So with just a day remaining of 2017, I can unequivocally say I will be welcoming 2018 in with open arms. However while the last 365 days have not been the best, the positive I can take, is that I been gifted with the time to explore my true passion…food!
Eight months in, and 44 blog posts later, it does seem a little strange to already be writing a round-up of my favourite dining experiences. An easy task (you would think), however as it turns out, choosing them has proved a little more difficult. I truly have experienced some amazing and memorable meals, in a number of different and unique restaurants this year. I can’t wait to continue the journey over the next 12 months.
While it has been fantastic to visit restaurants throughout the UK and beyond, I have also enjoyed remaining closer to home to explore the many independent restaurants in Cardiff, and Wales. This year, I finally hopped on the Hang Fire Southern Kitchen bandwagon in Barry…another visit scheduled in February ensures I am not planning on jumping off any time soon! I have also been lucky enough to experience outstanding dishes celebrating the best in Welsh produce, from The Salt Cellar, Tenby and The Marram Grass, Anglesey; and visits to both the Michelin Bib Gourmands – The Felin Fach Griffin, Brecon and the Hare and Hounds, Aberthin demonstrated why these restaurants have been awarded this prestigious accolade.
So here we go, my top 5 dining out experiences for 2017
The TableI was lucky enough to visit The Table, Edinburgh in August; I say lucky as with only 10 seats per sitting, reservations are like gold dust. Currently rated as the number 1 restaurant in Edinburgh on TripAdvisor; there is an element of intrigue that surrounds the establishment to those of us who have not visited before.
A blind 7 course tasting menu awaits you, along with one imaginative and unforgettable dining experience, courtesy of Chef Sean Clark and his brother Keith . It was close, however due to its uniqueness and intimacy, ‘The Table’ is my favourite restaurant for 2017.
Talking of uniqueness, a visit to The Rabbit in the Moon, Manchester in April certainly turned out to be one of my most memorable dining experiences this year. The level of creativity and imagination that goes into these dishes, the restaurant interior and overall brand is nothing short of awesome. I mean, who in their right mind comes up with the concept of ‘Space Age Asian cuisine’? Needless to say, I cannot wait to experience Michael O’ Hare’s restaurant ‘The Man Behind the Curtain’ in 2018.
As I mentioned above, this year I have dined at a number of impressive restaurants in Wales, and it truly was difficult to place one above another, as they were all amazing in their own unique way. However, in November I took a road trip down West, and experienced the wonderful and innovative cooking skills of Chef Hywel Griffith at The Beach House, Gower.
Recently named as AA Restaurant of the Year Wales 2017-2018, it was abundantly clear why they had received this prestigious award. The epitome of a ‘destination restaurant’, the inspired dishes celebrating local Welsh produce, combined with probably one of the most relaxed dining atmospheres…oh and did I miss out the stunning coastal views, made this a truly memorable culinary experience.
Rounding off 2017 in style, my final restaurant visit was to the newly Michelin starred Paco Tapas, Bristol in December. With a wonderful array of dishes on offer including Tortilla Española, Croquetas, Stuffed Quail and Duroc Pork Ribs, I opted for the full dining experience of the Chef’s menu with sherry pairing.
An ever changing menu combining traditional tapas with Chef Peter Sanchez-Iglesias’ imagination, ensures that this dining out experience is one not to be missed in 2018.
Sneaking in to take the fifth spot, was my first (but certainly not my last) visit to Aizle, Edinburgh in August. Simply offering guests a set 5 course tasting menu, dishes are dictated by what is local and in season. However, I can safely say there is nothing ‘simple’ about Chef Stuart Ralston’s outstanding cookery skills. Having worked in some of the world’s top culinary locations, dishes celebrate the best in Scottish produce while taking inspiration from international cuisines. Defined as ‘a burning coal; a glowing hot ember; or a spark’. – Aizle certainly lives up to its name. A ‘spark’ in the Edinburgh restaurant scene, and an absolute must if you are local to or visiting the City.
However, a restaurant round-up wouldn’t be the same without a rundown of some of my standout dishes from 2017…so in no particular order
The Beach House, Oxwich Bay, Gower | 8 course Tasting Menu – Cod with curry butter, cockles and cauliflower
The Rabbit in the Moon, Manchester | 17 course Tasting Menu – Pain au unagi and kimchi duck broth
The Table, Edinburgh | 7 course Tasting Menu – Stag Do | Venison with gorse, hazelnut and bacon
The Marram Grass, Anglesey | Anglesey lobster risotto with Menai mussels and crispy leeks
Hang Fire Southern Kitchen, Barry | Pit Boss Plate – Brisket, Texas toast, St. Louis ribs, Carolina-style pulled pork, and a side of pit beans
Aizle, Edinburgh | 5 course Tasting menu – spiced cinnamon sablé with Scottish blueberries, lemon verbana and ricotta
Paco Tapas, Bristol | Chef’s Menu – Tortilla Española
Hare and Hounds, Aberthin | Plum soufflé with plum ice cream