wWouldn’t it be nice to immediately stumble upon a look back on a restaurant year’s worth of goodies? If I could, for example, elegantly twist on the clever and vaguely indecent things done to his cabbage? But consideration of the hospitality business in 2022 must begin with the recognition that restaurants have been trading in harsh economic headwinds. Since restaurants act as substitutes for homes, it stands to reason that whatever affects us at home affects them, too. The high cost of energy and components was simply punishing. Restaurant owners also had to deal with wage inflation. Even if they could pay these overpaid salaries, employees were not always available for employment. The result was a profound shortening of working hours. So many aspirational places have eliminated a la carte menus that they don’t have the bodies to implement, to taste menus, for you big bucks.
I advise richo in Piccadilly, London. I loved their classic brasserie menu of shrimp cocktails, steak frites, and tart tarts when I reviewed it in March. I especially liked the prices. Oh, the difference six months make. onion soup was £6.95; Now it’s £10.50. salmon à la plancha was £15.95; Now it’s £22.95. Tarte tatin was £7.95; Now it’s £12.95. Given its prime location, it’s still frighteningly expensive, but it’s certainly not the great value it originally was. Many of you have been there and told me how great it is, so there you are too. But it’s tough out there. If you can still afford to eat out, you will really help the hospitality industry get through one of history’s roughest patches.
enough already. Let’s move on to the good stuff. In 2022 I traveled from Aberdeen in the north to Worthing in the south, and from Swansea in the west to Norwich in the east. I have had the privilege of eating well all the time. Sometimes it was just the elements of the dishes that stuck out in my mind: the eye-rolling emerald green basil syrup in Moonfish Cafe On that trip to Aberdeen, the funny use of Frazzles and Scampi Fries to get umami morsels on hisby cabbage was in XO Kitchen in Norwich. in An authentic Chinese favorite, Jiji Gow In Swansea, it wasn’t just about the cutesy Sichuan cuisine, but the embroidered creation is Jiji Gao herself. A restaurant is not just a table, chair and food plate. It’s much more than that besides. In this case includes the main interior design that puts Cor! in decoration.
There was a reassuringly strong offering of classic cooking last year, designed to feed you rather than make you gasp with creativity. 11 years old August At Taunton, he served me fagots deep in gravy and a beautifully crafted chocolate eclair. in hexagon In Norwich, it was a flawless steak and creme brulee. (Sympathy for L’Hexagone’s Thomas Aubrit, who suffered a severe injury in the kitchen shortly after the review appeared, leading to a few weeks’ closure.) 2 boys At London’s Crouch End, a late passion project by industry veterans Robert Read and Jan-Christophe Slwick, the garlic snails were perfect, the crispy duck duck and the kind of flawless rum papa that makes me stupidly emotional.
While London has produced more tooth-grinding carcasses than anywhere else – Borowith your catheter-shaped bottles of wine and clumsy peasant food at rich men’s prices, I look at you – it also produced joys. ghee At Shoreditch, the brave, nose-to-tail offering on the Italian tail, was one I returned to again and again, for brown crabmeat cacio e pepe, great flavorful pork skin with a puffy, dinner-plate-sized scratch, served hot from a deep fryer.
And for a few awards. Really best service you have to go to Gigi Gao. I demand that every waiter I meet henceforth wear veils with silver tassels and comfortable trainers. The prize for the best starter belongs to the scrambled cod roe on toast, topped with fresh herbs and an egg poached in a Sargasso in Margate. It was a lot of thought and care for £8. The award for Best Large Platter goes to Grilled Cod Head with Sriracha Butter Sauce Fallo. He was bold, smart, and showed what can be done with the bits that others ignore. In a year when hearty things in a bowl often signaled the end of a meal, the best gong dessert has to go to the lovely chocolate work that has the wonderful riff on rhubarb served to me in Fletchers At Grantley Hall, near Rippon. In a less than inspiring experience, this dessert menu really shined.
Without a doubt the passion project award goes to yikochi, the little café in Stirchley, Birmingham, where James Kirk-Gould served me the dishes he had loved so much on his travels in China. Another bowl of chili oil-marinated fried chicken, please. And my public restaurant? I will stay true to what I said in October and give it Kochi ya In Nottingham, where young men with bushy beards serve up great Japanese-inspired food at a great price. Loved the shrimp reverse toast, wild mushrooms with brown butter ponzu sauce, duck heart skewers, and shrimp sando. Oh, I just loved everything. Lucky Nottingham.
What about the worst? It was one I didn’t review. In May I soon found myself Mirazor, awarded three Michelin stars in Menton in the south of France. The great gastronomy talks about it with eagerness at the expense of the way Chef Mauro Colagreco cooks in the phases of the moon. If only his beloved Moon would help him make nicer things to eat, but he doesn’t. In Endless Dinner there were a couple of great dishes and a lot of them that really weren’t. I can’t take rhetoric about caring deeply about rewarding the planet when they’re still serving foie gras.
I concluded with fresh, slightly salty olive ice cream, which was honestly the least enjoyable thing I’ve tasted in 2022. And all this with a curly air as if a cross between Jesus and Picasso himself had deigned to cook for us. With a 340€ main menu and a few glasses of wine the bill came to over 1000€ for two. In 2017, I wrote a controversial and less than positive review about the three-star Michelin the five In Paris. I can never again be the guy who wrote wicked things about a great sacred French cow. So I chose not to write anything. Regardless of this.
Hence my New Year’s resolution for 2023: avoid such stupid mistakes.