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Miso spaghetti and chorizo sausage rolls, Colombian brunch and a little restaurant in Venice, oysters from Somerset and filo pastries on Instagram: presenting Observer Food Monthly’s food favourites for 2022
Spasia Dinkovski
Mystic Börek: the best pastries on Instagram
Tony Tan
Supper-club host and dumpling expert
Akwasi Brenya-Mensa
From tour manager to restaurateur
Peigh Asante and Baff Addae
Trap Fruits founders
George Jephson
Self-taught charcutier
Maria Bradford
Shwen Shwen Catering
Thomas Straker
Chef, Acre restaurant
Maureen Tyne
Neighbourhood cook
Melek Erdal
Cookery teacher and baklava queen
Yakumama
Colombian brunch in Yorkshire
The Bridge Arms
The perfect Michelin-starred pub
Carousel 2.0
Showcasing the world’s best chefs
Two Eight Seven
The best little bakery in Glasgow
Fringe and Ginge
Coffee and cake in Canterbury
Osteria Alle Testiere
Book a trip to Venice
Big Counter
Glammed-up comfort food
The Landing
Rooftop allotment
BiBi
Not your average Indian restaurant
The new cafes
Low-key dining
Pontypridd Market
Victorian food hall
Porlock Bay oysters
Somerset shellfish
Suits-us dining
The new rules of post-pandemic restaurants
Wild Radish
High-end meal kits
Dorset blue vinny
The 300-year-old cheese
Artisan malt vinegar
Posh up your fish and chips
Trove Bakery
Go for the chorizo sausage roll
Presa ibérica
From Spain to Barnsley
Ya-ka-mein
Noodles from New Orleans
Miso spaghetti
Easy umami
Hand-slapped haslet
Lincolnshire’s finest charcuterie
Spring onion oil
Your new favourite condiment
Harry Colley’s nut butter
Step up your toast game
Wines of north Wales
Vineyards in the shadow of Snowdon
Bundobust
Now with added brewery
Leeds and low-intervention wine
The natural wine city
Uncool grapes, cool wines
It’s time for wine’s underdogs
Gardelli coffee
A lighter roast
Move on from sauvignon blanc
Other wines are available
Combat2Coffee
The charity supporting army veterans
The Plated Project
Money-raising dinner plates
Blasta Books
Showcasing new Irish food
Fermoyle Pottery
Not just for restaurants
Restaurants and art
A perfect marriage
Emily Eveleth’s doughnuts
Paintings good enough to eat
The Sunday app
The painless way to pay your bill
Lucy Antal
Brilliant Hungarian food blog
Phoebe Rutherford’s illustrations
Your favourite restaurant on your wall
John Lanchester’s The Debt to Pleasure
Revisit a foodie fiction classic
Mayukh Sen’s Taste Makers
Celebrating America’s female food pioneers
Leaked Recipes: the cookbook
A different sort of secret recipe
For Spasia Dinkovski, the early days of lockdown were a time of opportunity. Having worked for 15 years in other people’s food businesses, including OFM-favourite Bodega Rita’s, she decided to focus on her own, based around perfecting her favourite treat made by her Macedonian grandmother. In August 2020 she launched Mystic Börek: customers would order her golden, flaky pies, both layered and spiral, over Instagram, then collect from her and her trolley at designated points around London.
By March 2021 Dinkovski had moved into a professional kitchen and was delivering across London. Nationwide delivery is a little way off, but she has restaurant pop-ups planned outside the capital. In the meantime, collaborations with other chefs allow her to twist her Balkan flavours with other cuisines and have some company in the kitchen. “I’ve been working alone for so long; it’s nice to build a community,” she says. Dinkovski continually draws inspiration from how she likes to eat, which means that the Mystic Börek bakes have never been entirely authentic, but earlier this month she went back to her grandmother’s recipe book for her first totally traditional dinner. Called Doma, which means “home” in many Slavic languages, the dinner was the first in a series that will celebrate eating seasonally. “I have so many Balkan customers now,” she says. “I really wanted to treat them to a proper slice of home.” Holly O’Neill
London
Last year, the New York Times published a dumpling recipe by Tony Tan, adapted from his book Hong Kong Food City. Standing in his pantry in rural Victoria, Australia, sorting through vinegars, the chef still seems a little overwhelmed. “I couldn’t believe it.” To those in the know in his adopted country, Tan is an authority on Chinese and Malaysian food in particular; in recent years, his reputation has spread and he has plenty of fans among his international peers. “His supper-club at Embla, back when Melbourne hosted the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2017, drew all the chefs from around the world to his thunder-tea rice,” says Pat Nourse, creative director of the Melbourne food and wine festival and Tan’s friend and champion of many years.
Tan was born in Malaysia to a Chinese family who owned restaurants. In the 1970s, he moved to Melbourne to study history, but instead became involved in its food scene. He owned restaurants, a cooking school, led food tours, appeared on TV and wrote. In 2019, he moved to Trentham, a 90-minute drive north-west of the city.
His home is also the Tony Tan Cooking School, envisaged as a centre for Asian food excellence. The central space is a light-filled kitchen with a 5-metre island counter that Tan teaches from. The school has only just opened properly and Tan welcomes cooks of all abilities. “Yesterday I had a group of people here who were a bit gung ho, slapping the dumplings around,” he says. He may see people who want help deciphering and refining family recipes, or teach chefs looking to further their skills. “As long as people go home and feel happy and empowered about what they have learned, then I’ve achieved something.”
Tan is especially proud of his kitchen garden, especially his ballerina apple tree. The fruit will be used in his classes, maybe in a Chinese soup. “I want to teach people that Asian food has seasonality, that’s close to my heart.” For that thunder-tea rice Tan explains that his greenhouse can’t yet can’t grow enough of the tea he needs, so he’ll teach his students it’s OK to use silverbeet or kale.
“I’m even mad enough to see if I can grow sesame, but it’s a plant that needs very long summers and I’m 700 metres above sea level here – it snows,” says Tan, laughing at the challenges and possibilities. Holly O’Neill
Trentham, Victoria
“Had I done it as a younger man, it would be a different story,” says Akwasi Brenya-Mensa, recalling his recent experiences as tour manager for musicians. “Working with food is more wholesome.”
Soon to turn 40, Brenya-Mensa spent years on the road with his job, eating his way around the world from Seoul to Soweto: “Food is an integral part of people’s culture and I’d immerse myself. Initially, I’d go on my own, to smaller chef-owned places so I’d be able to speak to people. But it became a group effort. People would say: ‘I looked this up or saw this on Anthony Bourdain.’”
Those adventures fed into the 2019 launch of supperclub Mensa, Plates & Friends. Previously, while running a club and event production company from Sheffield, he launched burger brand Juicy Kitchen, which graduated from street food markets to catering at big events. In spring, Brenya-Mensa will launch his first restaurant, Tatale, at London’s Africa Centre.
Brenya-Mensa stresses that he is not a chef. Instead, he is a keen cook and diligent researcher. Juicy Kitchen, he explains, was an exercise in curiosity. “I took a scientific approach experimenting with buns, beef cuts, blends and sauces.” Lately, he has worked at Seven Sisters takeaway Waakye Joint, and James Cochran’s 12:51 restaurant to gain kitchen experience. Brenya-Mensa plans to appoint a head chef while managing the space and overseeing dish and menu development.
The London son of Ghanaian parents, Brenya-Mensa’s menus will initially focus on contemporary versions of west African dishes, including “red red” stew; black-eyed bean hummus with red palm oil and dukkah; and mashed omo tuo rice cakes in peanut nkatenkwan soup. But by gradually expanding its menu and hosting themed events and guest chef collaborations linked to the Africa Centre’s exhibitions, Brenya-Mensa wants Tatale (named after a Ghanaian plantain pancake), to have an ultimately pan-African scope.
“Sometimes I’m awake at night thinking, ‘don’t fuck this up’, but I’ve been in high-pressure situations most of my professional life,” says Brenya-Mensa. “I’ve got time to make it really good.” Tony Naylor
After his first taste of a custard apple Peigh Asante was so smitten he made everyone try. “I fell in love with them on a trip to Jamaica,” Asante says. “Back in London I found some. They cost a fiver each but I still bought them, mostly giving them away. I even took one on a first date, thinking I was being so romantic. I didn’t hear from her again.”
The fruit didn’t lead to love but it did lead to Trap Fruits, a business Asante and his friend Baff Addae founded in early 2020 that delivers fruits such as mangoes, soursop and plantain, alongside “staples” including banana and grapes.
“It wasn’t about being an alienating, exclusive exotic fruit company but about being inclusive, opening the door,” says Asante. “For a lot of people it was their first time trying a custard apple or dragon fruit. That was a beautiful feeling.”
In 2019 a friend took Asante to a wholesaler to satisfy his fruit cravings more affordably. Their parents made requests for fruit and vegetables, then neighbours and then friends-of-friends. Addae saw the potential and built a website and social media.
Initially they operated from Asante’s one-bedroom flat, where he was “climbing over fruit boxes to get to my desk” before they took on a storage unit. At their peak in lockdown they were delivering almost 100 boxes a week across London.
For customers, the draw is convenience. Anyone who’s spent hours trawling various shops looking for perfectly ripe mangoes, plantain and pineapple will appreciate the value of someone else doing the legwork and delivering to your front door. Now the business has expanded to catering film and music sets, but the sense of community on which Trap Fruits was founded remains central, with them donating fruit to struggling families.
Asante says: “Growing up on an estate was my first introduction to community. People from all backgrounds looking out for one another. And it’s stayed with me.” Melissa Thompson
George Jephson is, he admits, obsessive about charcuterie. The cheesemonger-turned-fishmonger-turned-butcher developed the passion when he lived in France, trying to perfect techniques shrouded in secrecy to people who weren’t French. “It felt like a finishing school for a butcher,” he says. “It encompasses so many of the things I love – it practises zero waste and whole animal butchery, and you work with incredible ingredients to bring it all together.”
In 2018 Jephson started making his own patés, terrines and cured meats. From butchery to cooking and also packing, it’s laborious work. In line with the products that inspired him, he keeps things traditional. His liver patés are topped with translucent jellies; jambon persille is grass-green, with a wobble that melts into toast; terrines balance refined flavours of pistachio and cognac with the funk of pork liver.
Until recently, Jephson delivered his products weekly to homes and some shops, but he will soon have a new kitchen in London. Once installed, his next project is mastering saucisson sec, but until then he thinks the product he most enjoys making is paté en croute, while to eat, it’s fromage de tete: a terrine made from various parts of the pig’s head that is complex in texture and flavour and encapsulates everything he values. “It takes something with little value to most people,” he says. “Then enriches it with amazing ingredients, process and technique.” Holly O’Neill
Born and raised in Freetown, Sierra Leone, chef Maria Bradford now lives and works in Kent, where Shwen Shwen, her catering company and food business selling chilli sauces and a range of traditional Sierra Leonean drinks via mail order is based. Bradford uses social media to highlight her home country’s food history and culture. “Sierra Leone’s very core and nature is fusion. It is a land of many sensations, colours and flavours,” she says. “A land of mountains rising from the sea, beautiful beaches, rainforests, mangrove swamps, savanna grasslands, and rivers.” Bradford’s cooking reflects this.
Posts about bittas, egusi, ogirie and gambay bologie served with Eba, her bottled drink that blends coconut water with Kent lavender and is inspired by the jelly sellers on the streets of Freetown, and how to use black tomblah (AKA black velvet tamarind, indigenous to West Africa) are evocatively written, fusing modernity and tradition. “Shwen Shwen means fancy, and I decided to take the name on as it’s how many of my fellow Sierra Leoneans have described my food. I’m keen to show that this food can be delivered in a fine dining style and still be proudly West African. I certainly feel there is an undeniable warmth from this kind of representation, especially when you are so far from home.” Her first cookbook, Sweet Salone, will be published by Quadrille in 2023. Says Bradford: “The book will cover everything, from traditional Sierra Leonean cuisine to my Signature Afro-fusion dishes, the country’s history, my family’s journey to and from Sierra Leone.” Nicola Miller
The pandemic delayed Thomas Straker’s first restaurant, Acre, by two years. But, in that period, the 31-year-old chef has built such an online following (156,000 followers on Instagram, near 200,000 on TikTok) that – judging by how quickly his pop-ups sell-out – it could well fly.
A chef with a hitherto standard CV – the Dorchester, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Elystan Street – Straker began posting online cooking videos during lockdown, to amuse himself and his 900-ish followers. Momentum built quickly after a friend at online food platform Mob Kitchen helped promote his content and – fast-forward 20 months – Straker is now writing his first cookbook and making, “more than I could earn as a head chef”, from brand partnership work, such as his new gig with Whole Foods.
Straker has obvious charm and an ability in his short, tightly edited reels (miso cabbage, 670,000 views on TikTok; whipped brown butter, 1.2m) to break exciting foods down into quick, key steps and directions. Prior cooking knowledge is assumed (he goes deeper into the recipes and technique on YouTube), but he says: “It’s approachable. I’m not overcomplicating it.”
Raised on a smallholding in Herefordshire, Straker’s medium might be modern but his “sustainability, seasonality” mantra is traditional. Stylistically, Acre will deal in modish Italian-inspired dishes: “It’s not going to be a Top-10-hits-of-Thomas-Straker’s-Instagram. I want it to have the credentials of the River Cafe or a Noble Rot; known for its food, not who I am.” Tony Naylor
It is easy to miss Maureen Tyne’s kitchen. It operates from her sister’s house, on a south London road connecting Brixton and Herne Hill.
The jerk pans and coal burners in the yard are a giveaway, but you’ve got to peek over the brick wall to see them. Unless you’re there early enough to catch them in action; the smell of jerk chicken stopping you in your tracks and making you long for lunchtime when it’s only 9am. “I’m not a social media person and I don’t have a website,” says Tyne. “So it’s always been about word of mouth.”
Taught to cook by her grandmother in St Thomas, Jamaica, Tyne moved to Britain in the 1990s. Her friends loved her cooking and asked if she’d cater for them. She wondered if she could make a living from it and approached businesses in Brixton to see if staff wanted food. “Hairdressers, estate agents, travel agents, you name it. Then other people smelled the food and asked where it came from. I’d end up running more food over.”
Tyne sells curry chicken, oxtail, curry goat and jerk chicken, plus soups, with cow foot and jerk pork on Fridays. Her customer base is still mostly local workers, so she feels the impact of economic changes. Customers can just turn up – if they know where to go. Just look out for the jerk pans. Melissa Thompson
“If food is a language, you learn how to speak it your own way,” Melek Erdal says of how she cooks, exploring not only her Kurdish heritage but food from the Middle East and broader Mediterranean. North London-based Erdal is a chef and cookery teacher who during the first lockdown shared Instagram recipes to show how to minimise waste and celebrate staple ingredients. Her lockdown beans continue to get a lot of love. Her baklava racks up the most likes, and occasionally makes appearances at London’s Jikoni and Catalyst, and charity bake sales. The easy recipe saved in her Instagram came about when Erdal, who has a background in documentary-making, turned her cameraphone on the woman who founded Dalston’s first 24-hour canteen. That video led to another “auntie” sharing an even easier recipe. “I realised for me what was important was the stories behind food – that context and provenance made everything tastier,” Erdal says, adding that it results in more engagement from her followers, fuelling her desire to create a community and share knowledge. “Accessibility is the thing that’s become most important to me. I’ve found my voice in what I want to do in food, and my learning ground has been wise women who know the food of the earth they come from.” Holly O’Neill
Think of Yakumama as offering respite from the restaurant industry’s frothiest excesses. Part crowdfunded, it opened in Todmorden in 2019 on a budget of just £30,000 with owners, ex-street-food traders Hannah Lovett and Marcelo Sandoval, pledging to go entirely meat-free. In spite of, or perhaps because of, those restrictions this Latin American-inspired cantina has found an enthusiastic audience in this increasingly bohemian corner of West Yorkshire.
Beyond its ornate 19th-century frontage the airy dining room is fairly plain. There are plants. Art. Nothing showy. It is left to a short, affordable menu (seven or eight sharing plates, £5-£8) to deliver colour. The Andean-style crisp potatoes with kalamata olive sauce, smoked paprika oil and pickled peppers, topped with a boiled egg, embodies Yakumama’s imaginative use of vibrant sauces and pickles to create astonishing food. An example of what is possible without meat or lots of money. Tony Naylor
A pub that makes you want to live within walking distance. The Bridge Arms, in Bridge outside Canterbury (newly awarded a Michelin star), is the second venture of Daniel and Natasha Smith of the excellent Fordwich Arms, who first moved to the village and then took over the inn.
The dining room is busy on a dreich January afternoon, the service is smart and attentive, the decor modern enough to not upset locals. Much of the cooking is done over Kentish charcoal in a josper oven. From grilled whole monkfish with seaweed butter a chocolate mousse with Snickers ice-cream, this is food to travel for, an hour from London on an away-day train. We’ll return in spring, sit outside. Allan Jenkins
When the first Carousel closed in September, it was the end of seven years of brilliant experimentation in Marylebone, central London. Founded in 2014 by brothers Ollie and Ed Templeton, the “creative hub” hosted an expertly selected rotating cast of more than 150 chefs including Selin Kiazam, Santiago Lastra, Niklas Ekstedt, Leonardo Pereira, Nuno Mendes, Jeremy Chan, Ravinder Bhogal and Angie Mar. It had been a showcase for chefs who would go on to be stars, and a rare chance to sample some of the best restaurants from around the world only a cab ride from home. Either way, if a dish has been worth eating the chances are it has been on the menu at Carousel.
Fans need not fear. The Templetons have now moved to a new site a mile down the road in Charlotte Street. Guest chefs this year include Rimpei Yoshikawa from Tokyo, Sho Miyashita from Paris, and Pablo Díaz from Guatemala City. They’ve added a wine bar, too. Carousel is dead; long live Carousel! Ed Cumming
Two Eight Seven is a small bakery and neighbourhood hub in Govanhill, Glasgow, set up last spring by Sam and Anna Luntley. On offer are four types of bread baked by Sam (table bread, rye, oat porridge, baguettes) as well as sourdough rolls (Anna creates the fillings), plus delicious laminated pastries such as cardamom and bergamot morning buns. Anna fills the glass display cabinet and back tables with 25 of her sweet and savoury bakes: from macaroni hand-pies to beremeal brownies, and her own creations such as “lunar cookies” made with locally produced Barebones chocolate and buckwheat flour, topped with chocolate ganache and vanilla buttercream. The shelves are stocked with homemade provisions, locally produced jams, honeys, kombuchas and more.
Sam and Anna, both art school graduates, have led collaborations with nearly a dozen artists residing within a two-mile radius of the bakery (their work also lines the shelves). They also run a popular pay-it-forward scheme, providing dozens of loaves for the nearby People’s Pantry and tending to several vegetable grow boxes outside that will end up supplying community dinners. Ben Mervis
In February 2020, Olivia Walsh (has a fringe) and Alfie Edwards (red beard) looked around a corner shop behind Canterbury’s cathedral. It was cold, the winter sun beamed through the window, footfall was heavy and the couple from London knew it would the perfect site for their first cafe. “I could almost see the counter,” Walsh says. They picked up the keys on 1 March. Three weeks later: lockdown. They roped in a friend to help do their interiors, opened in July, and quickly became part of the neighbourhood. “When we opened, it was only locals – no tourists or students,” says Walsh, “so we really got to know people.” Customers come for the serene but friendly atmosphere, the coffee – house blend from Campbell and Symes and fortnightly rotating filter/retail guest roasts – Bare Bones chocolate, and a simple menu. “We do all the baking apart from the plain banana bread and the brownies,” says Walsh. Swerve those cafe staples and you’ll be rewarded with her more interesting chocolate-tahini banana bread, modish Basque cheesecake and an excellent ginger loaf. Holly O’Neill
In Venice, chef Bruno Gavagnin spends early mornings inspecting the day’s catch as it is offloaded at the Rialto market. It is a path well-trodden by this native of Venice who, since 1993, has been proprietor of Osteria Alle Testiere alongside sommelier Luca di Vita. “When people talk of ‘market-to-table’ restaurants, I take it with a pinch of salt. But Alle Testiere made me feel like I was eating directly from the Venetian lagoon,” says restaurateur Russell Norman, co-founder of the Venice-inspired Polpo, about his first visit. “It was so memorable I went for the following three nights in a row.”
Housed in a tiny building with space for only a few tables, its influence is nonetheless huge. Service is a masterclass in grace under pressure as clattering heaps of razor clams, gnocchi in squid ink, and a sweetly saline ricotta and pumpkin pasta with prawns emerge from a galley kitchen. “It’s the place I would rather eat and drink than anywhere else in Italy,” says Norman who brought Gavagnin and Di Vita to London in 2017. “Or, for that matter, the world.” Nicola Miller
Big Counter in Glasgow, named for its lengthy pass, bills itself as a “dinner house”, offering a no-frills approach to comfort eating. Chefs John Dawson and Claire Johnston cook their take on the sort of hearty old-school favourites that would make Keith Floyd or even Ambrose Heath grin with pleasure. “Butter, cream and cheese are our holy trinity,” Dawson says.
Good humour and personality is also on the menu: Dawson cooks a glammed-up version of his grandfather Henry’s self-dubbed “Steak Henrí” with fantastic thin-cut chips, and the chefs’ shared love for choucroute garnie has led to its regular reappearance – it’s hard to think of another place to find this dish outside of an Alsatian home kitchen. Other recent standouts include a serving of roast mallard with pease pudding and crisps, rarebit gratin and beef and onions with a cheesy aligot mash. It only opened last summer but Big Counter has already earned a loyal following. Ben Mervis
A few years ago, Sam Buckley, chef-owner at Stockport’s Where The Light Gets In, rented land on the rural border with Cheshire where his team could grow heritage vegetables. Buckley was living the bucolic dream: “getting your hands in the soil is good.”
Or it was until Buckley realised what foes slugs, badgers and foxes could be. Plus there were the hours he lost driving to Marple to weed. A holistic breather from kitchen life became “stressful”.
In contrast, WTLGI’s latest kitchen garden, the Landing, is a breeze. It’s adjacent to the rooftop car park above Stockport’s Merseyway shopping centre, a short walk from the restaurant and a relatively pest-free, stable environment. Here, grower Nick Harlow cultivates, for example, numerous chillies, Andean tubers oca and mashua and “the sweetest” poona kheera cucumbers. “It’s 100% exposed, so it’s red hot up there,” says Buckley. “The greenhouse was 20C [in December].”
The Landing was originally inspired by a 2011 urban farming lecture at Manchester international festival. Recent closures in hospitality and the open-mindedness of Stockport Council, which owns this 1960s precinct, allowed Buckley time to realise the project assisted by community gardeners Manchester Urban Diggers.
“In summer, it’s a nightmare,” he says, describing the way the Landing requires the WTLGI team to respond daily to a wealth of produce, with the constantly changing “Landing Plate” or one-offs such as a “Stockport saag” made almost entirely from Landing produce (shisho, spinach, curry leaves). “It was banging but a huge effort for one night. That’s how it changes the cooking.”
Much as Buckley sometimes finds all this amusing (“We’re growing lemongrass above Ann Summers. That’s my punchline to guests.”), he wants the Landing, which hosts craft workshops and gardening days, to illustrate what is possible in urban environments. “Look what we’re feeding people, what you can do on a roof and how many abandoned spaces there are,” he says. “That’s the serious part.” Tony Naylor
BiBi in Mayfair’s North Audley Street is an unusual Indian restaurant, even one backed by the JKS group behind Brigadiers and Gymkhana. Chefs at the pass, banging hip-hop, startling flavours. But then Chet Sharma is an unusual chef. A teenage member of Mensa, he has an Oxford PhD in physics and a CV long on thoughtful two Michelin-starred kitchens, including Mugaritz in San Sebastián, the Ledbury and Moor Hall. He was brought up in Berkshire where his family made their own ghee and yoghurt, and visits to his grandmothers’ farms in India taught him to “respect every grain of rice”. He did restaurant “stages” [internships] throughout his studies, including at Sketch and Locanda Locatelli.
The Damascene moment, though, was after four months of brutal hours at Fera, Simon Rogan’s restaurant in Claridge’s, which closed in 2018. Exhausted, he fled to his grandmother’s where she cooked him a chutney and sabji from squash. The dish made him cry. He was finally freed from any awkwardness about Indian food. Now, after just a few months, BiBi’s a smash. There’s serious talk of moving to a larger site. Thoughts of other cities, other countries. The Roka/Zuma model. After a slow wait to find his voice, chef Sharma’s in a hurry. Allan Jenkins
Cecilia, Deco, Lighthaus, Norman’s: four of London’s most fashionable, newish restaurants, all of them cafes. Something about the pandemic seems to have encouraged this classification. A cafe is relaxed. You will not be nudged towards a seven-course tasting menu, and there will be unfussy, un-cheffy dishes to suit your level of hunger. Norman’s, in Kentish Town, has gone one further and elevated the humble caff – not cafe – menu, with chips, beans, sausages, eggs. A cafe sounds like an all-day place, where you can stop in for coffee as well as a decent dinner. It’s helpful for proprietors trying to maximise revenue, and unthreatening for customers whose wallets have been stretched by the past two years. Ed Cumming
Opened in 1877, the indoor market at Pontypridd was once considered to be the UK’s most profitable market space for traders. The Pontypridd Market Company has been Nigel John’s family business for years and to a great extent, private ownership has saved the place. John has a vision: that Pontypridd Market take its rightful place among the noted markets of Europe.
The original Victorian market hall is now the Food Hall, home to many businesses selling traditional Welsh food: there are pale wheels of perl wen and caerffili, local butter, Welsh lamb. Handmade faggots and the counter at the Welsh Cake Shop is piled high with fat stacks of bara brith. But that’s not all. Janet’s Chinese is regionally famous for its food from the Chinese-Korean autonomous province in northern China; Soul Spice’s plant-based menu attracts locals and students; and I particularly love The Copper Kettle Caff, which kept me fed back in the early 1980s when I was a student in nearby Cardiff. Owner Christine Tranter’s corned beef plate pie remains peerless. Nicola Miller
Pontypridd
By the late 19th century, Porlock Weir in Somerset had become famous for its oysters, farmed in the rich tidal waters at the edge of the Bristol Channel. When the train line from Minehead opened in 1874, they could be sped to London’s best restaurants to be eaten on the same day.
In 1890, or so the story goes, jealous fishermen from Colchester and Whitstable sent dredgers round to destroy the Porlock Weir beds. After that, there were no more oysters until 2013 when enterprising locals reintroduced them for the first time in a century. The results were spectacular: large, firm, clean-tasting oysters, the only Pacifics in the UK given a grade A status, meaning they can be eaten straight from the sea.
But the business ran into trouble. In 2019, an oyster-loving local businessman, Mark Pendarves, and his son George, stepped in. They now sell online all around the country, to restaurants and the public.
George, who was working as a lawyer in London but relocated with his young family to take on the project. “We love it here,” he says. “The beach is on the doorstep, and every day we’re doing the kinds of things that in London would have been a special occasion. Business-wise the first lockdown was tricky, but we used it as an opportunity to build up the online business. It’s been going well. I think one of the reasons the oysters taste so good is because it’s a very low-intensity agriculture around here, so there isn’t much runoff.”
The next project is converting an old stable into a shop-cum-oyster bar. “I’m excited about it,” he adds. “If we can do a good job it will be a real positive for Porlock.” The dredgers won’t be able to get at it, either. Ed Cumming
During 2020’s first lockdown Josh Overington, chef-owner at York’s Le Cochon Aveugle, realised that after several years of compromising there were a lot of things about his restaurant that he hated.
Cochon is now a smaller 14-cover restaurant where all guests are simultaneously served a blind menu. The price rose by £10 a head and Overington no longer accommodates any dietary changes. “I thought: ‘If it doesn’t work, I can blame the pandemic.’”
In fact, Cochon is reassuringly busy. Overington has greater licence to cook freely (increased use of rare, short-season produce, be it sea urchins or walnut wine; more cooking of large meat cuts and fish on the bone, for instance whole skate poached in smoked lardo). Fewer seats per service has boosted midweek bookings.
Such a reset is not unique. In Chester, plant-based Hypha swapped small plates for a tasting menu format and a four-day week for staff. In Manchester, bar-diner Common dropped its complex menus and brunch and re-emerged after lockdown as a sustainable pizza joint. Many owners took stock mid-pandemic and to ease workloads, increase creativity or remain viable, reopened in ways which offer customers less choice, including streamlined menus and shorter hours. The days of being all things to all people are over, says Overington. “We can’t be on our knees for the customer. If restaurants don’t work for owners, there’s no future.” Tony Naylor
Not long before Christmas, in the midst of frantic meal planning and food shopping, I ordered a box from Wild Radish which promised me a Michelin-star cooking and dining experience with minimum fuss. The box contained the ingredients for a two-person dish created by top chef Alyn Williams, along with a detailed recipe and a paired bottle of wine. A QR code linked me to a video of Williams introducing the dish – braised sticky pork belly with puréed and pickled celeriac, walnuts and herbs – which I would be cooking from scratch.
Wild Radish was co-founded by Anthea Stephenson, who had been six years at the River Cafe and headed the kitchen at Polpetto. She began working on the idea before the first lockdown, when chefs everywhere scrambled to reimagine their restaurants as delivery services. For Stephenson, accessing diners at home was “an opportunity to reach more people with amazing food, phenomenal ingredients, and to tell a story”. Google saw promise in her idea: last year, Wild Radish was chosen as one of 30 Black-led tech startups across Europe to receive money and mentorship from the company’s $2m Black Founders Fund.
Any scepticism I had about paying £77 (or £55 without wine) for the pleasure of cooking my own dinner melted away when I started on Williams’s recipe, which was extremely user-friendly, with the ingredients all weighed out in advance, allowing me to indulge my MasterChef fantasies for an evening. The result was delicious enough to have me looking up other dishes by Wild Radish regulars such as Phil Howard and Anna Hansen. As for Stephenson, it’s opened up a world beyond restaurant kitchens, though she is still doing some private cheffing. “That’s it,” she says. “Not going back to kitchens for the time being.” Killian Fox
Dorset Blue Vinny was once a staple of West Country farmhouses. For centuries, the crumbly blue cheese was made from milk left over once the cream had been skimmed. According to legend, farmers stored their mouldy horse gear nearby to inoculate the milk. But the introduction of the Milk Marketing Board in 1933 meant milk was collected and sold wholesale, leaving no leftover skimmed milk.
In the 1980s, farmer Mike Davies came across a 300-year-old recipe. He experimented at the family’s Woodbridge Farm in Dorset’s stunning Blackmore Vale, and demand grew. Today Mike’s daughter Emily runs the operation. The cheese has protected geographical indication status, meaning it can only be made there, with milk from their 250 holstein friesians. They don’t supply supermarkets, preferring independent shops and selling direct through their website or an on-site vending machine. Melissa Thompson
Built to withstand nuclear warfare, the concrete walls of the former RAF Treleaver in Cornwall are a metre thick. They also help maintain a steady temperature, ideal for the base’s current purpose: making and storing malt vinegar for the Artisan Vinegar Company. A family operation run by Mark and Geoff Nattrass, the company uses Cornish spring water and Maris Otter malt (known as the “Rolls Royce” of malts and first bred in England more than 50 years ago) to make live vinegar which is left to ferment and mature in oak barrels. It makes fish and chips taste like they did in the day when your fish supper came wrapped in newspaper – total nostalgia. Nicola Miller
Searching for the definitive sausage roll is a life’s work. A significant way station on that journey is on the A6 in Levenshulme: Trove, the original branch of a small chain of high-quality Manchester bakery-cafes. Opened in 2011, Trove continues to provide moments of revelation, the latest being its chorizo sausage rolls. Baker Ruth Gwillim has created a sausage roll for the ages (without revealing too much: 33% chorizo to 67% sausage meat; French butter pastry; the filling peppered with fennel seeds).
Where most sausage rolls cool and congeal into a stodgy lump, this sings even at room temperature. Is it the extra fat? Chorizo’s smoky depth? The clever fennel distribution? Why would anyone ever make a plain sausage roll again? Tony Naylor
For years, this prized byproduct of the jamón industry was rarely seen outside Spain. Now it’s flashing up on menus at London’s Sabor and Camino, Porta in Chester, Altrincham and Salford and at José Pizarro’s restaurants. A tender shoulder cut marbled with fat, presa cannot be cured, but flash-grilled to retain its distinctive pinkness it delivers fathoms of flavour. “Better than wagyu and a quarter of the price,” declares Porta chef Jose Garzón, who serves presa with mojo verde.
The cut normally comes from free-ranging black Iberian pigs, but, in York, Skosh chef-owner Neil Bentinck sources a more affordable version from large white Barnsley-bred pigs. Recently, he has been marinating and barbecuing it and serving it with a Thai curry-inspired satay sauce and pickled carrots. Tony Naylor
Called “Old Sober” in its New Orleans home, Miss Linda Green’s ya-ka-mein is rightly famous. Green is known to ladle noodles and a spicy soy-rich broth into a to-go-cup from the back of a pickup, before crowning it with beef, a hard-boiled egg, and concentric rings of green onions and hot sauce. Sometimes the beef is replaced with shrimp, oysters, vegetables or duck. But don’t ask for extras; ya-ka-mein is perfect as it is, and Green holds little truck with those who want to mess with it. “People from all over the world, they be coming to me,” said Green in a video about her own recipe, which was passed down orally and has spawned copies all over the city. “Anthony Bourdain, he told me I would be able to do something with it …– he loved my old school flavour. I’m the only one with that.” Nicola Miller
“I think you’ll like this,” said a message from a friend, “it’s like Nigella’s Marmite spaghetti but even better – creamy, salty, beige carb heaven.” There followed a link to Alexa Weibel’s five-ingredient miso pasta in the New York Times. It comes together in minutes and is a cinch (take the pan off the heat before adding the cheese to make things even easier; vegans should check out Weibel’s cashew cacio e pepe on the same site). And it is as rich in savoury rewards as Nigella’s pasta, or cacio e pepe, but thanks to the triple hit of miso, parmesan and seaweed it delivers even more comforting umami. I’ve cooked it for people on rainy nights, bare-cupboard nights , in times of heartbreak and spiritual malaise, and for unexpected celebrations. It has never failed to be exactly what was needed. Holly O’Neill
British charcuterie has undergone a renaissance but older, lesser-known standards deserve their time in the sun too. Enter hand-slapped haslet, a speciality of Lincolnshire. It is slapped to remove the air before roasting and resembles a solid little knoll of pork. “It may not look pretty, but it tastes lovely,” says Jane Tomlinson, founder of Redhill Farm in Lincolnshire, where free-range pork from their pigs is used to make their award-winning haslet, cut by hand.
What should customers new to haslet look for? “It should be a good, uneven, handmade-looking meatloaf. Nicely browned all over – and firm.” Tomlinson tells me queues form when their haslet is on sale at local farmers’ markets. “It’s such an exciting world to be involved in. Haslet is a fabulous celebration of the old and the new.” Nicola Miller
We’ve fallen in love with sedimenty chilli oil of late but sometimes a less confrontational condiment is needed, one easy to make at home. Enter spring onion oil, used in many Asian countries to add flavour to meat, soup, noodle and rice dishes. It’s a classic accompaniment to Cantonese poached chicken and at Koya Ko in Hackney “negi” spring onion sauce is served with crisp karaage (fried) chicken, as well as spooned over some of London’s best noodles. You can find many recipes online, but our favourite method is to very finely slice some spring onions, add a little minced ginger, soy and white pepper, and place in a heatproof jar. Heat neutral oil, then when it’s hot, pour over the spring onion mixture. It’ll keep in the fridge for a few days, and improves almost any simple meal. Holly O’Neill
When Covid hit, turning his day job as a chef on its head, Dubliner Harry Colley found an unusual outlet for his pent-up creativity: his own line of nut butter. It grew out of a delicious concoction he’d devised while working at the Fumbally Cafe, a spicy-salty-sweet peanut butter with paprika, garlic, sesame oil, sugar and a pinch of salt. Sold in a squat jar with a sunny label (featuring a shades-wearing elephant), it was hugely popular from the get-go. Now Colley has expanded the range to include cocoa, extra spicy and pure peanut options. Demand has grown too – Harry’s Nut Butter is stocked all over Ireland and much of the UK, as well as in Belgium, France and Spain. It’s not the only success story to have emerged from the Fumbally in recent years: the couple behind White Mausua, range of addictive rayu sauces widely available across the UK, met while working at the cafe; it also nurtured the talent behind one of Ireland’s best bakeries, Scéal. Dublin’s small-batch producer scene is in rude health at the moment, and the Fumbally is at the heart of the action. Killian Fox
In the early 2000s, Richard Huws was working as a director of photography. On a trip to New Zealand’s South Island, he was struck by the similarity of the rolling, hilly landscape to his native north Wales. This was one of the most famous wine growing areas in the world; perhaps there could be similar opportunities at home.
“I thought to myself, if we get another degree of temperature per year, I’ll be able to grow wine at home,” he says. In 2007 he founded a vineyard on nine acres in the Nantlle Valley, with views of Snowdon. Fifteen years later, Pant Du is thriving; making white, red and rosé from six varieties of vines, as well as cider from an orchard of 3,200 apple trees. It’s one of a small number of vineyards in the region: there’s also Gwinllan Conwy by Colwyn Bay, and Red Wharf Bay over on Anglesey.
The effects of climate change on viticulture are being felt all over the world. For historic wine areas it presents a long-term threat but it has provided opportunities in surprising places, too. The rise of sparkling wine from Hampshire, Sussex and Kent has been well documented. Perhaps in time drinkers will refer to the white wines of Snowdonia with the same reverence as meursault. Lloniannau! Ed Cumming
Good beer is essential to Bundobust: Bradford-born owners Marko Husak and Mayur Patel first bonded over the emerging craft beer scene of the early 2010s. Its IPAs and sours became the ideal foil for Patel’s food – meat-free Gujarati family recipes updated for the street-food generation – as the duo opened much-loved bar-restaurants in Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester.
The unveiling last September of a Bundobust brewery-restaurant in a grade II-listed Edwardian building on Manchester’s Oxford Road, a place to pair your okra fries and vada pav with Bundobust’s own beers, brings that journey full circle. Pandemic delays to this 3,500-pints-a-week production line provided breathing room to hone recipes with brewer Dan Hocking. Do not expect any “comical Indian-related beers”, says Patel. Bundobust’s core range is focused on classic IPA and lager styles. Where Indian spices are used, subtlety is paramount. The coriander in its Dhania pils is a common citrusy addition to Belgian witbier and, unlike more flamboyant flavoured stouts, Bundobust’s Chaitro porter uses chai spices with restraint. “White pepper and prickly ginger work,” says Patel. “It’s obvious to lob Indian spices into beer. Doing it clean and balanced is the challenge.” Tony Naylor
Fashion conscious and happy to spend a few quid enjoying itself, trends often flourish in Leeds. But for Dave Olejnik, owner of Sarto restaurant, the number of local bar-restaurants that have embraced natural wine – from pioneering Eat Your Greens to supporters Ox Club, Home or Friends of Ham – reflects something deeper: the way the city’s tight-knit food scene fosters adventurous tastes.
Some venues find their own way to biodynamic wine. For instance, the Chateau Gasqui wines served at Owt are made by French owner Esther Miglio’s dad. More widely, says Olejnik, in Leeds the hospitality industry is, “full of people happy to exchange ideas and put in the legwork to present good things to the public – who are open to new takes. The city’s geography lets people bounce between places easily, too. New ideas are never far away.”
If one person put in the legwork Olejnik talks of (explaining why natural wine is worth “a couple of quid more”), it is Steve Nuttall. In 2014, Nuttall began listing innovative wines at bar-restaurant the Reliance, before launching influential shop, distributor and importer Wayward Wines.
To Nuttall, natural wine feels established in Leeds, “beyond being this gimmicky new thing”. The informal culture around natural wine, how it is served and talked about, suits the city’s many ambitious, casual independents: “You get great food and wine with good provenance but no stuffy sommelier service making you feel on edge. That’s how you drink those wines in France. Not in gastronomic restaurants. It fits.” Tony Naylor
For years, grape varieties have sat in a rigid hierarchy. The privileged few, all French, were described as “noble”. The rest of the world’s 1,400 commercial varieties may occasionally have been able to make something “charmingly rustic” they were never allowed to aspire to truly fine wine.
But now adventurous winemakers seem to be trolling the more conservative parts of the their world by seeking out grapes with the lowest reputation – in some cases actively despised – to prove they can make good wines.
This includes Chilean país, Argentinian criolla, Spanish airén, the complete reinvention of carignan and cinsault both in their southern French home and in South Africa and Chile. There are even good to very good wines made from what were considered the lowest of the low, hybrid varieties, crossings of European and American grapes such as chambourcin, seyval blanc vidal blanc and others in eastern USA, Canada and the UK. David Williams
In the land of dark-roast coffee and inky-black espressos, it’s unusual, to say the least, to find someone producing lighter roasts that emphasise acidity, fruitiness, and other qualities associated with so-called speciality coffee. But that’s exactly what Rubens Gardelli has been doing from his roastery in Forli, in northern Italy, with great success – he was crowned world coffee roasting champion in 2017. Gardelli sources coffee from around the world but he maintains particularly close links with east Africa. Try his beguiling Mzungu Project coffee from Uganda or – if it returns to the Gardelli webshop anytime soon – a stunning Rwandan coffee called Kirambo. Killian Fox
Nature wasn’t kind to sauvignon blanc last year. In the spring, producers in New Zealand, the country that has done most to make the grape variety such a hit in the UK in the past couple of decades, warned of likely shortages after bringing in a vintage that was almost 20% smaller than average. Autumn was worse. Growers in the Loire Valley, the original sauvignon blanc heartland and home to famous sauvignon appellations such as Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, brought in the smallest vintage in 30 years. If you look closely at their labels you’ll notice some of the big New Zealand brands have already found alternative sources of sauvignon (Chile, South Africa). But some merchants and supermarket buyers are seeing the shortage as an opportunity to move customers on to other styles with a similar mix of refreshment and aromatic intensity. Step forward Côtes de Gascogne whites from south-west France, verdejo from Rueda in Spain, youthful Austrian grüner veltliner, Greek assyrtiko, maybe, even, at last, the long-promised new dawn of (dry) German riesling. David Williams
After 12 years in the army and a career in the prison service, Nigel Seaman was referred to the Combat Stress organisation and diagnosed with PTSD. With support from Help 4 Heroes, he created the charity Combat2Coffee which works with men at HMP Hollesley Bay training to become baristas at Lansbury’s Roastery, a roasting house and shop based at the prison. Cafes in Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich provide a meeting place and support group for veterans and people who have gone through the prison system although everyone is welcome. Recently Combat2Coffee has begun producing “ration-style” packs of coffee complete with biodegradable filters. The packs are printed with the contact details of mental health charities.
“Every interaction is an intervention,” Seaman says over a bacon roll and coffee made from direct trade Brazilian beans imported via Cal’s Coffee, whose family farm is the source. The roasting team at HMP Hollesley is six-strong, including two veterans and “the end-to-end production line enables employees to experience different aspects of the trade,” in a working atmosphere designed to be as “unprison-like” as possible. “We were talking about weighing the coffee the other day,” he says. “You’ve got guys at entry-level, education-wise, but it’s not ‘just’ coffee. It is numeracy and literacy and learning about the business and feeling loyalty to Cal and his family’s business, and that’s where I get a bit excited because you can see someone starting to believe they could do this as a career.” Nicola Miller
The tagline is simple: “Buy a plate, fill a plate.” Every month, Chitresh Sinha and his team at The Plated Project, in Mumbai, commission artists to create work that will fit within the circle of a dinner plate. The plates are then made and sold online for upwards of £20. Of the net profit, 50% goes to charity. Sinha estimates that they’ve sponsored more than 530,000 meals in India and beyond. Sinha is a brand consultant in Mumbai and the idea arose out of a meeting with colleagues in late 2019: “How can we make social impact happen in a manner that’s fun, engaging and that breaks away from the conventional?” was the question they took on. Exploring the problem of hunger, they discovered that, according to charity Naandi, almost one in four under 5s in India’s 10 biggest cities are malnourished. According to the UN’s World Food Programme, poverty kills more people around the world than Aids, malaria and TB combined.
Their first challenge to artists was to create a design inspired by happy childhood memories that left one quarter of the plate meaningfully blank. Since then, they have addressed themes around lockdown and the feeling of home, sending the proceeds to charities, such as Feeding India and Creative Dignity. What began as an experiment done outside office hours now employs 10 people full-time. He says buying just one of their attractive, brightly coloured plates with designs by artists such as Malika Favre and Suket Dhir, equals 10 meals donated. Killian Fox
Blasta Books was founded because more people in Ireland need to be able to share their food and by extension their story,” says Kristin Jensen, publisher of a new series of books by Irish food writers, illustrated by Dublin-based artist Nicky Hooper. The first, Tacos by Lily Ramirez-Foran, the founder of Picado Mexican, and a grocer, writer and chef whose cooking slots are a regular on Irish television, is published this month.
“Lily’s book is the perfect example of the kind of work we want to publish,” says Jensen. “A strong voice, compelling stories and authentic, achievable recipes.”
Jensen says: “The authors for our first series are the voices and faces of Ireland today. Three are immigrants, and two are a gay couple (and I’m an immigrant too). What we all have in common is that we are all proud of Ireland and the diverse food culture we have here.” Nicola Miller
Stephen O’Connell and Alexis Bowman of Fermoyle Pottery in Co Kerry create stunning tableware for some of the best restaurants in Ireland and beyond. Their first commission was for 900 pieces – plates, bowls, cups, vases, jugs – for Aimsir, which went on to win two Michelin stars in its first five months. Fermoyle’s distinctive textures and colours are produced by experimental glazes and the application of wood ashes and slate dust. “Once you get outside the normal thinking in pottery, where it must be shiny and smooth, then you can have some fun,” says O’Connell. You don’t have to eat out to enjoy their ceramics: the couple , who work from a studio at the back of their bungalow in Ballinskelligs, release new selections regularly on their website or you can drop by their house to pick some up in person. Killian Fox
“I don’t think of myself as a chef or a cook, I think of myself as an artist,’’ says Erchen Chang, Slade School graduate and co-founder of Bao restaurants. Bao’s logo – a lonely man eating a bao – is a continuation of her final degree show. Of course, the marriage of food and art is nothing new. Salvador Dalí wrote a cookbook; the impressionists loved a picnic. More recently, St John established itself as the restaurant for exhibition opening nights, despite – even because of – it having no art on the walls.
“You can’t talk about art and food in this country without talking about Margot and Fergus [Henderson],” says Amanda Sharp, co-founder of Frieze Art Fair with Matthew Slotover. “They really live it.” Indeed, in opening Toklas in London, their first restaurant, Sharp and Slotover have echoed St John’s principles with a minimal, well sourced Italian menu that complements the brutalism of its 1970s building.
“‘Truth to materials’ was a big phrase in art of the 1960s and 70s,” says Slotover, and it still is in restaurants affiliated with the art world. Last year, José Pizarro opened in the Royal Academy of Arts – and served tapas. In Manchester Art Gallery, ex-MasterChef contestant Adam Leavy does quality sandwiches. In 2020, restaurateur Nick Gilkinson established Townsend in the Whitechapel Gallery with the aim of “showcasing amazing local produce”.
Bringing restaurants into galleries and exhibitions into restaurants has accelerated during the pandemic, in part down to economic necessity; yet it also reflects the fact that like art, food transcends language to connect people and must be made, says Pizarro, “with feeling”.
“There is no art without feelings,” he continues, “so something as simple as a line on a piece of paper can make you feel deeply. It is the same with food.” Clare Finney
It would be easy to describe Emily Eveleth’s oil paintings of doughnuts in sexual terms. Puffy, leaking jam, the comparisons are obvious, but they are about so much more. They encourage us to engage with the prosaic and cheaply available in an intuitive and sensorily charged way. Unlike Wayne Thiebaud’s self-possessed and unmistakable slices of pie and Andy Warhol’s regimented cans of soup, Eveleth’s paintings barely contain their subject, demanding we engage with them in the way we might one of Rubens’s creamy and abundant nudes. Nicola Miller
The French restaurant group Big Mamma has expanded its group of glitzy but affordable Italian-themed trattoria across Europe over the past few years. In London they have Gloria, Circolo Popolare and Ave Mario but there are also sites in France, Spain and Germany, 17 in total.
Having QR codes on tables was never part of their aesthetic but when it became clear the little black and white labels were here to stay, the Big Mamma founders aimed to improve the experience of paying. The result was a new app, Sunday which they introduced in their restaurants. By scanning the code guests can split and pay the bill in seconds on their phones.
“Payment in restaurants is painful but nobody had challenged the system,” says Victor Lugger who co-founded Big Mamma with Tigrane Seydoux. “This way guests save 15 minutes of asking for the bill, splitting it and paying it. Staff love it, because they gain the same amount of time back per table.” It has been especially useful given the pandemic and Brexit’s deleterious effect on staffing.
Lugger says that within three months of Sunday’s launch between lockdowns in 2020 it was being used by 85% of the group’s 10,000 daily guests. Since then it has been sold to more than 3,000 restaurants around the world. In April 2021 they raised $24m in funding; five months later they raised a further $100m. “Before Uber, nobody thought to complain about having to wave their hand in the air to hail a cab,” says Lugger. “I don’t think my kids will know a world where you have to get the waiter’s attention to pay the bill in a restaurant.” Ed Cumming
“Just before my father died, I spent a week with him where we deciphered my nagymama’s [grandmother’s] spidery handwritten family recipes, and I wrote translations of them,” says Lucy Antal, the Liverpool-based winner of the BBC Food & Farming 2021 community champion award. Her blog, Finom, is packed with recipes and stories from her Hungarian ancestry. “Hungary’s food is so little known, but to me is one of the great European cuisines.” Antal’s father fled the country after taking part in the revolution of 1956, eventually moving to the UK and a career as a GP. He married her mother, a trainee midwife of Scottish ancestry who was born in Singapore. “She was posh and could burn water. Dad did most of the cooking until I was old enough to take over.
“Hungarian food is the cultural mix garnered from its history,” says Antal. “Romans cultivated the wines; the Mongols left behind their cooking technique of bogracs – a pot suspended over a fire using a tripod; the Turks brought paprika, paper-thin pastry and intense dark coffee; and the Roma the one-pot főzelék.” She explains the importance of caraway from the north, the “decadent cakes of the Austro-Hungarian empire” and the underlying influence of northern Italian cuisine which came via the intermarriage of Medici princesses with Hungarian aristocrats. It is dizzying. Nicola Miller
At the start of lockdown, artist Phoebe Rutherford was listless. “I was talking about where I missed eating so my boyfriend challenged me to draw the three restaurants I missed the most.” She sketched St John, Lina Stores and Adam’s in Shepherd’s Bush, posting the images on Instagram. People started getting in touch, asking her to draw their own favourite spots. “Sometimes it’s where they’ve had a first date, or some other significant event,” she explains. Mostly they are in London, although she has drawn restaurants in Paris, too. Prints are from £25, or contact Rutherford if you want an original. Ed Cumming
Villains are sometimes preferable to heroes. Tarquin Winot, the narrator of John Lanchester’s award-winning first novel, published in 1996, is a favourite: a compelling odious gourmand who finds killing his brother’s hamster as a child only whets his murderous appetite.
Boy, does he have an appetite; not just for blood, but for dinner, descriptions of which are folded into his narrative as deftly as eggs into his fateful omelettes. There are recipes, written with wit and insouciance – “cook for however long it takes. Use a meat thermometer if you have doubts” he says of roast lamb – and snippets of food history to savour. Yet it is Winot’s culinary epigrams which draw the reader in and drive his grisly story forward.
“I learned all I needed to know about the rules of proportion from the dry martini,” he writes. “It seems to me that the menu lies close to the heart of the human impulse to order, to beauty, to pattern”. Though he would loathe the term, Winot is a “foodie” of the most excessive and exclusive kind, and The Debt to Pleasure is a sharply prescient skewering from a writer who – as the Guardian’s restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012 – would soon see foodie-ness embedded in mainstream culture. Clare Finney
Mayukh Sen won a James Beard award in 2018 for his profile of the New York soul food chef Princess Pamela, who disappeared in the late 1990s. In his first book Taste Makers, published last month, he broadens his canvas to feature seven immigrant women who, as the subtitle puts it, revolutionised food in America. Some of his subjects, such as Marcella Hazan, were celebrated during their lifetimes; others – like Chinese-American doctor-turned-cookery writer Chao Yang Buwei – less so, though their influence can still be felt today. In clear, unfussy prose, anchored by deep research, Sen traces the intimate details of these women’s lives and the broader social conditions that shaped – and in many ways stifled – their work. An important book that, like the work of the women it describes, deserves the widest audience. Killian Fox
For the Leaked Recipes cookbook Demetria Glace compiled dishes drawn from nearly two decades of email hacks and dumps. There are recipes that cropped up in correspondence from headline-making incidents, including Sony Pictures and Macronleaks. Although sadly Hillary Clinton’s secret salad dressing, mentioned in one of the 30,000 emails handed to the US state department, remains elusive.
The recipes are formatted but otherwise left as written by the sender. Where possible, Glace sought permission from the people whose recipes she published, interviewing some of them about the fallout of a security breach. The result is a fascinating look at privacy, intimacy and the role food plays in office socialising, whatever the line of work. One interviewee talks about how it feels when anyone can access what was believed to be private. He’d replied to a request for his special rib rub with the note: “Make sure he keeps it a secret between us!” Holly O’Neill

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