, Cin Cin is a great dining experience whether you’re popping in for a glass of wine after work or treating yourself to 3 (or 4) stunning courses.
This dish of Cured Salmon, Heritage Beets, Smoked Ricotta was beautiful in every way, and I couldn’t resist creating my own version for Christmas.
at Bincho Yakitori, Brighton
Before Cin Cin opened, Bincho Yakitori was the place I told everyone to go to. The casual setting and ridiculously good food won me over, and it’s a place I’m always looking for an excuse to revisit.
One of the most-loved dishes is the Chicken Skin Yakitori, which is crispy, rich, fatty and indulgent but the Pork Belly, which melts in the mouth, is the dish for me. If you’ve ever been to Japan and spent time in an Izakaya, Bincho will transport you straight back.
at Julien Plumart, Brighton
Julien Plumart is one of the best pastry chefs around, and Brighton is lucky to have him. As well as dozens of beautiful, delicate cakes and tarts, you’ll find 18 flavours of perfect macarons on offer at his Boutique et Salon de The on Duke Street.
I pop in on special occasions, and the cakes are always delicious. This little beauty was called Summer Kiss, and had a pistachio sponge, raspberry coulis, vanilla mousse and red berry cream.
Salt & Pepper Calamari
at Senor Buddha, Brighton
Senor Buddha is a tapas bar, which serves a fusion of Spanish and Thai tapas. It’s not a concept that sounds like it will work, but I’m happy to admit when I’m wrong… If you want dishes that are creative, well executed and exciting then make sure you pay Senor Buddha a visit.
The menu changes regularly as ideas pour out of Lee’s mind, but you can expect dishes like Fried Sardines with papaya salad, Iberico Pork Fillet with fennel kimchi, and Charred Cauliflower with pineapple & yellow curry sauce.
If this incredibly moreish dish of Salt & Pepper Calamari with squid ink romesco sauce is still on the menu when you go, don’t miss out!
Image credit: xdbphotography
Wings & Curly Fries
at The Joker, Brighton
For those times I want something a bit dirty, a visit to The Joker for some of Orange Buffalo’s award-winning wings is top of my list. Their classic buffalo wings are spot on, and with a generous basket of delicious curly fries on the side, I’m a happy, happy man.
at The Flour Pot Bakery, Brighton
The Flour Pot Bakery is fast becoming a Brighton institution, with branches popping up all over the place. I’m lucky enough to have two branches within half a mile of my house, and regularly visit both to enjoy their freshly baked croissants, breakfast buns, focaccia sandwiches and indulgent cakes.
Friday is doughnut day at The Flour Pot and each week, you’ll find a tray of enticing, filled doughnuts on offer, including classsic jam, lemon curd and my favourite – salted caramel, topped with a shard of honeycomb. Hubba hubba!
Classic Beef Burger
at Burger Brothers, Brighton
Burger Brothers, on North Road was recently crowned the winner of the Best Burger in Britain competition. It’s a tiny, independent burger outlet with a local cult following, and the friendly, laid back guys are producing some great food.
As far as I’m concerned, their Classic Beef Burger – 6oz Brothers beef patty, cracked black pepper mayo, wild rocket, baby plum tomatoes, mature cheddar cheese, American mustard, relish and caramelised onions, is the best burger you’ll find in Brighton.
at The Chilli Pickle, Brighton
The Chilli Pickle has established itself as one of Brighton’s best Indian restaurants, and they deserve it. The Chilli Pickle’s team draw on their regional knowledge to create a menu which stands out from your usual Indian restaurant, so expect plenty of dishes you’ve never heard of, that may just become your new favourite.
Their thalis are fantastic, and every Monday lunchtime you can enjoy one for just £10. Your choice of curry, served with rice, vegetable, dal, pickle, chutney, salad, raitta, papad, naan, snacks, dhokla and a sweet – it’s an absolute bargain, and one of the best lunch options on offer in Brighton.
at Moksha Caffe, Brighton
Moksha Caffe has become a brunch favourite this year, with a great range of options on the menu, all as tasty as each other.
The blueberry pancakes I tried earlier this week were awesome, but their Huevos Benedictos of free-range chorizo sausages, free-range poached eggs, topped with avocado and tomato salsa, and chipotle hollandaise on toasted sourdough is out of this world.
Goan Pork Vindaloo
at Curry Leaf Cafe, Brighton
I went to a few Christmas parties this year, one of which was at Curry Leaf Cafe. It’s a place I’ve always enjoyed visiting, and this meal was absolutely stunning.
We got through all seven starters, of which the Mushrooms Munchurian and slow-cooked beef Erachi Ularthiyathu were the highlights, but nothing matched up to this amazing Goan Pork Vindaloo. Made with slow-cooked pork shoulder, palm vinegar, garlic, fiery dry red chillies and palm sugar, it had an incredible balance of sweetness, sourness and heat with endless depth of flavour.
at China Garden, Brighton
A visit to China Garden for a pot of jasmine tea and a table full of Dim Sum is the perfect to spend a Sunday afternoon. The range and quality of the Dim Sum here is very good, and consistent. Sure, you might have to wait for a table but once you’re in, you won’t be rushed out.
My personal favourites – Pork & Prawn Stuffed Bean Curd Rolls (top), Char Siu Pork Buns (bottom), Mixed Meat Yam Croquettes and King Prawn Cheung Fun.
Octopus, sweet potato, chorizo
at Lobos Tapas, London
A hit in Borough Market, Lobos Meat & Tapas opened their second location in the heart of Soho in November, with a focus on excellent cuts of meat, good wine, and great hospitality.
Our experience was a bit hit and miss but there were moments of brilliance. None more so than this Octopus Leg with sweet potato and chorizo. The size of the portion matched the hefty price tag (£18.50) but the execution was spot on. Octopus, chorizo and sweet potato is a classic combination and this dish just works perfectly.
at Street Feast Hawker House, London
Street Feast run several great street food markets across London, but Hawker House feels like the jewel in the crown. The large warehouse setting has been well designed, and it’s a feast for the eyes as much as the belly.
We managed to get round to most of the street food vendors, and had plenty of great dishes. The highlight was probably Rola Wala’s delicious Naan Sliders or Petare’s Tajadas (fried plantain) topped with feta and hot avocado and coriander sauce.
at Chicken Shop, London
We were in need of a quick dinner before a gig at Kentish Town Forum, and Chicken Shop had been on my list for some time. It’s not a place I’ve heard too many bang on about, but I was more than impressed.
The menu is simple and affordable – whole, half or quarter marinated rotisserie chicken, plus whatever sides you fancy. Cooked over an open fire, right in front of you, the chicken is de-li-cious. Probably the best chicken I’ve had all year. Must go back.
Fish Sauce Wings
at Smoking Goat, London
Thai Barbecue is a genius concept and Smoking Goat’s mix of rare breed meats and day boat fish direct from small production farmers and fishermen, Thai chillies, palm sugar and fish sauce direct from Bangkok and sweet chestnut and oak cask wood barbecue is fantastic.
This was my second visit to Smoking Goat, and I was glad to see their stunning Fish Sauce Wings were still on the menu. The balance of crunchy, fried coating, juicy meat and punchy, sticky sauce is awesome.
Smoking Goat is another pop-up to restaurant story, and opened their second venture, Kiln in Soho earlier this year.
Review of Smoking Goat (4/5)
NEW YORK, MIAMI, MAINE & LISBON
at Cibo, Miami Beach
We were in Maine over the summer for a wedding, and spent a week in Miami afterwards. We fell in love with the city, its beach and food scene.
As you can imagine, there’s plenty of great Latin American food in Miami, and we pigged out on ceviche, lomo saltado, cubano sandwiches and pollo asado as much as possible. We also lucked out by visiting Cibo on their weekly lobster night! This whole lobster with linguine in a spicy tomato sauce was bang on the money, and only set me back $25.
Nashville Fried Chicken & Waffles
at Tipsy Parson, New York
We spent a few days in Manhattan at the start and end of our trip. The standout brunch was this Fried Chicken Waffles with sides of bacon and fried eggs. The Tipsy Parsons house hot sauce is awesome too made with 7 hot peppers from Brooklyn Grange, smoked and aged for a year.
at Pubbelly, Miami Beach
Here are a couple of dishes from our last night in Miami Beach, which we spent at the excellent Pubbelly.
The Octopus a la Plancha (top) was one of the best looking dishes of the year, as well as one of the tastiest. Chef Jose Mendin has Puerto Rican roots, but Pubbelly is described as an Asian-inspired gastropub. This twist on a traditional Mofongo – green plantain, pork belly and a shoyu broth was ridiculously good and is a perfect reflection of Pubbelly’s fusion style.
at Ippudo West, New York
We don’t go out for ramen much (I have no idea why), so Ippudo Westside didn’t have much to live up to, but blew our minds nonetheless and has become our benchmark.
The super rich broth had awesome depth of flavour, and was topped with juicy char-siu pork. A beautiful bowl of noodles.
Steak, Eggs, Lobster Mac n’ Cheese
at On The Edge, Kennebunkport
Our hotel in Kennebunkport, Maine only served a buffet breakfast so we went in search of something a bit more refined one morning. After getting a bit lost and giving up on finding this place, we stumbled across it by chance.
The menu was a set price for whatever you wanted, so I went big and ordered the Steak, Eggs, Lobster Mac n’ Cheese. Rich, indulgent, excessive, the American dream.
at The Clam Shack, Kennebunkport
When I heard our friends were getting married in Maine, LOBSTER immediately came to mind and I started researching the best places to get some.
I got through as many of the delicious creatures as possible, and the place I kept going back to was The Clam Shack, for this $20 lobster roll… All the meat from a 1 pound lobster, served simply with butter and mayo. Worth every penny!
Pastel de Belém
at Pastéis de Belém, Lisbon
Lisbon has become my favourite European city, after great trips over the last couple of years. The mix of sunshine, culture and great food ticks all the boxes for me.
A freshly baked, still warm, Portuguese custard tart, sprinkled with cinnamon is one of my favourite things in the World, and you can enjoy one at the place they were invented in 1837 – Pastéis de Belém. Currently producing over 20,000 Pastel de Belém per day during the week and over 30,000 at the weekend, these guys are literally baking money.
If you can’t make it to Belém, then Manteigaria in Lisbon itself produce fantastic Pastel de Nata, which are slightly less sweet.