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The Best of The Hunger 2012

In this column, Ananda Pellerin and Neil Wissink uncover the secret pleasures of the gastronome

Fried chicken roll at Rita's
Fried chicken roll at Rita's Photography by Neil Wissink

In a year that saw the resurgence of fried chicken, the near-death of the pop-up, and further advances in the development of food as art, The Hunger looks back at their favourite moments of 2012, and welcomes in the New Year...

In a year that saw the resurgence of fried chicken, the near-death of the pop-up, and further advances in the development of food as art, The Hunger looks back at their favourite moments of 2012, and welcomes in the New Year.

Best Comfort Food
American classics such as fried chicken and ribs were everywhere to be scoffed in 2012. And while we had lots of the good stuff including the Bar-B-Q Shack in Brighton our favourite was Duke’s Brew & Que in east London. Sticky, smoky Kansas-style ribs and craft beer from Beavertown (who have their brewery in the basement), make this the perfect BBQ pub night out.

Best Pop-up
As the pop-up restaurant morphed into the temporary kitchen residency in 2012, some of the worlds’ best chefs still made the most of this trend by bringing their wares to London for short stints. J.P. Singh from New Delhi’s famous Bukhara restaurant was one of them, with an enticing taste of his new style Indian cooking, including lightly spiced Bengal Bay jumbo prawns that we think about to this day. He also showed us the true meaning of paneer cheese: soft, aromatic, and miles away from the usual rubbery cubes.

Favourite Getaway
In the UK, it has to be the Gunton Arms. A beautifully restored inn situated in a Norfolk deer park, and housing an enviable art collection from owner and renowned art dealer Ivor Braka, plus luscious textiles by Robert Kime. With a restaurant run by Hix alumnus Stuart Tatterstall, you get a taste of the local produce, including venison cooked over a traditional open flame.

Abroad, our trip to Le Cheval Blanc in Courchevel, France, was unparalleled for luxury and comfort. Snowy, tree-lined views, colourful, contemporary French décor, and bathrooms fitted with hammam showers and jasmine-scented toiletries. On site is two-star Michelin restaurant, 1947, run by Yannick Alléno, who also plans the Maison’s excellent bistro menu, including a very special charcuterie cabinet in lieu of a fumoir.

Most Exciting Cocktails and Wines
The Nightjar in Old Street is turning out some of the best cocktails we’ve had in a good long while, and we’re particularly smitten with the Toronto, with its ingenious use of Fernet Branca, and smoked candy floss garnish. A contemporary speakeasy isn’t the easiest thing to pull off (though many continue to try), but the Nightjar takes on all the best aspects of this trend.

"The Nightjar in Old Street is turning out some of the best cocktails we’ve had in a good long while, and we’re particularly smitten with the Toronto, with its ingenious use of Fernet Branca, and smoked candy floss garnish."

Meanwhile 259 Hackney Road perhaps the friendliest little wine shop in London has introduced us to some of the most interesting small producers in France. And while they might balk at calling their tightly edited selection 'natural' wines, all are made according to traditional methods with a minimal amount of chemical or mechanical intervention. Some of these bold and characterful wines may be challenging, but visiting the shop and discovering them is part of a very pleasurable ongoing conversation with owners Florian Tonello and Milena Bucholz.

Best Art/Food Crossover
Grizedale Arts took centre stage at Frieze in 2012, with their Colosseum of the Consumed, for which they hosted lunches, dinners, and provided space for community and arts food initiatives. Without over-conceptualising the aesthetic aspects of consumption, the collective, based out of a farm in the Lake District, brought attention to the ever-significant role of food as both commodity and necessity in the global marketplace.

Favourite Sweet Stuff
We love the Rare Tea Company, and we love truffles, so our Rare Tea truffles were a treat, and a big hit at Christmas dinner. Malty and sophisticated, the subtle, beautifully crafted Emperor's Breakfast tea tempers the sweetness of the chocolate without overpowering. There’s no reason not to make them all year round, or to try the recipe with other teas from the Rare Tea range.

Favourite Culinary Dynasty
The Boxer family of south London continue to go from strength to strength. Jackson Boxer is one of the minds behind Rita’s kitchen, serving internationally-inspired comfort food at Birthdays bar in Dalston. He’s also the force behind Brunswick House café; sophisticated bistro fare at a dining room set in the Lassco architectural salvage yard in Vauxhall. His brother, Frank Boxer, opened Frank’s Campari Bar—on the rooftop of an abandoned car park in Peckham for yet another successful summer season. And Italo, a small Italian shop and deli in Oval run by their father, Charlie Boxer, is hands-down our favourite lunch spot for hearty homemade Italian fare, plus some of the most satisfying sandwiches in London.

Favourite Cookbooks
The Faviken cookbook by chef Magnus Nilsson, named after his remote restaurant in northern Sweden, is an unusual one. Written as it was by the chef himself, and with little editorial intervention, it is a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a meticulous culinary superstar. Even if the dishes are beyond most folk’s abilities, the book is still inspirational for thinking about how to use overlooked local ingredients, no matter where you are.

Another favourite tome of 2012 came from self-taught baker Lily Vanilli, whose Sweet Tooth is a guide for bakers of all abilities, and includes inventive recipes such as anatomically correct heart-shaped cupcakes, and cut glass sugar. We were also delighted to see the launch of The Gourmand magazine in 2012, a new food journal taking a dedicated visual approach to food and art.

Text by Ananda Pellerin and Neil Wissink

Ananda Pellerin is a London-based writer and editor, and Neil Wissink is a visual  artist also based in London. Read more from The Hunger here, and contact The Hunger here.

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