Happy new year! Eight days late, I know.
I had a fantabulous trip back to the U.S., full of family, old friends and good food. I hope you and yours had a happy holidays, too.
Now I’m back in cold, foggy London. My gym is packed to the gills. Accumulated email at work is driving me nuts. So it’s definitely January, and I thought I’d kick off 2009 with a quick look back at 2008 with my five favourite London restaurants last year.
In choosing the restaurants for this highly-esteemed list, I considered only the places I visited at least every two months in 2008, or in the cases where it’d be cost prohibitive to drop by that often, restaurants that served me a meal so good in 2008 (and with service and decor so nice) that I think constantly of returning. [For the complete list of London restaurants I've blogged about, check out the London Restaurant Reviews page of my blog.]
In alphabetical order:
- Barrafina - Everything I ate at Barrafina last year was a hit. The main deterrent to my going more regularly is the prospect of having to queue to get a coveted bar stool. But the tapas at Barrafina is so head-and-shoulders above that of its closest competitors, Tierra Brindisa, Tapas Brindisa and Moro, that if time’s not an issue, it’s Barrafina for me.
54 Frith Street, W1D 4SL, 0207 813 8016; Closest tube station: Leicester Square
- The Ledbury – I don’t know why the Ledbury has only one Michelin star. I was lucky to eat there twice last year, and thinking back, the only reason my second visit disappointed me is because I had such an amazing, delicious meal during my first visit. On the strength of my fondness for the Ledbury, I’m looking forward to visiting its sister restaurant, the Square, this coming year.
127 Ledbury Road, W11 2AQ, 0207 792 9090; Closest tube stations: Notting Hill Gate, Westbourne Park, Ladbroke Grove
- Leong’s Legend – I hesitated to put Leong’s on the list because Helen, whose opinion on Chinese food I respect, had a bad experience there recently (she found the food no good and the service even worse). While it’s true I haven’t been back to Leong’s in the last two months, I ate there at least six or seven times between the time it opened in mid-2008 and November 2008. The quality of the food and the low prices brought me back over and over.
4 Macclesfield St, W1D 6AX; 020 7287 0288; closest tube station: Leicester Square
- Mangal Ocakbasi - This Turkish grill is worth the schlepp to Dalston. At least five times last year, Jon and I found ourselves gobbling down the mixed grill there. The kofte and lamb chops particularly rock my world. Although it’s annoying (especially in cold weather) to get jammed up in the entryway because of Mangal’s popularity, one look at that massive indoor grill and hood, and you know it’s worth the crush and wait. The meats here are always cheap and always good.
10 Arcola Street, E8 2DJ; 020 7275 8981; closest tube station: Highbury & Islington, I guess, but Dalston Kingsland Overland is by far the closest mass transit point if the Overland is at all handy for you
- Petersham Nurseries - Yeah, there’s probably a bias on any annual round-up list towards the meals in most recent memory, but the setting at Petersham was so charming and pretty, the service so informed, and the food so well-prepared that I ended 2008 still thinking about who I could take back with me to eat there again.
Located off Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey; 0208 605 3627; closest tube station: Richmond (and then it’s still a 20-minute walk to Petersham Nurseries, so bring your walking shoes. Apparently you can also take a bus from Richmond station.)
Of course, it was tough for me to keep my list to five, which I guess is why making lists can be valuable. Pearl Liang, Hakkasan, Le Cafe Anglais, Tayyabs, Tomoe and the Marquess, for example, were places where my money and time were consistently well spent in 2008 (and 2007 and 2006 . . . ). But even listing them in this paragraph is cheating on this concept of my top 5.
Now, looking forward to 2009, I’m following in the footsteps of my fellow bloggers and listing the places I’d love to visit during this coming year. Right now, Galvin Bistro de Luxe, The Square, Chez Bruce, and a return to Murano to try out the dinner menu are in the cards. Maybe a trip to Gordon Ramsay Royal Hospital Road thanks to Intoxicating Prose’s rave review in November 2008. (I was so disappointed by my Fat Duck visit in April 2006 that since then I’ve been wary of 3-star Michelin experiences – and expenses – in London).
In any event, here’s to Jon and my staying employed so we can keep on eating and traveling in 2009 . . . .