26 December 2018

Bex's Food and Drink Awards: 2018 Edition

It's that time again: time for my annual round-up of my coffee, food and cocktail favourites of the year. I've used the same categories as last year — coffee, brunch, street food, restaurant and cocktail. And as usual, I've included new-to-me picks from both London and my travels around the world. This year, I visited seven different countries (France, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Peru, Poland and the United States) and enjoyed some fantastic meals and cups of coffee.

1. Best coffee shop
United Kingdom
Rosslyn Coffee (London)
It's been another good year for speciality coffee openings in London, but my overall favourite was one where the coffee was equalled only by the hospitality. The coffee is roasted by Modern Standard and by Aussie-based Commonfolk, and they serve filter coffee, brewed through the Marco Precision Brewer, as well as the usual espresso-based drinks. Located in the City, the busy coffee shop has plenty of spaces to perch at the high bar along the window. Its minimalist design — and the display of the day's newspapers on the walls — reminded me of the lovely Patricia Coffee Brewers in Melbourne.

Honourable mentions go to Melbourne in Lichfield — whose second Lichfield cafe on Bird Street is thriving and which has just started roasting its own coffee — and Curve Roasters, whose Margate roastery I finally visited this year.

Runners-up: Melbourne in Lichfield (Lichfield) and Curve Roasters (Margate)

Bocca Coffee (Amsterdam)
I only spent two days in Amsterdam but managed to visit six speciality coffee spots. First up was Bocca Coffee, where I had one of the finest pourovers I've had all year. The large, airy cafe is beautiful and thoughtfully decorated too. I bought a bag of beans to take home and several weeks later, the Myanmar coffee is still producing some excellent brews.

Runners-up: Tamp & Pull (Budapest) and The Barn (Berlin)

Stumptown Cobble Hill (NYC)
It's usually pretty tough to narrow down my favourite New York coffee shop of the year, but as soon as I walked into Stumptown's new Brooklyn coffee shop, I knew this was the one. Located in Cobble Hill, the cafe still retains many of the original design features of the firehouse that used to occupy the building. The hand-painted La Marzocco Linea PB that sits on the marble counter is one of the most beautiful espresso machines I've seen for some time. And the coffee, of course, is excellent.

Runners-up: Merit Coffee (Austin, TX) and Neira Cafe Lab (Lima)

2. Best brunch spot
Origin Coffee, Southwark
Origin has long been one of my favourite UK-based roasters, and I was delighted when their newest cafe opened up in one of the railway arches on Scoresby Street, Southwark, not too far from my home in Bermondsey. The coffee is spot on, of course, but the food is excellent too, with a tempting and creative brunch menu served all day at weekends. With its relaxed ambience, it's a great place to hang out for a coffee or a bite.

Runners-up: The Good Egg and Abuelo

Golda (NYC)
In the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Bedford–Stuyvesant, there's a fab eatery called Golda. The coffee is from Brooklyn-based Parlor Coffee, and comes served in gorgeous, locally produced ceramic cups. The all-day menu, meanwhile, is Middle Eastern-influenced, and offers plenty of creative brunch dishes. I got a very warm welcome when I visited too — and it's the kind of neighbourhood eatery every neighbourhood should have.

Runners-up: The Avocado Show (Amsterdam) and Good Thanks (NYC)

3. Best street food
Peckham Levels
For various reasons, I ended up not visiting many new-to-me street food markets this year, but I have enjoyed several trips to Peckham Levels, located in a disused car par in — surprisingly enough — Peckham. There are several different street-food-style eateries and bars, and it's a casual but fun place to hang out — and particularly good for birthdays and big groups.

Fareground (Austin, TX)
I didn't have a lot of free time during my business trip to Austin, Texas, in February, but luckily, my hotel was directly opposite the newly opened Fareground gourmet food court. Some of the city's best restaurants have opened up concessions therein and I ate there twice. If you don't have a car while in the city, it's a more convenient way to sample some otherwise tricky to reach eateries.

4. Best restaurant
Flour & Grape
As you can probably guess from the name, Flour & Grape specialises in handmade pasta and wine. Based on Bermondsey Street, it's dangerously close to home for me, and I've eaten my way around most of the menu — the pappardelle with beef shortrib ragù is my favourite. After dinner, you can retire downstairs for more cocktails at Two One Four.

Runners-up: Pollen Street Social and Coal Shed

Central (Lima)
I was lucky enough to enjoy tasting menus in various restaurants around the globe this year, from Pollen Street Social in London, to Costes Downtown in Budapest, and the River Cafe in New York. The one that trumped them all, however, was Virgilio Martínez's Central in Lima — a 16-course exploration of Peru's foods, regions and ecosystems. The service was immaculate, the presentation was impeccable and everything tasted wonderful, even the things I would never have thought to order (hello, crispy piranha skin). By the end of the evening, I felt I had learned a lot about Peru as well as enjoying one of the best meals I've ever eaten.

Runners-up: Emily (NYC) and BRLO (Berlin)

5. Best cocktail
Bar Termini
I've been to Bar Termini in Soho for espresso a few times, but I'd never tried their famous negronis until this year. The petite cafe–bar's peppercorn-infused negroni was punchy and powerful but perfectly mixed, and the service is always great, whether you're there for a coffee, cocktail or both.

Runners-up: Coal Office and Pollen Street Social

Tales & Spirits (Amsterdam)
If you want a creative and perfectly mixed cocktail that will knock your socks off, head to Amsterdam's Tales & Spirits. You can choose from the extensive cocktail menu or ask the charming and talented bar staff to whip up something of your — or their — choosing.

Runners-up: The Up & Up (NYC) and Espita Mezcaleria (DC)

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