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Guide

The Best Things We Ate In 2020

It wasn’t easy, but we made it through the worst year ever. And these meals helped - a lot.

22 Spots
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22 Spots
Launch Map
Updated December 21st, 2020

Eat, sleep, repeat. Eat, sleep, repeat. Eat, sleep, momentarily question whether you should shower, repeat. Yes, this year has been one big old mess with a side of fear, sadness, and boredom. But outside of those three-hour naps, it’s been eating that’s got us through 2020. Somehow amidst all the chaos we still managed to find certified Very, Very Tasty Things and it’s time for a round-up of the absolute best. From an 8-course tasting menu pre-pandemic to smoked streaky bacon we ate topless straight out of the frying pan, these are our favourite dishes of the year.


THE BEST THINGS WE ATE THIS YEAR

Dom’s Subs

££££ 262 Hackney Road

The Feliz Mala-Dad

“People debate their favourite cuisines but mine is pretty straightforward. It’s sandwiches. And yes, that is a cuisine. A sandwich is a liminal space for food. Its boundaries are non-existent, its potential fillings endless. I knew that Dom’s knew this the first time I ate one of their subs, but it went to a whole new level when I ate The Feliz Mama-Dad. It’s a vegan brussels sprout Christmas sub. Which reads like the kind of thing that sets some people’s alarm bells ringing. And it should do, for all the right reasons. The hot and numbing sprouts, seasoned with Sichuan pepper, dance along your tongue. The Xinxiang seasoned crisps are the best crisps in a sandwich I’ve ever had (and that’s a busy podium), while the vegan Chinkiang mayo delicately cuts through everything. Christmas or not, this is just an amazing sandwich.” - Jake Missing, Staff Writer

Hoppers

££££
Sri Lankan  in  Soho
££££ 49 Frith St

Lamb kothu roti

“I tried Hoppers for the first time on my birthday, approximately a month before the whole world went to shit. It was magical. Since then I’ve been countless times, each time taking someone new who I’d told over and over how great it is, and each time ordering the lamb kothu roti. Quite simply, it’s one of my favourite things to eat. Ever. The pieces of lamb are tender and spicy and are cooked with the onions in a delicious gravy before being combined with shredded roti. It has a very special place in my heart.” - Rianne Shlebak, Editorial Assistant

The Best Broasted

££££
Syrian  in  Willesden
££££ 18-F The High Road

Whole chicken broasted

“I made repeated order-and-collect visits to The Best Broasted during the November lockdown, and while I’ve tried quite a lot of their menu, it’s the whole chicken broasted that kept me coming back. There’s something about it that gets me all metaphysical. “If broasting is like frying,” I’d wonder, while waiting for this Syrian spot in Willesden Green to prep my order, “then why is the chicken not even remotely greasy?“. And, “how can it be so juicy, so crunchy, and so sweet?“. I’ve yet to come up with any satisfactory answers, which is all the more reason to continue my love affair with this excellent chicken in 2021.” - Oliver Feldman, Senior Editor

Juliet's

££££ 110 Mitcham Road

Pistachio cake

“This is the best cake in London. No, I will not be taking questions. Two lockdowns weren’t enough to inspire me to get myself back on Hinge, but the thought of one day having a wedding (read as: huge family-sponsored piss-up) just so I can serve this cake to every single human I love ought to do it. Realistically everything at this Tooting café is an excellent flavour party, but there’s something about the yuzu icing on this cake that makes me feel alive.” - Heidi Lauth Beasley, Staff Writer

Giulia Verdinelli

La Chingada Mexican Food

££££
££££ 206 Lower Road

Everything

“I could go on about La Chingada’s crispy el pastor or soft suadero tacos for hours. Or one of its hot salsas, a deep brown habanero number. Same with their fried chicken. A juicy golden pile that’s waiting to be smothered in the tingly, vinegar-ish red of chile de arbol and butter sauce. But it’s not just the food. It’s the day-glo chicken shop aesthetic. It’s the standing, the leaning, and the eating. It’s the night I spent ordering, eating, drinking, ordering, smoking, digesting, ordering, and eating some more. A meal on the pavement may not be everybody’s thing, but it is mine. And it should be yours too.” - JM

Cue Point

££££ 195 Wood Ln

Lamb and brisket naco kit

“Not only did this meal kit taste excellent, but it was so impressively done that it reset my expectations of what meal kits could offer. The vac-packed brisket, and smoked lamb, toppings, sauces, and step-by step-instructions, meant that a 10-year-old (or even a profoundly culinarily challenged 24-year-old) could make them. The meat was smoky, the naan was soft and doughy, and it was hands-down one of the best meals I ate this year.” - RS

Giulia Verdinelli

Balady

££££
££££ 450 Finchley Road

Falafel pita

“This summer, when it finally felt kind of okay for me to leave my flat, I became a semi-regular at Balady. Week after week, I drove to Temple Fortune and sat outside this busy takeaway with a book. While I always ordered the cauliflower (because anyone who goes here must always order the cauliflower) my other choices varied. Sometimes I’d get the sabich, and sometimes I’d get a merguez in lafa from Balady Alaesh, their sister restaurant next door. But it’s their falafel pita that became my go-to. It’s stuffed with hummus, salad, pickles, beets, carrots, cauliflower, fiery zhug, tahina and amba, and served as a glorious weekly reminder that there might well be a time, one day soon, when we get to share food like this with all the people we love once again.” - OF

Giulia Verdinelli

Chishuru

££££
££££ Unit 9 Market Row

Groundnut soup

“It’s rare that a soup changes someone’s life. That’s what I thought anyway, until it happened to me on a stormy Tuesday night. OK, it wasn’t stormy. I’m being dramatic. But the point is that this West African restaurant’s groundnut and spiced peanut butter soup is so warming, so tasty, that a little theatrics are in order. Ever since eating here, it’s lived in my head rent-free.” - HLB

La Barra

££££
££££ 147, Eagle Yard Arch, Walworth

Dominican fried chicken

“The fried chicken at La Barra comes in three sizes, the smallest of which caused O Fortuna from Carmina Burana to play, max volume, in my head as I saw it approaching my table. What the largest would do, I do not know. What I do know is that this is the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten. The batter is otherworldly-looking, swirled, jagged, golden brown crunch that’s come from another dimension, while the chicken inside remains improbably and perfectly moist. A squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of homemade chilli sauce is preferable, but you don’t even need that. The fact it comes with green plantain chips and a pile of chicharrones and bofes bigger than every portion at every London small plates restaurant put together is almost laughable. Almost. But laughter is a filling activity. And you want to save all the room you can for chicken”. - JM

Giulia Verdinelli

Wheelcake Island

££££
££££ Westfield Shopping Centre Ariel Way

Any wheel cake

“This year I discovered my love for wheel cakes. As I bit into the fluffy little pancakes filled with flavoured custard at Wheelcake Island, it started with a little “ooh, I quite like this”. It turned into a “I’m just going to make a quick (45 minute) trip to Westfield because I need
 a chocolate and vanilla custard wheel cake.” - RS

Bright

££££
££££ 1 Westgate Street

Cheeseburger with curly fries

“I’ve lost count of the amount of things I’ve eaten, or bottles I’ve bought, from Bright this year. It’s one of London’s best restaurants and I’m lucky in that I both live a couple of hundred steps from it and also possess little-to-no self control. Their takeaway offering has been superb throughout 2020, but their one-off burger pop-up with Rosita’s Deluxe was something special. It’s a pop-up run by Jeff Claudio, a guy who cooked at a load of restaurants that get put on lists sponsored by Veuve Clicquot, before deciding that he wanted to flip burgers instead. Which I guess is like training at NASA to fly to Mars, only to decide you prefer things down here on Earth. Anyway, this burger was buff. No lettuce or tomatoes or any of that crap. Just a pink patty, shitload of gherkins, caramelised onion and raw white onion so fine it was transparent, melted American cheddar, and deluxe (AKA burger) sauce. Woi. And on the side: curly fries. Homemade, mother fucking, curly fries.” - JM

Dilara

££££ 27 Blackstock Road

Big plate chicken

“This huge stew of braised chicken, pepper, velvety sauce-sodden potatoes, ever-so-slightly-mouth-numbing dry chilli, and flat chewy noodles has taken a lease on the part of my brain that decides what I’m going to eat when I’m feeling pathetic and incapable of making a decision. Not that there aren’t plenty of amazing options at this fantastic little Uyghur specialist on Blackstock Road. Rather, this dish is a non-negotiable. That Dilara was my first regular haunt once the first lockdown eased and restaurants started re-opening makes it just that little bit more special to me.” - OJF

Hide

££££
££££ 85 Piccadilly

Hide Above’s tasting menu

“I have checked multiple official sources - namely the chilli-oil stained calendar in my kitchen and my camera roll - and apparently I wrote a review of Hide this year. If anything is evidence that time is a construct, it’s this. But despite feeling like I last took a trip there back in the year 1862, I can still remember everything about this Mayfair restaurant’s tasting menu. No, actually I remember how eating their tasting menu made me feel. Fantastic. I’ve tried to narrow it down to one dish and although the hand-picked crab and roast suckling pig are standouts, it’s the collective experience. Each little course adds up to the kind of meal that’s the equivalent of the perfect in-joke where you have to say ‘you just needed to be there’ to anyone who hasn’t tried it.” - HLB

The Ginger Pig

££££
££££ Borough Market, Borough High St

Smoked streaky bacon

“It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that, pre-pandemic, the foxes going through the neighbour’s bins ate better-quality meals at home than my housemate and I. It’s not that we’re incapable (he is) but we’re just out people more than we’re in people. Both these things soon changed, and so too did the contents of our fridge. What it suddenly had, and continues to have most often, is smoked streaky bacon from The Ginger Pig. Their bacon - thick but not too thick, with a rind that gets your molars working - isn’t run-of-the-mill stuff. Its smell is siren-like, its price reasonable, and the first time we ate it (standing, next to the frying pan, in underwear) we said something poignant like “fuck me this bacon good.” - JM

Trap Kitchen

££££
Seafood  in  Balham
££££ 76 Bedford Hill

Bucket

“I’ve got more into seafood this year. I’ve also got more into not trying to reduce my screen time. In totally unrelated news, I was spending a very huge chunk of my free time rewatching videos of sizzling prawns on Trap Kitchen’s Instagram page. When I finally got my hands on one of their buckets, it did not disappoint. The lobster tails were buttery, the bang bang prawns were full of flavour, and the mac and cheese was perfectly cheesy and spicy.” - RS

Noble Rot Soho

££££
££££ 2 Greek St

Chocolate mousse, brandy prune & hazelnut biscuit

“Like all first-rate new media food writers - sorry, bloggers - I judge how good the food I’ve eaten is by the pictures I’ve taken, rather than by my tongue. Only in most cases, it’s not the images like a perfectly captured tarte tatin, so glistening, so bronzed, that a teenager might blu-tac it to their wall. It’s the ones where there’s a blur of hands. Or a clean plate in memorandum. It’s the ones like above, where I’ve had to shoddily zoom in on another picture of dessert to look for evidence. It’s Gregg Wallace presents Watchdog. The scene of this criminally crap photo was the new Noble Rot on Greek Street. The victim: their chocolate mousse. It was described to us as a mousse and ganache hybrid, but a better description would be ‘a non-sharer’. The mousse is sweet and not too rich - a milk and dark mashup - and the texture is temptingly spreadable. Yes, I have been thinking about it on toast. Alongside there’s a shot of brandy masquerading as a prune, plus some cream and a perfectly crisp biscuit. The details are unimportant though. What’s important is that you’re holding a spoon, not your phone, when it’s put on the table”. - JM

Wine N Rind

££££
££££ Holcombe Market

Cacio e pepe toastie

“I have come to realise - and I’ve given this a lot of thought - that eating cacio e pepe might be my calling. I’m really, really good at it and each time I go toe to toe with a plate of cheese and pepper, I feel the kind of fulfilment that other people reference when talking about being a painter or, like, pilates. So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that Tottenham cheese shop, Wine N Rind are doing cacio e pepe toasties. My beloved, in bread form. It did not disappoint.” - HLB

Flavourtown Bakery

££££ 771 Fulham Road

Red velvet cupcake and Bad Ass Brownie cupcake

“I’ve eaten a lot of cakes in my time. Like a lot, a lot. Like me and my dentist aren’t on speaking terms, a lot. But the cupcakes I ate at this Fulham spot are unlike any I’ve tried before. They were so good that a box of six cupcakes, and a fat slice of red velvet later and I was still kicking myself for not getting some Mars Bar brownies. The red velvet cupcake is the best one I’ve had in London, and the Bad Ass Brownie cupcake - which has a cheesecake layer and a brownie on top - regularly visits me in my dreams.” - RS

Heidi Lauth Beasley

The Camberwell Arms

££££
BritishPub  in  Camberwell
££££ 65 Camberwell Church St

Crispy brussels sprouts

“I’m mainly writing about this majestic plate of fried sprouts for professional purposes, but also partly to freak my step-dad out. You see, sprouts were a serious cause of childhood tantrums in my house, mostly because it was the one vegetable I didn’t like that our pet dog also refused to eat under the table. There was no way to hide the evidence. But who would have thought that 20 short years later I would find a plate of sprouts covered in fried breadcrumbs, thyme, and pickled red onions that would win my ultimate accolade of saying the word ‘yum’ in public. Incroyable.” - HLB

Chisou

££££
££££ 31 Beauchamp Pl

Horenso salad

“I’m not a huge salad person. I went through a phase of ordering Tossed salads for lunch, but it was short-lived and quite quickly swapped for literally anything else. But the Horenso salad I was recommended by the waiter at the Knightsbridge branch of this Japanese spot has converted me into a salad orderer. This baby spinach salad with spicy prawns is tangy, spicy, refreshing, and has turned me into a lover of yuzu dressing and perfectly plated leaves.” - RS

Giulia Verdinelli

Sam Sandwiches

££££ 9 Shepherd's Bush Market

Any sandwich

“It’s not often I eat a sandwich I can’t stop thinking about. But the sandwiches I ate at this Algerian spot inside Shepherd’s Bush Market have been one of my favourite discoveries of 2020. They’re huge, full of marinated meats cooked to order, a fried egg, and chips. They’re generously filled, and make a great lunch. And once you try one, trust me, you’ll be back to taste everything else on the menu.” - RS

Freak Scene

££££

Chilli crab and avocado wonton bomb

“This crunchy little guy had an excellent hit of chilli crab and was somehow the perfect bite of bar food. Perfect for crunching on in between sipping beers and screaming ‘GO TO THE LEFT!’ whilst watching Takeshi’s Castle on Freak Scene’s TV screens. I’m not going to tell you more about it because, sadly, Freak Scene was one of the many restaurants that closed during the pandemic and we’ve all had enough FOMO in 2020. Goodbye friend. Maybe we’ll see you on the other side.” - HLB

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