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.
Having surveyed the best meals inside restaurants, it’s time for the best meals outside of them — the takeaway, delivery, and on-the-move eats that lit up 2020.
Adam Coghlan, Editor, Eater London: Dumpling Shack’s spring onion pancakes and jars of chilli oil; Sonora’s (nee Pollo Feliz) pork fat tortillas; Ombra’s pasta; Tutto Wines, Modal Wines; wines from Noble; Singburi; Yard Sale pizzas; kebabs from Mannoush; mangoes from Feroz; and so many baguettes from Today Bread.
James Hansen, Associate Editor, Eater London: Buns from Tetote Factory; Tunisian stews from Sidi Bou; udon noodles and tempura from Kiraku; coffee from Lyle’s when offices were still real and coffees from Element when they weren’t. Chongqing noodles from Xi’an Biang Biang, again when offices were still real; pizza from Santa Maria; more buns from Tetote Factory. Living ten or fifteen minutes’ walk from Tetote Factory: it’s dangerous.
Anna Sulan Masing, food writer and Eater London contributor: Wine deliveries full stop. Modal Wines, Nobody Asked Me have been a particular feature — saviours. Double soup’ing it from Sichuan Grand – Won Ton Soup and Chongqing Spicy & Numbing Noodles. And of course, Sambal Shiok!
Jonathan Nunn, food writer and Eater London contributor: Going against everything I did in 2019 (when I was so bored of the limits of London I briefly considered pitching a series on the New Towns), I made the decision this year that I would not care about anything that wasn’t going on within a 15 minute cycle ride of my house. No new openings, no collabs, no FOMO. As a result I have been far happier. The infinite permutations of lunch collapsed into two questions: what sandwich would I get at 40 Maltby Street, what pizza will I get at ASAP? Both took foods considered as lowest common denominators and did something imaginative with them. I know everyone wants to open as normal again, but I’ll be sad if 2021 doesn’t feature more sandwiches and more pizzas.
Chris Cotonou, writer and Eater London contributor: Thai Garden Cafe in Greenwich, their off-menu massaman curry and wings got me through the worst of days; Bun House in Soho for terrace eating/people-watching; Dionysus in Southgate for takeaway. Although the Deptford one is the original, in tricky times, I’ve turned to Goddard’s Pie and Mash in Greenwich for starchy comfort; Han in New Malden for dinner and karaoke post-lockdown and where I’ll be going with pals for Christmas Eve dinner; Shahanshah in Southall for their unparalleled paneer samosa, delivered home in a brown bag and devoured on the sofa.
Sejal Sukhadwala, food writer and Eater London contributor: None. I only had a couple of takeaways and pizza deliveries; my food year revolved entirely around cooking at home, watching food shows on various streaming services, and suddenly finding a lot of time to work on my Indian food dictionary.
Emma Hughes, food writer and Eater London contributor: Stockwell Continental for London’s best focaccia, frittata and ribollita, Darby’s for perfect pastries, Artusi for peerless pasta and sauces, Sorella for mushroom arancini by the bag — south London served me very well indeed during lockdown and beyond.
George Reynolds, food writer and Eater London contributor: As I always do a conscientious compiler of year-end content, to prep for The Year In Eater I have a good old scroll through my Instagram (anyone wondering about my weirdly anachronistic frequency of posting to grid now has the explanation: it’s basically my memory’s external hard drive these days). First thought: wow, that’s a lot of sandwiches! Second, connected thought: that’s a lot of sandwiches from places I went to a lot pre-pandemic and which have pivoted to sandwiches this year: Brawn, 40 Maltby Street, Dumpling Shack, Bright, Trullo. Third thought: the other places I went to regularly all belonged to some sort of family: whether the Nasi / Sambal Shiok duo, the Quality Wines / Quality Chop / Quality Chop Shop trio, or the Primeur / Jolene / Big Jo / Westerns / Fitzroy / North Street Kitchen we’re-going-to-need-a-people-carrier brood. Final, unifying theory of eating out in 2020: we go back to the places we love not because they do good sandwiches — though if Mandy Yin did a sandwich stuffed with her fried chicken I would be first in line — but because whatever they do, we trust them to do it with love and attention to detail, and that’s worth any amount of inconvenience as we try to eat it on a park bench in a howling gale.
Shekha Vyas, food writer and Eater London contributor: Even after lockdowns 1&2, I wasn’t able to leave the house more than a handful of times due to an injury so I kept it local with the usual e.g. Kate’s Cafe, Royal Chef, Thattukada, Sichuan Grand, Singburi, Minh’s etc.
Gemma Croffie, writer and Eater London contributor: There was no such thing in my family this year as regular in restaurant dining unfortunately. Sadly, the most regular delivery in my household has been Domino’s pizza, because sometimes only pizza will do especially where children are involved. Tasty Jerk’s jerk pork was second.
Feroz Gajia, restaurateur and Eater London contributor: Having weekends off during the course of the year felt weird, but it meant being able to go to the markets, so takeaways became a mixture of 40 Maltby Street, Sonora Taqueria, Singburi, local Turkish joints and more bakeries than I care to mention. Delivery usually met a base need to eat anything that wasn’t made by me so was dominated by the golden arches and flanked by a few orders from Chubby Cheese (previously Good Burger and part of the Coqfighter family) and Neden Urfa. The best delivery I had was certainly El Inca Plebeyo, a delicious Ecuadorian restaurant whose delivery zone I no longer fall into.
Vaughn Tan, academic and restaurant consultant: 40 Maltby Street, Quality Wines, ASAP Pizza
Daisy Meager, food writer and Eater London contributor: Ombra for lasagne Sundays, park picnics and terrace evenings; Bright for essential wine pick-ups; Pavilion Bakery for anything and everything pastry; at-home feasts from Nasi Economy Rice; Lily Vanilli for special birthday cake; Yard Sale Pizza.
Ed Cumming, writer and restaurant critic: Delivery: Yard Sale Pizza, One Love Kitchen, Dishoom, Home James Delivery.
Angela Hui, food writer and Eater London contributor: Ombra, Tian Tian, Beigel Bake, Smokestak, Singburi, Arch Rivals, Flor/ASAP, Kotch, Quality Wines
David J Paw, food writer and Eater London contributor: Lunch on Ombra’s terrace was my first meal back after the first lockdown; Oren delivery genuinely felt like an event; Pollo Feliz (later Sonora) became a much-anticipated weekly ritual.