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Ekuru at Chishuru in Brixton, one of the most exciting new restaurants to open in London this year Yvonne Maxwell/passthedutchpot/Instagram

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The Best Meals of 2020

According to Eater London’s year-end committee

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.

To begin, here are the best meals of 2020.


Adam Coghlan, Editor, Eater London: Of the things I remember that somehow also took place in 2020: There was very early January lunch at Quality Chop House, which stands out for being probably the richest meal I ate this year — parfait, truffle, cod’s roe, olive oil ice cream. In late January, and a terrific(-value) vegan lunch at Andu in Dalston; a phenomenal Cantonese feast at Chu Chin Chow in February; a second phenomenal feast courtesy of Jason Li and Master Wei’s Wei Guirong, also in February; and a spectacularly precise lunch at A. Wong a few days before the shit really hit the fan.

There were two Singburi meals — one in the very early days of the pandemic, which I hoped would have jolted my tastebuds back to life (reader, they did not return for another three weeks); the second came post-lockdown on a rainy night in midsummer, which was truly one of the best meals I ate all year. Somehow, chef Sirichai Kularbwong had improved the unimprovable moo krob dish.

The takeaway cheeseburgers, chips, and lambic beers from The Laughing Heart standout as a high-point in the summer. The pizzas I made, according to the legendary Vaughn Tan method, at home, were probably better than the majority of those eaten on a very enjoyable midsummer’s evening post-lockdown with a load of other pizza nerds in south London. Except for one pizza at Bravi Ragazzi in Streatham. On the subject of pizza, ASAP Pizza is an extraordinarily clever enterprise: ingredients read like Food Dork Top Trumps, but the flavour profile is less gourmet and more 90s trashy takeaway. Expect it to be an even bigger deal in 2021.

A special mention for the stunning takeaway sushi from Sushi Tetsu — one of the capital’s great restaurants, which is far too hard to get into in non-pandemic London. And a special mention, too, for two exceptional, covered outdoor evening meals at Ombra in the early autumn. Hats off in general to Mitshel Ibrahim for one hell of a year at the stove, on the pasta machine, and in the innovation station.

Lastly, for my birthday, I was fortunate enough to splurge on a Gymkhana/Trishna/Brigadiers consignment, which was remarkably straightforward (and also fun) to cook and assemble in the home kitchen — some 310 miles away! The Brigadiers butter chicken wings, prepared by yours truly, were truly one of the most delicious things I ate all year.

James Hansen, Associate Editor, Eater London: A very restorative meal at Noodle Beer on a cold day in January, featuring lang-ya tou dou, crinkle-cut chips stacked like nachos with coriander, spring onion, more of that Sichuan peppered chilli oil, and fermented chilli black bean paste. A chaotic evil beginning to a most chaotic, evil year. Then a positively absurd group meal of egg yolk prawns, poon choi, chilli crab, and Malaysian chicken at Chu Chin Chow. A compelling collaboration between two of the best restaurants in the city, Singburi and Ombra, in February. Vietnamese blood sausage, intestine, pho, duck tongues, and more at a coveted table at Pho Thuy Tay, when no-one was allowed to geotag the fact they had been to Pho Thuy Tay.

Then it was March, and that was that.

Until outdoor tacos and smashburgers at Bake Street, with a chaser of Zanzibari barbecue; a single fig leaf parfait and tahini-orange cookie ice cream sandwich from E5 Bakehouse; several chile verde tacos from Sonora; a single, impossibly friable slice of pissaladière from Cafe Deco. And, as it was 2020, an outstanding meal kit of duck confit from Nick Bramham at Quality Wines.

Anna Sulan Masing, food writer and Eater London contributor: This is strangely impossible to answer this year, more than others because each meal is imbued with a lot of emotion. But here are a couple of things, Dumpling Shack — the first takeaway we had at the end of lockdown 1. Snacks and wine at Silo; the staff are so lovely there. Mei Mei’s BA — the magic of summer, outside, eating food with friends. Curry Puffs from Sambal Shiok on my birthday.

Jonathan Nunn, food writer and Eater London contributor: Either the last Chu Chin Chow meal, which keeps getting better as we (mainly Jessica Wang) work out exactly what the kitchen really excels at (Hainanese chicken rice, pretty much anything deep fried, crabs), and what is just there for show (glossy, skull-sized buns filled with chicken curry), or my third meal at Chishuru where the cooking has accelerated in confidence so quickly I’m scared at how good it’s going to be in 2021. Or the only dinner proper I had at Flor, where I feel Pam Yung is now cooking exactly the food she set out to cook. When Flor opened initially, I found their dinner option austere, technically perfect and borderline unenjoyable. It’s now one of the most fun dinners you can have in London ─ a completely different restaurant.

Chris Cotonou, writer and Eater London contributor: Without a doubt Rising Sun, a sushi bar in Petts Wood, Bromley. It’s out of the way but was frequently suggested to me. The owner learned his craft in his native Japan, before marrying an English woman and moving to the South London suburb. He opened Rising Sun, retaining the traditions and rituals associated with the sushi experience in Japan. It’s authentic, family-run, the eel is incredible, all products are bought daily from Billingsgate, and because of its distant proximity to central London, it won’t break the bank.

Sejal Sukhadwala, food writer and Eater London contributor: None really. I haven’t visited any restaurants since the first lockdown and being a person who does not particularly enjoy takeaways and home deliveries at the best of times (food gets cold, dishes look sloppy), I only had a tiny number of those. At the start of the first lockdown in March, I knew two people who’d been struck down with Covid (one of whom eventually died). The havoc it wreaked on their body and mind made me extra cautious. I do feel guilty about not “supporting” the hospitality industry, and am heartbroken for people whose entire livelihoods have been wiped out, but at the same time you have to respect the often difficult decisions of those of us who chose to stay away. Plus, there’s the enjoyment factor. I would not have derived any pleasure from dining out with the continuously changing rules and regulations, constantly looking over my shoulder, feeling anxious and panicked instead of being relaxed and happy. I’ll be in restaurants like a shot once I’ve had… um, the shot… which is surely only a matter of time.

Emma Hughes, freelance food writer and Eater London contributor: I bookended the first lockdown with meals at Westerns Laundry, both unforgettable for different reasons. The whole chilli crab at Mei Mei did a wonderful job of blasting away the December doldrums, and the delightful Quo Vadis at Home box that came on a Friday gave me a (totally worth it) hangover until Monday.

Malaysian fried chicken, centre, at Chu Chin Chow, one of London’s Best Chinese restaurants for takeaway
Food from Chu Chin Chow
Jessica Wang

George Reynolds, food writer and Eater London contributor: Perhaps fittingly in a year that has stopped and started and never really got into gear and has yet somehow lasted well over 500 days, 2020 has been a year of great dishes, but very few perfect end-to-end meals. It has also been a year in which food on the plate has mattered a lot less to me than the people I’m enjoying it with, so the answer here has to be one of three meals enjoyed with the same group of friends: one at Bistrotheque as we emerged from Lockdown v1; the second at Smoking Goat the night before Lockdown v2; and the third a couple of days after my birthday in early December, where we drank frozen margaritas on Forza Wine’s freezing terrace and everything — fleetingly — felt like it might end up OK.

Shekha Vyas, food writer and Eater London contributor: There were two mainly for associated feelings. Firstly, in the midst of so many closures, it was an unexpected pleasure to be able to enjoy a restaurant’s opening night (Sollip). Second, the simple happiness of beautiful seasonal eating at Pique Nique — one of the first meals I savoured after the end of a long lockdown.

Feroz Gajia, restaurateur and Eater London contributor: If I was looking at it based purely on the deliciousness of meals earlier in the year, then TATA, Singburi, 40 Maltby Street, Pho Thuy Tay Cafe, Brawn, Quality Wines or even the ridiculous Wagyumafia Ramen would have made for easy picks, but in hindsight singular event meals will live longer in the memory, having 20-odd people at Chu Chin Chow for Poon Choi, five people together for a Turkish food crawl after lockdown 1.0 or getting *number redacted* people to crawl South London for average pizza on one of the hottest days of the year. All possibly the best.

Daisy Meager, food writer and Eater London contributor: It’s a close call between the first meal out of lockdown at Ombra (cocktails! gnocco fritto! pasta! wine! tiramisu! no washing up!), Farokh Talati’s at-home Parsi feast and the lemon sorbet served in a lemon at Ciao Bella while sitting on the terrace on one of the hottest days of the year.

Broad beans and toast, little gem lettuce and asparagus at 40 Maltby Street in Bermondsey, the modern British restaurant that forms part of the best 24 hour restaurant travel itinerary for London — where to eat with one day in the city Ola Smit/Eater London

Angela Hui, food writer and Eater London contributor: Hands down, Chishuru in Brixton. We went in October just as the 10pm curfew was introduced, ordered everything on the menu twice, then ordered more. Chef-owner Joké Bakare is an evil genius disguised as a lovely motherly type who wants to feed everyone that walks through her door. The care, the passion and great lengths she goes to in explaining West African ingredients, walking through her cooking and how she created each dish. Her exceptional food and warm personality was a real tonic to a shitshow of a year. I’m so happy and lucky I got to try her food and meet her. I’m counting down the days until I can go and eat *that* bavette steak with yaji again.

David J Paw, food writer and Eater London contributor: A meal with close friends at Rochelle Canteen after the end of the second lockdown, featuring rabbit terrine, a comforting dish of poached chicken, ox tongue and vegetables, and a choux bun sandwiching an apple and berry compote and loads of cream.

Ed Cumming, writer and restaurant critic: Duck liver choux buns, roast chicken with vin jaune and a gallon of chablis at the Soho Noble Rot in the gap between lockdowns.

Maazin Buhari, writer and Eater London contributor: Days before London’s second lockdown, one of my friends donated a coveted reservation to me, a spot at the Chef’s Table at KOL. In a bleak, gloomy, depressive, diseased, and malaised year - this five-hour lunch delivered the single greatest dining experience I think I’ve ever had in my life. The restaurant itself, bathrooms and all, is absolutely stunning - but the food is indescribable, out of this world, stupefying, mind-bendingly good. I don’t know what Santiago Lastra has planned for the future of KOL, or in general - but if this single lunch was anything to go by, it’s going to be astounding. Each successive course was more impressive than the last, bulging lobster-tails basted in lamb fat, a heavenly mextlapique, a confusingly brilliant butternut squash sorbet with rattlesnake chilli oil. I play that afternoon back in my head, again and again and again.

Quality Chop House

94 Farringdon Rd, London, Greater London EC1R 3EA +44 20 3490 6228 Visit Website

Sambal Shiok

171 Holloway Road, London, Greater London N7 8LX

Indian Accent

Lodhi Road, CGO Complex, DL 110003 098711 17968 Visit Website

Silo

Unit 7, Queens Yard, London, Greater London E9 5EN +44 20 8533 3331 Visit Website

Black Axe Mangal

156 Canonbury Road, , England N1 2UP Visit Website

Orasay

31 Kensington Park Road, , England W11 2EU 020 7043 1400 Visit Website

Pho Thuy Tay

899 Old Kent Road, London,

Dumpling Shack

Brushfield Street, , England E1 6BG Visit Website

Westerns Laundry

34 Drayton Park, , England N5 1PB 020 7700 3700 Visit Website

Gymkhana

42 Albemarle Street, , England W1S 4JH 020 3011 5900 Visit Website

The Dusty Knuckle Bakery

Abbot Street, , England E8 3DP 020 3903 7598 Visit Website

Quo Vadis

26-29 Dean Street, , England W1D 3LL 020 7437 9585 Visit Website

Xi'an Impression

117 Benwell Road, , England N7 7BW 020 3441 0191 Visit Website

Decimo

10 Argyle Street, , England NW1 2ST 020 3981 8888 Visit Website

Rules

34-35 Maiden Lane, , England WC2E 7LB 020 7836 5314 Visit Website

The Laughing Heart

277 Hackney Road, , England E2 8NA 020 7686 9535 Visit Website

Lagom

17 Bohemia Place, , England E8 1DU 020 8986 2643 Visit Website

Trishna

15-17 Blandford Street, , England W1U 3DG 020 7935 5624 Visit Website

E5 Bakehouse

396 Mentmore Terrace, , England E8 3PH 020 8525 2890 Visit Website

P Franco

107 Lower Clapton Road, , England E5 0NP 020 8533 4660 Visit Website

BAO

590 Valencia Street, , CA 94110 (415) 658-7453 Visit Website

Allegra

20 International Way, , England E20 1FD 020 3973 0545 Visit Website

Master Wei

13 Cosmo Pl, Holborn, Greater London WC1N 3AP +44 20 7209 6888 Visit Website

Peg

120 Morning Lane, , England E9 6LH 020 3441 8765 Visit Website

Chu Chin Chow

7 Cat Hill, , England EN4 8HG 020 8449 5156 Visit Website

40 Maltby Street

40 Maltby Street, , England SE1 3PA 020 8076 9517 Visit Website

Flor

1 Bedale Street, , England SE1 9AL 020 3967 5418 Visit Website

Brawn

49 Columbia Road, , England E2 7RG 020 7729 5692 Visit Website

The French House

49 Dean Street, , England W1D 5BG 020 7437 2477 Visit Website

MURUGAN IDLI SHOP

315 High Street North, , England E12 6SL 020 8552 0001 Visit Website

Emile

26 Curtain Road, , England EC2A 3NY 07496 568921 Visit Website

Brigadiers

1-5 Bloomberg Arcade, , England EC4N 8AR 020 3319 8140 Visit Website

Tayēr + Elementary

152 Old Street, , England EC1V 9BW Visit Website

Tasty Jerk

88 Whitehorse Lane, , England SE25 6RQ 020 8653 3222

Sushi Tetsu

12 Jerusalem Passage, , England EC1V 4JP 020 3217 0090

Namak Mandi

25 Upper Tooting Road, , England SW17 7TS 020 8767 6120

A. Wong

70 Wilton Road, , England SW1V 1DE 020 7828 8931 Visit Website

Bistrotheque

23-27 Wadeson Street, , England E2 9DR 020 8983 7900 Visit Website

Primeur

116 Petherton Road, , England N5 2RT 020 7226 5271 Visit Website

OMBRA

1 Vyner Street, , England E2 9DG 020 8981 5150 Visit Website

BAO Borough

13 Stoney Street, , England SE1 9AD 020 3319 8132 Visit Website

Bake Street

58 Evering Road, , England N16 7SR 020 7683 7177 Visit Website

Forza Wine

133A Rye Lane, , England SE15 4BQ 020 7732 7500 Visit Website

Noble Rot

51 Lamb’s Conduit St, London, Greater London WC1N 3NB +44 20 7242 8963 Visit Website

Smoking Goat

64 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JJ

Brilliant

72-76 Western Road, Southall , Middlesex , UB2 5DZ Visit Website

The Compton Arms

4 Compton Avenue, , England N1 2XD 020 7354 8473 Visit Website

Endo at the Rotunda

101 Wood Lane, , England W12 7FR 020 3972 9000 Visit Website

Pho Thuy Tay Cafe

899 Old Kent Road, , England SE15 1NL 020 3105 6453

Sollip

8 Melior Street, , England SE1 3QP Visit Website

Bravi Ragazzi

2A Sunnyhill Road, , England SW16 2UH 020 8769 4966 Visit Website

Singburi

593 High Road Leytonstone, , England E11 4PA 020 8281 4801

Chishuru

Coldharbour Lane, , England SW9 8LB 07960 002150 Visit Website

Quality Wines

88 Farringdon Road, , England EC1R 3EA 020 3602 8115 Visit Website

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