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Best restaurant meals of 2020

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I guess the title to this thread could be the punchline to a joke but we actually managed to fit in some pretty great meals in 2020 before/in between periods of lockdown.  

1. Osteria Francescana

A birthday trip to Northern Italy in mid-February.  London was completely normal at the time, arrived into Bologna airport to have our temperature taken by staff in full hazmat suits...  We stayed at Casa Maria Lugia, the Bottura's beautiful country house/mini-hotel outside Modena.  They serve a "best of"  Francescana tasting menu at communal tables in a beautiful renovated Carriage House.  You probably know most of the dishes we ate but I couldn't recommend the accommodation or meal more highly, stunning.

2. Davies and Brook

Surprisingly great meal in December at the Eleven Madison Park outpost at Claridges in London.  Surprising in that my expectations weren't all that high; I haven't particularly loved EMP on two visits, and this is just going to be high end hotel knock-off right?  My expectations were confounded, however, I thought this meal was bordering on 3* and maybe the best meal I've ever had in London (pushing a couple of big Ledbury meals close).  The fish course (butter poached lobster with squash, mushrooms and kale) and meat course (grilled venison with smoked yellow beetroot, caramelised onion and juniper - with a half bottle of Montebello 1988) felt like comfortable 3* dishes.  Not exciting maybe but super delicious, generous and with its own identity.  We loved it.

3. Ikoyi

A "carte blanche" tasting menu in August.  Ikejime sea bass with Australian truffle and creamed spinach.  Cull yaw with a hazelnut and girolles sauces served with smoked jollof rice with crab custard and sheep kebab.  Probably the most interesting place to eat in London right now (well, not right now, but you know what I mean...)  I am getting pretty fed up of my own cooking and this might be the place I am most looking forward to going back to.

4. Casamia

Dinner in August en route to Cornwall.  25 courses, very seasonal ingredients, globe-trotting flavours but lots of Asian/Japanese influences (lots of Cull Yaw here too, it had a big 2020).  There isn't really anything like it in London.  The restaurant it most reminded me of is Raby Hunt (albeit with nightclub ambience/soundtrack added).  Particularly good drinks pairing.  Great meal, not quite on Raby Hunt's level maybe on this one visit, but still feels like it deserves the second *.

5. Endo

Birthday dinner in February.  I've written about it on here before, just a great sushi experience, unlike anything available in London previously (I far prefer it to Araki).  We also had some great bento experiences from Endo@Home during the year.

6. Brat @ Arches

Brat launched a hugely successful "outdoor" venue last summer at Climpson Arches last summer.  The grilled turbot was as good as ever, but tasted all the sweeter after months of not eating out.

7. Breakfast at Casa Maria Luigia

Odd to have a breakfast on this list but this was ridiculously good.  It was a multicourse affair but the freshly cooked gnoccho fritto with mortadella, aged parmesan and 25 year old balsamico...  

8. Grand Hotel Majestic Dining Room, Bologna

Our return flight to London was cancelled due to bad weather so we had to stay an extra night in Bologna and checked in here.  The dining room has 1* and a pretty amazing frescoed ceiling.  Not sure my expectations were that high but this was perfectly old school -  a textbook martini, bollito misto from a trolley with traditional accompaniments and a good bottle of Barolo with some age on.  Made for a pretty great dinner.

9. Emily Scott on the Beach

A pop up in the spectacular site overhanging Watergate Bay in Cornwall that previously held Jamie Oliver's (mediocre) Fifteen.  Again this exceeded expectations - crab with hollandaise and pickled kohlrabi (similar to a Sportsman dish) and a brill for two on the Josper grill with seaweed butter.  Surprisingly better than a meal at Nathan Outlaw (which has moved to a more casual approach and given up its 2*) a few days later.  I think she is now staying on at Watergate Bay but moving into the hotel itself whilst they turn the Fifteen site into (presumably amazing) apartments.

10.  Sola

Californian high-end cuisine in Soho. Won a * in January, much hyped by Andy Hayler (who I rarely seem to agree with).  Good ingredients and enjoyable but didn't blow me away.

A couple of good work lunches at The River Cafe and Portland, and quite a few great lunches at Koya which always lifts my soul.  And that was about it for 2020.


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