Given that we’ve been in solitary confinement for the year, it’s frankly a miracle I can even list ten dishes. Well I can and I will, partly because these dishes need celebrating, and mostly because I need new content to drive towards that excellent fortnightly newsletter you should have already subscribed to. These are all crackers in their own right; a sign that even when the world stops, the creativity within the food industry continues to drive it forward.

10) Guinea Hen, artichokes, and mushrooms. Moor Hall.

Moor Hall seems a lot more than 11 months ago, yet I remember it like it was yesterday. It wouldn’t surprise me if the restaurant continued it’s stratospheric ascendancy by getting a third star in the delayed Michelin guide. Hard to pick a highlight from our lunch, but for me the guinea hen with artichokes edges it thanks to the genius addition of elderflower vinegar. A special dish of total harmony.

9) Tarte Tatin with calvados cream. Ox and Origin.

I ate some great food over the first lockdown, but ultimately one dish stood out: this Tarte Tatin from private chefs turned feeders of the city, Ox and Origin. Eerily similar to the version I ate at the 3* Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road, this generous dessert for two blew my little Birkenstocks clean off. Additional points for sending additional calvados to go with it. One day soon these guys will have a bistro in Birmingham and it will be special.

8) Eight Days a Week. 8.

Destined to be the dining room to be seen in locally, I was lucky enough to eat at 8 three times before those pesky government restrictions came into place. My favourite of the eight courses based around the number 8 was Eight Days A Week; a scallop tartare, with apple and bonito cream. So fresh and so cream. The position of 8th on this list is not a coincidence.

7) Aloo Tuk, Opheem.

Aktar has said he’s getting rid of this dish so I’ve deleted his number from my phone. A seemingly simple dish that’s actually more time complex than anything Hawkins ever managed, it’s a blend of pickled potatoes, tamarind, aerated spud, crispy spud, and spud. A big, comforting bowl of happiness.

6) Pork pasta ‘dumplings’ in clam chowder. Osteria Francescana.

The undoubted highlight of a mixed lunch at this highly regarded restaurant, the tribute to the mixed cultures in the kitchen made for an instant classic. Steamed pasta with a pork filling, the clam chowder was an ideal companion. I’m going to Casa Maria Luiga next year. I hope for better results.

5) Crab and apple. The Crown at Burchetts Green.

I loved it here. Really loved it. Old school hospitality, classical cooking. So many great memories, yet the one that stands out is a simple dish of dressed white crab meat and apple. Beautiful crab flesh and fresh apple. So flesh and so clean. Stunning.

4) Potato with xo butter sauce. Peels at Hampton Manor.

What’s that, another potato dish in the top ten? Yes Dear, you did just read that correctly. Congratulations on your reading skills. A cracking dish which showcases the humble spud to its fullest, accentuating its buttery, nutty characteristics with an XO butter sauce full of crustacean and spice. The garden herb salad is good enough for a home of its own, yet works here to bring a freshness to all the richness.

3) Smoked eel, apple, and caviar. Adam’s.

I stand by my original assessment of this dish: it’s good enough to appear in pretty much any restaurant, anywhere. A classy, harmonious plate of smoked eel and apple, with enough caviar to make an oligarch jealous, the dish needs the finger lime sauce for the acidity. It’s mind-blowingly superb. Adam’s are really going for it and it’s wonderful to witness first-hand.

2) A5 Wagyu tartare, caviar, tuna belly, wasabi. Ynyshir.

Three visits this year to the restaurant that continues to astonish this poor excuse of a restaurant blog. Back in February we had this and I’m still thinking about it nightly. Take the most expensive beef on the planet, add N25 caviar, tuna belly from the best supplier outside of Japan, and freshly grated wasabi root. It’s the richest, most decadent thing I’ve ever eaten. More importantly it’s delicious. I wish they’d bring this rendition of the dish back. It’s perfect.

1) Prawn toast. Lake Road Kitchen.

The best dish of the year comes from one of my favourite meals of the year. Lake Road Kitchen was a riot of fun, full of identity, with plate after plate of food that left us stunned in our seats. The number one dish of that night, and indeed the year, was the prawn toast. More a Kiev than toast, fat langoustines bound in a shellfish mousseline with a pocket of garlic butter underneath. Absolute filth in a restaurant full of finesse. But why number one? Simply because it didn’t just hit the right chord with us, but with some of the best chefs in the country, and you, the reader of this tedious hobby of mine. I’ve rarely been contacted more about one dish, with everyone keen to know the specifics about how it was constructed and if it really was that good. Simple answer: it was. So many restaurants play to the formula they think Michelin want. I’ve come to learn that I prefer eating in those which don’t. This dish is the ultimate example of that.

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