2013 was a great year for my appetite for new tastes and adventure, along with landing a job in the food industry! Here are some of the highlights…

Restaurant of the year: Zoilo. Three exceptional meals at this Argentinian ‘small plates’ restaurant were made up of a charismatic manager, passionate and talented chefs who we watched (from our kitchen bar table) cook up Argentinian classics which blew our minds. We started with Provoleta, almonds and honey along with an assortment of mini empanadas following by a dish made up of three of my ultimate favourites: king prawn, pork belly and chorizo. The beef with bone marrow puré was so perfectly cooked and moreish that my dad even ordered a second for ‘pudding’ whilst I opted for the more conventional alfajores. We all agreed that this was one of the best eating experiences we have ever had, and that is saying something!

Argentinian Small Plates Cooked-Up Before Our Eyes
Argentinian Small Plates Cooked-Up Before Our Eyes

Foodie trip of the year: A difficult one as all proved excellent trips for a wandering food lover, for different reasons: Madrid’s eclectic mix of traditional vs modern, Palma’s laid back markets, Costa Rica’s exotic array of fresh fruit and Amsterdam’s cafés, pancakes and streetfood. I think the latter may pip the others to the post slightly because, despite the rain, our pancake hunt of a weekend was simply perfect! Read here!

Market of the year: RopeWalk market on Maltby Street in Bermondsey is one of my favourite places in London, if not the world. From the cute bars in antique furniture shops, to the meat-packed Reuben sandwiches at Monty’s Deli, to delicate and fluffy duck waffles at WaffleOn; this back alley of railway arches has tonnes of character and piles of charm. Plenty of this is also present in Netil Market in Hackney, putting it in close second!

Smiley Satisfied Customers at Monty's Deli
Smiley Satisfied Customers at Monty’s Deli

Bar of the year: Mr Fogg’s. It’s the same old story… you arrange to meet a friend at a bar, tell them the address and then subsequently spend a good ten minutes pacing up and down the street, baffled at the fact you cannot find your destination. When I suspected the smart-looking house with a dapperly dressed gentleman outside may be the facade for Mr Fogg’s, he smirked and replied with ‘yes I did think you were looking for us’. Cheers, kind Sir! However, very accommodating he was and the door opened to a secret cave of explorer’s delights (based on the Jules Verne novel ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’) that exuberated elegance where we sipped deliciously exotic cocktails.

Street Food of the year: BAO. By a mile! We first met at Street Feast and then I travelled to Netil market a few times since, with the sole purpose of devouring a fluffy cloud of delicious sweet pork and some of their crispy melt-in-the-mouth buttermilk chicken. Although the latter has not been available the last two times as I got there too late, these guys are on to something truly magic with their understated simplicity and quality offering.

Clouds of Fluffy Pork and Crispy Chicken at BAO
Clouds of Fluffy Pork and Crispy Chicken at BAO

Coffee shop of the year: I have managed to explore many a café/coffee shop/house/whatever be one’s preference of term, thanks to the very informed London Coffee Guide 2013. My favourite for classic coffee shop ambiance has to be the coffee-lover’s Monmouth or Kaffeine. Both manage to serve up great coffee in a relaxed ambience whilst avoiding all things ‘twee’. Colonna & Smalls in Bath must also be mentioned, very welcoming and informative on both occasions.

Hot Chocolate of the year: I am delighted to say that Chando’s has held up its personal preference award and provided me with a silky chocolatey cup of heaven on my return to Bath. When I’m looking for a hot chocolate fix in London, Ottolenghi is most definitely my favourite. Pair it with their incredibly light Carrot and Walnut Cake and you’re winning!

Deli of the year: La Fromagerie. Where else in West London can you find a ‘Cheese Room’ behind a walk-in-wardobe-esque glass door?! The staff are extremely helpful, offering plenty of knowledge and tasting samples to guide you in your choice. If the overpowering odour does not tickle your fancy, take a walk around the main shop which offers a whole array of charcuterie, breads, patisserie, fresh produce and groceries. Or take your time to relax in the Tasting Room with a coffee (or a glass of wine) and indulge on something you eyed-up earlier.

Recipe Book of the year: Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sam Tamimi. This book is the perfect inspiration to bring something a little bit exotic into your every day cooking. Although some of the ingredients can be hard to find, once you are stocked up you find the same flavours do come up again and again. This book is my go-to for entertaining, my favourite being Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak… I hope my guests will agree!

Roast Chicken with Clementines and Arzak
Roast Chicken with Clementines and Arzak

Brunch of the year: Caravan, Kings Cross, for a relaxed and friendly atmosphere with delicious twists on breakfast classics: raclette and spinach French toast with bacon followed by sweet balsamic berry waffles. The waffles were particularly light and fluffy, as they so often aren’t in many places. Great coffee too!

Someone's got their mouthful at Caravan! Photograph courtesy of Sam Gillespie
Someone’s got their mouthful at Caravan! Photograph courtesy of Sam Gillespie
Buzzing Brunch at Caravan. Image courtesy of Sam Gillespie
Buzzing Brunch at Caravan. Image courtesy of Sam Gillespie

Host of the year: The Grays, if you please! All explained in the post following these couple of days that pretended to be a weekend back in January, a wonderful hearty series of meals made with love and enjoyed with family friends. http://comomanger.com/2013/01/11/dinner-chez-gray-that-friday-feeling/

Store of the year: Fortnum & Mason’s. I am a big fan of the TV drama ‘The Paradise’ based on Emile Zola’s novel and I think that Fortnum & Mason’s is the most comparable to this fictional department store, in name and nature. Fortnum’s is another of my favourite places ever thanks to its impeccable service, elegance and attention to detail. I wrote this article over a year ago and, now that I am living in London, I maintain the notion that surely nobody can be sad or angry in this beautiful store, just how ‘paradise’ should be!

Magazine of the year: Olive! For providing consistently inspiring recipes and particularly for the travel section which has grown my Hit List enormously. I wish I could go to them all at once and indulge myself in enjoying and writing about all the food that reflects the countries’ cultures and customs. Olive really went the extra mile when they fulfilled my request of sending recommendations for Palma a week before receiving my subscriber’s copy. Thanks Olive!

London Day Out of the Year: Bethnal Green, read about it here!

Phew, what an eventful food-studded year! I hope everyone has had a great festive period and is excited for the prosper of what 2014 has in store. Happy New Year!