I first tried Patty & Bun when they were doing a residency at The Endurance. The burgers were a perfect middle-ground between the higher-end burgers that Hawksmoor and Goodman sell - you know, that uniform puck of a patty, the sharp slice of cheese, crisp vegetables - and the sloppier, dirtier, Meat Liquor-esque burgers. Now they've opened a no reservation 30-seater on James Street; the Ari Gold cheeseburger is a favourite, the Smoky Robinson following close behind.
Peruvian food had a bit of a moment. Ceviche opened up in Soho, which I've still not managed to visit, but I did get along to Lima in Fitzrovia for a work lunch. Most of the menu was littered with ingredients I didn't recognise and the dishes were excitingly vibrant, the ceviche in particular a highlight. I loved their crockery.
Mishkins was a slow burner for me. When they first opened I enjoyed my meal there enough. The Jewish-style food wasn't something I'd encountered before; it was all very new to me and slowly but surely I found myself visiting more often. I'm a sucker for their cured herring on beetroot with pickled cucumbers. Their offering at Feast (Islington Square) was an English muffin stuffed with salt beef and pickles and it was one of the best dishes I ate that day.
One of the best lunchtime scoffings I've had this year was at Noodle Oodle. Although they refused us water unless we bought bottled, I still loved their hand pulled noodles topped with crisp-skinned roasted duck; tender juicy meat, still on the bone for maximum flavour and that sweet, lacquered skin, nestled within silky noodles with decent pull.
Best Sunday pub lunch I've had this year goes to The Thatched House. Out of my comfort zone in West London, I hiked out to Ravenscourt Park for a post-veganism treat from Osh, who manages it and the excellent Ship in Wandsworth. I've long pooh-poohed roast dinners in pubs, finding that the meat is always grey / tough / not enough of it, or the vegetables are watery and unimaginative; here we found the roast sirloin beautifully cooked, the vegetables plentiful. Any pub that serves cauliflower cheese as well as 3 other vegetables gets my vote. Preceded by a perfect Scotch egg and finishing with an outrageous sticky toffee pudding, I waddled home with happy memories.
Back Eastwards in Hackney, we visited Little Georgia several times. For dinner, a sharing platter of vegetable salads, cheesy breads and meats were bargainous and tasty. Georgian food was novel and exciting, often heavily flavoured with dill and garlic. One of my sandwiches of the year was a lunchtime offering from them; fresh herby focaccia stuffed with salty cheese, hams and vegetables, it was bigger than by face and, toasted, was a melty tasty feast. At under a tenner I felt like I was robbing them.
I haven't been great at keeping up with new openings. While the masses flocked to openings like MEATMarket, Dabbous, Ben Spalding at John Salt (who is now not at John Salt...), Brasserie Zedel and Bubbledogs&, I felt a bit ambivalent with the hype surrounding them and chose instead to re-visit places I knew I loved.
I guess a lot of it has to do with how much disposable income you have. I went back to The Ledbury in August, my 6th visit in total. I knew it wouldn't disappoint me, you see, and when you spend a pretty monumental amount of money on a meal, if it is sub-standard it is pretty crushing. The Ledbury was as good as ever; no finer Saturday afternoon is to be had than spending a sunny lunch on their terrace.
Barrafina's quail with aioli still remains to this day a dish I drool at the memory of. I tormented myself with memories of this during my vegan trial. The queues as yet still haven't put me off; I've never queued less than 45 minutes for a meal there, but queue I will.
Koya is still one of my favourite places to eat. The simple, utilitarian dining room, with shared tables and communal chopstick pots is always packed full of noodle slurpers. The specials board has gone from strength to strength this year, but no more so than when James Lowe collaborated with them for a couple of days; tiny prawns to be eaten whole, in fennel sauce was a highlight.
Pitt Cue was where we chose to eat after our vegan bout ended. During the summer, their trailer on the Southbank provided light relief from the queues of Soho. The Trailer Trash - a pulled pork burger with pickles and a round of deep-fried macaroni cheese - shortened my life expectancy by at least a year. When we visited in December, again we queued for 40 minutes and it was worth every one of them. Cured belly pork with cranberry ketchup made my head swim. Bone marrow mash with an intense gravy was as delicious as ever. Pork ribs were smoky but retained bite; none of that fall-off-the-bone sticky sweetness I dislike in many barbecue restaurants.
And it's about time I ate some of my words, at least. When I first visited Duck Soup for lunch in September 2011, I liked the food but was lukewarm at best, finding it expensive and the portions a little meagre. Two visits at dinner later has changed that; I still find it expensive, having spent at least £40 a head both times while being restrained in ordering and foregoing dessert, but nevertheless the dishes have been delicious and the wine unusual - both times we were besotted with a vin nouveau from Puzelat-Bonhomme.
It was this logic I applied to multiple visits to 10 Greek Street, visiting twice for lunch and then once for dinner. It was the latest visit that made me finally give up on them, having been served a gritty mushroom dish that had to be sent back.
Disappointment of the year was a lunch at Roganic. I visited when Ben Spalding was cooking and I liked my meal there. I liked that the dishes were inventive, the foraged herbs foreign to me. This time, post-Ben, I found the atmosphere cold and uninviting. Each dish was introduced with pomp, our conversations interrupted and with a little awkward squirming as the waiters endeavoured to get the dish descriptions across. Each dish certainly looked beautiful but when we emerged from the restaurant, one of the party observed that she barely remembered any of the dishes; indeed, I only remembered the dishes I disliked (two of ten) with any vividness.
For me, 2013 doesn't hold a year of Michelin star collecting. I've found myself slightly jaded with high-end food; I simply enjoy myself more in a more casual environment. Budget allowing, I will of course go back to The Ledbury as it's my One True Restaurant Love but otherwise you'll find me covered in burger grease, splattered in ramen stains with a little fried chicken in my hair.