It is the tradition at Eater to end the year with a survey of friends, contributors, rovers of the industry, critics, and professional eaters. This year, the group were asked eight questions, spanning meal of the year to biggest dining grievance. Their answers will appear throughout this week. Responses are relayed in no particular order, cut and pasted below. First up, it’s time for the restaurant standbys of the year.
Adam Coghlan, Editor, Eater London: The pie and mash with chilli vinegar at Blacklock Shoreditch (with a side of chips and onion gravy) was one of my favourite lunches this year. The shengjianbao, prawn wontons in chilli oil, and spring onion pancakes at Dumpling Shack. The liang pi at Xi’an Biang Biang. There are still few restaurants as steadying and comforting as Koya. Potato gözleme for breakfast at Sultan House in Walthamstow. Bean quesadillas and tortilla chips with all the trimmings at Homies on Donkeys. Fish and chips from Brothers. Doubles from Bernard on Walthamstow market. Pork pies from Quality Chop House. Moo krob, liver curry, and morning glory from Singburi. Langos from Delicio Pattiserie in Leytonstone. Pasta at Bright. Pizza from Yard Sale. Jerk chicken sandwiches from Otto’s Rainbow Cookout on Mare Street. Dusty Knuckle’s focaccia butties. P. Franco and 40 Maltby Street.
Oh, and Scotch woodcocks, Welsh rarebits, and French madeleines from St John.
James Hansen, Assistant Editor, Eater London: Halfway through 2019, I moved within London for the first time, from Turnpike Lane in the north to Ealing out west. This move — coupled with an office in Shoreditch, means that dining standbys are scattered across the city. In the north, Green Lanes fed mornings and nights — a precious late-night lahmacun from Diyarbakir; grills at Hala; Gokyuzu when fullness and crowdpleasers are more important than revelling in specialism. Rarely, that is. Esters’ unimpeachable food, drinks, and service continued to body cafes all over the city and Jolene saved many an indecisive weekend lunch plan, while Durak Tantuni, a much too late introduction in a three-year-stint spurred by Mr Nunn down below, was another late night rescuer.
In Ealing, having Santa Maria’s outstanding pizza an amble away is a blessing and a curse, the curse being that it becomes too much of a standby. Resistance is key, and it’s been provided by Kiraku’s outstanding soba and ramen; Retsina and Moussaka’s souvlaki and kleftiko; and Sidi Bou’s status as the best (and only?) dedicated Tunisian restaurant in the city. Tetote Factory might be the most accomplished bakery in the city and having it a short walk away is a privilege I need to make more of.
For work? Visions Canteen’s hulking sandwiches, Lyle’s’ superb coffee, Xi’an Biang Biang’s chongqing noodles and liang pi, and Smoking Goat’s wings and aubergine salad, with Casa do Frango’s piri-piri set to be a standby for 2020. Elsewhere, Bright, P. Franco, and Black Axe Mangal continue to astonish with their versions of the familiar.
Anna Sulan Masing, food writer and Eater London contributor: It has to be Smoking Goat! And Sambal Shiok (again this year.) I’ve been to Mei Mei approximately five times since it opened just last month. And Xi’an Biang Biang, via Deliveroo...
Jonathan Nunn, food writer and Eater London contributor: This completely depended on the project I was working on at the time. While I worked on Elephant and Castle I considered it a waste of a day if I wasn’t trying something new, yet I went back and back to Faye Gomes’s Kaieteur Kitchen when I needed a break from meat, beans and plantain. I got talking to a young Caribbean man who was a long term customer and he summed it up for me: it’s food that makes you feel good after you eat it. That is true wellness; I could eat her food everyday.
Since the best-value maps, I think I have been permanently installed in either 40 Maltby St or Quality Wines because I don’t have to worry about whether I’m going to get a good meal or not. Pastries at Flor on Saturday have become another ritual — I don’t have a sweet tooth but I think the new lease of life Anna Higham has given to British patisserie, creating a language that is her own, is worthy of a review in itself. Finally: Singburi, which I haven’t been to as much as I would like this year, but the gaps mean it’s clearer to me how chef Sirichai’s cooking is constantly moving, constantly absorbing new inspirations. He has a well deserved two months off now and I’m sure 2020 is going to bring even more surprises.
Sejal Sukhadwala, food writer and Eater London contributor: This year I haven’t had time to visit a restaurant more than once or twice as the Indian series took up so many of my evenings - but Hana, Tamada, Sarracino, Terra Terra, The Gate St John’s Wood, and Pita are mostly local and have been reliably good for repeat visits.
Emma Hughes, food writer and Eater London contributor: I’ve probably had Quo Vadis cheese straws for dinner at least once a month.
George Reynolds, food writer and Eater London contributor: In terms of sheer number of visits, it’s the inimitable Moi An on Fetter Lane, for like the fourth year running. In terms of effort/reward ratio, it’s P Franco and Bright, which somehow still find ways to remain surprising and thrilling even as their M.O. remains essentially unchanged. The best pub in London is the Marksman, the best bakery in London is The Dusty Knuckle, the best All Day All Things For All Comers restaurant is Jolene. Then there’s Noble Rot, The Quality Chop House, and Brat — the three restaurants I would recommend to anyone if they didn’t offer any other context other than the fact they wanted to eat and drink supremely well. And finally there’s Black Axe Mangal, a restaurant unlike any other that is somehow still underrated despite *killing it* for half a decade. Even the wine list is pretty decent these days.
Shekha Vyas, food writer and Eater London contributor: My standbys of 2019 would definitely now include Sichuan Grand and Kate’s Cafe, but my enduring standbys are still the restaurants I’ve been going to for years: Thattukada, Singburi, and Lahori Nihari, always consistently good.
Josh Barrie, food writer and Eater London contributor: Tasty Jerk, Quo Vadis, Le Relais De Venise, Kiln, Guinea, Franco Manca, Bravi Regazzi, McDonald’s, Gopal’s Corner, Baozilnn, Monty’s Deli, Dosa n Chutny, Morley’s, Quality Chop House.
Apoorva Sripathi, writer and Eater London contributor: Undoubtedly Pueblito Paisa. I remember going there so frequently this year alone for birthdays, random brunches, disastrous dates, or to just eat some ceviche in the summer, which is the best in London. More people should go! Also Pret (not a restaurant I know) for lunchtime sandwiches only because they were convenient. And Ganapati in Peckham for top-rate south Indian food.
Feroz Gajia, restaurateur and Eater London contributor: In a year of at least 300 restaurant meals, most of which were at new restaurants or for the first time, the standbys are usually the ones you go to for guaranteed meals of quality and excellence. The top two would be Singburi & 40 Maltby Street both of which have given me more exquisite food, moments of wonder and great experiences than almost any other. Others would be the best in my immediate vicinity which just happen to be heavily skewed towards Turkish food. The trinity of Neden Urfa, 01 Adana and Numara Bos Cirrik 2 saved many a day or week with superb dishes of quality and consistency, just what everyone expects from their local haunts. NBC 2 seems to be part of the first wave of older ocakbasi restaurants that is upping their price point to reflect this, as they recognise their worth and fight to survive the inevitable rent increases following the latest wave of high street closures.
Ed Smith, food writer and Eater London contributor: I ate out at “old” favourites more often than “new” in 2019, which is probably the right way round. Multiple solo lunches at Smoking Goat, Roti King, Koya and Towpath, plus dinners at Black Axe Mangal stand out — partly because they always left my craving for their menu sated, but also because each of them are so consistent too.
Daisy Meager, food writer and Eater London contributor: Bright, Black Axe Mangal, Rochelle Canteen, Leila’s, Cook Daily, BúnBúnBún, Smoking Goat, Towpath Cafe, BaoziInn and, let’s be honest, Pret.
Angela Hui, food writer and Eater London contributor: I know Singburi keeps cropping up time and time again on these end of year lists, but it really is one of the best restaurants out there and it’s run by the hottest insta chef. I’ve also had way too many helpings of noodles at Joy Luck, Hung’s, Cafe TPT, Lanzhou Lamian Noodle Bar and fried chicken from Good Friend for dessert this year.
Jonathan Hatchman, food writer and Eater London contributor: Good Friend — hands down the best chicken shop in zone one — or Chinese Tapas House. The jianbing are outrageous, ideally with pork belly, sausage, crispy won ton skins and fried bread. I’d eat it regularly for breakfast if I lived closer or woke up early enough.