As the year draws to a close everyone is reflecting on what they’ve achieved over the last 12 months. Me? I’m just reflecting on what great food I’ve eaten! Last year, I did a round-up of my best eats of 2018 where I recapped some of the best dishes I ate and my favourite dining experiences from the year.
Along with Dan, my ever-willing partner in food, we’ve been keeping a list since January of all the contenders for our best eats of 2019. As well as discovering lots of new places to eat in Milton Keynes this year, I’ve visited Wales, Venice, Cornwall, Greece and York, all of which have provided culinary delights – Some good, some not so good. From the Michelin Star meals to stunning street food, this post is to celebrate the food we can’t stop thinking about, the food that was flawless and to recap on some wonderful memories that we’ve made this year.
So, here it is – in no particular order may I hasten to add – my best eats of 2019.
Mussel Creme Brûlée – Il Ridotto, Venice
Our first Michelin star restaurant of the year was a cheeky blow out back in March when we went to Venice. Il Ridotto is located just outside San Marco but blink and you’ll miss it. It might only have nine tables but although she be but little – she is fierce! We dined there for a very reasonable €35 a head which included three cicetti-style tapas dishes and a pasta main course inspired by sea or land.
The stand out dish was nothing but a mere mouthful, but my god did it pack a punch. This mussel creme brûlée was so delicious – sweet, slightly salty and melted in the mouth. The mussel was atop a smooth custard with a crisp sugar top. Dan and I still talk about this!
Read more: A Guide to Eating your way around Venice
Rabbit Ravioli – Paris House, Woburn
A trip to Paris House seems to be becoming an annual event – I’ve been in 2018, 2019 and I’ll be paying it a visit in January 2020! Paris House is one of my favourite fine dining restaurants – we are so lucky to have it within a stone’s throw of Milton Keynes. Back in February, Dan and I dined there with some friends of ours. We had the six-course lunch tasting menu. Paris House changes its menu seasonally so there is always something new on offer.
One of the stand out dishes was the Rabbit Ravioli which was served with a cep mushroom sauce. It was rich yet delicious and packed with flavour. It was one of those dishes that was just labelled as ‘rabbit’ on the menu, so you had no idea what you were going to be served making the surprise all the better!
N.A.F.B – The Wilderness, Birmingham
Back in April, I took Dan to The Wilderness in Birmingham. It’s somewhere I visited back in my student days when it first opened and since the head chef, Alex Claridge, has become somewhat of a pioneer in the Brum food scene, I was very keen to go back. It’s not Michelin Star – yet – but I don’t think it will be far off.
The best dish on the menu we had was N.A.F.B – Not Another F*cking Balti. Quail served in a butter sauce topped with puffed rice and lime foam, complete with a confit quail samosa. Light, well balanced and proving that Indian cuisine can most definitely be refined and delicate yet still packed with flavour.
Read more: Returning to The Wilderness, Birmingham
Punjabi Sausages – Saf’s Kitchen, Milton Keynes
I am so lucky that my blog has provided me with so many opportunities to meet passionate people from the food and drink scene in Milton Keynes. Saf from Saf’s Kitchen is a very good friend of ours now who we are so lucky to know. At the start of the year, Saf invited Dan and I round to try one of her new dishes – Punjabi sausages! I knew these were going to be such a hit and they have a very worthy place in my best eats of 2019.
They come in two flavours – chicken tikka and lamb. Saf serves them in roti with mango chutney, crumbled pakoras and Sev (puffed rice style Bombay mix) They are spicy and so delicious with all the right textures. I hope Saf brings these back for 2020!
Cornish Rarebit – The Mariners, Rock
I’ve got two amazing dishes on my best eats list from two Cornish chefs. When we went to Cornwall back in June, it was shortly after Paul Ainsworth had taken ownership of The Mariners in Rock. This meant that when we visited he was actually in the kitchen so although they were trying out a few different things with the menu, the food was still off the scale. One of the best dishes was the Cornish rarebit.
Yep, it’s basically cheese on toast but my god was it good. The cheese was Cornish vintage cheddar aged for a year. The cheese mix was smooth and strong and so delicious. Another dish we always talk about!
Raw Scallops – Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Port Isaac
One of our overall foodie highlights of the year had to be dining at Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Port Isaac when we went to Cornwall. Not only were the views over the sea completely stunning, but the food absolutely blew us away. Outlaw is a prized part of the Cornish foodie scene, demonstrating the versatility of seafood whilst championing sustainable fishing.
The tasting menu at Restaurant Nathan Outlaw (which has two Michelin Stars) exclusively features seafood. Nothing masks the flavours of the main ingredients, the elements of the dish simply enhance the flavours and let the seafood sing! One of the bar snacks we had to start was so elegant – raw scallops with cucumber and chilli. The scallops were silken in texture and the cucumber and chilli provided such a beautiful dichotomy of flavour. Every time we think back to that meal, we always come back to the scallops!
Mantu Dumplings – Man-o-tu Kitchen, Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes gained some great additions to its food scene this year, one of them being Man-o-tu Kitchen, an Afghan street food stall which brings a totally different cuisine to MK. It’s run by three sisters – who are quite possibly the nicest people ever – who make home-cooked Afghan street food. Now, I feel the Mantu dumplings deserved a place in this round up purely because they were so different from any other street food vendor that is operating at the moment.
Mantu are filled meat dumplings served with a lentil sauce and a yoghurt dip. Nothing groundbreaking, but they were executed so beautifully. The meat was tender and succulent and there were some amazing flavours in there. I can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store for Man-o-tu because I think you will see a lot more of them!
Pork & Chicken Gyros – Eat is Greek, Milton Keynes
From Michelin-starred dining to street food, one of my favourite discoveries from 2019 was Eat is Greek, a street food vendor from Milton Keynes serving one of Greece’s best inventions since democracy – Gyros.
For £5, you get a freshly cooked packed pita which is filled with delicious pork and chicken kebab, chips, tzatziki and salad. I’ve eaten more gyros from Eat is Greek this year than I care to admit, and I don’t think I’ve met once person who is disappointed with their offering!
You can find Eat is Greek in Queen’s Court in the centre:MK and at various street food events throughout the year.
Read more: Best Street Food in Milton Keynes
Butter Chicken Croquettes – Saf-Olé, Wolverton
I love it when two local businesses come together and create something wonderful. This year, Saf of Saf’s Kitchen created an amazing fusion menu with Juan, owner and chef at Olé Tapas Bar in Wolverton. Dan and I went along to show our support and absolutely loved this Spanish-Punjabi fusion.
Saf and Juan had used the concept of Spanish tapas as a base for each dish and injected them with the Punjabi flavours that Saf has become famous for in Milton Keynes. Our favourite dish had to be the butter chicken croquettes. Crisp, deep fried balls of potato and butter chicken. DREAMING.
Mega Roast – Nonna’s, Woburn Sands
I feel like 2019 was The Year of the Roast. I definitely fell in love with a good old roast dinner again and I am LOVING being a member of the Sunday Roast Club on Facebook – There are so many roasts I need to try!
Nonna’s in Woburn Sand’s launched their incredible Mega Roast platter this year that absolutely exceeded expectations and definitely deserves a place in my best eats. For £19.95 per person, you get: 28 day-aged ribeye, roasted corn-fed chicken supremes wrapped in parma ham, slow-braised venison saddle wrapped in pancetta and lamb, all served with Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, brown buttered Brussell sprouts and chantenay carrots with red wine and mushroom gravy. Honestly, it is incredible. Probably the best roast dinner in Milton Keynes and a real treat for the eyes.
Octopus Salad – Deroka, Milton Keynes
Deroka is one of Milton Keynes’ newest additions to the restaurant scene. Dan and I visited back in November for an impromptu date night. It’s a Mediterranean restaurant located in The Hub and it did not disappoint at all!
One of the best dishes we had the pleasure of eating was the octopus salad which came on the cold mezze platter. The octopus tasted so fresh (none of Deroka’s ingredients are supplied frozen!) and was really tender. It was marinated in delicious seasoning and was an all-round brilliant dish. If you haven’t paid Deroka a visit, I highly recommend it. I think it’s the best Mediterranean restaurant in Milton Keynes.
Read more: Date Night at Deroka, Milton Keynes
So there we have it! My best eats of 2019! Safe to say it was another excellent year for food at home and abroad. It has also been a privilege to have become so close to the MK food and drink scene and to see it grow so much. I feel like people are finally starting to recognise that supporting local restaurants and eating local food doesn’t just bring good karma, but the standard of food is just so much better.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Here’s to plenty more fantastic food in 2020.
What was the best thing you ate in 2019?