Our team has sat down, over a bottle of Rasteau – the last of our stash brought back from a couple of days in France at the beginning of last year – and fought it out over our favourite dishes and drinks of 2015. We’ve been lucky to eat in some incredible restaurants – some new, some established, one in the backyard of a pub on an island off the coast of Florida, one in the back streets of Tarifa in Spain. We’ve had a great year of indulgence, and this is our short-ish list of our favourites. In no particular order.
Fried Bao with Horlicks Ice Cream | Bao London, UK |
We don’t queue for food. But we’ve queued three times for Bao’s incredible menu this year. And that pretty much says it all. All of the fluffy buns are fantastic, and we always have to have the scallop. The peanut milk is another must. Just eat the entire damn menu.
| www.baolondon.com |
Jamón Ibérico | El Lola, Bar de Tapas y Flamenco, Tarifa , Spain |
We love the Costa de la Luz, and especially the surfer dude town of Tarifa. But we’re yet to find a truly great restaurant there. However, if you’re in the need for a beer and jamón fix, El Lola is the perfect pit-stop. Slivers of deep red meat jewelled with white fat, this is the best quality jamón that money can buy – it’s not cheap, but my goodness, it’s worth it. (The rather lovely chaps in their frilly Flamenco aprons are also a draw).
| Calle Guzmán el Bueno, 5 |
Clay-Baked Duck | Craft London, Greenwich, London, UK |
No doubt one of 2015’s most Instagrammed dishes (guilty as charged), Stevie Parle’s signature dish is, actually, one of a number of great dishes on his imaginative menu at Craft. The super-sexy Tom Dixon-designed space actually ends up playing second fiddle to Parle’s ingenuity. The duck, though, thanks to its drama and interaction, is the most memorable of all: you’re given a little hammer to crack the duck’s clay ‘skin’, and as the layers of hay and cabbage are peeled back, a scented steam wafts over the table. There were just two of us eating, so we took home an enormous doggie bag which fed us for a couple of days.
Fish Sauce Chicken Wings | Smoking Goat, London, UK |
We’re expecting this dish to show up on a lot of 2015 lists, but there’s good reason for this: it’s bloody delicious. Smoking Goat is another no reservations joint – don’t get us started – but we showed up at midday and walked straight in. The chicken wings are dangerous: salty, sweet, crispy, pungent, they demand at least a couple of beers to wash them down. And at least one second helping.
| www.smokinggoatsoho.com |
Churros | Casa Aranda, Málaga, Spain |
We spent an unexpected night away in Málaga over Christmas. The city, with its twinkling lights and bustling streets filled with families eating and drinking, was so beguiling, we decided to stay the night. Often overlooked – merely as a gateway to the Costa del Sol, thanks to its busy airport – the city itself is actually packed with great galleries (including a pop-up Pompidou Centre), Roman and Moorish ruins and tapas joints. We’d trawled the city on the night of our stay, drinking beer and cheap glasses of fabulous wine, and eating tapa. A truly memorable night. The next morning, we were in need of carb-y sustenance but, as is Málaga’s way, nothing was open before 10am. Apart from Casa Aranda, which we stumbled across. Packed with Spanish people, the café serves coffee, hot chocolate, churros (freshly-cooked to order), shots of brandy and pan con tomate. The place clearly hasn’t changed since it opened in the 1930s. Grab a seat outside, order one of everything, and watch the waiters as they shout orders at each other and run back and forth, chatting to the leathery-faced locals, topping up coffee and carrying enormous trays of light, fluffy churros.
| Casa Aranda, Herrería del Rey, 3, Málaga |
Beef Shin Macaroni | At home | Inspired by Hawksmoor
There’s a collection of fine cooks working from Resource towers, and some of the best dishes we’ve eaten this year have been cooked by our contributors – admittedly, some are trained, award-winning chefs. This recipe, taken from the excellent Hawksmoor At Home cookery book, was turned gluten-free by Lisa, but did not lack for that one bit. It took hours to create, but was worth every minute of effort.
Old Fashioned | Ravenous Pig, Orlando, Florida |
Did we plan our East Coast road trip around food and drink stop-offs? Of course we did. Did I manage to orchestrate a designated driver in order to indulge in three Ravenous Pig Old Fashioneds one after the other? Damn right I did. Rendered high-quality bacon fat flavours top-shelf bourbon in this clever, quirky take on an already-great cocktail.
Porra de Naranja | Arte de Cozina, Antequera, Málaga, Spain |
We took a three-hour detour to make a pilgrimage for a singular dish. Sam Clark of Moro – one of our favourite London restaurants – had highlighted the porra in The Guardian’s excellent food round-up of 2015. The porra – a type of gazpacho, native to this region, just north of Málaga – was unnervingly smooth, with a poky, bitter hit of local olive oil, a good fistful of salt and with an aromatic sweetness, thanks to the unusual addition of orange. Definitely one of our favourite dishes – and meals – of 2015.
Slip Sole | The Sportsman, Kent, UK |
Another standout meal of 2015, despite two of us being full of cold. We were worried that Stephen Harris’s deft handling of flavours and local produce would be wasted on our blocked sinuses, but we can still recall the flavours and details of each and every dish. The slip sole was a favourite, thanks to its brave simplicity. Harris had nowhere to hide with this grilled piece of fish, with just the addition of seaweed butter to add a hint of seaside. Perfection.
Almond & Chocolate Croissant | Cité Europe Shopping Mall, Calais, France |
Sad, isn’t it, that on a three-day trip to France, the culinary highlight was this – admittedly epic – freshly-baked croissant. We’d arrived early from the Eurostar, and headed straight back to the bakery (near FNAC, but not the chain bakery called La Croissanterie, FYI) near the huge Carrefour where we’d eaten this buttery, sweet, flaky nugget once before. The croissants were just being pulled from the oven and the interior sliver of dark, almost salty chocolate and gooey almond were still warm. The pastry, which left our fingers slick with butter, was light and the almonds on top had been toasted golden from the heat of the oven. That a packet of chips on Calais harbour and a homemade chicken sandwich made with rotisserie chicken from a supermarket were our other stand-out dishes on our French trip show that regional French cooking needs a kick up the derrière.
| 1001 Boulevard du Kent, Coquelles, Calais, France |
Bone Broth | Roost, Margate, Kent, UK |
It appears that the majority of our favourite dishes of 2015 are simple affairs that celebrate the ingredients, rather than trying to impress with bells and whistles. The bone broth at Roost, in Margate, is a case in point: to combat wastage and to make use of all of the animals they’re using, the bones are cooked down into a soul-warming broth. The addition of seaweed (the restaurant is next door to acclaimed seaweed emporium Haeckels and is right on Margate’s magnificent seafront) gives a funky, brine-y flavour. Proven to cure any hangover. We’re telling you.
Tropicale Wheat Beer | The Miami Edition, Miami, USA |
The most expensive hotel stay we’ve ever had, resulted – thankfully – in two stand-out food and drink moments, this being the first. Brewed exclusively for the hotel by the Miami Brewing Company, this wheat-y beer has – bear with us on this – notes of coconut and mango, lending it a tropical edge perfect for its environment. We’re not sure if the tipple would work as well sipped on a rainy summer’s day in England, but it hits the spot here on Miami Beach. Design-wise, we love Eric Chase Anderson‘s illustrations for the beer and the bar that bears its name.
Tres Leches Cake | Zero George, Charleston, South Carolina, USA |
Chef Vinson Petrillo served up one of our most memorable meals of 2015. We had a long list of Charleston restaurants to visit during our stay in the city (excuse the ‘f’ word, but the city is true foodie destination), but it was Petrillo’s menu that kept drawing us back. Served from a tiny kitchen (above) within the lobby area of this stunning hotel, there were two dishes served that we cannot stop thinking about: the tarpon cheeks (an enormous fish that we fed off the Florida Keys later on in our trip) and the tres leches cake, the lightest, airiest most delicious sliver of cake – we don’t really eat cake – we’ve ever eaten, that was – thankfully – forced upon us by our waiter, who knew the menu inside out.
Pork and Prunes | Piquet, London, UK |
This was just one of the many dishes we loved at Allan Pickett’s new restaurant just off Oxford Street. Using classic French techniques and Kentish produce, Pickett turns out dish after dish after dish of big flavours and great depth. We’d taken the folks out for dinner – self-proclaimed lovers of ‘simple fayre’ – and they, too, loved each and every dish we (over) ordered. Great cooking, warm and knowledgeable staff, fair pricing, tasty. Our kind of restaurant. We just wish it was just around the corner from our office. The kind of local joint that you’d eat in at least once a week.
Duck Liver Parfait | Hand & Flowers, Marlow, UK |
It’s hard to choose a singular dish in a meal of stand-out dishes – even the breakfast the next morning was one of our favourite dishes of the year. We’d booked a table at Tom Kerridge’s pub (albeit a two-Michelin-starred pub) the year before and had almost forgotten about our booking, such was the extended wait. But my goodness, it was worth it. Again – and there’s a theme developing here – this is simple cooking with big, gutsy flavours and technique for the sake of showcasing those flavours, rather than just showboating. Steak and chips was flawless and perfectly cooked. A pork dish with rhubarb cleverly contrasted textures and flavours, but without ever marring the tastiness of it. The souffle for pudding was incredible, as was Kerridge’s take on a custard slice. Good value, great staff, bloody tasty food. Straight into our top five restaurant list.
Improved Whisky Cocktail | The Grey, Savannah, Georgia, USA |
Spiked with absinthe, this modern take on a classic whisky cocktail was one of our favourite drinks of the year. Better still, we drank it before eating in Mashama Bailey’s incredible dining room in downtown Savannah. The modern Southern menu makes this restaurant, gloriously designed in an old Greyhound bus terminal, one of the South’s hottest tickets. Buzzing and with the kind of welcome you hope for in this part of the States. A must-visit.
Scallops with Chowder | Rafael’s at The Goods Shed, Canterbury, Kent, UK |
Markets like The Goods Shed should be on every street corner in Kent, celebrating the raft of amazing, locally-grown produce. If you’re on the high-speed train from St Pancras to Margate, you’ll spot diners in the pretty-much-always-packed restaurant tucking into Rafael Lopez’s earthy, honest, simple cooking. Produce is intensively seasonal and local, and that is reflected in the mouth-thumping flavours. This is scallop dish was sweet with the flesh of the crustacean, as well as the new-season leeks in a broth pricked with crunchy black pepper.
A Pint of Tankovna Pilsner Urquell | Duck+Rice, Soho, London, UK |
Whilst the restaurant won’t be getting a second visit, we keep finding ourselves sat in Duck+Rice’s window bar looking out on Berwick Street market, one of our favourite London streets. Delivered weekly from the Czech Republic in huge tanks, this clear, crisp unpasteurised lager is impeccably well cared for. With only one week’s shelf life once opened, this is as pure a beer as you’ll taste.
The Burger | NoMad Bar, NoMad Hotel, NYC, USA |
We were kind of burgered out in 2015, so only ate select patties. The best of the few we tasted was, by far and away, The NoMad Bar’s. As you’d expect. Served pink – no, they don’t ask you how you like it, it’s served exactly as it should be – it’s a simple combination of firm, perfectly-cooked meat (but also with a softness that’s a good riff on a fast-food joint burger, and that’s thanks to its 25% fat content), melted cheddar, pickled onion and the NoMad’s own take on a burger sauce. We love this place: it’s so very, very New York. Great service, loud and raucous, delicious food. Boxes well and truly ticked.
Peach | Abbott Farms, South Carolina |
As you cross from North Carolina into South Carolina, a strange combination of road-side stores take over. Selling a heady combination of locally-grown peaches, and a vast array of condiments and pickles made with them, plus fireworks – thanks to them being illegal to buy just over the border in North Carolina. We were actually stopping to go to the loo, but ended up buying the juiciest, tastiest peach (it actually tasted like A PEACH!) we’ve had in years.
| 100 Wilcox Avenue, Gaffney, South Carolina |
Suckling Pig | Los Abanicos, Benahavis, Spain |
A real family favourite, with the Spanish and ex-pats alike, whenever we’re on the Marbella coast, we drive up to the pristine village of Benahavis (the nearby gated community of Zagaleta’s haul of taxes and community fees means the village is jam-packed with incredible amenities and great schools thanks to the mega-rich’s bucks) for Los Abanicos’s suckling pig. Cooked long and slow, the meat disintegrates to the touch, while the crackling is light and almost wafer-like. We have no idea how they do it. Our visit this summer, yet again, didn’t disappoint. Served with a pile of olive oil cooked chips and homemade apple sauce, this is comfort cooking at its best.
| Los Abanicos, Calle Málaga, 17, Benahavis |
Carbonara Pizza | GB Pizza Co, Margate, Kent, UK |
Let’s ‘fess up straight away: we have a vested interest in GB Pizza – two of our contributors are the owners. But, despite the connections, we can’t deny good food when we put it into our mouths. There’s a raft of great, thin and crispy pizzas on the main menu, using British charcuterie and seasonal produce, but this, their occasionally-appearing special, is one of our favourite pizzas of all time: the carbonara. A creamy béchamel sauce, locally-reared ham, mushrooms and Parmesan.
Cornbread | At home | Inspired by The Lockhart |
Our annual Resource team Thanksgiving dinner was overshadowed by this, our chef’s take on The Lockhart‘s cornbread. They may have added a little extra butter and maybe a little extra honey, but my goodness, it was good.
Creamed Corn with Manchego & Jalapeños | The Matador Room, The Edition Hotel, Miami, USA
I’m not sure why we weren’t expecting much from Jean-Georges Vonrichten’s restaurant in the Ian Schrager-designed Miami Edition. The starry chef has good form, in over 20 restaurants across the globe. Perhaps that’s it: the sense of cynical roll-out created solely to bring in celebrity diners. If we’re honest, we were expecting over-priced themed fayre with clichéd nods to Latino flavours. Joyfully, we could not have been more wrong. This was one of the highlights of our East Coast tour – and 2015 . The Matador Room’s Latin influences, under the watchful eye of Chef Jeremy Ford, have amalgamated to create a bright, light, clever, appealing, flavour-packed menu. The greeting is warm, the design of the space makes you feel that you’re the player in a theatre round and the knowledge and excitement of the staff is some of the best we’ve experienced this year. We’ve never eaten food like this before – we bloody hate the gimmicky term ‘fusion’, but when it’s a mix of Latin flavours – natural bed fellows – from the Caribbean, South America and Spain, the dishes sing. Creamed corn became one of our US trip favourite dishes, and here Ford has nailed it (eliminating any fear of baby food comparisons). Extra creaminess is helped along by the addition of salty Manchego and the kick of jalapeños. Arroz con pollo is another great dish amongst many, with its shards of crispy chicken skin. This is seriously skilful cooking.