This time last year, when looking at what my final, retrospective column of 2022 would be, I decided to enlist the help of my former editor Mike Gibson and a few of our favourite chefs to pick the best openings of the year. In 2023, if I’m being honest, it felt like a task I’d fail at before I even began. There were so many openings that summarising them all felt impossible and, in a year where I felt like I was on airplanes more than I was in my own house, a lot of my culinary investigations were focused around the globe – beyond just the (very esteemed) confines of London.

And so, I figured I’d just highlight my ten favourite meals of the year instead – some of them, of course, are from new openings in London. Others are tried-and-true favourites. A handful of them are dotted around the country and a few aren’t in the UK at all. Except, in the process of trying to narrow it down to just ten picks I realised that was never going to happen – I ate far too well this year. So, twenty it is. My criteria for this wasn’t necessarily just technically good food or service, but meals that I remembered long after they were done, be it for what I ate itself, or the simple joy of the place and the people I was with. They are all the kinds of restaurants that nourish the soul as much as they fill the gap in your stomach – which is how I believe every meal should be.

Prego, Auckland

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I started the year exactly how I’ll be ending it – in my home country, New Zealand. As I have written about before, it was my first trip home in three years because of the pandemic. It was extremely emotional and wonderful and special. Seeing your own country through new eyes is a weird experience – my life had changed so fundamentally in those years I was unable to go home and I genuinely feel like who I was as a person shifted enormously too, even for the simple reason that I had begun to work in food journalism, something which altered the lens with which I view restaurants entirely. So, to return to the place that I had grown up having almost every special family meal out was an interesting experience. I was delighted to find that the older, more critical diner that I had become was just as delighted with Prego as the 12-year-old me who refused to order off the kid’s menu.

Humble Chicken

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One of my first meals after returning to the UK from New Zealand was at Humble Chicken, to celebrate its relaunch. I then returned in July to try the new sake and wine pairing courtesy of Aidan Monk who had recently joined the restaurant from Evelyn’s Table. Both meals were among my favourites of the year. January’s dinner was wonderful and showed real potential, while in July I found a restaurant that had truly found its footing, and a drinks pairing that was as interesting as it was delicious.

Tomo, Seattle

In a city filled with incredible food, Tomo really stuck out to me. It was the textbook example of a place I’d like – slightly off the beaten track, a lauded chef freshly departed from one of the city’s stalwart restaurants, and genre-bending cooking partnered with fascinating drinks – and it wholly lived up to expectations. I still dream about the dry-aged beef rib. The fact that we were able to pop next door after dinner for a turn around the roller disco and some jello shot-fuelled karaoke was the icing on the cake.

Quo Vadis

Interiors at Quo Vadis
Quo Vadis Eel Sandwich

Perhaps the grand dame of Soho, pretty much every meal at Quo Vadis is faultless, joyful perfection, and the lunch I had there in February to celebrate the renovation of the downstairs dining room was no exception. We had the most wonderful puntarelle salad and, of course, the eel sandwich which is a perfect storm of tickly horseradish, deeply savoury eel and bracing acidity from the pickled onions, plus the infamous pie and not one but three desserts because this is Quo Vadis and dessert is compulsory. Put simply, a meal at Quo Vadis feels like a celebration of good food.


If you distilled the idea of East London (read: hipster, seriously unserious, natural wine, youthful and ‘cool’) and turned it into a restaurant, I think you’d get Papi. In theory, that should have made it the most annoying restaurant ever, but it was actually really great. The menu is full of big, bold flavours, from the Polish rabbit sausage to the steaming pile of clams in a bath of romesco and pearlescent langoustines simply grilled over charcoal, and the wines are, of course, natural-leaning, while swerving the swampiness that many low-intervention bottles have. The music is loud, the vibes are high, and someone may begin talking into a microphone because, why not? I feel like this is the perfect restaurant to come to for dinner and accidentally on purpose get really drunk before continuing the party elsewhere (might I recommend the downstairs bar?)


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Any meal that begins with a mini martini and a gilda (a pintxo skewer of olive, anchovy and guindilla pepper) is probably going to be a good one, especially if you’re at Ritas. The ever-reliable restaurant is one of my favourite in London. Sitting in the window, people watching on the characters of Soho outside is pretty close to perfection.


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Zapote is one of those restaurants that, upon opening, made it glaringly obvious that there was a fairly big gap for an eatery of its ilk in London. The food – which I shall call modern Mexican, even though I don’t think modern has any meaning here but it sounds better than ‘kind-of-fancy’ – is great (a recent visit featured a venison tostada which had all of the flavours of a Big Mac), the drinks go down way too easily and the beautiful space is capacious which makes it great for groups.

Ox, Reykjavik

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Few restaurants have captured such a sense of place as Ox has. This was easily one of the best meals I’ve ever had; a fun, convivial chef’s table where you’re served impeccable cooking paired with great wines. Add in the fact that it’s hidden behind an already hidden bar and the lovely Icelandic couple sitting next to us who gave us the cultural context of a bunch of the dishes, and you have the recipe for a perfect evening.

Etles Uyghur

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On an unseasonably chilly day in late April I walked the two hours to Etles Uyghur Restaurant in Walthamstow and was thoroughly rewarded for my efforts. Perfectly chewy leghmen noodles are stir-fried with spring onions and your choice of meat, the finished product being a bowl of pure, gratuitous comfort. A plate of rotund little tugur dumplings packed full of mince and onions are accompanied by a spicy, sour chilli sauce. It is all immensely delicious. Did it taste better because of the walk that came before it? In the name of journalism I have returned to check on that hypothesis and I can comfortably say that it all tastes just as good when you’re fresh off the tube after a worryingly sedentary day.

Tiella at the Compton Arms

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The Compton Arms has a reputation for giving culinary talent the space to become superstars – just look at Four Legs. Off the back of their residency at the Compton Arms the team ended up buying their own pub in north London and now operate the highly successful Plimsoll. Tiella is the brainchild of Dara Klein, the formidable Kiwi/Italian chef who came to the Compton Arms from a stint on the pans at Sager and Wilde. Her food is glorious, drawing on her Italian heritage to create a menu of hearty plates like ciceri e tria (pasta with chickpeas) and braised squid with polenta.

Giasemi, Hydra

Truly no first mouthful of food has ever drawn me in more than the first bite of slow roast pork belly at Giasemi, a wee taverna hidden in the back streets of Hydra. I maintain that the inland location means they have to work extra hard on the food to draw in diners – and it shows. This is Greek food at its absolute best. We returned three more times over our two week trip, including on my birthday.

Taverna Marina, Hydra

Taverna Marina breaks one of my main dining rules which is that restaurants with incredible locations tend to unfortunately be either terrible or incredibly expensive or, often, both. They capitalise off of their views and don’t bother on the food front because people will come either way. Taverna Marina is nothing like that at all. It is home to some of the best fried calamari and taramasalata I’ve had in Greece, the affable team make you feel right at home, and the Aegean practically laps at the foot of your table. All of that largely comes from Marina who, against her husband’s wishes, opened what was initially a snack shack at Vlichos beach, heading out in her boat every morning to catch fish to grill for customers. Eventually word got out and that shack turned into a fully-fledged taverna. Marina can still be seen either in the kitchen or sitting at a table observing on any given day – our first night on Hydra last year happened to coincide with her eightieth birthday and we joined in the festivities.


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Back in London and to Mountain which most of the city can agree was one of the most exciting openings of the year. Tomos Parry manages that tricky feat that indicates an amazing chef, cooking food in such a way that it seems deceptively simple. Be sure to order the raw sobrasada and honey on toast.


Up in the Lake District Simon Rogan has three Michelin stars. Here in London he has entrusted Charlie Tayler to be head chef of Aulis, the recently renovated chef’s table restaurant from Rogan. I haven’t been up to L’Enclume, but I’m told Aulis echoes its quality. Either way, this is easily two-star food that mysteriously is yet to receive any stars at all (although, I’m sure that’s set to change in February). Every dish was faultless – technically perfect and impeccably balanced – the drinks were incredible and the service was friendly and informative. It’s a little slice of the UK’s best restaurant hidden down a little lane in Soho.

Tsiakkos N1

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Nostalgic for Greece, I dragged my boyfriend to Tsiakkos N1 one Sunday to feast on taramasalata and Greek salad topped with slabs of feta, slow-roast lamb on a bed of feathery, tomatoey rice, all of it washed down with ice-cold Mythos lager. It honestly felt like being down one of Athens’ searingly hot alleyways – it was the perfect post-holiday tonic.

Grace & Savour

Few 24 hour getaways have been as rejuvenating as this one. On the grounds of Hampton Manor, Grace & Savour is its own self-contained restaurant with a few rooms dotted around a kitchen garden. Between a tour of the garden, a stroll in the honeyed evening light and our meal – which was astonishingly good. Chef David Taylor has done stints around the world – including a chunk of time at Maaemo in Norway where, during his time on the team, the restaurant won three Michelin stars. There are whispers of that new-Nordic style on the menu here, but it’s firmly imagined through British ingredients and seasonality. Chefs have an absolute whale of a time using every inch of what grows in the garden – whether that’s when it’s in season, or through ferments at a later date – and wines are boundary-pushing. Special mention must go to in-house baker Min Go who not only makes some of the best sourdough around, but also the best cinnamon bun I’ve ever had in my life.

Rovello 18

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Reunited in Milan with my parents after nine months apart, we decided to venture to a little trattoria called Rovello 18. It’s been around for a while, but the granddaughter of the original owner has modernised it a little (but not too much) and turned it into a bastion of great wines. Seriously – the wine list is gargantuan. It puts many wine-centric places in London to shame. Dinner was all of the good Milanese things; tangles of pasta studded with sausage and bacon, yielding slabs of veal on polenta, and featherlight folds of cold veal with a mound of suitably salty, fishy tuna sauce in the middle. Our street-side table was so difficult to leave we settled in with nightcaps and a tiramisu and befriended the locals at the table next to us.

Old Story - Old Time, Kastellorizo

I defy you to round up some of the best people you know, chuck them all on a long table that’s a sneeze away from falling into the harbour, water them with jugs of Greek wine and feed them vats of slow-roast lamb and delicate mince-stuffed cabbage leaf wraps and fish soup that tastes like the ocean in the best possible way and not leave as jolly as humanly possible.

Goodman’s Steakhouse

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I wrote about this at length in a previous column, but there was something so liberating about going to Goodman’s and letting myself lean into the pure gluttony of a good steak (and blue cheese-stuffed olives, and oysters Rockefeller and a shedload of good wine) and simply enjoy myself, rather than give into the nagging voice in my head that expects me to eat leaves at all times.

Lyla, Edinburgh

I think, I thiiiink, I think!!!!! That if we’re going off food, service and drink alone, this was probably my favourite meal this year. The food was faultless, the wines esoteric, and the team wonderful and friendly despite the perceived civility of the surroundings. Stuart Ralston is an immensely talented chef and Lyla is a true testament to that. Give the man a Michelin star (or two) STAT.