It is the tradition at Eater to end the year with a survey of friends, contributors, rovers of the industry, and professional eaters. Even a year like this one. For 2020, the group were asked 13 questions, covering the best meals and the worst tweets alongside community responses, and coronavirus pivots. Their answers will appear throughout this week, with responses related in no particular order; cut and pasted below.
Adam Coghlan, Editor, Eater London: Percy Ingle, The Ledbury, and the Ace Hotel.
James Hansen, Associate Editor, Eater London: The Ace Hotel, site of many great Eater nights; Atari-Ya and Hilltop Roti in Ealing, which deserved better than a sudden fade to black; and then two very different closures. Hung’s, a single Chinatown restaurant, and the Pizza Express restaurants that closed. Not because they demonstrated what COVID-19 can do to restaurants, but because they demonstrated the material consequences of the increasing power of placemaking landlords and private equity greed, respectively.
Anna Sulan Masing, food writer and Eater London contributor: I’ve walked past a few coffee shops that I were on my regular routes around London that have closed, which makes me so sad.
Jonathan Nunn, food writer and Eater London contributor: The closure of Hung’s hit hard, not just for personal reasons but because it felt like a turning point for Chinatown, the first breach in the Maginot line of old Chinatown on the west side of Wardour Street. If there’s no place for Hung’s it makes you wonder what else there won’t be room for, and how quickly the chains will take their places.
Chris Cotonou, writer and Eater London contributor: Hung’s in Chinatown. Memories from better days, the savoury unpretentious food, and wandering past their provocative dada duck-art vitrine. F Cooke’s in Dalston, where my dad and grandad would go after work, which I remember from being a small child, and which embodies more than anywhere the disappearing London cockney cuisine.
Sejal Sukhadwala, food writer and Eater London contributor: The Ledbury and Vanilla Black, two of my favourite London restaurants. The Ledbury holds very special memories; but the vegetarian gem Vanilla Black I feel for especially, because it was so under-valued, not as well-known at home or internationally as it should have been. An omnivore restaurant of the same calibre and significance would have been heaped with awards and accolades, but Vanilla Black’s tenth anniversary went mostly unreported; its closure, largely unmarked. Over the years, it was wonderful to see it blossom, but now incredibly sad it never reached its full potential.
Emma Hughes, freelance food writer and Eater London contributor: Although I’ve attempted the laksa at home following Mandy’s recipe, bought the paste and enjoyed the real thing outside under a heater, I really miss sitting at the bar at Sambal Shiok and I’m counting the days until it (hopefully) reopens fully. I’m also really sad about Sardine and Linden Stores, and kicking myself for not going to Two Lights when I had the chance.
George Reynolds, food writer and Eater London contributor: There were doubtless closures that affected more people, or represented a more headline moment in London restaurant history. But purely personally the one I’ll miss the most is Moi An, the Vietnamese café round the corner from where I work (formerly known as an “office”). The food was straightforward but unfailingly exactly what you wanted — pho and rice bowls in winter; cold noodles and salads in summer — but it was never really about that. It was about feeling you were a part of something, about a family-run operation that nourished you and which you, with your custom, could help to grow in turn. There must be hundreds of businesses like this across London; the tragic thing is that it is them — not the infinitely-restructurable PE plays — that are the ones most likely to go the way of Moi An.
Shekha Vyas, food writer and Eater London contributor: Most closures are cause for sadness, but for me, it was Hung’s. With so many memories attached to it, it was like the last tie to the earlier chapters of my life being cut.
Gemma Croffie, writer and Eater London contributor: Sree Krishna because when I worked in Tooting many moons ago, it was the place we went for any big work celebration. I’ve been meaning to go back for a while (maybe part of the problem?) and now I can’t.
Feroz Gajia, restaurateur and Eater London contributor: Many closures hit hard but for me it was my local stalwarts that faded quietly without fanfare that drove home the reality of what will become of the high street.
Ed Cumming, writer and restaurant critic: Wahlburgers, the funniest — and quite possibly the worst — restaurant in London. Bodega Rita’s, the best sarnies in King’s Cross, with apologies to S + D.
Daisy Meager, food writer and Eater London contributor: Percy Ingle, while technically not a restaurant, the East London bakery chain felt like a place that served the community beyond making some of London’s best doughnuts and Belgian buns.
Angela Hui, food writer and Eater London contributor: Hung’s closure was a stake in the heart for me and the Vittles obituary beautifully sums up why this place was so important. It was heartbreaking to speak to the owners just weeks before their closure about how dire business in Chinatown has been and their plans to call it a day to go back to their homeland in Fujian. It pains me every time I walk past and see their blinds rolled down and a closed sign on the front door. I miss the jumbo wonton noodles with extra chilli oil, the red bowls, the curt service, glossy Cantonese roast duck and giant slabs of crispy pork hanging in the window and of course, the gigantic horse painting hanging proudly on the ground floor.
David J Paw, food writer and Eater London contributor: For me, the closure of Hung’s in Chinatown felt like another step towards the end of an era.