28 December 2022

Bex's Coffee and Food Awards: 2022 Edition

As 2022 draws to a close, it's time for the 12th edition of my annual speciality coffee and food awards, where I share my favourite coffee shops and eateries from among all of those that I visited for the first time this year. Over the past few years, I've tweaked the geographical boundaries of some awards to reflect my travel schedule, which has changed somewhat as a result of COVID.

Throughout the year, I visited some fantastic speciality coffee shops and ate some delicious food, so it was hard to pick my favourites. I was lucky enough to travel to KenyaUganda and Bali for work, drinking some excellent coffee at the farms and washing stations I visited. I also enjoyed city breaks in New York City (where the coffee and food were as good as always) and Athens. And closer to home, I continued eating my way around London (most of my coverage is on my Instagram) and Bristol. Read on to find out which places made my shortlist.

And for even more speciality coffee recommendations, check out my London coffee guide, which features more than 140 coffee shops, and this round-up of all of my global coffee shop reviews and coffee city guides.


1. Best New-to-Me London Coffee Shop

Story Coffee, Wandsworth

The original Story Coffee opened in 2014 and so it definitely isn't new but it was new to me this year when I finally paid a visit to the Wandsworth location. With excellent espresso-based drinks, hand-brewed filter coffee and brunch, Story Coffee ticks off a lot of boxes on my speciality coffee checklist. They roast their own coffee — retail bags are available — and you can also find coffee from various guest roasters on offer. There's a large outdoor seating area, which was glorious in the summer sunshine, but if you're visiting in less clement climes, it's sleek and stylish inside, with a gorgeous marble counter. The staff are very welcoming too.

Runners-up: Chief Coffee (Chiswick) and LIFT (Notting Hill). You may also like to check out my latest London coffee shop reviews and my full London speciality coffee guide.

2. Best Rest-of-UK & Europe Coffee Shop

Samba Coffee Roasters (Athens)

Athens has a vibrant and diverse speciality coffee scene but if you only have time for one coffee stop, Samba Coffee Roasters' Solonos café should be it. If you are a coffee geek, you will delight in the limited edition and competition coffees on the menu, all brewed to perfection using the method of your choice. And if you just want a good cup of coffee and a place to relax and feel at home, Samba does that too. I tried three coffees: a macchiato and a very special espresso brewed on the gorgeous, backless Aremde machine, as well as a delicious pourover. I also got to meet the owner, Kostas, whose father originally founded the company over 40 years ago.

Runners-up: Sweven Coffee (Bristol) and Medicine Bakery (Wolverhampton).

3. Best Rest-of-World Coffee Shop

Seniman Coffee (Ubud, Bali)

During my stay in Bali, I got the full farm-to-cup experience, staying on a coffee farm and drinking almost exclusively Balinese and Indonesian coffee at the coffee shops I visited. Seniman's café in Ubud was actually the first speciality coffee shop I visited in Bali and I got a little bit excited, ordering most of the menu (well, an espresso/piccolo flight and a Japanese-style iced filter coffee). The baristas were friendly and knowledgeable and helped me to navigate the extensive menu. Afterwards, I popped across the road to their boutique where I picked up some coffee beans to take home. They sell some cool merch too if you're looking for a longer-lasting souvenir! Next door, they run classes and trainings at their workshop.

Runners-up: Sey Coffee (NYC) and The Farmer Brews (Seminyak, Bali). Honourable mention: Canary Hotel in Kampala, Uganda (I took a photo of the very nice flat I had in their café, which, curiously enough, made its way into this New York Magazine approval matrix to illustrate a new opening in NYC).


4. Best London Restaurant

Frenchie (Covent Garden)

Even if I hadn't dined at Frenchie on the last night before moving out of my Bermondsey home of almost ten years, it would have been a very memorable meal with my parents. Sitting on the covered terrace in bustling Covent Garden, everything we ordered was delicious and beautifully presented, from the cocktails and snacks (yes please, bacon and maple syrup scones!) to the pork with Jersey royals, wild garlic and Chardonnay gel I had for my main course. The service was excellent too.

Runners-up: Brutto (Clerkenwell) and Hoppers (Marylebone).

5. Best Rest-of-World Restaurant

Nolan (Athens)

Despite its location in the heart of downtown Athens, Nolan retains the feel of a neighbourhood restaurant that you really wish was in your neighbourhood. Sitting under the neon blue Nolan sign, I perused the Greek–Japanese fusion menu and struggled to narrow down my choices. The pictured steamed rice with poached egg, truffle oil and parsley almost made it onto my shortlist for my favourite dish of the year, and the lavender and wood Old Fashioned and the Nolan Fried Chicken were just as good.

Runners-up: Little Hollows (Bristol) and Carnivore (Nairobi).

6. Best Dish

Javanese fried chicken at Hujan Locale (Ubud, Bali)

Speaking of fried chicken...it was while I was eating the crispy Javanese fried chicken at Hujan Locale in Ubud that I decided to add 'best dish' to my awards this year. It was that good. Served with salted egg yolk sauce, chilli and buttermilk dressing, it was the perfect balance of crispy and juicy. The portion was large but I ate every last bite!

Runners-up: 'Butter service garni' at Quality Bistro (NYC) and 'stained-glass beetroot' at Bulrush (Bristol).

7. Best Tasting Menu

Nusantara (Ubud, Bali)

I love to experience at least one tasting menu when I'm travelling to a new country, as a way of exploring as many different dishes, tastes and ingredients at one time. Nusuntara's six-course menu takes you on a veritable journey around Indonesia, with dishes ranging from the sweet, spicy and comforting moringa leaf soup and the gulai bebek (braised duck with curry melange) to the moreish yuyu mekules (deep-fried soft-shell crab). Better yet, you also get to sample nine pre-dinner snacks. The cocktails are excellent too and there is excellent Balinese hospitality. All in all, Nusantara is a great place for a special meal in Ubud.

Runners-up: Bulrush (Bristol) and Sollip (London).

8. Best Brunch

Juliet's Quality Foods (Tooting Broadway, London)

It's hard to go wrong with the brunch menu at Juliet's in Tooting — and equally, at its newer sister venue, Juliet's Café and Bar in Clapham. Their Young Betty (poached eggs with espresso hollandaise on sourdough, with salmon, bacon, greens or eel) is always great, but when I was there in the spring, I couldn't resist the addition of smoked caviar to the scrambled eggs on sourdough. Because sometimes, your brunch deserves that little touch of extra luxe. The coffee, from The Barn, is excellent too.

Runners-up: Brunswick East (Dalston, London) and Ruko Cafe (Canggu, Bali).

9. Best Sweet Treat

Trompe-l'œil 'hot dog' at Dominque Ansel Bakery (NYC)

Many cakes, pastries and other sweet treats taste great but few have the capacity to delight as much as the glorious creations of Dominique Ansel. When I visited in June, the bakery was featuring travel-inspired confections, like this 'haute dog' made with a raspberry cream 'dog' in a ladyfinger 'bun' with passionfruit 'mustard' and coconut 'kraut'. It was so good that I had to return later in my trip to try the 'burrata.' Whatever the theme du jour, the bakery is always worth a visit when you're in the Big Apple.

Runners-up: Golden Gaytime at Milk Beach (Soho, London) and chocolate brioche at Arôme Bakery (Covent Garden, London).

10. Best Cocktail

Friend of Dorothy at Pebble Bar (NYC)

Pebble Bar is located in a historic townhouse at Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan. If you didn't know it was there, you might walk past, but the elegant bar is a wonderful place for a pre- or post-dinner drink or two. Regular readers will know that I am fond of a pink drink and the gin-based Friend of Dorothy was as delicious as it was beautiful. I went for the yuzu-based 500 Miles High for my follow-up, and it was just as good, as were the bar snacks

Runners-up: Dragonball Sour at The Clumsies (Athens) and Let Your Hubby Home at The Shady Pig (Canggu, Bali).

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