As 2017 draws to a close, it’s time for me to reflect on the best and worst of the year. Mainly in the hopes of seeking out more Wandermusts next year and avoiding more of the mistakes. Not all are from reviews but these are the highlight and lowlights from 2017

Best Starter – Nduja and bread at Counter Culture, Clapham

Both honourable mentions were strong contenders but Autumn 2017, for me, was the age of Nduja. The fiery sausage appeared on countless menus and recipes. Counter Culture’s loving smear in a shade of burnt orange, across warm, bouncy focaccia was a highlight.

HM: Mexican steak tartare at Punta Bonita, Pumpkin Makhani at Kricket

Worst Starter – Razor Clam Tartare at The Man Behind the Curtain, Leeds

Anytime I allude to something served as food having the consistency of a bodily fluid, assume it’s bad news. The razor clam tartare was a difficult one to swallow. It’s worth pointing out that the rest of the meal was excellent and this was one bad mouthful in about 14 plates.

Best Main – Octopus at Hartwood, Tulum

This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been following along. The charred octopus at a Hartwood was a love note to simple cooking of fresh, local ingredients.

HM: Einsbein at Zur Letzten Instanz, Berlin. Shrimp and Grits at Plaquemine Lock

Octopus at Hartwood

Day of the Tentacle –
Charred Octopus with roasted new potatoes

Worst Main – Beef Fajita at La Malquerida, Tulum

Late. Tepid. Covered in grease. The fajitas at La Malquerida were a complete disaster. A dish, that can be made by a uni student to at least an acceptable degree, was barely edible.

Best Dessert – Cloudberries, Whey Cheese Ice Cream & Biscuit at Nook, Sweden

Not prone to a sweet tooth, there are plenty of destinations that I didn’t give the list a try at. However, Nook’s Dessert list seemed full of grownup puds. Not too much sugar, but just the right amount of saccharine to end a meal.

HM: Milk Chocolate, Honey and Violet at Man Behind the Curtain

Worst Dessert – Beauty and the Beast, London

It broke my tooth and was a monstrous mess of blamanche, jelly, and cream. Yes, it was as bad as that sounds.

Best Drink (cocktail edition) – ‘Green’ Cocktail at Prana Boutique, Tulum

Like a spring garden. Fresh, clean and slightly sweet. It was a heady mix of mint, basil, agave syrup, fresh muddled lime and mescal. It was so good I ran back after dinner and made the barman come back to work to make another.

HM: The Bella at Experimental Beach, Ibiza

Best Drink (Beer Edition) – Hazy Days by Lervig

By far the beer I drank the most of through 2017, Hazy Days became a staple by the end of the year. With a tropical, pineapple tang to a hoppy IPA it’s an unfortunately easy drink.

HM: Hypnopompa Stout by Omnipollo. Granola IPA by Unbarred x Blindside Brewing

Hazy Days IPA

Golden Haze – Hazy Days by Lervig Brewing

Worst Drink – Estrella, Barcelona

A very particular entry this one. A slightly warm, overly gassy pint of Estrella bought in a deserted restaurant in Barcelona before checking in to our Airbnb. As uninspiring as it was difficult to chug down. Never again.

HM: Espresso Martini at The Spotted Pig. (Never Baileys, never!)

Best Destination – Tulum, Mexico

Wroclaw made a late push, and Berlin was one hell of an experience but it has to be Tulum. The beautiful, jungle town. Laid back beach shacks, scorching sun, gorgeous crystal cenotes to dive in. Although it was home to a bad meal, the food standard was incredible, and the setting couldn’t be more beautiful.

HM  – Ibiza (Don’t @ me)

Best London Restaurant – Counter Culture (Score 9)

Easily the toughest call of all categories. Both Counter Culture and Kricket scored 9/10 overall, however, Counter Culture just shades it. A true hidden delight, in the shadow of big brother The Dairy, it was the most enjoyable London outing. The balance of interesting small plates, intimate setting and great value menu, made it a surprise must visit.

HM: Kriket

Counter Culture Review

How Do You Eat Yours? – Charred Broccoli & Pumpkin Praline

Worst Overall RestaurantLa Malquerida (Score 3.7)

Was there ever really any doubt? Terrible food. Service at glacial speeds. Everything dredged in grease. As much good food as was consumed in Tulum, this was the pits. Speaking of Tulum……

Best Overall RestaurantHartwood (Score: 9.3)

And it wasn’t particularly close. With a beautiful jungle setting and simple but perfectly executed food, Hartwood is a gem. It’s worth visit Tulum just for a trip here. Oh, and order the octopus. For me.

Mexico Restaurant Review

Hartwood restaurant

Hopes for 2018

  • That I’ll be lucky enough to visit as many places as this year. Top of the most wanted list? Sri Lanka, Iceland, Argentina, Japan and Budapest.
  • A visit to the much acclaimed Restaurant Story. I’ve only heard good things. And I like to eat good things.
  • More great additions to Brixton’s food scene, like the wonderful Smoke and Salt, this year.
  • Less lengthy descriptions of concepts and how I should order my food. You have made a card of information on what’s on offer, let me order all the things I want.
  • Better lighting in restaurants. Or at least less mood lighting. Some of us need all the help we can get with photos.
  • Most of all, that I continue to get the chance to share meals, break bread and steal the last bite with as many amazing people as I did in 2017. For every pierogi eaten or IPA drunk, I shared the year with some of the best people I’ve ever known. Long may it continue.

DC