Food: Best Eats of 2019

If 2019 was a bad year for blogging, it was an excellent year for food. I ticked off a few restaurants and foods off my bucket list and ate some truly delicious meals. Some dishes I’m still thinking about. This post could honestly be a lot longer that it is as there are so many more places I could mention but I’ve decided to keep it to those that immediately came to mind. There have been many other highlights (Afternoon Tea at Hide, and my birthday pie at Holborn Dining Rooms) but if I included all the food I loved we’d be here for days!

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There’s probably a few entries on here that will come as no surprise, but if I’m honest I think that is testament to just how good they are! And so, without further waffle, here’s my top foodie moments and best eats from 2019…

Best London Eat – Home SW15

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Saturdays should start with runny eggs and copious amounts of tea 👌🏻 #yolkporn

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To be honest, this place could have gotten a whole host of awards. Overall best thing I ate. Best cocktail of 2019 (Summer Cup – a mix of Sloe Gin, Ginger Beer and Grapefruit). Best brunch dish (the Messy Nessie – although controversially I don’t think it is quite as good as the Crab Cakes it replaced on the menu).

Home SW15 is just a short walk from home (and yes, invite friends for drinks there and someone will be standing outside your flat), and we do have to stop ourselves going there every single time we want to eat out. I think the guys would get fed up of us if we didn’t! The service is fab, the food delicious – it’s genuinely an amazing  spot. So good we’ve been some of the last to leave on a Friday, and the first to arrive for a hangover fixing breakfast on the Saturday. Oh, and they do a thing called Mac’n’Cheese Mondays. If that’s not a reason to relocate to Putney I don’t know what is!

And the overall best thing I ate? “Those” Cauliflower Cheese Croquettes. So good when they threatened to take them off the menu there was outrage on social media. The vote that followed was genuinely the most tense 24 hours of my life. But they are still on the menu. They are delicious. If you try one thing I recommend make it these.

Best Afternoon Tea – Number Sixteen

I tried a lot of afternoon teas in 2019 – I think I managed 4 or 5 which is pretty good going! This one definitely wins my vote though, I don’t think I would have changed a thing! A bargain at £23 a head, all of the food was delicious and there was plenty of it. Me and my mum went on a girly date midweek in August and sat out in the garden, which was a beautiful, beautiful setting. I’d definitely return, I’m already trying to work out when I can take my besties there!

Best Seasonal Dining Experience – Darsham Nurseries

 photo Darsham_zpsgqfebvqb.jpgThis was probably our top meal of 2019, it’s one I’m still thinking about 3 months on. A daily menu of small plates designed for sharing, all cooked fresh, literally everything we ate was delicious. The mutton with pickled red cabbage on a bed of hummus was my favourite, although I also loved the spiced cauliflower dish. I then had a Cobnut Meringue with Caramel Apples and oh my word. Autumn in a bowl, it was worth feeling sick on the journey back to our hotel!

Best Foodie Holiday  – Scottish Road Trip

 photo Scotland_zpswcmstdtr.jpgIf I had to list my top 10 meals of 2019, other than Home SW15 and Darsham Nurseries the majority of the list would be Scotland based. We ate SO much good food on this trip. We started with a “five course” tasting menu at The Gardener’s Cottage in Edinburgh, which was closer to eight courses (apparently a cereal-sized bowl of mussels is a snack…) and a really great introduction to communal dining. The next night’s dinner at The Outsider really outshone our expectations, with my trout sat on top of a brie risotto being one of the most inventive fish dishes I’ve tried. And the cheeseboard was huge – W couldn’t finish it, so I got pudding and cheese that night…

We then did a brief road trip around the East Coast – we ate the absolute best fish and chips of our lives in Anstruther (and extra marks as it came with bread and butter and a cuppa as standard). I ate many bowls of mussels, including an absolutely wonderful bowl in a light broth at The Tolbooth in Stonehaven. And this was followed by some Scottish lobster, ticking off my one “to eat” aim of the trip. Oh so good, a restaurant I’d highly recommend if you’re in the area.

 

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Best Ice-Cream – Mary’s Milk Bar

Despite visiting Edinburgh many times, the summer of 2019 was the first time we’d made the trip to Mary’s and quite frankly I’m kicking myself for not going sooner. Both of our chosen combinations were unusual but oh-so-good – my Walnut Caramel combined with Blue Cheese was utter perfection in a tub.

Best Sweet Treat – Pump Street Chocolate

We discovered Pump Street a couple of years ago, and were very excited to see they’d opened a dedicated chocolate shop in Orford in time for our visit for our anniversary. Unfortunately we’d planned to visit on our journey home, and flooded roads put pay to that – so I put in an eye-wateringly expensive online order for a few bars and now we treat ourselves to a square or two a couple of nights a week. It is pricey but oh-so-good and you really only need a small amount to make it feel like a treat. The Christmas limited-edition Pannettone flavour was a particular favourite.

Best Cookbook – Ottolenghi Simple & The Quick Roasting Tin (joint winners)

Both of these cookbooks we have used religiously over the past year, and have continued to do so in the first few weeks of 2020. We tend to turn to Ottolenghi on weekends, or when we have people for dinner – whilst the recipes are much more simple (as the cookbook would suggest) than some of this others, they are still a little bit more effort, more expensive or require, more washing up that I generally have patience for on a weeknight! My favourite recipe was the Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Mint and Cumin. We cooked this on Easter Sunday which was a rather warm day, but even so it was worth sweltering in our flat with the oven on for so long!

On the other hand the Quick Roasting Tin requires one tray/roasting dish to be washed, and each recipes is only in the oven for a max of 30 minutes. We have all of the Roasting Tin books and to be honest I’d recommend all of them, but this is my favourite. Highlights from this book include the Chilli Peanut Beef, Baked Gnocchi with Ham Hock and Peas, Cinnamon Spiced Aubergines with Bulgur Wheat, Tikka Spiced Paneer, Baked Orzo with Courgette and the Sesame & Thyme Cauliflower Salad. I’d quite happily eat most of the recipes in this book!

Best Vegan Lunchbox – Spring Vegetable Pasta Salad

 photo Spring Green Pasta Salad 11_zpst3vwhb80.jpgReaders who have been around for a while will know that I challenged myself to a year of vegan lunchboxes in 2019 – and this was my favourite of the bunch. Orzo, fresh green veggies, chickpeas and a bright and zingy lemon dressing. It’s something I’ll continue to make as it was just so, so good!

Most Cooked Recipe – Roast Chicken with Preserved Lemon (Ottolenghi Simple)

I would say we cooked this at least a dozen times, if not more, over the year. It is the perfect roast chicken recipe – fresh with lemon, fragrant and always cooked well. The carcass from this recipe also makes the most wonderful chicken stock, which I love to do to make sure I’m getting the absolute most I can out of the bird.

Most Visited Restaurant – Home SW15

See above. We visited quite a bit. We already have our first visit of 2020 booked. Looking at their Instagram stories they have some amazing new dishes popping up this year and we’re already excited to head back.

Most Over-Hyped Food – Chocolate Orange Twirls

And yes, I’m still bitter that I didn’t manage to find one of the things. I originally wrote this a week or so ago – and since then I have actually managed to get one (courtesy of Chris Evans on Virgin Radio no less!). Most definitely hyped-up, but it was delicious. As far as I’m aware Cadbury’s haven’t strayed much into the chocolate-orange territory and they most definitely should. An Orange Wispa would be delicious….

Most Challenging Recipe – Homemade Bao Buns with Pork Belly

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Perhaps not challenging as such, but definitely the most unusual and least intuitive recipe we’ve made. And equally one of the most rewarding. A long process as the pork belly had to be cooked a day ahead, not including the long marination time. Then the dough needs some rising time as well – but it was well worth it and is a project we’ll be doing again. The buns in particular were great and I desperately want to try them with crunchy fried chicken, chilli sauce and pickles…

Favourite Food Blogger – The Mother Cooker

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What an overwhelming response to leeks! Some of you even said they are your favourite vegetable. That makes me even more excited to create recipes for you. So we are starting with this leek carbonara with a garlic crumb topping. Simple but indulgent. Hope you love it! Pasta for life and all that. I’ve also put some top tips for growing leeks on the blog. Happy Friday, have a great weekend 🎉 . . . #pastaforlife #carbsarelife #carbs #pasta #leeks #eatseasonally #sowgrowcook #growtoeat #allotmentlife #foodtographyschool #foodblogger #foodphotography #foodblogfeed #carbonara #eatoctober #growing #gardening #food52 #f52grams #feedfeed #gloobyfood #friyay #onmytable #flatlay #heresmyfood #worldpastaday

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I came to The Mother Cooker fairly late in 2019, when that Leek Carbonara recipe went live and seemed to take over my Insta feed. I actually haven’t made any of the recipes yet, but I want to make nearly all of them – and I love the styling and photography, and how foods appear to focus on seasonality and good flavours. I’m sure I’ll be following this blog closely over 2020!

 

What were your foodie highlights of 2019? What restaurants or dishes should I put on my list for 2020?

Eating Out: The London Afternoon Tea Guide

Regular readers will know that I just love an afternoon tea – I love it for the chance it gives to sit down and have a really good catch up. The chance to eat lots of little bits. The chance to really enjoy different speciality teas. In order to celebrate Afternoon Tea Week (running from 12-18th August 2019) I’ve put together a little guide of London afternoon teas I’ve enjoyed so far.

 photo Afternoon Tea Guide_zpsmhqyybfm.jpg photo Dandelyan Wyld Afternoon Tea 1_zpslgodecrs.jpg photo Dandelyan Wyld Afternoon Tea 16_zpsh6izs6ka.jpgThe Boozy One

And my favourite (so far)! Now rebranded as Lyanness, the bar at Sea Containers hotel on the Southbank serves up an afternoon tea based around cocktails. When we visited the quantity of alcohol was perfect matched with the delicious food, and it was just a glorious few hours. This would make an absolutely perfect hen do spot, and it’s definitely somewhere I’d revisit for afternoon tea. In fact I’m thinking of going for my birthday later in the year!

The Vegan One

I’ve not yet done a full review (not gifted), but back in June I treated my sister to afternoon tea at a vegan-only patisserie and cafe – Cafe Forty One at La Suite West in Kensington. Whilst the patisserie side disappointed us slightly, the sandwiches and scones really were excellent. We loved the non-alcoholic fizz too! If you want a fully vegan option in Instagrammable surroundings this is definitely one to go for…

 photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 10_zps5ug1lwgz.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 17_zpsbahrzabr.jpgThe Bargain One [gifted]

Until I was invited to review I wasn’t aware Whittard had a tea bar in Covent Garden, let alone served afternoon tea at a rather bargain price – yes the full afternoon tea is £30pp but you can get the Grocer’s Set (£45 and easily serves two) or opt for scones and sandwiches or scones and cakes for £15-£17. Not bad at all, and it really is an oasis of calm in that area of London! We definitely enjoyed our Grocer’s Tea, the sausage rolls were absolutely delicious!

 photo Hide Afternoon Tea  16_zpsonulolps.jpg photo Hide Afternoon Tea  1_zpsq4osl1gr.jpg photo Hide Afternoon Tea  2_zpsyq7i48jo.jpg photo Hide Afternoon Tea  3_zpsoq1fpufw.jpgThe Michelin-Starred One

Oh, I did love the afternoon tea at Hide Ground! Not only did I get to stare at that iconic staircase but it really was an indulgent and high-class experience. Some really specialty teas were available (this place kick-started my Milk Oolong obsession) and the food was just so delicious. Definitely the best savourites I’ve ever enjoyed with an afternoon tea, the coddled egg was wonderful, the cheese puff sublime and the sandwiches spot on. We even got candyfloss!

The Ones Outside of London

I’ve also been lucky enough to sample a couple of afternoon teas outside of London – because why not! The atmosphere at Beckworth Emporium (Northants) might not be that relaxing as the venue is now super-popular, but I’ve never had a bad experience there. We enjoyed the Chocolate Afternoon Tea at Whittlebury Hall (also Northants), although a mix-up meant we never got the choc-chip scones I was so looking forward to. Just off the M1 is Catthorpe Manor, which is where I had one of my hen-dos – at £15pp this was a bargain and a really beautiful spot. And of course there’s the classic Tiny Tim’s in Canterbury. I’m not the hugest fan of this place to be honest, I don’t find the scones to be well made at all and it’s overpriced for the quality, but it is a must-do Canterbury experience!

And that’s my quick little round-up. I’m hoping to squeeze in another afternoon tea before the end of the month, and I’m sure I’ll keep sampling what London has to offer. Now the only question is…

Where do you recommend for Afternoon Tea?