2020 London Food Recap

2020 has been an odd and challenging year, to say the least. It’s a roller coaster of a year, though with more lows than highs. What a year it’s been for the 2020 London food scene especially. Restaurants and hospitality have taken such a massive hit in this pandemic and it’s more important than ever to show your support to your favourite restaurants. To restaurants and business owners, thank you for all of you who worked and fought so hard during this difficult year, getting the business to stay afloat and committing to continue serving delicious foods to all of us. I have so much respect for every single one of you. And to the businesses that have been less unfortunate this year, I hope to see you bounce back stronger in the near future once the pandemic is over.

So here we go again, this is my 2020 London food recap, featuring a list of restaurants and food highlights I had this year in no particular order. Hope 2021 would be a better year (it better be lol). Happy new year everyone and stay safe!


Normah’s

Beef Rendang Nasi Lemak at Normah's Place
Nasi Lemak Beef Rendang at Normah’s

Normah’s has had a difficult year this year. After the first lockdown, they almost couldn’t reopen and had to resort to crowdfunding. Thankfully, everything worked out in the end and they were back serving us the best Malaysian food could get in London.

The laksa and roti are just to die for. Normah’s been my go-to and they have been my utmost comfort food this year.


Mestizo Restaurant

Filete Tampiquena at Mestizo

This is my first restaurant visit after the first lockdown. There are not a lot of halal offerings for Mexican cuisine in London and Mestizo Restaurant is definitely one worth adding to your list to visit.

My most favourite dish was the Lamb Barbecoa Tacos which was simply marvellous. The Filete Tampiquena pictured was great too, which included grilled steak, chicken enchilada, and a range of delicious sides.

Chicken, beef, and selected lamb dishes are halal at Mestizo Restaurant.


Gymkhana

Amritsari Shrimp at Gymkhana

So there’s the first restaurant I visited after the first lockdown, and here’s the last restaurant I visited before the first lockdown hits. Gymkhana has reopened its doors this year after an unfortunate fire.

The menu is absolutely exquisite. Every dish was so rich and packed with flavours. My favourite was the Tandoori Masala Lamb Chops, which were so ridiculously delicious, thick yet juicy and succulent.

Chicken, lamb and goat are halal at Gymkhana.


Ban Be

Beef Pho at Ban Be

You hardly ever see me travel from west London to east often. But Ban Be was well worth the travel and I would happily do so again. They are a new halal Vietnamese takeaway in Stratford set up this year by four friends.

There aren’t many halal-friendly Vietnamese foods in London and options are rather limited. Ban Be swooped into the market offering authentic halal beef pho, cha gio (Vietnamese fried spring rolls), summer rolls and even winter rolls which they created with halal beef salami. They also taught me that you can eat Chinese fried dough sticks with pho and that’s a heavenly combo!

They are not available for dine-in and are only available on Deliveroo/Uber Eats at the moment, but do stay tuned on their social media @banbeldn for any updates on future plans for opening.


Cafe Kitsune

Matcha Croissant and Matcha Cookie at Cafe Kitsune

The French-Japanese cafe, Cafe Kitsune, has stepped foot into the London market this year and launched at the newly opened Pantechnicon.

My statement for this place? The best matcha croissant you can get your hands on. The Matcha Kumquat Eclair was not too shabby either, but the croissant was an absolute winner. Also absolutely loved the venue.


Arome Bakery

Melaka Gula Twist Buns at Arome Bakery
Melaka Gula at Arome Bakery

They were a pop-up last year. There goes again the story where I was literally at their doorstep but failed to get my hands on their pastries. But hey, my chance has now come as Arome Bakery opened a shop at Covent Garden.

Arome Bakery stood out because their pastries incorporated South East Asian flavours with French pastries. I’m still hoping to get my hands on the Laksa Bun – yes, a laksa bun which I saw at their pop-up last year and am still not over with the idea of this concept – but for what I’ve tried out at their new shop, it’s a promising place to watch out for.


The Mantl

Pistachio-crusted Lamb Chops at The Mantl, London
Pistachio Lamb Chops at The Mantl

I almost seem to forget about my visit to The Mantl. Not because it’s forgettable, but because the visit was at the very beginning of the year where everything was normal then.

The Mantl offers a different contemporary take on Turkish restaurants. Portions were a bit small to my liking for its price, but the food was generally nice. The Pistachio Lamb Chops were a banger and no doubt their most popular dish. I also enjoyed their desserts, namely the Kunefe and Baklava, which both comes presented very prettily and comes with Turkish ice cream.


Mei Mei

Kaya Toast & Teh Tarik at Mei Mei, London Bridge Borough Market
Kaya Toast & Teh Tarik from Mei Mei

Mei Mei is a relatively new addition to Borough Market’s extensive list of food spots and has stolen a spot in my heart. I adore Singaporean and Malaysian cuisine a lot, and Mei Mei has hit the spot for me.

My absolute favourite is their Kaya Toast. Their house-made kaya (caramel coconut jam) is just so addictively delicious and is available to purchase back home. It tasted just like the streets of Singapore and they also offer the perfect kopi (coffee) pairing with it. If you’re looking for a real taste of Singapore, they offer this very unique coffee creation called Kopi Gu You, which is kopi with condensed milk and a slab of butter. Albeit a slowly-forgotten tradition nowadays, it is a flavouring combo that’s not been forgotten at Mei Mei and who would’ve thought we could be enjoying this traditional taste of Singapore right here in London!


Bubblewrap

Cookies & Ice Cream Bubble Waffle at Bubblewrap, London Chinatown
The Cookie Monster Bubble Waffle at Bubblewrap

I know Bubblewrap is nothing new on the London market by 2020. They took London by storm and kickstarted the frenzy for bubble waffles (although I have a lot to say on traditional bubble waffles, which originated in Hong Kong, and also it’s actually NosTEAgia who brought the first bubble waffle to London).

Anyway, I had been rather reluctant to join that ridiculously long queue in Chinatown for Bubblewrap before. But with the pandemic going on, Chinatown has been awfully quiet and so I finally gave the place a visit. I’m delighted to report back that the bubble waffle did justice to my Hong Kong pride. It’s hit the perfect spot where the bubble waffle should be crispy on the outside and only half-filled inside with a fluffy texture. Toppings were nice and generous too.


Rice Guys

The Halal Cantonese Roast Duck from Rice Guys

DIY meal kits have been a game-changer during this pandemic. One that stood out to me an incredible lot is this Halal Cantonese Roast Duck from Rice Guys. Halal roast duck isn’t common to come across, so this really caught my attention. Moreover, there’s no way I’m passing on the opportunity for halal home food.

It was so much fun to make this. Instructions are clear and easy to follow. And oh my, this duck was amazing. It’s so ridiculously crispy on the outside and just – wow – so juicy on the inside.

I first had it in Peking Duck style, which means carving out the crispy skin and paired it with Mandarin pancakes, scallions and Hoisin sauce. Then I separated the leftovers and the carcass to create other dishes out of it. I made Roast Duck Noodle Soup, Roast Duck Fried Rice, and a Duck Pasta even.

You can find the link to this Halal Cantonese Roast Duck from my post on Halal Restaurant DIY Meal Kits.


The Whale Tea

Brown Sugar Boba Milk at The Whale Tea

You all know how much I love bubble teas. And it annoyed me just a tiny bit how I must travel to central (usually Holborn or Chinatown) to get my bubble tea fix. But now I’ve got one closer to me.

The Whale Tea has opened up this year in Queensway, right opposite to my all-time favourite restaurant, Normah’s. The Flaming Whale is my go-to, which is basically an upgraded brown sugar boba milk, topped with a velvety cream cheese mousse and a torched caramelised top like a creme brulee as finishing touch.


Heavenly Treats

Many home bakers have emerged over the first lockdown. Heavenly Treats is one of them, offering a range of delicious milk cakes and other indulging treats.

Their Freshie Ras Malai Milk Cake was – true to their name – heavenly. It tasted so rich and indulgent, and was very visually pleasing to the eye with the pretty pink colours.

You can check out their menu and order via Instagram DMs @heavenlytreatsldn


Ayesha Bakes

Pistachio Milk Cake and Biscoff Milk Cake from Ayesha Bakes

Here’s to another home baker on the rise. Ayesha Bakes also offer milk cakes as well as really cute cupcakes, custom cakes, etc.

Why only have one flavour when you can have two in one go? Ayesha Bakes offers multiple flavours of milk cakes in one tray. Both the Pistachio Milk Cake and Biscoff Milk Cake were delectable.

You can check out their menu and order via Instagram DMs @ayeshabakes__


Popina

Let’s take a little break from cakes and look at this delicious halal fry-up I had at Popina when I visited earlier in the year pre-covid.

It’s a little pricier than usual, but this halal full English breakfast was an absolute delight. It’s got beef sausages, sunny fried egg, turkey rashers, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, toast, and that ridiculously delicious pot of baked beans.


Old Chang Kee

When lockdown first hit, Old Chang Kee was one of the first ones to offer delivery on their frozen meals.

I absolutely adore their Singaporean Curry Puffs. I loved them when they were fresh out from their store, and I loved them just as much now coming out of my own oven. That Chicken & Egg Curry Puff keeps winning my heart as it’s just so tasty. The frozen curries are not too shabby too!


Keep It Cake

Cake Slices Box from Keep It Cake

I have been stalking Keep It Cake‘s Instagram page for quite a while. His cake designs are truly so impressive and dreamy. Time to time, he offers cake boxes with four different flavours on sale for delivery. I have missed out several times as they often get sold out so quickly within minutes on his website. This time around, I saw the flavour combination that I’ve been dying to try out and I set the alarm for the launch day and time. I was so elated when the order went through.

Oh my, these cakes were so good.

They are so impressively moist and rich in flavours. My top three picks are (1) Red Velvet, (2) Pistachio & Rose, and (3) Vanilla. Just absolutely ridiculously good. I’m already looking forward to the next release whenever that might be!


Butter Believe It

Red Velvet Oreo Cake from Butter Believe It

This year’s birthday has been a very quiet one. I was lucky enough that it was only Tier 2 then (albeit a shortlived one) instead of a full lockdown. For the birthday cake, I was spoiled with Butter Believe It‘s red velvet oreo cake.

Red velvet plus oreo sounded like a dream to me, and yes, it tasted like a dream. Guess what, it seemed to taste even better after chilling the leftovers. This cake certainly made me a very happy birthday girl despite the situation we’re in for 2020.


Knoops Chocolate

There’s no hot chocolate-hunting around London or indulging in a hot chocolate at Winter Wonderland this winter. But I recently came across Knoops Chocolate as they open up a new branch at High Street Kensington and they totally satisfied that winter hot chocolate cravings.

Knoops Chocolate has upgraded the hot chocolate game in London, creating an extensive menu of hot chocolate by various chocolate percentages and tailoring each with different milks and toppings.


Guillam Coffee House

Pistachio Croissant at Guillam Coffee House

I managed to squeeze a quick visit to Guillam Coffee House before London hit Tier 3. I wished I’ve discovered them sooner because they are such a nice coffee shop to spend time in. The shop has such a lovely vibe and you can see many people there quietly working away on their laptops with a nice cup of coffee next to them.

It’s not just about the shop’s atmosphere. They also offer a good selection of pastries, such as that lush Pistachio Croissant pictured, and good quality artisan coffee. That’s really the perfect formula for me.


Only Jerkin’

Gingerbeer-battered Chicken Nuggets with Jerk Gravy at Only Jerkin’

Only Jerkin’ is one of my most favourite food trucks in London. They’ve never let me down over the years and only seem to get better and better!

Came across them during the summer after the first lockdown has been lifted at South Bank. Those chicken nuggets are as ridiculously delicious as ever and that jerk gravy was to die for. The chips were absolutely gorgeous too. Only Jerkin’ is an absolute winner, there’s no doubt about that.


Ramoramen

I revisited Ramoramen this year. Since my last visit in 2018, their ramen menu has expanded and I was eager to go try them out and also get my halal ramen fix.

The Sinigang Prawn Ramen was absolutely outstanding, featuring such incredible depth in flavours in the broth and those flawlessly grilled king prawns. The Lamb Tantanmen was amazing too and they have definitely improved since my last visit.


Eggbreak

Their Crab Cake Benedict stole my heart before and Eggbreak has become one of my most favourite brunch spots in London since then. This year, they continue to reaffirm its top spot when I revisited them for the Nutella French Toast. This is no ordinary French Toast. It was coated with cornflakes, served with a side of mascarpone and maple syrup. You can always trust Eggbreak to deliver a good breakfast/brunch.


Arabica

Breakfast Fry Up at Arabica
Arabica Fry Up

Another breakfast fry up here to show, but this one’s a little bit different from your typical English breakfast fry up. Tucked around Borough Market, Arabica‘s fry up is made of a bed of fried eggs, topped with Arabica’s house-cured lamb bacon, beef sujuk, roast tomato, mushrooms, and Za’atar bread. It’s a refreshing take on fry up breakfasts. The lamb bacon was particularly juicy and flavoursome!


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