This time last year I defied convention and proudly proclaimed that I had no fears about turning thirty. I was excited to start a new decade and experience all the thrills and inevitable spills that come with it, particularly as we had an inkling that it would most likely be our last year in London and I wanted to make the most of it. A year ago, I believed that I was entering my thirties content, happy, and hungry… and now that I have merrily made my way through the ups and downs, that statement still stands. Content with what I have in my life, happy with what I have achieved both online and offline, and hungry to eat, explore and create more. To me, this is what it means to grow up, not grow old.
For the last five years we have celebrated my birthday abroad either jetsetting to Hong Kong enroute to the Philippines, catching sunsets from the Malecon in Havana, or wining and dining in two of my favourite countries in Europe – Spain and Portugal. Last year’s celebrations were particularly special as they involved not only a certain someone but some of my closest friends in what has now become one of my favourite cities, Seville. This year we are back in the Southern hemisphere after packing up our London life and I was preparing myself for a low-key celebration back in New Zealand but true to tradition, we made the last minute decision to head abroad and we are currently in Melbourne!
A certain someone has kept my birthday dinner plans a surprise so instead I shall occupy my thoughts and daydreams by looking back at the year that was… a year bursting at the seams with fun and frivolity!
Favourite Michelin Star Experience – Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs
This year we visited fewer Michelin star restaurants but from the carefully curated bunch, there were some notable highlights and lowlights (especially if you take into account the newly adorned Gaggan). We went all out with two different tasting menus and wine pairings from Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester which was our first three star meal, and also the Marlow double-whammy where we the dined at both The Hand and Flowers and The Coach. However, the most memorable Michelin star meal of the year goes to Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs. The food was impeccable but what makes this an experience like no other is sitting at that kitchen table and watching the drama unfold!
Most Memorable Foodie Experience – Pasta Masterclass and Lunch at Paris House
I’ve been quite spoilt this year and have had more than my fair share of ‘I can’t believe I got to do that’ moments but one of my most memorable days was spent at Paris House. I arrived at their very striking restaurant in the middle of Woburn Park early one chilly morning and spent the next few hours learning how to make pasta, before sitting down to lunch with my fellow classmates. Seated at the chef’s table we were mesmerised by chef Phil and his team, and ever so grateful to be on our end of the pass after a long morning of cooking!
Favourite London Restaurant Discovery – Picture, The Frog E1, Temper
My love for seasonal, modern British cuisine has not wavered and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will continue to sing the praises of such restaurants. Places like Picture and The Frog E1 blew us away with their commitment to using quality ingredients, delivering interesting dishes, yet still managing to be unfussy and enjoyable. We also loved the brash and bold style of Temper. Technically, it probably doesn’t quite fit the ‘modern British’ definition, but its no-nonsense approach to meat and flawless delivery was quite refreshing in its own way. We have happily recommended them time and time again, and they always hit the mark!
Best Home Cooking Experiment – Malaysian sambal
With a seemingly never-dwindling bag of dried chillies and an untouched bag of ikan bilis (dried anchovies) that we carted back from Malaysia, I thought it was a sure sign that I needed to try making my own sambal. The first batch was fine in taste though not quite right in texture, but the next jar was near perfect, almost as good as dad’s! If I had known how handy it would be to have this explosive jar of chilli in the fridge, I probably would have made it earlier. When I had the time, I would do the full nasi lemak experience and make a rendang but otherwise a simple coconut rice, sambal and ikan bilis topped with a fried egg became a regular weekend lunch option. This year I’ve also become more confident with my fish cooking, while a certain someone has discovered a certain flair for conjuring up some drool-worthy desserts!
Most Delicious Travel Destination – Bordeaux and Oslo
It seems that in my thirties I have become even more meticulous, or obsessive depending on which side of the fence you fall on, with restaurant research for our travels. I used to merely arm us with a shortlist but this year I found myself making bookings in advance which took away from the stress of deciding where to eat after a long day of sightseeing, though at times perhaps didn’t live up to expectations. However, on the balance of probabilities it did pay off, particularly during our time in Bordeaux and Oslo where we ate very well in both local institutions as well as some creative, up and coming establishments. In both cities, there was a real commitment to showcasing the local flavours but elevating them in new and interesting ways!
Favourite Travel Destination Discovery – South Tyrol
Our visit to South Tyrol was an unexpected, but much needed, breath of fresh air after a very busy start to the year where it felt like we were away more than we were at home. When I was invited to spend the weekend at the beautiful Alpenpalace Deluxe Hotel and Spa, I imagined a few days of luxurious lounging coupled with some hearty South Tyrolian fare, but what we actually got was all that and more. A certain someone and I would class ourselves as ‘city people’ but it seemed that a weekend spent hiking through lush forests and just being surrounded by the tranquility of the majestic Dolomites was exactly what we needed to relax and recharge!
Looking Ahead to 2018…
As many of you already know, a certain someone and I have left London and are officially ‘on tour’ from now until around August 2018. We started our adventure in Sri Lanka in December, will be spending some more time in New Zealand in January, before setting off for Asia in February… The plan is to start in Malaysia and end in Japan, we just need to figure out the rest. While I won’t be reviewing restaurants in London anymore, Connie will always continue to Consume so I do hope you’ll continue reading all about our new culinary adventures!
What have been your food and travel highlights of 2017?