For most of us, a large proportion of the joy of Christmas comes from the feasting. From mulled wine and minced pieces to glorious roasts, flaming puddings and delicately iced fairytale gingerbread houses, there are very few times of the year better suited to celebrating food. And all of this comes at the end of another wonderful year for eating out, eating in and generally enjoying and learning about food.
Restaurant openings came thick and fast all year with ramen establishing itself as one of the key trends of the year. Japanese fast food sat side by side with yet more burger joints, chicken shops and the occasional fine dining option.
Fine dining, or more specifically French service, took a bit of a pounding this year with Michelin-starred chefs and hotels moving away from starched, reserved waiters in favour of a more relaxed style of American service. Marcus Wareing led the way with the revamp of his restaurant at the Berkeley and Alain Ducasse followed suit with his new offering at the Bulgari Hotel, Rivea.
While the Chiltern Firehouse won itself celebrity status, Fera at Claridge’s won one of London’s six new Michelin stars. The Michelin guide this year recognised a much wider range of restaurants than any other year with relaxed Spanish tapas restaurant Barrafina and the Kitchen Table at the sausage sanctuary that is Bubbledogs each gaining a star.
Still, some of my favourite meals this year came courtesy of places without stars. The Typing Room in Bethnal Green was a worthy successor to Nuno Mendes’ Viajante and, much to my joy, simple meals for one lost their awkward status with the reinvention of bar dining
As we all know, there is much more to food then simply dining out and staying in offered a wonderful array of new options too. The Uuni wins my prize for best discovery of the year and in a year full of wonderful new cookbooks, Natalia Conroy’s The Kitchen Orchard is without question my favourite book of the year.
So, if you’re lacking inspiration for your festive meals this year, take a few moments to look over some of this year’s guest recipes, get hold of some new kitchen tomes and perhaps explore something a little Middle Eastern. Not only will you be cooking something that has been flavour of the year in kitchens across the country but what is more festive than a little warmth and spice?