Favourite restaurants in 2022

My favourite discovery in 2022 was CARAVEL, because it was so unexpected. I booked a table immediately after seeing a picture Margot Henderson posted on Instagram of Bruno’s, Caravel’s just opened sister cocktail bar. I hadn’t heard of Caravel, and found little information online (at the time) — it sounded tempting. Caravel is ensconced in a barge on Regent’s Canal, it can be a bit hard to find at first — buzzed through a nondescript metal gate, down steep steps to the canal, then directed by a genial host to walk a few minutes along the water passing two or three other moored boats (including the aforementioned cocktail barge Bruno’s) — which all just adds to the fun.

Once there, the space is warm and welcoming, and everything we ate was very, very good. (With the exception of the gnudi, perhaps, but April Bloomfield once of the hallowed then fallen Spotted Pig in New York and much more, has forever ruined gnudi for me as her version can never be improved upon and has left the bar way too high.) The plate of pickles and bread and butter to start was excellent. The rösti, perfect. The sesame prawn toast — astonishing, in the best of ways. And I noted that the roast hake, chickpeas, cavolo nero & saffron aioli was one of the best things I ate last year. It was an excellent evening. Caravel has, since then, received a bit of attention and been included in a number of ‘best of London’ roundups — now is the time to go before a major national newspaper wields its magic/curse and reservations become impossible.

Caravel
172 Shepherdess Walk
London N1 7JL

But looking back, we often ate very well in 2022. At home too but also, specifically, out. There were new places, and some we returned to. Here are my favourite restaurants in 2022, which I look forward to again in 2023.

TENMARU

The restaurant we returned to most often in 2022 is Tenmaru in Finsbury Park. It is a short bike ride away and we discovered it by chance, on the way to the cinema, because the place we had intended was closed. Coincidentally, it happened soon after finally watching the film Tampopo — often high on lists of best films about food — and it seemed an apt response to the film’s quest for the perfect ramen, with a deep multi-layered broth and delicate chewiness of the noodles. I love the tori paitan with its clean, clear broth, but everything on the menu is very good, and the fried chicken karaage not to be missed

Tenmaru
8 Clifton Terrace
London N4 3JP

THE PLIMSOLL

Every newspaper seems to have written about The Plimsoll, the ‘grotty’ (?!) pub close to Finsbury Park that serves exceptional food, and the best burgers. It’s always irritating when a local place gets so much attention that it becomes impossible to get a table, but with some foresight and on a weeknight things can be arranged. When I went for the first time last February I wrote that I loved it all, ‘the food, the mood, the staff, the playlist, the windows, the tiffany lamp on the counter of the open kitchen.’ After a few more visits, all of that still hold, plus the very best negronis.

The Plimsoll
52 St Thomas’s Rd
London N4 2QQ

ANDREW EDMUNDS

Andrew Edmunds is usually touted as a romantic spot — I can see why, though every time I’ve been it has been with friends, and I am at least as impressed by the food as by the low-lit, old London, cramped and crooked space. I sometimes forget about it in favour of new places to try, but in Soho it remains one of my favourite.

Andrew Edmunds
46 Lexington Street
London W1F 0LP

BRUTTO

Last January I wrote that I couldn’t ‘wait to return to Brutto, already in my personal firmament of favourite restaurants in London. The warm, dusky atmosphere perfect for its easy and delectable dishes. Their “philosophy is simplicity and quality, authenticity and big flavours, in a fun, convivial environment.” Nailed it.’ — I have been back, and I stand by that initial impression. I order the anchovies on toast, always, and the bollito misto.

Brutto
35-37 Greenhill Rents
London EC1M 6BN

TOP CUVEE

I nearly didn’t notice Top Cuvée, which opened practically down the road, until a knowing friend (not incidentally, a friend with whom I have been to at least three of the other restaurants listed here) fortuitously suggested it for our next date. This may, finally, be a true neighborhood restaurant. The staff and atmosphere are just the right side of low key. The food is simple — carottes rapées, leeks vinaigrette, steak tartare — and very good, and, it being one with Shop Cuvée, the wine shop around the corner, the wine list is great too!

Top Cuvée
177B Blackstock Road
London N5 2LL

MANGAL II
Mangal II is the heir of the first ocakbasi restaurant in London, opened in Dalston by Ali Dirik in 1987. The initial Mangal Ocakbasi became Mangal II, and since 2020 has been run by Ali’s sons Ferhat and Sertaç, who, in their own words, offer a ‘more refined dining experience,’ by ‘pairing the modern dining experience with an exceptional Anatolian menu.’ The tone is set immediately, with the sourdough pide with cultured kaymak butter, and it is difficult to single out favourite dishes, but the chopped beef ezme with fried bulgur and smoked pastırma (essentially tartare, with a crunch) is one that still dances brightly in my palate memory.

Mangal II
4 Stoke Newington Rd
London N16 7XN

SUSHI SHOW

Such good place for sushi. It’s mostly for take out though there are six seats at a counter overlooking the street, and a few tables outside. Excellent.

Sushi Show
28 Camden Passage
London N1 8ED

ST JOHN MARYLEBONE

This latest venture feels immeditaly entirely like St John. Our meal on a Wednesday evening in early December included ox liver with radicchio, lentils with squash, sea bass with fennel salad, cold roast Tamworth pork with dandelion, skate cheeks with aioli, and a celeriac & bacon broth. There were capers everywhere and no more anchovies or deep fried rarebit, but we had perfect Fergronis to start.

And eccles cake with Lancashire to finish.

St John Marylebone
98 Marylebone Lane
W1U 2QA

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