My Gastronomic Highlights 2017

28th December 2017

This year came with a lot of challenges, but looking back, so many exciting things happened too and I am grateful to have made it through with my soulmate by my side, friendships that are stronger than ever and my health more or less in tact.  There was a fair amount of eating out, but not so much blogging. The Better Half’s (TBH) rule of not eating at the same restaurant twice seemed to go out the window and we’ve established some firm favourites along the way….some of them even in our home town, which seems to finally be getting a few decent places to eat and socialise. Hooray!

Rather than do a month-by-month run down as I normally do for my end of year review, I thought I would just capture some of the highlights The Better Half and I enjoyed in 2017.

We both turned forty this year and made sure that we celebrated this milestone in style. His was first in January and we headed back to South Africa to spend it with friends who were also celebrating the big FOUR-OH.  Our trips to Cape Town are always jam-packed with a lot of fun and of course plenty of good food and wine. This time was no exception. We took the Franschoek Wine Tram and celebrated the actual day with lunch at La Colombe.

 

Tuna La Colombe

 

In May, my friend Nic ran a fitness retreat and asked me to do the cooking for him for the week. It was an absolute dream, incredibly hard work but I loved every minute of it.  From the planning to the 2 hour grocery shop we had to do with the help of Google translate, it was a real joy sharing this experience with him. Pictured below are some of the meals I cooked. Being a fitness retreat, they’re all pretty healthy and if you’re interested in any of the recipes hit me up and I’ll happily post them.

The Island Retreat in Majorca, run by my gorgeous, ever-smiling friend Nic.

Breakfasts ~ Buckwheat pancakes with berry compote; Chocolate and banana protein porridge and a mixed berry smoothie bowl with granola dust

Lunches & Dinners ~ Tomato and mozzarella salad with basil; Crispy seabass with pea and asparagus mash; Quinoa chicken salad with lime, feta and chilli; Seared steak salad with jeweled tabbouleh; Chicken and garlic bread skewers on a spinach and avocado salad; Seared tuna steaks with a Sicilian tomato couscous

Desserts ~ Watermelon and lime granita; healthy Eton Mess; Watermelon pizza with fresh berries, yoghurt, mixed nuts and mint

 

September rolled around all too quickly and it was my turn to celebrate a birthday. I have wanted to go to San Sebastian for as long as I can remember. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a foodie mecca in the Basque region of Northern Spain, bordering France. It has the most Michelin starred restaurants per capita, but that aside, the old town is absolutely jam-packed with pintxo (pronounced pincho) bars. So much so that on day one I was so totally overwhelmed by the choice that I just froze in the middle of the street and TBH had to make the first decision! Analysis Paralysis at it’s best.

Just a small snapshot of the amazing pintxos we had in San Sebastian

More pintxos

 

I had booked a fancy 3 star restaurant for my actual birthday, but we were enjoying the bar-hopping so much that I cancelled it and instead made it my mission to get a slice of the tortilla from Bar Nestor. He only serves two tortillas per day – one at lunch time and another at dinner. You have to queue first thing in the morning, get your name on the list and then come back when he opens for your slice. But on Sundays (my birthday) he is only open for lunch. Therefore I only had 1 chance! You can imagine the tension – will I get a slice or won’t I? Totally worth the effort though and you can see from the smile on my face, just how happy I was! 🙂

Happiness is…..

 

I topped my birthday off with some indulgent churros with the richest chocolate sauce I have ever had. I really don’t think we had 1 dud dish the entire time we were there! San Sebastian is a charming little town with friendly people and an absolutely gorgeous beach. (Apparently very popular with surfers). TBH was hesitant before going because he didn’t know what to expect, but he loved it just as much as I did and we are already looking at booking a return visit. I think every time we go back, it will be a different experience. If you love good food and wine, then I would highly recommend you add this to your list of places to visit.

Birthday churros

 

Back on home turf. Our high street is finally starting to regenerate. It was so bad when we first moved there, packed full of charity shops and Pound stores and really not a place we wanted (or could) socialise. Ten years on and we’ve got a brand new cinema and even a Nandos, but one of our favourite new additions is Masala Dabbas which opened in October. They started life as a market stall in Bromley and as their by-line goes “serving Indian food as Indians know it”. It’s very different to the ones found on every high street in the UK and we’ve really enjoyed every meal we have had there.

Looking back over the year, I realise that I eat A LOT of burgers. So easy to get wrong, but done right they are a thing of absolute beauty. These babies cure my hangover every single time. My favourite burger is the Black Bear Burger. Another one that started out as market stall at Broadway Market, but they now have a shop at Boxpark in Shoreditch.

Some of my favourite burgers ~ The Black Bear from Black Bear Burger; The chick chick boom from GBK; The Dead Hippie from MeatMission; the double cheeseburger from Bleecker Street Burger

 

Other notable meals I have had this year were at Darjeeling Express, a gorgeous Indian restaurant with a fantastic back story located in Kingly Court on Carnaby Street. The smell coming from the Tangra Chilli Garlic Prawns (pictured) was just sensational and still so vivid in my memory. I had goat here for the first time too which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The “All-In” from Blacklock is a meat-lover’s dream and such insanely good value. Lamb pork and beef chops sit atop garlic bread, catching all those delicious meat juices. Yum! Its perfect for groups.

The Daisy Green Collection is a group of restaurants that does brunch really, really well and I particularly enjoyed the shakshuka (and bottomless prosecco) at their Timmy Green restaurant in Victoria.

Whilst not a meal, the Bloody Mary that I had at Bronte was probably one of the best ones I’ve ever had.  It’s amazing just how differently each bar-person makes them. This one had really interesting garnishes and was perfectly balanced. The restaurant has a lovely outside area and it makes for great people watching.

Darjeeling Express ~ Tangra Chilli Garlic Prawns; Blacklock ~ “All-in; Daisy Green Collection/Timmy Green ~ Shakshuka; Bronte ~ Bloody Mary

 

I’ve been trying to decide what my absolute stand out dish of the year was. There are so many to choose from, so it’s a slight cop-out that I am choosing two – but hey, it’s my blog! These are two dishes though that I’ve not been able to stop thinking about, which just says it all really. The first one was the Pain Perdu from The Ninth, which was also a birthday treat from my friend Maritha. I am not a dessert-lover so the mere fact that this is on my list should tell you just how stunning this dessert was. TBH hasn’t been yet, so I will be booking a return visit early on in 2018.

The Ninth ~ Pain Perdu

 

The other dish that I just cannot get off my mind is the Winter Truffle Risotto with aged Parmesan that we had at the Greenhouse Mayfair recently. Every mouthful was just sublime. Incredibly rich and I was nervous that the amount of truffle would over power it, but every bite was just perfect. I wished I could’ve had more.  I have pictured every dish from the 9 course Discovery menu on Instagram if you would like to take a look. Incidentally, THB’s favourite dish was the venison 🙂

The Greenhouse Mayfair ~ Winter Truffle Risotto with aged Parmesan

 

So there it is.  2017 you’ve not always been kind but at least we’ve been well fed and watered! Happy New Year everyone! I hope that this next year brings you everything you wish for.

 

Until we eat again!

 

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