It is the tradition at Eater to end the year with a survey of friends, contributors, rovers of the industry, and professional eaters. Even a year like this one. For 2021, the group were asked 13 questions, covering the best meals and the worst tweets alongside 2022 predictions and dining standbys. Their answers will appear throughout this week, with responses relayed in no particular order; cut and pasted below.
Having surveyed the best London restaurant newcomers of 2021, it’s time for the mainstays: the restaurants they went back to time, and time, and time again.
Adam Coghlan, Editor, Eater London: It’s always Singburi, isn’t it — and 2021 was no different for the best takeaway restaurant in London. Special mention for Koya Ko and the best, most reliable, and fortifying breakfast in the city. And thanks to Cafe Deco for being my out-of-lockdown-into-dining companion through a surreal spring and summer.
James Hansen, Associate Editor, Eater London: Locally, Element Coffee; Tetote Factory; Atari-Ya; Kiraku; The Ealing Grocer for soft serve; Hua Imperial Palace; Lahore Local the Grill; The Black Dog Beerhouse. Further afield: Cafe Deco, Prufrock, after its grand resurgence; Rosslyn; Lyle’s.
Anna Sulan Masing, food writer and Eater London contributor: Duke of Richmond! First place I went when outside was allowed, first place I went when inside was allowed… and many times after! Love what they do for their community, that’s what makes a place excellent. The food is so good, the wine list is great. Bright was the other place I kept going back to, whenever I wanted something a bit fancy.
Jonathan Nunn, food writer and Eater London contributor: The words “40 Maltby Street” come up so often on my bank statement that I’m going to claim to HMRC I buy office supplies there and write it all off as a business expense.
Sejal Sukhadwala, food writer and Eater London contributor: As the pandemic raged for the second year running, dining out continued to be sporadic — plus I was tied up writing a book between May and November, which would have been the ideal time to visit restaurants as the number of cases had dropped. But whenever I cautiously went back to restaurants — before and after my book — a new Covid variant started making headlines and friends were getting ill. My book-writing was done to the tune of countless deliveries though, so I would say Pita in Golders Green, Philip San Sushi in Kilburn and The Gate St John’s Wood were my go-tos.
Sean Wyer, writer, researcher and Eater London contributor: I spent the first months of 2021 in London Bridge sublet with a tiny, unwelcoming kitchen, so I largely lived off meal kits from nearby Padella, deliveries from Silk Road, and takeaways from ASAP Pizza. When we were allowed to eat at outside tables again, I braved the April cold outside 40 Maltby Street, and spent joyous weekend evenings in front of Juma Kitchen in Borough Market, eating round after round of perfectly-fried kubba.
In the second half of the year I moved back south, and have ordered the lamb biryani from Dilpasand in Streatham, and the stringhopper fry from Apollo Banana Leaf in Tooting, more times than I care to count. When I’m cajoled into crossing the river, I go to the India Club bar on the Strand for a plate of chilli bhajis and a little bottle of Kingfisher, just to check that it still exists.
Emma Hughes, writer and Eater London contributor: My Revolut statement says I went to Stockwell Continental more than anywhere else; unsurprising given it’s a) excellent at all times of the day and night and b) exactly a 10,000 step round trip from my front door.
George Reynolds, writer and Eater London contributor: In uncertain times, investors tend to exhibit a herd-like mentality, divesting themselves of risky assets in a so-called flight to quality. In an uncertain 2021, I have found myself doing something similar, visiting fewer new restaurants and leaning on old favourites harder than ever to provide some sort of constancy and reassurance with everything else in flux. At times, this has been a literal flight to Quality (Chop House and Wines, as perfectly matched a pair of siblings as exists in the city); at others, it has involved revisiting newer perennials like Catalyst and Café Deco. Baked goods have played an important role, especially the croissants from Vertige, baguette from Pavilion, and those obscene little chocolate cookies from E5 Bakehouse. But all of the above can be found in my real go-to of the year, the miniature empire controlled by Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim and David Gingell. I remain amazed by how consistently all of their offshoots maintain a house vibe whilst retaining their own individual personalities; the food is often unshowy but almost always spot-on. From a small, hefty sandwich at Jolene Colebrooke Row (increasingly, my WFH pick-me-up of choice), to a family lunch of pizza fritta and gnocchi at Big Jo, to an order-the-whole-menu dinner at Westerns Laundry with my mum, these restaurants have been a constant for me in 2021, and I can’t wait to spend even more time with them in 2022.
Daisy Meager, food writer and Eater London contributor: Looking back over my camera roll, the first couple of months of this year were mainly filled with trays of lasagna, porchetta sandwiches, maritozzo and tubs of tiramisù from Ombra. After the grand reopening (2021 version), Bright, Sonora Taqueria, Smoking Goat, Ombra and Koya Ko featured often.
Feroz Gajia, restaurateur and Eater London contributor:: Looking back at the timeline Lighthaus, half the year packed with Singburi takeaway. Umut 2000, Bebek Baklava, Oren, Hawker’s Kitchen, 40 Maltby Street (in many guises), Chishuru, Flor (in many guises), Quality Wines (in many guises), Catalyst, Imone, sonora taqueria and Alhaji Suya
Chris Cotonou, writer and Eater London contributor: I found myself visiting Norman’s Cafe far too frequently, indulging in the nostalgia (and quality) of their upscaled greasy spoon fare. For some Cypriot comforts, the mix souvlaki with sheftalies at the reopened Dionysus in Southgate became a regular experience before visiting the Tottenham Stadium. Something to keep me happy before the subsequent misery…
Ed Cumming, writer and restaurant critic: Town: Noble Rot, Zedel, Drapers Arms (ish), Quo, Seto. Local: Big Jo, Q&T, Pappagone, Max’s, Xian Impresh.
Lucas Oakley, food writer and Eater London contributor: Do bakeries count? If so, Layla Bakery in Notting Hill often provided me with a salve to the news cycle whenever I needed it the most. Typically in the form of a crackly peanut chocolate cookie. If they don’t count then it’s got to be 101 Thai Kitchen for being endlessly reliable.
Angela Hui, food writer and Eater London contributor: Singburi, Quality Wines, Hawker’s Kitchen, St. John, Sonora, Wong Kei and Bake Street (shout out to Chloe-Rose Crabtree’s crisp and gooey crème brûlée cookies for single-handedly lifting me out of covid depression).
David Jay Paw, food writer and Eater London contributor: Café Cecilia for breakfasts. Elliot’s Hackney for catch ups. Cafe TPT for comfort. And Noodle and Beer for feasting with friends.
Hester van Hensbergen, food writer and Eater London contributor: No restaurant feels regular in the sense of pedestrian or day-to-day, especially now. Having said that, a weekly Yard Sale got my house through the third lockdown, and breakfast at Café Cecilia followed by a swim became something of a ritual treat in the autumn. I’ve been going slowly, making myself at home with the menu one dish at a time, kipper to Coolea.
Shekha Vyas, food writer and Eater London contributor: Proximity meant I ordered an exorbitant amount of food from Sichuan Grand on a pretty regular basis.