My favourite food of 2014

It’s not like the only thing I ever think about is my next meal – it’s just that food has proved to be one of the few reliable pleasures in my life.

Mindfulness, shmindfulness – give me great American TV and a perfect cheese burger with bacon and I’m at peace with the world (well, maybe not quite at peace with my upstairs neighbour and his wooden floors).

In 2014 I ate out loads – partly because I was researching The Dish – partly because eating is my running and my knitting and every other hobby I never had. I try to avoid taking photos in restaurants but occasionally something is so delicious I have to take its picture so that I can reference it for work, or use it to urge a friend to hunt down this perfect toasted cheese sandwich at the Towpath cafe in Hackney!

I’m never really comfortable in poncey restaurants – not least the ones with severe attitude problems. The places I enjoy the most tend to be low key and sincere, and purveyors of quite fattening food: C&R cafe in Wardour Street for their mega-laksa soup; Honest Burger – great chips; my local curry house – chicken dhansak, once a week, every week, baby.  Having said that, my favourite place this year was a tiny little restaurant called Wheeler’s, in Whitstable.  It’s certainly not poncey, though it’s not cheap either – but it’s one of the places where you turn to the person you’re eating with after each mouthful with a big dumb grin on your face.

Anyway, I’ve put together a board of my highlights from this year – a few of the places are abroad, where they tend to do things like tacos and croissants better than here, but for the most part they’re in the UK.

And here’s a list of some of the food on there, and some I didn’t manage to photograph before ramming it into my gob…

Best deep fried crunchy snack: Arancini at Hodder Hartnett in Limewood, Hampshire; Crispy buttermilk chicken with aioli at The Bull And Last, Highgate Road, London

Best bread: Giant Persian flatbreads at Patogh, off Edgware Road, London; Ciabatta rolls from Bread Ahead, Borough Market; Nduja & gruyere flatbread at Duck and Waffle

Best butter: No butter I ate this year (and believe me, I ate all the butter) can compare with last year’s best butter – caramelised onion butter from Radio in Copenhagen.  I know this is unhelpful, but all I can say is, that butter set the highpoint for butter in my life, and every butter since just does not compare.  Very sad, I know.

Best soup: Singapore laksa, at the newly refurbed C&R cafe, in an alley off the bottom of Wardour Street

Best burger – high street: Honest burger, with those rosemary fries

Best burger – payday: Goodman’s, Maddox Street

Best vegetable / side dish: Cavolo nero with chilli and cream at Hartnett Holder, Limewood

Best pastry – circular: Bread Ahead’s mince pies, Borough Market

Best pastry – long and thin: Kouign Amann, (is this ok for Scrabble I wonder?) at Le Patisserie de Reves, Marylebone

Best pastry – swirly: Chocolate and pistachio escargot at Du Pain et Des Idees, Canal St Martin, Paris

Best custard-based enterprise: Bread Ahead doughnuts, obvs.

Best prawn crackers with a view: City Social Bar, Tower 42

Best posh meal (and a bargain at lunch): Chez Bruce, Wandsworth

Best meal under a tenner: chargrilled lamb, buttered rice, flatbread – Patogh, Crawford Place, London

Best meal, best meal, best meal: Wheeler’s, Whitstable

Happy eating in 2015!

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