Monday, 31 December 2012

Obligatory end-of-year lists

Lists are everywhere. In the spirit of Hornby, the Christmas down-time gave me a chance to think of what I noticed from last year. It's pretty much all positives as it's nice to positive when looking back over a year and it's more fun to write positively.

1) The Cursed Restaurant, Chinatown.
There is a site next to De Hems which had four different restaurants this year. It's haunted or cursed or is very lacking in rabbits' feet. In two of its incarnations I had two lovely meals. The first time was the in its Manchurian Legends guise: wonderful sweet and sour delicately battered pork loin and oozing stewed pork belly. The 2nd time around a very simple braised beef brisket noodle soup for a stupid £5.80, which made me want to try much more of the menu. It shut 2 weeks later and is now rebranded Leong's Legends Inn which appears, from the menu at least to be a carbon copy of the restaurant opposite.

2) Ginstock
It all worked out perfectly. One of those joyous breaks in the summer weather where the sun finally shone to make up not only for miserable summer but also for Ribstock's drenching and we all drank far too much gin, served every which way and loose. It got busy: too busy. People complained in person and on twitter and the complainers who left missed rivers of booze flowing for the rest of us. Bad luck! £1 negronis from the Polpo team? Oh alright then - I'll have five. I really hope that this sort of event proves viable and profitable for the organisers to continue with these as the 'stocks so far have been have all proved remarkable value. When you get good weather into the mix it's a no-brainer. And no, I was too much of a nonce to try Rumstock the morning after.

3) The Beer House, Charing Cross Station
A pub? In a station? I officially declare that 2012 was the year of Pubs in Stations. The Parcel Yard in Kings Cross was a delight. This one in Charing Cross Station with its huge array of craft beers (and Heineken for the unsteady on their feet) doesn't necessarily make it a "go to" venue but definitely makes it a "Oh I'll get the later train then" venue - and also makes it my most-visited watering  hole in 2012. Having said that, I have deliberately taken two people here this year because it's stocked to the rafters with all manner of beer from around the world. The soundtrack is often quite good here, too. A hugely pleasant surprise given the previous pub in that location was somewhere you'd probably need chainmail to enter to be on the safe side. They have also apparently opened in Paddington and Waterloo. Good on them.

4) Burgers and More Burgers
I refuse to declare that 2012 was the "Year of the burger". I'm sure someone else has. Using the Young and Foodish Top 10 from 2011 as a guide, I tried pretty much all in the Top 10 with a group of friends and above all, it made me realise that burgers come in myriad forms but the simplest are seemingly the best. With that I mind I tip a meaty hat to guys at Tommi's Burger Joint. Very reasonably priced, bursting with flavour and served by friendly people. No low-lighting and grease everywhere, no immaculate presentation in a slightly stifled pub dining room atmosphere, just a simple, meaty, tasty, well-priced burger served by charming staff - at around two thirds of the price of the former and about one-third the price of the latter. And it is (for the time being) BYO. Handy.

5) Spuntino
Remember that place?! Really cool when it opened. Everyone loved it! And likely everyone got sidetracked by burgers and ramen and other openings. It's still really great. Really great. I had one of my favourite meals this year here. House pickles here would be on another "Top X" list somewhere for favourite dishes in London. The chef was sat there whilst I ate and was kind enough to share a printout of all the pickle recipes. How is that for service? Makes you want to come back time and again. Fried chicken, house slaw, sliders. Some of it may coat the arteries, but it also warms the soul.

Happy New Year.

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