Our last category in the Reader Awards 2012, and it’s not overstating the matter to say that there has never been a time so fecund to dine close to home.
New openings abound, and old favourites like The Abbey have launched quality offerings like Farmer Tom’s Kitchen. Votes were cast far and wide, with E.Mono, Market on Parkway, Thanh Binh, Del Parc, Guanabana, Satuma, Queen Of Sheba, Lahore Masala House, Marine Ices and Hazraj all faring well. South End Green’s Stag had a couple of rave notices for its ‘fantastic new meat room upstairs’. And reliable locals the Kentish Canteen, The Oxford and the Lion & Unicorn will be pleased to hear they made the lower reaches of the Top 10: ‘Always great food and value for money,’ said one respondent of the latter. ‘The roasts are boss, as is the atmosphere’.
Further up the list, Delicious, The Junction Tavern, The Vine and Pane Vino are neck and neck just outside the Top 5. ‘Despite the competition,’ said one reader, ‘it has to be Delicious. Authentic, welcoming and much more intimate than (the still very good) Pizza East.’ Lots of praise too for The Junction: ‘We keep going back. The quality of food is astonishingly reliable (one so-so dish in six years of regular custom) and the staff delightful.’ ‘Never had a bad meal there.’ ‘Consistently great.’
In fourth place is Colonel Fawcett, with more than one reader highlighting head chef Dorian as ‘one to watch’. Yet in the evening, the imaginative menu can be drowned out by its popularity as a bar: an otherwise excellent meal this week was overshadowed by a nightclub-loud soundtrack and encroaching circle of screeching drinkers around our table, even at 7pm. Yes, it’s Xmas (and we love a lively gaff as much as the next sybarite) but a separate eating area is surely the answer. Still, it’s a great lunch and early weekday evening spot, if you have yet to try the food.
A surprise #1, perhaps, as it’s not the absolute best food on offer in NW5, but in terms of fingerlickin’ deliciousness, value for money, atmosphere, a real buzz and great service it’s a worthy winner. Oh, and it’s the celebs’ choice too, with everyone from Giles Coren to Gwyneth Paltrow raving about it. ‘Unbeatable on value, atmosphere and chicken. Great on twitter too,’ said one twentysomething male. ‘Hands down winner,’ said another. ‘Begrudgingly Chicken Shop,’ added another twentysomething male enigmatically. Well vote for something else then, sir! We think the fact that it’s £4 a quarter makes this an addition to NW5 that’ll be long packed and cherished. 79 Highgate Road.
The new Soho House openings have excited many residents this year and so Pizza East is a predictable second choice. ‘Delicious,’ said more than one reader as a comment. ‘Before this my favourite restaurant used to be Eatzone,’ revealed another. ‘Very tasty and well-priced food,’ agreed a fiftysomething male. ‘Great decor. Pleased that it’s been a resounding success, but looking forward to when business quietens down so that getting a table becomes easier!’ And in winter it’s even more alluring, with its woodfired oven and flickering candle-light. 79 Highgate Road
Last year’s unequivocal winner has slipped a couple of places. But it’s still raved about, and forms the northern tip of a now very food-and-ale rich stretch. Last year we praised ‘its experimental approach to cooking, short menu and sensational cooking.’ This week we swung by for a quick lunch and were impressed with a velvety bowl of ravioli with squash, radicchio, sage and butter, although prices remain on the high side. Good to see Dedham Vale steak still on-menu too. ‘Thumbs up to Bull and Last said one respondent. ‘Always special food,’ sighed another. A justified Top 3 entry and still one of the area’s most feted dining options. 168 Highgate Road
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