My gastronomic highlights of 2013

29th December 2013
When I was thinking about writing this post, I really thought that it had been a quiet year. It was only when I looked through my calendar that I realised just how many fantastic experiences I have had this year. Granted, some months were a lot more interesting than others but I think all in all 2013 was a pretty good year for Sam the Food Fan. Here are some of my highlights:
On the first Saturday of the new year, when most people are detoxing, The Better Half (TBH) and I had a lunch booked at Roganic. This was a two year pop-up by chef Simon Rogan, who has since gone on to open a much lauded restaurant in Manchester called The French and he has also just been named as the chef to take over the kitchen at the renowned hotel Claridges.
January is also TBH’s birthday. I’m always dragging him to all the restaurants that I want to go to, so when he mentioned in passing that he would like to go to Duck & Waffle, I booked it for his birthday. To be honest, I wasn’t all that excited about this one. Restaurants with views tend to treat the food as an afterthought but how wrong I was. Duck & Waffle was my surprise of the year and one of my favourite meals of 2013.

Duck & Waffle


Pitt Cue Co. was my highlight for February. An absolutely teeny restaurant that was renowned as much for the incredible BBQ meats they served as they were for the queues to get a table. We were fortunate enough to visit on a cold February day when the wait was minimal but however long the wait would’ve been, it was worth it. A lesson on how meat should be treated!

Pitt Cue Co – Pulled Pork with mash and bone marrow gravy


March was an incredibly busy month which included a 3 week holiday back to the homeland and some pretty fantastic meals! First I celebrated a friend’s birthday at Chiswell Street Dining Rooms, a really wonderful meal and a restaurant I would like to get back to in the near future. March also saw the opening of Jason Atherton’s second restaurant Little Social. I was lucky enough to be invited to the preview and to meet the man himself.

Jason Atherton & I at Little Social

On holiday, we ate at the number one restaurant in South Africa in 2012, The Test Kitchen by Luke Dale Roberts. One word – sensational. We also took a tour of the wine region Franschoek and ate at the restaurant on the farm La-Motte. I remember it being an absolutely gorgeous day in Cape Town that day. We were with great friends, eating great food and drinking great wine. What more could you ask for?

La-Motte – Karoo Lamb
The Test Kitchen – Cape Hake


Looking at my April calendar, there were a few cracking meals in there, it’s no wonder my waist line expanded so much over the course of the year! First up was The Delaunay – my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw the size of the Holstein schnitzel I had, but I ate the whole lot because it was just so delicious! And I still can’t forget about the fabulous banana split TBH and I shared.

The Delaunay – Banana Split

Another firm favourite this year was Ceviche. A Peruvian restaurant serving fantastically fresh and interesting dishes.  I loved the vibe and I really loved the food.

April also saw Jason Atherton opened his third London restaurant, Social Eating House. I was invited along to the soft launch and have decided that this is my favourite of all of Jason’s restaurants in London. From the quirky presentation of cocktails, to the interesting take on classic dishes; I just love everything about this restaurant.

Pollen 58 Cocktail at Social Eating House


In May, TBH and I took our first ever ‘stay-cation’. We went to The Pig Hotel in the New Forest and while the food is nothing to get excited about, the hotel is absolutely gorgeous and we felt at home from the minute we walked in.
The Pig Hotel, Brockenhurst

The king of the BBQ, chef Neil Rankin moved from Pitt Cue Co to John Salt in Islington earlier this year and the Sunday roast here at John Salt was another highlight for me in May.

John Salt – Roast Beef


Story was one of the most hyped openings this year, I would say. And the hype wasn’t misguided! Truly exciting cooking coming from young chef Tom Sellers.

Story – Beetroot, Raspberry and Horseradish


Later in June, I went to my first food festival. Organised by Margot Henderson and held in a churchyard right in the middle of Soho. The Soho Food Feast was incredible value and we got to experience food from some of the finest restaurants and chefs in the area – The Ivy, MEATLiquor, Quo Vadis and many more. TBH and I took it in turns to choose a dish and share it, that way we got to try far more than if we were each having the same dish. A food festival that I will make sure to get tickets for in 2014!
For the first time in a very long while, the UK had an excellent summer. Three months of absolutely glorious weather! Every single day! In July I went to the Athenaeum Hotel to enjoy a spa day and lunch for one of my friend’s hen party. Old school elegance at its best.
Lots of highlights in August – The buttermilk fried chicken from The Clove Club. Flesh & Buns and their amazing Hirata buns. We also went roller skating at Skate Kings Cross – but more so to try the outstanding burgers from Disco Bistro.

Disco Bistro at Skate Kings Cross

Street Feast have become well known for hosting some of the best street food festivals in London. I’ve only managed to get to one this year (poor show!) and that was Truckstop at Canary Wharf. I loved sitting on the grass with the towers of Canary Wharf looming over us and trying some of the best street food there is.

Truck stop by Street Feast
In September I celebrate my birthday. I gave TBH a list of restaurants that I wanted to try to choose from and he chose an absolute corker – Moro in Exmouth Market.

Moro – Wood roasted pork with piquilo pepper sauce

I was also invited by a friend to Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. Two Michelin stars for a reason! My absolute stand out meal of 2013.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal – Meat Fruit


My mom arrived for a holiday in October, so not much eating out. Instead, I created a list of childhood favourite meals for her to cook for me.  Spaghetti carbonara, lasagne, Portuguese salt cod with cream (Bacalhao com natas) to name a few. Every one of those as delicious as I remember them.
In November I was invited to dine at AD12 at T42. A pop up by chef Anthony Demetre at Tower 42 in the City of London. A really enjoyable meal, such a pity that the pop up is now over. I have to make a visit to one of his other restaurants a priority for next year.

AD12 at T42 – Warm Chocolate soup


This month I also met some lovely ladies that I chat to regularly on Twitter (@geniecooks,@pasion4fish and @gremkoska) at Le Relais de Venise in the City. It’s always nerve-wracking meeting new people, but I needn’t have worried! Great food, good wine and brilliant company made for an enjoyable evening.
Silly season and lots of over indulging, but my highlight this month was Vivat Bacchus and in particular the cheese room. Probably the best cheese board I have ever had and a restaurant that I think will definitely become a regular haunt going forward!

Vivat Bacchus – Cheese Room


So there you have it, my highlights for 2013. There are so many more fantastic meals that I haven’t mentioned for fear of turning this into ‘War and Peace’. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the blog this year as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2014!  I can’t wait to tick more fabulous restaurants off my bucket list….
Until we eat again!

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