Friday, 22 January 2010

Cheese and Biscuits Restaurant of the Year 2009 - Rules

I had hoped, in the spirit of other far more prolific gastronomes, to do a roundup of all my dining highlights of 2009 in the form of a categorised list, instead of choosing just one "Restaurant of the Year". It was partly because I didn't want to bore people with yet another gushing exaltation to Rules, but I was also curious as to whether even I could reliably recall meals and dishes from the first few months of 2009 - even El Bulli seems like a lifetime ago, never mind my first trip to the wonderful Harwood Arms in February.

But all my good intentions came to naught almost as soon as I began. Here's my draft of the first few categories:

Best restaurant overall - Rules
Best individual dish - Roast Grouse at Rules
Best bar - Brian Silva's Rules Bar which point I thought "this is silly" and gave up. However although Rules does remain my favourite drinking and dining spot overall, there was some pretty fierce competition. Here, then, in no particular order, are some other things I enjoyed in 2009:

- A day trip to Whitstable and a four-hour "blind" tasting menu at the Sportsman was certainly one of the highlights of the year, and is most definitely on my "to do again" list for 2010. We were the first to arrive and the last to leave, and at no point did we get the impression they wouldn't have been happy to see us spend the night...

- Tayyabs remains as addictive and reliably enchanting as it is infuriatingly popular, but then it's when you don't see them queuing round the block in Whitechapel you have to start getting worried. The lamb chops and dry meat remain works of near-genius.

- It's still hard to resist hugging myself with self-satisfied glee at the existence of the Lavender Hill branch of Mien Tay. The friendly but slightly shambolic service and functional décor hide a skilled and generous kitchen. I've been about twenty times since October.

- Exhilarating and challenging Sichuan food in Chilli Cool, Snazz Sichuan (not reviewed) and Gourmet San, where I discovered that there is no dish that can't be improved by the addition of pig.

- A handful of equally satisfying (and stunningly good value) dim sum meals at such varied sites as New Cross, Elephant & Castle and Greenwich. Dim sum chefs train for years, the food is intricate and precise and delicately and uniquely flavoured, and it is a complete mystery why it's all so incredibly cheap. But you won't hear me complaining.

- A hugely enjoyable (and wallet-burstingly expensive) evening at the Pierre Koffman popup, in a room seemingly populated exclusively by food bloggers and journalists.

- And of course, there's that little trip to Spain in September. I didn't enjoy all of it, and in fact hated some of it, but I can't say I still don't feel privileged to have been.

So that was 2009. Many thanks once again for everyone reading the blog and following me on Twitter, and with any luck 2010 should bring even more potential delights, disasters and Ibérico ham tastings (that last wish is mainly for selfish reasons). Here's to next year - it's been a blast.


Ollie said...

A top year's eating - well done that man! Staring at the pig's trotter I feel even more guilty having missed that pop-up.

Kavey said...

What a great collection of eating memories for 2009!

Hollow Legs said...

Many of your eating experiences I was there for. The Sportsman was my top meal of last year... but then I haven't been to Rules.

Ino said...

I don't live in London and I'm always a little bit jealous of all the brilliant places you visit but my plan now is to bookmark this page and visit your favourite 2009 restaurants soon. Especially Rules. And one of those dim sum ones. Oh, and Chilli Cool. It's going to be brilliant.