Friday 30 December 2016

25 Best Meals of 2016.

As we all know, 2016 in general has been a terrible year. Luckily we still have restaurants, fine food and booze to console us. In this respect it has been good year for me both in terms of eating and photographing food professionally. My idea of Spanish chef collaborations 'Nacho & Friends' at Ibérica hit the ground running with three nights of the best food Manchester has ever seen. Inevitably these all comfortably make the list as do trips to Madrid in January, Valencia in May, Stockholm in July, Andalucia in September and London in December. The following are my favourite meals from this year although not necessarily in any specific order. Full reviews in most of the links.
Quique Dacosta, Denia, Spain.
A three star restaurant in every way. Favourite Dish; Red Denia Prawn.
Aponiente, El Puerto de Sta María, Spain.
Simply one of the best restaurants in Spain and the world. Favourite Dish; Sea urchin royal.
The Samling, Cumbria. 
Quite rightfully gained/retained their Michelin Star this year and now with their recent extension The Samling is up there with the best in the UK. Favourite Dish; Smoked Egg Yolk.
The French, Manchester. The menu from guest chef Dan Cox from Fera was a stunning evening of food and service. Favourite Dish; Roast lamb, summer cabbage and hyssop.
Ynshir Hall, Wales.
Such brilliance of flavour in the food from chef Gareth Ward and a world class experience on the kitchen table. Favourite Dish; Welsh Wagyu Four ways.
Alabaster, Madrid.
Purity in product in the way only the Spanish can do it. Favourite Dish; the sardines.
Sacha, Madrid. We loved loved loved Sacha! Clarity and simplicity and just wonderful food in this traditional institution. Favourite Dish; 'Falsa Lasanga' Fake sea urchin lasagne.
 La Tasqueria, Madrid.  Nose to tail brilliance. Favourite Dish; Pig's Trotter, Artichoke, crayfish.
Coque, Madrid. Yet another superb restaurant just outside of Madrid. Favourite Dish; Glazed Suckling Pig tender and juicy with its crackling spicy pumpkin purée and roasted pear.
Quique Dacosta at Ibérica Manchester. 
The first Nacho & Friends, a master-class in the finest food & service. Favourite Dish; Sea Urchin.
Gastrologik, Stockholm. We were blown away by the food here, it was utterly superb. Favourite Dish; Wild salmon from Junkön with green strawberries and blackcurrant leaves
Messina, Marbella.
This place (as well as Gastrologik) were the best one stars we've ever eaten in, it was so good!
Favourite Dish; Eel, foie gras and cold dashi.
Street Xo, Madrid & Street Xo London. We won't queue for many places but we will make an exception here. "Singapore Laksa" with Carabineros was a favourite in Madrid.
Mark Poynton at Ibérica Manchester. Mark Poynton showed Manchester what it takes to get a Michelin Star in the second Nacho & Friends. Favourite Dish; Venison Tartare, charcoal mayonnaise, turnips.
Ricard Camarena, Valencia.
We ate at all three Ricard Camarena's places in Valencia and really enjoyed them all, the best is his Michelin star restaurant. Favourite Dish; Cocochas.
Le Cochon Aveugle, York. We were so impressed with the food here, we expect they will get a Michelin star before too long. Favourite Dish; Scallop, Artichoke & brie purée.
La Terraza del Casino, Madrid. Opulent and elegant dining room and exquisite food. Favourite Dish. 'Olivas'.
The Flying Elk, Stockholm. We had a pitch perfect taster menu at this 'gastro-pub'. Favourite Dish; Divers Picked Scallop 'signature.'
Compartir at Ibérica, Manchester. Another wonderful evening of food at Ibérica from two of three former El Bulli chefs. Favourite Dish; Crispy egg yolk with mushrooms jelly.
La Salita, Valencia. Tipped for a Michelin Star, we loved chef Begoña Rodrigo's taster menu. Favourite Dish; Tiara of pickled and salted  fish.
Kiln, London.
One of the most exciting finds of the year for us. We sat at the counter and just ordered and ordered.... Favourite Dish; All great but the John Dory curry.
Anglo, London. Another winner on our recent London trip. Favourite Dish; Cod with Cavolo Nero.
Noble Rot, London.
We loved this place, proper food and a great wine list (as you might expect) in such an  atmospheric setting. Favourite Dish; The slip sole.
Hakassan Hanway, London.
Absolutely wonderful dim sum for Sunday lunch.
The Parkers Arms, Lancashire. 
The East Coast Lobster was up there with the finest lobster I've ever had.
2107 looks to be quieter eating out wise although we have a trip to San Sebastian booked in the spring (including Mugaritz). Work wise it should be busier if it all works out to plan with some big exciting projects in the pipeline. Also look out for more Nacho & Friends in 2017, I can barely believe those chefs involved are actually coming here to Manchester next year myself. But they have confirmed so watch this space!

Monday 12 December 2016

StreetXo, London.

If you've read this website before, you may know that we're huge fans of chef David Muñoz, his high end restaurant DiverXo and more casual StreetXo, both in Madrid. In fact doing them both in one day still remains one of our restaurant mistakes in hindsight; we loved StreetXo so much we over ordered and couldn't manage the whole of the immense taster menu at DiverXo. Still a big regret. When we returned to Madrid this year, we made sure a revisit to StreetXo was at the top of the list.
This time we were properly prepared and ordered as much as we could eat, it was as good as we remembered it. So the much delayed opening of StreetXo in Mayfair was an absolute must and it nicely coincided with our trip to London.
We are shown downstairs to the bar area, and a manic dark neon lit space with a long open kitchen. If there's only two of you I'd recommend a seat overlooking the kitchen. We get a table as there are six of us. Ordering drinks straight away, one of our friends gets a huge goldfish bowl cocktail whilst Mrs B's is in a medical heart shaped jug. Clearly they've turned up the madness to eleven. The staff are wearing straight jackets. The house music too is pretty loud and relentless. I'd say this version of StreetXo is more glamorous than the Madrid branch. We had told our friends what to expect and they were all happy to go with it. I think that's the key here to real enjoyment of the night here, (although it may not be to everyone's tastes if you're looking for a quiet romantic dinner). It's a real multi-sensory experience. Most importantly, if you remove everything else, the food is undisputedly brilliant.
As we were known to David and chef Jhonny who were both in that night overseeing and cooking, (both spending two days in London and commuting to and from Madrid) they suggested just sending food out so we'd get to try most of the menu like a taster menu which we happily accepted. Below chefs David (top) and Johnny (bottom right) who both remembered us from our previous visits.
There is too much to go though in an epic night and it was too dark to take food photos but memorable highlights were the Carabinero Prawns (with I recall a shrimp cracker like Tortillita de Camarones on it), their 'paella', similar to Fideuà, their version of Cocido, the scallops and the squid. As ever there wasn't a dish we didn't love and the Albariño was in full flow, so memories do get hazy.  Below previously shot signature dishes of the steam club sandwich and Confit pig's ear, duck dumpling, strawberry hoisin.
Our night at StreetXo worked perfectly for us, a party of six all prepared to go with the madness. In the right spirit, StreetXo is more than just a restaurant, it's really about the whole unforgettable experience.

StreetXo cost us £109.20 each with a few dishes free to sample plus cocktails and wine
Photos larger on Flickr
Previous reviews.
 StreetXo January 2016
DiverXo May 2014 
StreetXo May 2014