The OFM 50: what we love about the world of food in 2016

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This article titled “The OFM 50: what we love about the world of food in 2016” was written by Allan Jenkins, Bob Granleese, Sophie Missing, Tamsin Blanchard, David Williams, Laura Barton, Ed Cumming, Bee Wilson, Lindsey McWhinnie, Holly O’Neill, Gareth Grundy, Tim Lott, Guy Martin, David Hillier, Molly Tait-Hyland, Killian Fox, Kate Hawkings, Lars Eriksen, Yuan Ren, Becky Pootschi, Ed Vulliamy Zoe Neilsen, Tony Conigliaro, for The Observer on Sunday 20th March 2016 08.00 UTC

1: The Man Behind the Curtain

With rock god hair, skintight jeans and leopardskin boots, Michael O’Hare looks more like an extra from Spinal Tap than one of the UK’s hottest chefs, but appearances aren’t everything. O’Hare’s The Man Behind the Curtain, atop a flash Leeds clothing emporium is equally idiosyncratic, a graffiti’d gallery space masquerading as one-star Michelin dining destination: the superannuated tyre-pushers were unusually on the ball, recognising it as something special in its first year. But this is not so much refined posh tea as full-on sensory assault, with ingredient combos and presentation that may give even Ferran Adrià pause for thought (smoked mackerel parfait in a coffee-dusted bonbon served in a cup of coffee beans, anyone?). Yet it works – mostly – not least because O’Hare’s cooking is informed by an outrageously infectious wit. In 2015, he even took a step towards celeb chef status with a winning turn on the BBC’s Great British Menu with a dish of pork, salt-baked purple potatoes, frozen flowers and anchovies. He called it My Mother is Single and Looking for a Well-Dressed Man. BG
Top Floor, Flannels, 68-78 Vicar Lane, Leeds LS1 7JH

2: The new food TV

The new food TV is happening outside traditional broadcasting slots and mostly online. Netflix is home to documentaries such as Chef’s Table recently recommissioned for three more series – which focuses on star chefs such as Massimo Bottura, and Michael Pollan’s Cooked, based on the US food writer’s book of the same name. recently released My Pop Up Restaurant, a six-part series in which presenters (and supper-club hosts) Laura Jackson and Alice Levine visit home cooks from across the UK as they try and hold their own supper club. As Jackson and Levine point out: “You have a lot more freedom – online we can have more personality and say things that we definitely couldn’t say on TV.” SM

3: Mezcal

Mexico’s second-most famous spirit is to tequila what armagnac is to cognac. The basic ingredient, the agave succulent, is the same (although mezcal can be made from a range of different agave varieties and tequila just one). Whereas tequila, with a handful of exceptions, is produced by bigger brands, mezcal is still mostly made by smaller producers in the southern state of Oaxaca. That makes for wider stylistic variations on a theme of smoky earthiness: in mezcal production the agave hearts are cooked in barbecue-like pits. It also fits in with bartenders’ appetite for artisanal products.

Still not easy to find in supermarkets, mezcals from the likes of Quiquiriqui, Del Maguey and Siete Misterios are best sipped rather than shot in specialist Brahms & Liszt in Hackney or new-wave Mexican restaurants such as Dalston’s Mezcal Cantina or Soho’s La Bodega Negra. DW

4: The accountants for new restaurateurs

“We hold up a mirror to our clients,” says Hussein Ahmad of Viewpoint Partners. “We show them what they are doing in cold, hard numbers.” The firm was started by David Grant after he responded to a Gumtree ad for an accountant from Brunswick House restaurant in south London. It now does the books for a whole range of London’s hottest openings, including Portland, Frank’s Café and Primeur. “It’s an organic thing,” Ahmad adds. “When a general manager or chef from one of our clients wants to set up on their own, they might know how to cook or buy wine, but not how to raise money. A lot of people are focused on the concept without understanding the costs. They can think they’re doing well, and get good reviews, but don’t realise they are losing money until six months down the line.” EC

5: The Sethi siblings

Most people would be satisfied with running one of the UK’s rare Michelin-starred Indian restaurants, Trishna in London – after all, you can count those on one hand. But the Sethi siblings – chef Karam, ex-Goldman Sachs financial whiz Jyotin and sommelier sister Sunaina – repeated the trick with Gymkhana, which in 2014 was voted the UK’s best restaurant by industry experts, an unheard-of accolade for a curry house., no matter how fancy. The trio’s Midas touch doesn’t apply only to high-end subcontinental tucker, either: their JKS restaurant group also backs the lauded likes of James Lowe’s Lyle’s, Sandia Chang and James Knappett’s Bubbledogs/Kitchen Table double act, and a bricks-and-mortar venture by Taiwanese street-food favourites Bao. At the end of last year, the Sethis came up with Hoppers in Soho, which instantly had queues round the block for its Sri Lankan-inspired street snacks. A second Bao site is on the way, while rumours persist the Sethis have a further Indian-themed plan up their sleeves. If past form is anything to go by, the OFM 50 may be saluting whatever that turns out to be this time next year. BG

6: Coffee and tonic

However bizarre this may sound, trust me, it’s good. I tried it last summer at Koppi, a coffee shop and roastery in Helsingborg, Sweden, and I’ve been raving about it ever since. After a Koppi employee stumbled on it a few years ago, it’s become the shop’s bestselling cold brew – but you don’t have to go to Sweden to try it. Simply fill a tall glass with ice, add tonic (Koppi uses Fevertree) and top it off with a shot of espresso (the size of the shot is up to you). The trick, according to Koppi’s Anne Lunell, is to use lots of ice to offset the heat of the espresso. Good coffee helps, too: Koppi ship for free when you order four or more bags of its exceptional beans. KF

7: Amandine Chaignot

Chef Amandine Chaignot.
Chef Amandine Chaignot. Photograph: Pål Hansen for Observer Food Monthly

“My family was very science-focused, and it never occurred to me to work in hospitality,” says Amandine Chaignot, who studied pharmacy before retraining as a chef. “I put on my whites for the first time on the day France won the World Cup: 12 July 1998.” Since then, she has worked with Alain Ducasse and Christopher Hache, and at the Ritz in London and Le Meurice in Paris. Now she has been appointed executive chef at the Rosewood, in Holborn. Her menu for the hotel’s glitzy Mirror Room is highly seasonal with a deft touch. “Male chefs can be quite competitive about who has the richest sauces,” she says. “I have another way of cooking. Hopefully it’s refined but it’s also relaxed, and even though the food can be quite complex, I think it is easy to understand.” EC
Mirror Room, Rosewood London, High Holborn, London WC1V 7EN

8: Alain Passard

He is the still-curly-haired and choirboy-faced godfather of the vegetable: the triple-Michelin-star chef who figure-headed the movement to taking garnish centre stage. Alain Passard still cooks most days at L’Arpège, 30 years after taking over from mentor Alain Senderens; 20 after gaining his third star, and now approaching his own 60th birthday on 4 August. “I have had two lives,” he says. “Fifteen years mostly cooking with meat and 15 years with vegetables.”

Cited by Momofuku’s David Chang as “the most important chef ever” and by David Kinch of California’s Manresa as “the only chef I’ve ever met that I can unequivocally call a true artist”, Passard has schooled Pascal Barbot of L’Astrance, Bertrand Grébaut of Septime, and – for a few weeks before he was fired – Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken.

Vegetable dishes had shone before but Passard has made eating his menu an almost spiritual experience (he is also evangelical about farming, producing 40 tonnes of organic food a year from three potagers where ploughs are drawn by donkey). The switch came during the mad cow crisis, he says. He felt he had accomplished all he could with his menu, he was ”ready to cook with colours”.

Ask about his favourite vegetables and he enters a sort of rapture: “In the spring,” he says, “perhaps peas are my favourite … for me, it’s green caviar. In autumn and winter, celeriac is my crystal ball.” (He tends to cook and talk in rhapsody.)

“It’s fabulous to teach my team how to cook this way,” he says, “how to smell and what seasons mean. My favourite dish, for example, is a vegetable harlequin. At first it involved 12 elements. Today, there are only three. I try to be more precise.”

Be warned, stellar three-star precision does not come cheap: the dejeuner des jardiniers menu is €140, the terre et mer, €370. On value for money, I ask Magnus Nilsson: “On my last day in France, after leaving L’Astrance [where he worked with Barbot],” he says, “I had the unexpected pleasure of receiving my holiday pay. I packed my belongings in three suitcases, lugged them to L’Arpège (I lived close by) and gave them the money – about €1,400 – in an envelope and asked them to make me lunch. It was one of those defining meals, not just because the food was fantastic and I had great old burgundy but because of all the circumstances around it. When the meal was over, I asked them to order me a taxi and went straight to the airport to leave for Sweden.” AJ

9: The Quality Chop House’s mince on toast

The Quality Chop House’s confit potatoes are among the UK’s most Instagrammed dishes (and rightly so: they’re almost as good to look at as to eat , but I can’t fathom why another ever-present on Shaun Searley’s otherwise regularly changing menu doesn’t come in for similar levels of adoration. Sure, the Chop’s take on humble mince on toast may not have quite the come-hither allure as the spuds, but this is like no mince you’ve had before, the most insanely meaty mince imaginable, and hugely rich, thanks to proper dripping; it’s the sort of thing mythical grannies made in battered cast-iron pans. A side of Searley’s spuds wouldn’t go amiss, but I can’t think of many better ways to spend £14.50 on lunch. BG
88-94 Farringdon Rd, London EC1R 3EA

10: Heston’s mechanical sweet shop

Fat Duck Sweet Trolley shot for OFM on 9th Feb - first use
Fat Duck Sweet Trolley. Photograph: Levon Biss for Observer Food Monthly

In the previous incarnation of the Fat Duck, before the recent £2.5m refurbishment of its home in Bray, the meal would end with a simple bag of sweets. Well, not that simple: the apple pie caramel had an edible wrapper and one of the petit fours took the form of a playing card.

Since the restaurant reopened Heston Blumenthal has pushed this idea to an actual sweet shop. When the new £255 tasting menu draws to a close, a trolley arrives bearing a doll’s house that resembles the Fat Duck itself. It opens to reveal an old-fashioned dispenser, activated by a personalised coin received earlier in the meal. This dazzling contrivance, complete with a replica of Blumenthal’s boyhood bedroom and a chimney that puffs smoke, cost £150,000 to build. As Blumenthal says: “It would have been easier to buy a full-size sweet shop, and it’s probably around the same price.”

The detail was inspired by dolls houses on display in Windsor Castle, and his characteristically perfectionist approach “probably drove everyone involved slightly bonkers”. The floorboards and roof tiles were handmade and the floors hand-laid “board by board like they would be in a life-sized house. It’s even got real roofing lead surrounding the chimney”. Blumenthal also notes the tiny jars of sweets in the window, a miniature replica of his glasses and “the smallest lightbulbs in the world” illuminating the two rooms.

The reason for the elaborate finale? “I wanted to amplify the interactive involvement that guests experience throughout their time at the Fat Duck,” says Blumenthal. “It’s all based on the metaphor of feeling like a kid in a sweet shop, which I want everyone leaving the restaurant to feel.” KF

11: Alison Roman

Now senior food editor at Buzzfeed, Roman worked at US food magazine Bon Appetit for four years where her recipes became something to look forward to: well written, with an innate understanding of flavour. And if you make her terrific rhubarb almond cake, it will be no surprise to find out that – “after leaving college a little early to go cut marshmallows for a living” – she spent years working as a pastry chef in LA, San Francisco and at Momofuku Milk Bar in New York. She’s just signed a two-book deal with Random House US with the first, Dining In, scheduled for autumn 2017. SM

12: Crepe Suzette at the Ritz

One of the grandest set pieces of restaurant theatre in one of London’s grandest rooms. You are sitting with a friend at the Ritz. You may have had, say, John Williams’s brilliant langoustine in bisque with squid ink, partridge cooked in a pot with black truffles, perhaps a glass of pinot noir. Yet there is still something mysteriously missing. You watch as an elegant trolley is wheeled to a neighbouring table, a tin-lined copper pan taken out. There are vessels of orange juice, citrus rind in syrup, a bottle of Grand Marnier. On a plate sit four folded pancakes like monogrammed handkerchiefs. Devid Isabella sprinkles sugar from high into the hot pan, stirs quickly, adds butter. The rarefied air is scented with caramel. A splash of orange. The fragrance now like making marmalade. Crepes are added, unfolded, refolded, kept almost crisp. Then whoosh! The spirit and room lights with stuttering purple flame. Two plates are laid, pancakes added, sauce spooned, and a scoop of vanilla-flecked ice cream. Suddenly you know what you’re missing is a taste of history: the Ritz’s crepes Suzette served here since 1906. Inspired, you switch your order. I’ll have what she’s having, you say. AJ

13: Uncover booking app

Tired of not being able to get into fashionable restaurants at short notice? Uncover promises a solution: an app that lets you check availability and book last-minute with a couple of taps. Uber, but for restaurants. You get access, Uncover takes a cut, and in exchange for keeping some tables free, restaurants get to welcome well-heeled, high-spending users. The company has now been bought by Velocity, another app which lets you pay on your phone without all that faff involving card machines. Later this month, the combined app is re-launching as Velocity 2.0, which will handle everything from choosing a restaurant to the tip. “Our users spend on average 14% more than regular customers,” says Alex MacDonald, Velocity’s co-founder, “so the offer to the restaurants is clear.” The app will also have a version for corporate accounts, which will integrate with company expense systems. EC

14: Guest chefs

Bertrand Grebaut and James Lowe at Lyle’s in Shoreditch, London.
Bertrand Grébaut and James Lowe at Lyle’s in Shoreditch, London. Photograph: Pål Hansen for Observer Food Monthly

James Lowe is at the pass with Septime’s Bertrand Grébaut . They work quietly, intently. They smile and tweak a plate or two. They are simpatico. There is a synergy. You’d think they had worked together in Paris for months not a couple of days as part of Lowe’s Guest Series at Lyle’s in east London.

There is a lot of guest cheffing around, it is officially A Thing. From Northcote’s Obsession line-up in Lancashire to the Seahorse in Devon and Nathan Outlaw in Cornwall. But it is London where it’s really taken hold. Isaac McHale’s Clove Club hosted Jorge Vallejo from Mexico City in September last year, and Robin Gill from the Dairy has a guest-chef-driven Bloodshot Supper Club once a month, kicking off at a nocturnal 1am. Even venerable J Sheekey has a series with female cooks including Olia Hercules and Anna Jones starting soon.

Both McHale and Lowe were part of February’s Gelinaz extravaganza, when 16 chefs from the UK and Europe descended on their kitchens for a night, but you sense Lowe is more comfortable with less gaudy events, something perhaps more lasting and meaningful. “Every month, we get someone in who uses new techniques, style, ingredients,” he says. “I love seeing how people work, they way they think and approach something. Before Lyle’s, I used to travel all over to eat at restaurants, in the States, Spain, France, Denmark. Sometimes I’d fly somewhere just for a lunch on a day off! Since we opened, I haven’t really done that.”

Asked for his favourite moments of the Guest Series, he cites getting up at 7am to drive to Brighton to get seawater, on to Lewes for vegetables, then Kent for fruit and Lincolnshire for 35kg of wild eel. “Spending the next 12 hours filleting them and finishing at 4am,” he says, “was one of the most intense experiences I’ve had.” AJ

15: Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking

An American novelist and short story writer who died in 1992, at the age of 48, might seem an unlikely cult figure. But, with no less than Nigella a fan – you may have spotted her reading from Colwin’s Home Cooking on Simply Nigella – that is what she has become. Unlike today’s cookbooks, Home Cooking and More Home Cooking are slim paperbacks without photos. Recipes are woven into the text like anecdotes (“I ate eggplant constantly: with garlic and honey, with spaghetti, with fried onions and Chinese plum sauce” might be all you get). She encourages getting it wrong, with Stuffed Breast of Veal: A Bad Idea the ominous title of one essay. But the joy of reading Colwin is as much in the way she leaves you feeling hungry and inspired, amused and uplifted as in the recipes. Although her fried chicken is pretty definitive. SM

16: Wine on tap

For years it was simple: if a pub was selling wine out of a tap, it was best to stick to beer. Even when the range wasn’t limited to “medium”, “dry” or “sweet”, this was a serving method that seemed to make good wines bad, and bad wines undrinkable. Over the past year, however, taps have been creeping back into some of London’s best wine-led bars and restaurants, from Michael and Charlotte Sager-Wilde’s California specialist Mission in Bethnal Green, to the branches of the consistently excellent Vinoteca group. This isn’t a cost-cutting exercise: the wines are seriously good, and actually taste fresher than they would from a bottle. DW

17: Top restaurants in art galleries

These days, it’s not enough for high-end galleries to merely offer white walls and a gift shop: they also need a deluxe restaurant on site with a big-name chef at the helm. This is true of the new Gagosian gallery in Mayfair. Soon after the 18,000-sq-ft space opened off Berkeley Square last September, it was announced that River Cafe owner Ruth Rogers would be taking over the ground floor. It must have been an attractive offer: despite its popularity, the River Cafe hasn’t branched out since it opened in Hammersmith three decades ago. This venture, led by in-house chefs Sian Owen and Joseph Trivelli, will open next year.

Mark Hix is less averse to diversifying: he has launched seven new restaurants since his Oyster & Chop House appeared in Farringdon in 2008. Now he’s taken charge of Pharmacy 2 at Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery in Vauxhall. It revives the medical theme of Hirst’s original restaurant in Notting Hill, with surgical equipment on display and giant polyurethane pills for seats. This – along with the recently opened Anthony Demetre restaurant, Osteria, at the Barbican – goes to show just how magnetic the food world has become. KF

18: Coracle fishing

Welsh coracle fishermen in Camarthen, Wales.
Welsh coracle fishermen in Camarthen, Wales. Photograph: Levon Biss for Observer Food monthly

When mankind first took to the water, it is likely they did so in a coracle. A small, round boat constructed by stretching waterproof fabric around a bent wood frame, coracles are still used to fish for salmon and sea trout on the rivers of Wales, and March sees the start of the season.

Fishing is done in darkness when there is little or no moon so canny
fish can’t see the nets. Fishermen gather on the riverbank, each carrying their coracle on their back, resembling giant black beetles. Working in pairs, they steer their coracles downstream close to the bank with a net stretched between them. The net is only 18-inches deep so the salmon have a sporting chance and the pickings are not exactly rich.

But this ancient tradition is in mortal danger. There is only one coracle maker and six pairs of fishermen on the River Towy, the main coracle fishing river in Wales, but it seems the final nail will be hammered into the coffin with the heavy hand of legislation. In the name of conservation, the Environment Agency is pushing for a blanket ban on all salmon fishing with nets. After millennia of coracle fishing, 2016 may be its last season ever. KH

19: The Heron

Were someone to ask you where to go for a great Thai meal in London, you might say Smoking Goat or Som Saa. What you might not – but should – suggest is a restaurant in the basement of an unassuming pub which is tucked off the distinctly unfashionable Sussex Gardens in Paddington. It’s not hip, it’s not a pop up and yes, you can book. And when your waiter asks you how spicy you’d like your order, know that this is not a challenge. “Slightly spicy” actually means plenty hot. A whole section of the menu is devoted to salads such as som tam and larb enhanced by salted crab or minced catfish. Even the cashew salad is great: salty nuts with slim slices of bird’s eye chilli, red onion and teeny refreshing wedges of lime. SM
1 Norfolk Crescent, London W2 2DN

20: J. Kenji López-Alt

Managing culinary editor of Serious Eats, J Kenji López-Alt‘s scientific background makes him a perfect guide to the kitchen’s hard questions. Don’t know how to keep the structure of apple slices in pies, or the difference between temperature and heat? López-Alt does. He’s cooked steak on the bone, off the bone, from chilled, at room temperature, salted immediately before cooking, hours before cooking, with a dozen other variables, so you can get your grill right first time, to your taste. His relaxed, easy way with words extends to his view of food – from his 2015 Thanksgiving blog: “At the end of the day, it’s only food … so long as it’s gotten friends and family to gather around the table, it’s done its job.” That said, his book The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, is mind-bogglingly detailed and rewarding. HO’N

21: Freddie Janssen’s F.A.T sandwiches

Freddie Janssen.
Freddie Janssen. Photograph: Rebecca Reid / Evening Standard / eyevine

Twice a month you’ll find Freddie Janssen at Druid Street market, in London’s Bermondsey, serving up her F.A.T. sandwiches to a dedicated following. Her mainstays have been a classic grilled cheese with cucumber dill pickle and, in a twist on the cheese’n’pickle theme, kimchi and stilton. This year, the menu will change every month, with occasional specials such as the Ultimate Meatball (pork and fennel meatballs with pickled fennel and walnut and rocket pesto) joined by a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich (brined overnight in pickle juice) with a pickled jalapeno slaw and kimchi hot sauce mayo. But don’t worry: the cheese sandwiches will be back.

With a base like Druid Street, sourcing ingredients is easy: bread and burger buns for the sandwiches are from St John, cheese is from Neal’s Yard and the pickles are all made in her Clapton kitchen. Janssen moved to London from Holland in 2008 and worked in advertising before becoming marketing manager of Shoreditch restaurant Lyle’s. She founded F.A.T., a pop-up cafe, supper club and purveyor of pickles in 2009, but what started as a hobby has snowballed. Her first cookbook, the aptly named Pickled, is published next month. SM

22: Breakfast at Dandy cafe

Last summer, Andy Leitch and Dan Wilson removed 10 tonnes of rubbish from two shipping containers, in which they created their ideal neighbourhood restaurant. Raw timber fit-out? Yes. Good coffee, cheery atmosphere, corrugated plastic roof that amplifies the rain? Check, check, check. Small plates? Of course. Minimal intervention wines? Yes, three by the glass: red, white and “weird”.

So far, so good, so Hackney. It’s weekend brunch where the magic happens; simple, different, some of the best around. A tiny lamb cutlet where others would serve bacon; crab omelette folded round a rainbow of radish wafers; the season’s first rhubarb, caramelised and sandwiched in brioche. The tall man cooking looks familiar? It’s Alt-J’s Gus Unger-Hamilton, the third Dandy, turning his hand to frying eggs (crisp frill underneath, set whites, yolks that burst soon as you look at them – five stars). No big deal, just friends, good at what they do, quietly getting on with it. HO’N
9-15 Helmsley Place, London E8

23: Moonshine

It’s the romance of American moonshine that has long set it apart from more humdrum homemade drinks: introduced by Scots-Irish immigrants who settled in the Appalachians in the late 18th century, the term principally refers to an un-aged whiskey made from corn mash, and often distilled illegally, at night, to avoid detection.

Making moonshine at home is still illegal (due to a heady combination of tax matters and lead-poisoning issues), but shifting licensing laws have led to a rise in small-batch distilleries offering un-aged white whiskey, with distillers springing up in the hooch heartland of Tennessee and North Carolina, as well as in more far-flung corners of the US such as the Pacific north west, New England and California.

The most well-known brand is Ole Smoky, the first moonshine to be sold in Walmart, but as with beer, gin and bourbon, white whiskey is becoming a niche market, with the focus on innovative and distinguished flavours – Kings County Distillery in New York, for example, produces a moonshine Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible describes as “absolutely spot-on corn whiskey”, noting its “sweet, clean berry-fruit” flavour and awarding it a 92-point score.

In truth the moonshine revival has been rumbling since the late 1990s, but in recent years the market has gathered pace: US sales grew to $46m in 2014 — from just $5m in 2011, and with Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam venturing into un-aged white whiskey, moonshine might finally have to get used to the limelight. LB

24: Martin Parr’s Real Food

Twenty years ago Parr’s British Food series highlighted the difference between glossy, aspirational food porn and what was on most people’s plates. That meant harshly lit photographs of sliced white bread, salads of lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes, with a dollop of Branston pickle on the side, as well as tough-looking cakes from an era long before Bake Off.

We are all food lovers now, of course, years of bestselling cookbooks, celebrity chefs and affordable foreign travel mean we’re clued up about sourdough, know the difference between za’atar and ras el hanout, and can rustle up a show-stopping bake or two. At least that’s what we tell the world on our Instagram feeds.

A perfect time, then for Phaidon to publish an anthology of Parr’s food images, drawn from his archive. (The pigeon eyeing up a dinner of discarded fried chicken is a particular favourite.) There’s also a terrific introduction from St John’s Fergus Henderson, who warns of the dangers of a “two-tier food situation”, of a split between the world of “good meat from animals treated well when alive” and supermarkets selling “anonymous pink meat in plastic”. GG

25: The Dusty Knuckle Bakery

For almost two years, the founders of the then fledgling bakery and social enterprise the Dusty Knuckle – Max Tobias, Rebecca Oliver and Daisy Terry – would get up at 5am every Saturday. They’d then bake the dough they’d made at Tobias’s flat in the pizza oven of an obliging local restaurant, selling it to a handful of wholesale customers. Fast-forward to October 2014 and, after successful applications for grants and a competition to occupy a shipping container in a Hackney car park, they were trading full-time.

The bakery’s menu is short but perfectly thought out: a small range of sourdough breads, an Italian puff pastry filled with crème patissiere and apple, a sticky bun, and freshly made sandwiches filled with things like burnt aubergine, herb salads, tahini and harissa at lunchtime.

Its social enterprise side came via Tobias’s frustration with his previous work: managing a gang prevention programme in east London. “I wanted to develop something with a continued impact, where [young people] could feel they were developing their independence, as opposed to a kind of dependence on services that were always short term and poorly funded.”

Their aim is to work with young offenders, early school leavers and the long-term unemployed. That means training and working in the bakery but also holding workshops at youth centres and referral units and, crucially, helping with skills that are vital to employment, such as timekeeping or communicating effectively.

“It all seemed fairly straightforward: start a bakery, employ the kids and that’d be that,” says Tobias. “Obviously it’s a little bit more complicated.” SM
Abbott Street car park, Kingsland Road, London E8 3DP

26: Professional barista apprenticeship

“The goal is to take a young unemployed person who may know nothing about coffee on day one, and within a year make them one of the highly trained baristas in the country.” So says Ben Szobody, of the Professional Barista Apprenticeship programme that recently took its second intake of 16-24 year olds, each previously out of work and education, and keen to learn. The free, government-funded programme – the first of its kind in the UK – is run by Szobody and the charity wing of Brighton-based baptist One Church, in conjunction with a nearby secondary school. Apprentices learn the minutiae of speciality coffee from preparing the perfect espresso, to honing sensory skills, to the business of taking a bean from plant of origin to shiny white cup. Throughout the year-long course, they are placed on paid apprenticeships in one of Brighton’s many independent coffee shops, including Small Batch, whose trainer Laura Holmes is the course’s principal teacher. DH

27: London Union

What do Jamie, Nigella and Yotam have in common? Nope, not the first-name-recognition thing. Add Polpo’s Russell Norman, Soho House head honcho Nick Jones and top restaurant critics Giles Coren and Marina O’Loughlin, and you’ve got just a few of the founding investors of London Union, an ambitious plan to turn derelict corners of the city into street-food markets. It’s the brainchild of bar entrepreneur, restaurateur and street-food enthusiast Jonathan Downey and his business partner, Leon co-founder and former school dinners tsar Henry Dimbleby. And you wouldn’t bet against them pulling it off: they have form at this kind of thing with their successful Street Feast empire, which showcases the street-food scene at huge venues in London’s Dalston, Shoreditch and Canada Water – nearly 6,000 went through the doors of the latter site over the last weekend of January, making Hawker House one of the UK’s most visited dining venues. At the core of the new venture is an even more ambitious project: a new super-market for central London (Smithfield has been touted as one possible site) to usurp Borough and rival the likes of Barcelona’s Boqueria in global reputation. BG


28: The new wave of women bakers

Sarah Lemke at De Superette in Gent, Brussels.
Sarah Lemke at De Superette in Gent, Brussels. Photograph: Joanna van Mulder for Observer Food Monthly

Customers travel from all over to eat the magnificent bread made by Sarah Lemke and her all-female team of bakers at De Superette in the Belgian city of Ghent. And like Laura Hart of Hart’s Bakery in Bristol, Bridget Hugo at London’s Bread Bread, and Carol Choi of Mirabelle in Copenhagen, they’re quietly proving that women can master more than cakes. “Half of my bread team is female,” confirms Chad Robertson, co-owner of San Francisco’s Tartine bakery. “They are all amazingly talented, any of them are capable of leading.”

More and more women are approaching Laura Hart at her booming bakery, looking to make bread for a living. “Perhaps the shift from mass production to smaller artisan bakeries is more appealing to women,” she says. “By slowing down our baking rhythms, we don’t need to work through the night, and we get to see our customers enjoying what we’ve made.” Breadmaking as a craft that blends technique and intuition does have more charm than the mechanised drudgery of Chorleywood-style production, and the practice of leaving sourdough to ferment slowly overnight means that antisocial night shifts can be replaced by very early starts.

The physicality of the job can be a pro or a con, depending on who you are. Hauling 25kg bags of flour and plunging wooden peels into scorching ovens at 5am isn’t for everyone, but it’s here these women have found their calling, and mastered it. “We
have so much fun,” says Lemke. “We get covered in flour, light fires. If you love it, you love it, it’s as simple as that.” ZN


29: Lunch at Books for Cooks

My favourite eating space in London is Books for Cooks in Notting Hill. I call it a “space” because it is a strange and delightful mixture of bookshop, cafe (Eric Treuille, the owner, calls it a canteen) and community centre. It was launched in 1983 by Heidi Lascelles, and later run by the late Clarissa Dixon Wright of Two Fat Ladies fame. Eric took over 13 years ago, after he met his wife while browsing the thousands of cookbooks that line the walls. He has made it his own – with his charismatic personality and astonishingly cheap meals (£5 for two courses, £7 for three), prepared from a different book (or books) from his shelves every day.

I have been coming here for 10 years, sometimes every day of the working week. At first, I ate by myself, hidden behind a book or a newspaper. Eventually, despite myself, I started talking to other lone souls. They were, on the whole, an interesting bunch – singers, psychologists, poets, a few market traders, other restaurateurs – and a host of anonymous others.

Eventually, Eric installed a six-seat table for people coming by themselves and we have formed a community of diners. We squabble and fall out, we laugh and gossip, and comfort each other. Eric is usually there (with sidekicks Marilu and Liv) ribbing us or making jokes as his remarkable staff cook and serve. What you see on the blackboard, three courses, is what you get until it runs out (which it can do by 1pm).

Eric is a friend, he catered my wedding, my last book launch, and my 60th birthday. I can’t imagine how diminished my life would be if the place ever closed. So what do you get to eat? Recent favourites have included lamb shoulder with pommes dauphinoise, brisket with polenta and coriander, and salt cod and chorizo – but you never know what you’re going to get. All you know is that it will be delicious (particularly the cakes), ridiculously cheap and displaying hospitality that comes from the heart, not from the profit motive. TL
4 Blenheim Crescent, London W11 1NN

30: Deliciously Stella

It was inevitable that the world of healthy eaters on Instagram would inspire a backlash. In May last year, 27-year-old Bella Younger started Deliciously Stella, a play on Ella Woodward’s Deliciously Ella account. Where Ella recommends juices and kale, Stella posts shots of (Creme) eggs with avocado on toast, her “Fab abs” – Fab lollies strapped to her stomach – and tote bags emblazoned with the slogan: “You can’t milk an almond.” She’s working on a stand-up show too. “The only problem is people now expect me to be Stella all the time,” Younger says. “They see me in the shops and ask why I’m not carrying a Lucozade.” EC

31: Black Axe Mangal

Head chef Lee Tiernan at Black Axe Mangal in Islington, London.
Chef Lee Tiernan at Black Axe Mangal in Islington, London. Photograph: Adrian Lourie / Evening Standard / eyevine

After 10 years with the St John group, chef Lee Tiernan started his Black Axe Mangal as a pop-up in Copenhagen before moving to a permanent site on Highbury Corner at the end of last year. It’s since won raves for its “metal and mangal” offering, matching loud music with a short, punchy, meat-driven menu in a 33-cover space. Few parts of the animal are spared: think hearts, livers, tails and noses, all liberally seasoned and cooked at high heat. Nor is Tiernan afraid to borrow from his friends: his spiced mutton is made with the spice mix from Danny Bowien’s Mission Chinese, and the flatbread recipe is inspired by Tartine in San Francisco. EC
156 Canonbury Road, London N1 2UP

32: Neil Broomfield : from police to pies

When Neil Broomfield started selling homemade pies in 2007, he had to fit it in around his day job as a policeman. He baked his wares in a room above the family deli and sold them at farmers’ markets on his days off from keeping the peace. This double life lasted four years, until the awards started piling up and the Great North Pie Co became his full-time concern.

Last year, at the British Pie Awards, he took prizes in four categories and his Goosnargh chicken, mushroom and English mustard cream pie was voted best in Britain. If you don’t live in the Manchester area, Great North pies are available at Selfridges and KF

33: 2015 French vintage

According to the “rule of five”, France always produces a great vintage in years divisible by five. By all accounts, the rule has held for 2015, with producers in Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône and Champagne talking up the harvest as “exceptional”. This is particularly encouraging for the wine trade in Bordeaux, which has been struggling following a series of lacklustre red vintages. We’ll get to see just how good 2015 really is when Bordeaux producers show their unfinished wines to the press and trade in the spring. But it seems that, for the first time in five years, the quality may go some way towards justifying the hype (and inevitably crazy prices). DW

34: Noble Rot

If you’d told Dan Keeling and Mark Andrew back in 2013, when they launched wine magazine Noble Rot , that they’d be the brains behind one of 2015’s most feverishly received openings, they’d have laughed in your face. But that’s exactly what former music A&R man Keeling and Andrew, ex-buyer at Roberson Wine, have pulled off with this wine bar/restaurant. It helps that they handed kitchen duties to Paul Weaver, once of Stephen Harris’s Sportsman. It also helps that Harris co-developed the menu, a whip-smart mix of wine-bar staples (brilliant charcuterie, immaculate cheese), old Sportsman favourites and the odd slam-dunk of a showstopper (halibut braised in oxidised 1998 Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru); and that the wine list makes aficionados go all gooey-eyed. Three months in, Noble Rot already looks lived in in just the right way, a 21st-century answer to Robin’s Nest – and we mean that as a compliment. BG
51 Lamb’s Conduit Street, London WC1

35: Tiffany Jesse, fermentation queen

Tiffany Jesse, Food alchemist.
Tiffany Jesse, Food alchemist. Photograph: Mark Sanders

Tiffany Jesse was given some kefir grains about nine years ago and has been nurturing them ever since. The grains are a culture which can be made into a fermented “milk”. “The end product ranges from mild to super sour,” she says. “It can often be effervescent and is known as the ‘champagne of milk’.”

Kefir grains look a bit like cottage cheese and can last a lifetime if you look after them. After fermenting, the thickened milk is strained and the remaining grains go back into a clean glass jar, ready for the process to be repeated as often as you like. If you don’t have a friend with spare grains, you can buy them online (from Ocado, Planet Organic, and Abel and Cole).

Jesse drinks kefir every day, often for breakfast. She also makes a kefir quark by letting the whey strain through a muslin cloth. She has a farm in Dorset where she rents out a holiday home, grows vegetables, and keeps chickens and goats and brings up her 10-year-old son, Jesse. If her goats have kids in the summer she will use the raw milk to make her kefir. That, she says, is “the gold standard”. TB

36: Matthew Young

Mayfields, on Wilton Way in Hackney, won a dedicated following before it closed in September 2014. Jay Rayner wrote: “I imagine that, in years to come, all the people involved here will go on to much bigger things.” Now, one of those things has arrived in the form of Ellory, just the other side of London Fields, which has received similarly warm notices. Mayfields chef Matthew Young is at the helm, along with Jack Lewens, formerly sommelier at Spring. Young wants to offer a stylish, affordable update on French bistro cooking. “We want to serve food that we want to eat ourselves,” says Young, a late starter as a chefwho studied painting at art college. As a chef, he’s a minimalist, a specialist in the art of simplicity, of balancing a few ingredients with little fuss and maximum impact. Think Blackface lamb with anchovy and radicchio, or raw scallop with hazelnut and Jerusalem artichoke. Oh, and a five-course dinner is a relatively modest £38. EC
Ellory, 1 Westgate Street, London E8 3RL

37: Istanbul

With outposts of Cecconi’s, Zuma and even Pizza East, plus the Ristorante Italia Di Massimo Bottura, Istanbul’s food scene has become truly global. Thankfully, for those craving more traditional Turkish flavours, the city’s homegrown restaurants aren’t doing badly either. Anatolian stalwart Çiya Sofrası, in Kadıköy on the Asian side, continues to impress 29 years after opening, with its array of regional dishes, such as stuffed loquats, lamb with sour plums and roasted borage. Meanwhile, Alancha – which opened last year – brings foraging to Istanbul, with many ingredients on the 18-course tasting menu coming from champion-windsurfer-turned-chef Kemal Demirasal’s own farm.

Affordable but delicious food is plentiful. If you see a queue of workers outside a cafe serving whatever its lunchtime speciality is, you can be pretty sure it’s worth joining. Places to seek out include Meshur Filibe Köftecisi on Ankara Caddesi (a few minutes’ walk up from the Sirkeci train station), which serves juicy lamb köfte with green salad and crusty bread; Adem Baba fish restaurant in the pretty Arnavutköy district; and Boris’in Yeri in Kumpakı, which, in its tiny shop, serves little more than plates of the incredibly addictive kaymak – a kind of clotted cream – with local honey drizzled over the top. LM

38: All the afternoon tea in China

A mainstay on the Hong Kong culinary scene for decades, afternoon tea has caught on in cosmopolitan Shanghai and, more recently, in Beijing. Despite the capital’s five-star hotels, such as the Peninsula, offering cucumber sandwiches, scones and clotted cream for a while, it’s only become genuinely popular in the past couple of years, says Leon Wang, food and beverages manager of the Ritz-Carlton Beijing, as China’s middle class begin to acquire luxury experiences to go with their luxury goods. So branded afternoon teas have become popular – Lanvin, Issey Miyaki and Godiva chocolates are all involved – with fashionable young women replacing the old clientele of businessmen and tourists. Even Pizza Hut and KFC have started adding afternoon tea to their menus, injecting a little class into deep-pans and chicken wings. YR

39: Noma’s more accessible new restaurant, 108

Noma Pork belly
108’s pork belly. Photograph: Thomas Degner

Noma is relocating in 2017, but this year sees the launch of its long-awaited second restaurant. This spring, 108 will open in an old warehouse around the corner from its sibling and be more casual (there’s room for walk-ins) and affordable (à la carte dishes are between £9-£18) but no less ambitious. During a trial run in the Noma dining room, courses included caramelised milk skin stuffed with aged cheese and truffle, and romaine stems wilted in oyster marinade. “We want to create a place where you can drop by on your way home from work for a beer and a main course,” said 108 head chef Kristian Baumann. LE
Strandgade 93, DK-1401 Copenhagen

40: Chefs discovering the work/life balance

The kitchen-as-war-zone mindset, with 100-plus-hour weeks and hard-nut head chefs, informs the legends of Marco, Gordon et al. But the dinosaur days might be over – or at least changing. Last year, Sat Bains announced that, to improve working conditions, his acclaimed Nottingham restaurant would open only four days a week. “I’m used to the unsocial hours,” Bains explained, “but why should the next generation have to be?” Several high-profile joints, including Le Gavroche and Hibiscus, followed suit, but it’s not an entirely altruistic move: happy staff are less likely to jump ship, and the industry is having trouble finding, and retaining, staff; shorter hours also free up time for development work and lucrative private events. Corbin & King (the Wolseley, the Colony, Bellanger, etc), meanwhile, introduced a flexi-time initiative to entice female talent back after taking time out to raise children. Many chefs have long insisted on a decent work/life balance for their employees (take a bow, Giorgio Locatelli) – but if restaurateurs are at last taking this issue seriously, who knows, maybe they’ll next put their minds to service charges and wages? BG

41: Kombucha

In Chinese, Korean and Russian the word for kombucha translates as “tea fungus”. To make it at home, you need a scoby (symbiotic compound of bacteria and yeast) which is mixed with tea and allowed to ferment. The scoby feeds off the tea: the result is a slightly fizzy drink that tastes sour like vinegar.

It’s thought to date back to 220BC but since the 1990s it has been made commercially and that’s how you’re most likely to come across it – in a bottle in a health food shop or a hipster grocer. And come across it you will. The global market for commercially made kombucha is estimated to be $1.8bn by 2020. TB

42: Trattoria Da Maria

When I yearn for Italy – which is badly and often – I go to the Trattoria Da Maria, in Notting Hill Gate, London. I’ve been coming here since the early 1980s before I worked in Naples and Rome. This is Notting Hill, subject to hyper-inflation of rents and change, and the Neapolitan Ruocco family that runs Da Maria shouldn’t have stood a chance, not after two Starbucks, All Bar One and Prêt appeared. The arrival of Jamie Oliver over the road seemed a final nail in Da Maria’s coffin. I lived in Naples with a season ticket at San Paolo stadium during the years Diego Maradona played there, and I swear: this is the best Neapolitan family cooking north of that Fuorigrotta neighbourhood.

Each time a new rival appeared, I watched Da Maria take the blow. But the Ruoccos now thrive – what happened? Pasquale and his wife Maria Rosaria hit on an idea: Napoli Football Club, their passion.

Up went the shirt Maradona wore in a match, framed. Up went a mural of the Vesuvian bay and Sophia Loren. Word got around: if you are an Italian in London, this is where you eat like Mamma cooked; if you support Napoli, you get to watch the game.

Maradona’s son, Diego Jnr, came for lunch; commentators on Italian TV send “saluti ai tifosi– greetings, fans! – a Da Maria, Notting Hill”, when Napoli kick off. The club’s most-capped player, Giuseppe Bruscolotti, acclaimed the trattoria as “part of our history”. So now, for every match, the place is packed, and they stand six-deep on the pavement outside. EV
87 Notting Hill Gate, London W11 3JZ

43: The Kiwi connection

New Zealanders have long been quietly influential on British food. Not just Peter Gordon, but also Margot Henderson, who opened the French House Dining Room with Fergus Henderson in 1992 and now runs Shoreditch’s Rochelle Canteen. Then there’s Monica Galetti, of MasterChef: the Professionals, soon to open her first restaurant, and Juliet Harbutt, founder of the British Cheese Awards. More recently, fellow Kiwis such as Michael Allpress have been crucial to Britain’s growing UK coffee culture, and the link between the two countries has come full circle in the form of Caravan co-founder and chef director Miles Kirby, who was once head chef at … Peter Gordon’s Providores. MT-H

44: The Sportsman’s aged beef project

Stephen Harris has always had a keen interest in dairy produce. At the Sportsman, his pub-restaurant near Whitstable in Kent, the Michelin-starred chef churns his own butter and goes out of his way to source raw cream. Lately, he’s been seeing old dairy cows in a new light. “It started when I went to Fäviken in 2011 and Magnus Nilsson was serving retired dairy cow at the restaurant. I tasted the meat and thought, wow, this is extraordinary. Then London started going nuts for old milkers from Galicia.” Why, he wondered, aren’t we making better use of our own old milk cows? As well as producing great meat, wouldn’t it give a boost to the British dairy industry?

He brought this up with his supplier Jerry Wilson, at Ottinge Court Farm near Folkestone, and they decided to test it out. Wilson had been selling his old cows to an abattoir for £800-£1,000 and the meat was ending up between burger buns. Harris paid Wilson the going rate for an eight-year-old Friesian crossbreed and, after fattening it for six months, they had it slaughtered in November. The early signs were good. “After hanging it for just three weeks I tasted the fillet, which is usually all texture no flavour, and the taste was incredible. I knew we were on to something.” Retired Kentish dairy cow with tarragon sauce and Camembert potato purée went on the Sportsman’s menu before Christmas and the response was encouraging.

By the time I make it to Whitstable in early January, most of the 500kg cow has been used up – the lesser cuts went to a burger chain in Deal, bringing total earnings up to £2,000 – but Harris still has topside left for me to try. He gives it a sear and plates it. I’ve never been wowed by topside before but this is sensational: complex, with a blue cheese funkiness that lingers on the palate. Thankfully, Harris will be taking more of Wilson’s old dairy cows off his hands in the year ahead. KF

45: Leon Aarts & Calais camp kitchens

Leon Aart at his Calais ‘Jungle’ camp kitchen.
Leon Aart at his Calais ‘Jungle’ camp kitchen. Photograph: Pål Hansen for Observer Food Monthly

Feeding people has always been Leon Aarts’s priority. Not so long ago, he was a chef, restaurateur and entrepreneur in the Netherlands, with a wholesale business supplying high-end ingredients such as Wagyu beef and truffles. Now, he heads a team of 60, split between one warehouse and three gas-powered kitchens, serving up to 2,000 meals a day at the migrant camp in Calais.

He’s been working there since last October, though his change of career began in 2007 after a business event in Bali, when he felt his attitude shift. “I realised that the successes I had were only on the outside, not the inside,” he says. He initially gave up his food career to start a foundation called Fill the Cup, feeding children in developing countries. His current role distributing food and running kitchens in Calais came after a friend asked him to help out, “and I just said yes”.

Most food is donated or bought from fundraising in the UK and the meals are meat-free: rice with a vegetable stew or curry or dal. Before the recent demolition of part of the camp, Aarts supplied emergency packs to those forced to leave. He has also started supplying the small camps of 100-500 people which pop up in the area and is involved in building six small community kitchens in Dunkirk.

Now a co-founder of fundraising initiative Nourish, raising money in the UK to feed refugees in Calais, Aarts feels thankful for his big move away from fine dining, concluding: “The most beautiful thing is the connection between human beings, from all nationalities, how we come together and make things happen with limited funds and resources. Everyone supports each other, even in these very difficult circumstances.” BP

46: Sustainable eels

Eels have something of an arduous life cycle, and their dwindling stocks are causing alarm. Adult eels migrate from estuarine waters in Europe to spawn in the Sargasso Sea, which surrounds Bermuda. Baby eels – elvers – head back to their roots, a journey that takes two years or more. They cannot feed until they reach fresh water, where they’ll take at least 15 years to reach maturity. Although elvers were once commonplace and considered a delicacy, 80% of those caught in the UK are now used to restock rivers, but there is growing concern about the sustainability of processing eels fished in the wild. Aquaculture seems to be the answer.

The Severn and Wye Smokery in Gloucestershire is tackling the issue and is now working with eel farms in Sweden, Denmark and Holland by sending them elvers caught on the River Severn and buying their farmed adult eels in return. KH

47: Tom Kerridge’s chocolate grenades

Tom Kerridge was scrolling through Instagram when he noticed a photograph of a giant grenade apparently made of chocolate. “Is it real?” he asked Katie Lodge, the artist responsible. She told him no, the chocolate was fake, to which he replied: “Want to do something cool?”

Lodge, a prop designer in the film industry, had been making oversized grenades out of resin and decorating them to look like Ming vases and chocolate eggs. The idea of making an edible version hadn’t occurred to her. With the help of Kerridge and pastry chef Claire Clark, she prepared 200 real-chocolate grenades for her first solo show Bitter Sweet, which opens at east London’s CNB gallery on 22 March.

“We want them to be indulgent,” Kerridge tells me. “These will be solid and filled to the rafters with good stuff.” That means fondant, caramel and possibly Turkish delight. Lodge insists she’s not making any political statements by turning instruments of war into chocolate bombs – she’s more interested in how they look – but she does say this: “If you’re going to throw a grenade, throw a chocolate one.” KF

48: Barbara Ketcham Wheaton

Barbara Ketcham Wheaton, an American food historian, is 84 years old. She lives a quiet life, in a continuing-care community near Boston. But, for the past 50 years, Wheaton has been engaged in a project of astonishing ambition. More or less single-handedly, she has created a database called The Cook’s Oracle, designed to record the contents of every cookbook published up to 1900 in all the major European languages. It’s now computerised, but when Wheaton started, she wrote down the entries on ‘McBee’ cards, sticking knitting needles through holes to search. The idea is that cooks and historians alike will be able to compare every historic soufflé recipe ever published; every tip for flakier pastry or better digestion. Wheaton has 130,000 individual entries from books by more than 6,000 authors, but the categories keep expanding. Her list of search terms ranges from hospitality to heat; from porcini to porpoise. The database reveals the extent to which cookbooks in the past contained not just delicious morsels but strange medical advice, such as remedies for an easy childbirth or handy cures for baldness: “all this crank stuff,” as Wheaton puts it. Then again, as she wryly observes, modern cookbooks still mirror our health worries and “anxieties about what should I feed my children?” The database is not online yet, although a version should be live this year. Not that it can ever really be finished: there is always another way to search. Wheaton – a delightfully humorous person – knows she has set herself a vast task, so, “It’s just as well I’m only 84.” BW

49: Alan Micks

It’s taken 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall for organic farmers to recolonise Berlin’s lush river-laced Brandenburg farmland. This raging farm-to-table moment has triggered a wave of restaurants staffed by chefs from around the world, such as 34-year-old Alan Micks, from Limerick, who has his stove at the Hotel Michelberger’s eponymous restaurant, the go-to watering hole/lunchroom for Berlin’s film and music industry elite, by the River Spree in the Freidrichshain district.

After starting out at Dublin’s stately Hotel Merrion, Micks paid his dues at London’s Lanesborough, Auckland’s Hotel DeBrett and New York’s WD-50. The globetrotting wisdom shows in his fine, firm hand on the venison, boar, beef, pork and fish delivered by his coterie of Brandenburg hunters, farmers and fishermen.

Micks’s resolutely local, wholly organic menu is a first among Berlin hotels, and on the card last month was a roast duck breast with liquorice, quince and salt-baked parsips, as well as wild venison with beetroot, homemade sausage, and pickled walnuts. His potato mash is famed for the subtle dark, sweet notes delivered by smoked butter. The historical ironies of the dish are not lost on Micks. “Bit sad, isn’t it,” he says. “An Irishman comes to Berlin and gets known for potatoes. Now we can’t take it off the menu.” GM
40, Warschauer Strasse 39, 10243 Berlin

50: The Bramble

The Bramble began life at Fred’s Bar – a notorious London member’s bar in the 80s with a reputation for shenanigans and the late great Dick Bradsell, who died last month, at the helm.

Having the pleasure of working with Bradsell at the beginning of my career, the Bramble remains one of my favourite of his creations. Faithful to a classic format – a sour base sweetened with a little liqueur – Dick’s mastery of carefully balancing ingredients has turned it into a true modern classic. What made him so pioneering is that he created really drinkable drinks with ingredients that everyone could get hold of, and in this way they became universal. I love the egalitarian approach, which brought about a cocktail revival in the UK. This outlook, coupled with a dedication to a high-end level of service and wicked sense of humour, made Dick a virtuoso in navigating social situations. He knew what his customer wanted to drink before they knew themselves and where to position them in the room. I remember being at his house creating the menu for Party Bar and he’d gone out the night before and bought a ton of kids’ crayons and swaths of paper. We drew the menu across the sheets and fixed them to the wall of the bar that night. All customers had to do was point at these giant drawings and we’d get to work. He was a purveyor of fun, and you can taste a little of this in the Bramble. TC

The Bramble
London Dry gin 60ml
fresh lemon juice 30ml
sugar syrup 15ml
crème de mure 15ml
a blackberry and a lemon wedge to garnish

Shake the gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup over cubed ice and strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Drizzle the crème de mure over the top to create a bleeding effect, top with more crushed ice and garnish with a blackberry, lemon wedge and two short straws. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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