14 Culinary Adventures in 2019

I haven't written a post for a while, so let's get straight to the good stuff: weird and wonderful London dining and drinking experiences. I've had plenty in 2019, so here's a run down of some of the best and strangest. I became vegetarian this year so all the meals below are meat free, and I am now teetotal as of August, but don't worry, I consumed my fair share of cocktails in the first half of the year to make some recommendations. Fair warning, Walthamstow gets a healthy dose of mentions, because a) it's a culinary paradise and b) it's a pebble's throw from my front door.

So here goes:

1. Violet Gin and Strawberry Cocktails at Mother's Ruin
     www.mothersruin.net | Walthamstow

A local favourite, this bar on an industrial estate-come-hipster's paradise in Walthamstow Village sells an amazing range of gin-based drinks made with artisan brands including its very own Mother's Ruin gins and liqueurs, some containing locally picked fruits from Walthamstow Marshes. It's only open Friday-Sunday, but its neighbours include the Wild Card and Pillars Breweries and Real Al cider taproom, so a great destination for a weekend knees up and sneaky trip to God's Own Junkyard for neon nirvana.

2. The Friday Special at Jaffna House
     www.jaffnahouse.uk | Tooting Broadway

From the outside, this small Sri Lankan restaurant looks pretty unassuming but the food is exceptional, especially for a vegeratian - I opted for the 12 item Friday special thali (which basically means a bit of everything and then some) and was presented with this wonder, all for £7.50. It included payasam, which turned out to be a sweet tapioca pudding, which I only discovered seconds before pouring it onto my rice. My friend also unfathomably ordered faluda, a pink jelly and ice cream drink straight out of hell.

3. Jolly Spaghetti at Jollibee
     www.jollibee.com.ph | Earl's Court

I've been fascinated by Jollibee ever since seeing the episode of Parts Unknown where Anthony Bourdain visited Jollibee in the Philippines, and when I mentioned to my partner that we should go to the branch that opened in Earl's Court last year and he responded with a blank expression, we had to go ASAP. For the uninitiated, Jollibee is the Philippines' answer to McDonald's, with an utterly bonkers, joyfully bizarre menu consisting of items such as Jolly Spaghetti, Chicken Joy and mashed potato. Go, you won't regret it.

4. Passion Fruit Gose and Devilled Eggs at St James Street
     www.stjs.co.uk | St James Street, Walthamstow

St James Street is Walthamstow's latest achingly hip offering, providing trendy bites and a lovely (though pricey) selection of artisan foods and crafts in its small shop. We swung by to sample a few plates, and had the devilled eggs which were tasty but nothing revolutionary. I did however also discover Wild Card's Passion Fruit Gose, possibly the most magical thing I've drunk all year - tangy, sharp and salivatingly sour, all in a beautifully-designed can. I've subsequently tried the gooseberry gose too, an exquisite torture.

5. Too Good to Go from Tibits
     Download the Too Good To Go App | Regent Street

Too Good To Go is a great new app that lets you buy food at risk of being thrown away at heavily discounted prices from restaurants all round town. It can be a bit hit and miss in terms of the potion sizes, but we struck gold at Tibits, the fancy pay-what-it-weighs veggie buffet on Hedden Street behind Regent Street. You can fill a large pot with a wide selection of delicious items from their hot buffet for only £3.69 from 9pm, so perfect for a late dinner after a West End show. Simit Sarayi, the Turkish bakery chain, also do a good offer.

6. Negronis and Margaritas at The Good Yard 
     www.thegoodyard.com | Leadenhall Market, the City

A friend and I stumbled upon The Good Yard after a trip to the Sky Garden nearby and it transpired that it had just opened that week so all the cocktails were half price, a stroke of very good fortune! The market tends to be very quiet in the evenings after all the city folks have headed home, so The Good Yard was the perfect place to catch up, and the cocktails were spot on, particularly with a negroni lover in tow. Needless to say the journey home was a bit wonky.

7. Tea and Cake at The Tea House Theatre
     www.teahousetheatre.co.uk | Vauxhall

A friend had her wedding reception in this gorgeous little theatre venue and tea emporium next to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens last year, and we've been regular visitors ever since. They have a very extensive selection of loose leaf teas (strictly no coffee) and big fat slices of delicious-looking cakes proudly on display under glass cloches around the cafe to tempt you even further. And for 1 million bonus points, they have two resident cats ranging around, occasionally condescending to being cuddled if you're lucky.

8. Blood Orange Margaritas at The Jellied Eel
     www.twitter.com/JelliedEelBar | Market Street Walthamstow

Oh you know, just a casual weekend pop up cocktail bar in an East End pie and mash shop with a pumping soundtrack. The pop up has actually finished now for the time being, but it's reopened once before so it's worth keeping your eye out. It offered a small but excellent range of fancy cocktails and delicious yet rather pricey Spanish croquetas to nibble on (obviously?!), all in the disco ball-lit gloom of L Manze's famous pie shop, which is still open during the daytime for all your jellied eel needs.

9. Breakfast at Tender Touches/Open Space in AMP Gallery 
     www.openspacecontemporary.com | Peckham

This was another pop up, this time at a small shop front gallery next to a housing estate in Peckham containing a working cafe where every item from the plates and cutlery to tables and napkins were works of art. As we drank coffee and ate marmalade on sour dough and homemade pickles served on priceless cultural artefacts, my partner and I contemplated whether we loved the sheer quirkiness of the whole situation, or found it unbearably pretentious. The jury's still out, it wasn't a half-bad breakfast though.

10. Vegan bowl at Wagamama       
        www.wagamama.com | Holborn and various

Guys! I've discovered this amazing little Japanese place called Wagamama...said no one ever. Yes, it's now an omnipresent restaurant chain, but to be fair I don't know a single person who doesn't love it, and more importantly they've just jumped on the vegan bandwagon and created a dish topped with a ridiculous fake egg made from coconut and sriracha. The egg itself tastes bizarre and if I were a guilty vegan craving eggs it wouldn't quite hit the spot, but the dish itself is delicious and the egg does add some pop art comedy value to proceedings.

11. A Feast at Living Under One Sun        
        www.feastwithus.org.uk | Tottenham Hale

Feast is a charity that aims to tackle hunger by running regular community kitchens where volunteer receive left over food from local businesses and turn them into giant community feasts. Having also been to a similar session run by Be Enriched in Elephant & Castle this year, I went to a Feast session hosted at the incredible Living Under One Sun community centre in Tottenham, overseen by local matriarch Leyla. Cooking al fresco with portable electric hobs, we turned veggies from Lidl into a meal for local refugees.

12. Churros at The Knot
       www.theknotchurros.co.uk | South Kensington

This small cafe in South Ken is run by a young interior designer and has become an Instagrammer's Shangri La, filled with blossoms, flamingos and even an indoor swing chair. Give it a Google, you'll see what I mean. But it has plenty of substance as well as style, and the churros are divine. Also on offer are teeth-tingling unicorn-themed creations decked in absurd amounts of candyfloss, but we shared some classic churros with white choc and strawberry dip, barely resisting the urge to drink the sauce straight from the pot.

13. Plum negronis at The Good Egg
       www.thegoodegg.co | Kingly Court, Soho

This chilled out Israeli cafe in Soho's lively Kingly Court offers a range of tasty Middle Eastern street food-inspired dishes (I had an egg and cheese bagel) and has plenty of outdoor seating with blankets for all-year-round dining. Their negroni made with vinegary slivovitz brandy was a sweet and sour delight and added a nice kick to lunch - you can tell why I've given up drinking.

14. Vegan fish and chips at Sutton and Sons          
       www.suttonandsons.co.uk/vegan | Stoke Newington

Last (and I was going to say least but I can't bring myself to be that unspeakably rude) comes vegan fish and chips consumed outside an old school chippy in Stokey, basking in the fiery glow of an unseasonable heat lamp. Look, I wish I could say that this fish-free concoction made of banana blossom 'marinated' in seaweed and samphire was just as good as the real thing, nay better, but alas I cannot. Top marks for effort though, and if you want a novel Hackney dining experience then go see for yourself.

Next on my list to try is Eggs and Bread, in - you guessed it - Wood Street, Walthamstow, a new community initiative that lets visitors cook their own breakfast of eggs and soldiers and brew a cuppa. You pay what you can, and profits go towards ensuring there are plenty of supplies for everyone who can't afford breakfast. The have pop up dining events too to generate even more funds. Nice one, Walthamstow!