As 2015 draws to a close, I've been reviewing some of the wonderful food and drink experiences I have had in London this year as part of my annual food and drink awards. As I have only included places that are new to me this year, the burger category was a little tricky to award this year; Honest Burgers' Honest Burger is easily my favourite burger in the city (their Karma Cola collaboration was pretty darn good too) and I find myself returning there rather than trying new places. The brunch category was tough for another reason: too much choice!
1. Best coffee: Allpress (Dalston)
Allpress isn't technically new to me this year — I've visited the Shoreditch original many times — but their Dalston-based café and roastery is. And it's particularly lovely, from its gorgeous front garden, to its light, airy interiors. The coffee is, as you would expect from Allpress, top notch. Whether you are in the mood for a macchiato or a pourover, or even a cold brew (weather-permitting), you know that the coffee will be expertly prepared.
Runner-up: Small White Elephant
2. Best brunch: Duck & Waffle (City)
Unlike some of the restaurants and cafés on my shortlist, Duck & Waffle isn't the kind of brunch spot every weekend. It isn't especially cheap, for one thing, and for another, you will probably need to book several weeks, or even months, in advance to get a table during prime brunching hours. However, for a special occasion or for delighting out-of-town visitors, it would be hard to find a more iconic London brunch spot than Duck & Waffle. Try to get a table near the window for the best views of the city — table 72 seats you right next to the Gherkin, with a wonderful view over south London. And if you go, you must try the eponymous duck and waffle (a waffle with duck confit and a fried duck egg, with a side of mustard maple syrup).
Runner-up: Hubbard & Bell
3. Best street food: Hawker House (Canada Water)
SE16 isn't the first area you think of when someone says, 'cool London street food', and yet thanks to Hawker House, it is now. For the moment, at least. The Street Feast guys have taken over a warehouse near Canada Water tube and propelled in their closest food vendor friends. There are burgers, tacos, arepas, steamed buns and much more. The Milk & Honey cocktail lounge adds a note of sophistication to the otherwise super-casual surroundings, and their drinks are really top notch.
Runner-up: Netil Market
4. Best cocktail: Edwina's Affair at Dishoom (various locations)
I've had a fair few cocktails this year — most of them gin-based and in Bermondsey, Peckham and Camberwell — but the one drink I return to time and again is Dishoom's famous Edwina's Affair. I was drawn in by the candied rose petals but stayed for the perfect combination of gin, rose, cardamom and mint. It's refreshing, well-balanced and a little bit playful. Plus, it's served in an Instagram-ready copper julep mug. What's not to like?
Runner-up: Full-fat Old Fashioned at Hawksmoor
5. Best burger: Burger Bear (Stoke Newington, Old Street and Peckham)
I didn't mean to queue up for the Super Angry Grizzly burger for over an hour at the Mr Hyde National Burger Day event; it just happened. I had been wanting to sample Burger Bear's wares for some time but rarely find myself in Stoke Newington or Old Street — the bear's main lairs — and so I decided to seize the moment. Although I enjoyed the burger, I wasn't sure it was worth the wait at the time, but with the 20/20 burger vision of a a true hamburgerologist, it grew on me in time. Juicy, meaty patty: check. Cheese and smoked pancetta: check. One hell of a kick from the pickled jalapeño relish and Holy Fuck bacon jam: check. The Super Angry Grizzly is a beast of a burger, but one that is well worth hunting down.
Runner-up: Big Fernand
6. Best restaurant: Hixter (South Bank)
Over the years, my family and I have frequented several of Mark Hix's excellent restaurants, but 2015 was the year we discovered Hixter. Located in Bankside, just south of The Globe and Borough Market, Hixter feels a million miles away from these tourist hotspots. The menu is simple — you can choose between various chicken dishes and steaks (sorry, veggies) — and the cocktails are excellent too. The décor is smart and cool, but the service very friendly and relaxed; Hixter even featured in an episode of London Spy this year, although sadly, I don't think they can guarantee the presence of Ben Whishaw.