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 2022, the group were asked 12 questions, covering the best meals and the worst moments alongside 2023 predictions and dining standbys. Their answers will appear throughout this week, with responses relayed in no particular order; cut and pasted below.
Adam Coghlan, Editor, Eater London: Dinner dates at Sessions and Cadet; midweek paternity leave lunches at Brawn and Saikei; dinner with new and old friends (and spectacular wines) at Planque; a ludicrous birthday dinner at Taku; a fried catfish bánh mì lunch from Hoi-An; my first Quarter Kitchen bacon breakfast taco; many a Koya lunch, but most memorably a chicken broth rice porridge with shiitake on the coldest day of the year; a late-night, post-wine tasting dinner at Bright: and a full family Friday night takeaway from Singburi.
James Hansen, Associate Editor, Eater London: The true answer is an arctic gin martini followed by a middling lobster roll at Shutters on the Beach in Los Angeles, the day after my fiancée and I got engaged. That isn’t in London, though, so here goes:
— Meedu Saad’s residency at P. Franco.
— A private audience, less a meal, with my editor and Joké Bakare at Chishuru one lunchtime in April.
— Two 40 Maltby Street meals with Pelin and Andrew, the latter including a full array of Eater video characters, one of whom is absolutely mad for cheese.
— The richest meal in recorded history at Quality Chop House.
— Birthday sequence: Brawn, Duke’s, Cadet.
— The slightly unexpected pleasure of some genuinely superb karahi gosht at Chaskaa’s with Feroz and Jonathan after a perturbingly long wait.
— The Eater London Christmas party at Quality Wines.
Apoorva Sripathi, food writer and Eater London contributor: From my very first meal with my partner, since coming back to London after two years, at Lievito Madre — cold cuts, fresh sourdough, and pumpkin ravioli — homemade Tamil meals, beef nugget and panko daikon baos at Bao, more cold cuts and buttery Castelvetrano olives to accompany glasses of orange wine at Bright, and reliving my student days through the platters at Andu Cafe in Dalston, pistachio ice cream at Morellis in Broadstairs, aubergine and ‘nduja croquettes at Officina 00, whole fried crab and biryani at Thattukada, to just boozy times across this wonderful city. So many moments of joy have been highlighted by food that it’s difficult to list them all or pick one standout dish — and exceedingly grateful that I could come back.
Anna Sulan Masing, food writer and Eater London contributor: In all honesty I didn’t really do restaurants this year. Who can afford to eat out?! I also think this year was the Year of the Bar, a lot of new, really exciting bars have opened. I’ve really enjoyed going out for one cocktail, which makes you feel fancy without spending too much. Seed Library opened in spring and has been like a second home; have a drink at the bar then go to Smoking Goat was a pattern. So best meal was drinking cocktails at the bar at Seed Library whilst eating potato smiles with my mate Mat; then going to Brat and sitting at the bar drinking wine and making chip butties from the excellent potatoes and bread... Pals and carbs, gossip and booze, snacks and bars — all perfect idea of a meal.
An honourable mention is my dinner at Naifs, in Peckham. Lovely restaurant, and a menu that filled me up but I wanted to eat the whole thing again! Truly special spot.
Jonathan Nunn, food writer and Eater London contributor: The three days in a row I ate Eye of Sauron-sized sandwiches at 129 in Saint-Denis.
Joel Hart, food writer and Eater London contributor: This is such a difficult question to answer, and contenders include my first trip to Mangal II or Singburi, a 30th birthday feast at St. John (they excel at sharing platters,) the Anan pop-up at Rochelle Canteen (now set to open in the summer of 2023,) and Barrafina (watching my teenage cousin’s eyes light up as he ate a croqueta for the first time was a beautiful moment.) But, as the components of an ideal meal for me would include wine and dessert, I am going to go with a meal I had at P. Franco on Sunday 13 March when Kiln head chef Meedu Saad was at the helm.
In a collaboration with Ancestrel Wines and Burgundy-based vigneron François Écot, Saad cooked a one-off menu for the event. Admittedly when I first saw the menu, I was disappointed not to see the Egyptian-inspired fare he was usually cooking during his stint there, but a first bite of the Gruyere gougère and I was raring to go. That, and the ambience feeling simultaneously exuberant and serene. P. Franco just felt right that day. There was a duck parfait as rich as foie gras with a date jam to cut through, followed by a very well-judged plate of grilled sweetbread tempered by crushed hazelnuts and watercress salad, a sole veronique as pretty in the mouth as it was for the eyes, and to conclude the savoury elements, a clever poularde aux morilles en croûte (confit chicken and morels in a madeira cream sauce, scooped in between crunchy buttery pastry). Drinking a wine in the presence of the winemaker really makes you understand the idea that there can be a personality match between the craftsman and product, and my wine highlight was a blend of six varieties (pinot noir, gamay, Pineau d’Aunis, pinot beurot, césar, and abouriou) and the only wine François produces from his vines in Mailly-le-Chateau (on the edge of Chablis.) It had the typical lithe mouthfeel and characterful expressiveness you expect from François’s wines, but with remarkable length and precision. Finally, one of the most memorable desserts of the year for me (and I really love pudding) was a “baba de Bourgogne,” which used a Marc de Bourgogne instead of rum in a lush cherry reduction that topped a generous and artistically plated coating of cream surrounding the sugar-coated yeast cake.
Overall, the fact that Saad could produce such an incredible menu in a cuisine he doesn’t usually work with showed me how much of a force to be reckoned with he is. I simply can’t wait to have an opportunity to taste dishes inspired by his fish-centered memories of summers spent in the Egyptian port city of Ismailia (which incidentally is somewhere I’ve visited and is home to the best mangoes I’ve ever tasted, so I’m perhaps even more excited for whatever masterly mango concoction he comes up with for dessert.)
George Reynolds, writer and Eater London contributor: We live in an age of atomisation. As recently as five years ago, I was lovingly compiling my 50 favourite songs of the year into a dedicated Spotify playlist. Now? I’m lucky if can untangle specific sounds from the primordial soup of TikTok-length snatches swirling around inside my skull 24/7. Was my song of the year “Break My Soul,” like everyone else, or was it just a multisecond fragment — the sublime, doomy synths at the start of Rosalía’s “La Combi Versace”; the spiralling violin line in “Knee 5” from Einstein on the Beach; the compelling, maddening, ubiquitous dance break in the middle of “About Damn Time”?
Food has increasingly become the same for me. I’m pretty sure the single best soup-to-nuts meal I ate this year was an orgy of porcini and ragù at Cammillo in Florence, but that is so obviously an affected choice — like Frank O’Hara namedropping The Polish Rider in Having a Coke with You — and so obviously not the point of this exercise that I really want to find something London-centric. And yet all I can find is snapshots, beautiful in their Instagram-ordained frame, which when combined might make a meal fit for royalty: the chawanmushi at Evernight; the duck agnolotti at Bright; ricotta fritters with fennel sugar at Cafe Deco.
Two more coherent experiences just about fit the bill: a workday lunch, à deux, with my wife at Cafe Cecilia while our son was at school — the steak frites AND the deep-fried bread and butter pudding AND no Bluey in the background, pinch me — and a proper knees-up at The Plimsoll, while the young people around us looked beautiful and careless and went to the loos in excitable pairs and came back even more excitable and made me realise that the (very good) food is secondary to the incredible room they’ve created there. And perhaps it’s that that makes for a great meal for me in 2022 (and beyond): a realisation that a great experience is more than just an accumulation of good parts.
Feroz Gajia, restaurateur and Eater London contributor: Overall probably the meal at Bokman, it promised so much and mostly delivered. The tongdak (rice-stuffed rotisserie chicken cooked over flaming wood) and beef rib stew especially will live long in the memory. A couple of outrageously good Singburi meals and a meal at Uncle Wrinkle bought unexpected happiness as well.
Sean Wyer, writer, researcher and Eater London contributor: In full knowledge that I will be torn apart for this, I have to concede that my favourite meal of 2022 was my birthday lunch at the River Café. The crab (Cancer szn), and a perfect potato and taleggio pizzetta, were particular stand-outs, but the real highlight was pretending to be an extra in a Richard Curtis film.
Angela Hui, food writer and Eater London contributor: Without sounding like a broken record but Singburi. The last meal I had was perfect and something straight out of a fairytale. Took a group of friends who were seasoned eaters and first-timers, blessed to have Sirichai’s dad Tony also on the woks, absolute knock out moo krob, weeping tiger rump cap and gang kadook moo pork rib cashew curry and then it started to do the Big Snow outside. Rounding off the night being trapped at the Red Lion and a massive snowball fight with the whole of Leytonstone. Class.
Nyasha Oliver, food writer and Eater London contributor: For me, it’s been Eastern Cuisine, for their standout dishes, garlic Gujarat and naga chilli, and effortless delivery service.
David Jay Paw, food writer and Eater London contributor: A random plate of food at Wong Kei after a mediocre evening in Soho with a friend. Thirty minutes in Wong Kei brought more joy and elation than most occasions I can recall. I had just been on the Wong Kei Tumblr and saw the scrambled egg and stewed pork over rice, which was perfect. It was euphoric.
Shekha Vyas, food writer and Eater London contributor: Lobster noodles at MiMi Mei Fair. For context: it was my birthday, it felt super extra and they satisfied a craving I’d been having since the first Lockdown. Galvin at Windows x Turnips collaboration was one of the best plant-based meals I’ve eaten, set in a beautiful space with great company. Allegra’s fried chicken was a revelation and a supper club at Hackney Chinese Community Services hosted by Guan Leong and Lap-fai Lee was the crossover I needed in my life.
Issac Rangaswami, food writer and Eater London contributor: I used to like Scotti’s Snack Bar mainly because of its bacon rolls, museum-like interior, and remarkably friendly proprietor Al. But this year I fell head over heels for its lunch menu too. Al and his family put a huge amount of care into the food, from their finely tuned fried chicken sandwich, to London’s least famous filled pasta in brodo.