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The best things we ate in 2023
Photograph: Jamie Inglis for Time Out

The 16 best things we ate in London in 2023

Our best dishes of the year, from Kolae’s mussel skewers to 40 Maltby Street’s rice pudding

Ella Doyle
Edited by
Ella Doyle
Written by
Time Out contributors

Well, we ate a hell of a lot this year, didn’t we? As always, London got a whole load of brand-new restaurants, so we’ve been a little bit spoilt for choice for seriously good food. But if you’re anything like us, there’s a few dishes you just can’t shut up about.

Here at Time Out, we’ve rounded up every fantastic thing we feasted on in 2023, so you can get out there and try ’em for yourself. You’ll find everything from Speedboat Bar’s insanely hot curry to Mount St’s cheese and haddock omelette. It’s spicy, it’s chewy, it’s saucy, and it’s right here for your viewing (and eating) pleasure. Here are the best things we ate this year. 

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The best things we ate in 2023

Kolae’s peanutty mussel skewers
Photograph: Harriet Langford

1. Kolae’s peanutty mussel skewers

My mind was completely blown by the mussel skewers at new Thai restaurant Kolae in Borough Market. Many of the dishes are roasted for hours upon hours, including the signature dish, a grilled mussel skewer. Imagine the best fudge you ever tasted was also the best shellfish you ever tasted – but served hot and peanutty and on a stick and only £6. Am I making that sound good? Well, they were astonishing, but in a way so transcendent of the usual characteristics of the humble mussel it’s hard not to sound faintly mad talking about it. Remember when Gandalf comes back and he’s wearing white and riding a horse? It’s a bit like the bivalve version of that.

🍴 Read our full review of Kolae
📍 The best Thai restaurants in London
Andrzej Lukowski
Theatre & Dance Editor, UK
Chishuru’s guinea fowl with taro root, ehuru and uziza sauce
Photograph: Leonie Cooper for Time Out

2. Chishuru’s guinea fowl with taro root, ehuru and uziza sauce

We’ve been waiting for the new Chishuru to open for a whole year, and chef Joké Bakare’s Fitzrovia debut didn’t disappoint one bit. Everything hollered with huge, heroic flavour, but the finest dish at this cosy but lively West African restaurant was a transcendent serving of guinea fowl plonked artfully on top of a creamy, just sweet-enough taro root, nutmeg-y ehuru and peppery uziza sauce. The gorgeous game was cooked to perfection, with the kind of addictive crispy skin we wish they sold in grab bags at the cornershop next to the Monster Munch.

🍴 Check out our full review of Chishuru
📍 The best African restaurants in London
Leonie Cooper
Food and Drink Editor, Time Out London
Mount St Restaurant’s omelette arnold bennett
Photograph: John Carey

3. Mount St Restaurant’s omelette arnold bennett

One year ago I didn’t know what an Omelette Arnold Bennett was. To be honest, I still don’t. It’s some combination of cheese, fish and eggs. As far as enticing trios, it’s hardly Rush, is it? But bear with. Mount St’s unapologetically extra pan of eggs, featuring milk-poached, smoked haddock basking in bechamel sauce, is an undeniable work of art, a perfectly executed dish, equal to the fine art canvases before which it’s eaten. To be honest it’s more like a miniature, luxuriously glazed fish stew, its cheesy dome scorched by the kiss of a grill. I wish I was eating it now.

🍴 Read our full review of Mount St Restaurant
Joe Mackertich
Editor, Time Out London
Dilara’s beefy hand-pulled noodles
Photograph: Ella Doyle for Time Out

4. Dilara’s beefy hand-pulled noodles

People bang on about ‘hidden gems’ so much, the phrase has become an instant turn-off for me. But Dilara, a Uyghur restaurant in Finsbury Park which is sort of concealed behind a typical kebab counter, actually deserves the title. Everything on the menu is fantastic, but its qoruma chop, slippery, chewy, twisty hand-pulled noodles, doused in szechuan chilli oil are of unwordly, mouth-numbing delicousness. Usually they come with beef (I asked for them without), and it’s all tossed through with spring onions and peppers, like if pici and biang biang noodles had a massive, oily baby. Oh, and if you’re sick of small plates, you’re in luck: it’s a massive portion and you will actually need to share.

🍴 Read our full review of Dilara
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Ella Doyle
Guides Editor
The Parakeet’s Kouign-Amann cake
Photograph: The Parakeet

5. The Parakeet’s Kouign-Amann cake

Is there anything more perfect than this Kouign-Amann cake cut in half and adorably poking out from a sea of frothy burnt butter custard? The answer is no, of course, but what even is a Kouign-Amann cake, I hear you ask? The ultra-buttery, laminated pastry-slash-cake (The Parakeet gets theirs from Kossoffs bakery) is a Breton delicacy that’s sort of like a pimped-up croissant. Salty, nutty and just sweet enough, this is a superb dessert. And I don’t normally even like custard.

🍴 Read our full review of The Parakeet
India Lawrence
Contributing writer
Speedboat Bar's crispy pork and black pepper curry
Photograph: Speedboat Bar

6. Speedboat Bar's crispy pork and black pepper curry

Speedboat Bar came on the scene this year hell-bent on getting you pissed on strong cocktails and setting your mouth on fire with brutal, no-holds-barred Thai food. This curry was so hot it started out feeling like punishment, actual torture. But like any good pain, it came tinged with pleasure, and eventually it became clear that the psychedelic heat was hiding a gift of tender meat and perfect spicing. Genuinely, mind-alteringly delicious.

🍴 Check out our full review of Speedboat Bar
Eddy Frankel
Art & Culture Editor
The Prince Arthur’s scallops in lobster bisque
Photograph: Giles Smith

7. The Prince Arthur’s scallops in lobster bisque

First things first, I’ve never been a seafood kinda gal. Outrageous, I know. But then I went to the Prince Arthur, a cosy pub tucked into a corner of Victorian terraces near London Fields. They recently brought in new chef Joe Couldridge and it seems like they’re doing some serious business. The highlight of my dinner was a plate of plump Orkney-dived scallops, with saffron-cooked potatoes and a sprinkle of samphire, all swimming in a bowl of the most gorgeous, buttery, unami-loaded bisque that maybe has ever existed on Earth. Fuck, my mouth is salivating thinking about it. If you wanted to ask, stop right there: yes, I’m now a seafood kinda gal.

🍴 Read our full review of the Prince Arthur pub
📍 The best gastropubs in London
Chiara Wilkinson
Features Editor, UK
Paper Moon’s parmigiana
Photograph: Paper Moon

8. Paper Moon’s parmigiana

After a £1.4 billion renovation, this September the Old War Office opened to the public for the first time. Once the HQ for Britain’s wartime military leaders, it’s now Raffles: a luxury hotel made up of 120 guest rooms, 85 residences, a 600-person ballroom, and a spa. But that’s neither here nor there. The real reason to visit is for Paper Moon’s perfected Parmigiana. It’s crisp, gooey and moorish; the Alan Turing of the small plate.

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Jessica Phillips
Social Media Editor
Rovi’s celeriac shwarma
Photograph: Rovi

9. Rovi’s celeriac shwarma

I’m late to the game with this one. The celeriac shawarma has been a beloved mainstay on Rovi’s menu and used as a shining example of Ottolenghi's veg-based sorcery for years now. And no surprise – I’ll never look at the weird, knobbly root vegetable in the same way. The warm pitta is a beautifully light, chewy encasing for the soft, nutty slow-roasted celeriac, nutty pickled bits, earthy bkeila (a Tunisian Jewish paste made of spinach), fermented tomato sauce and crispy shallots. It’s a sublime lesson in blending textures and a delicious ode to the endless versatility of plants.

🍴 Check out our full review of Rovi
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Amy Houghton
Contributing writer
Beirut Kitchen’s falafel wrap
Photograph: Grace Beard

10. Beirut Kitchen’s falafel wrap

Listen, London has some really great food. This city has the finest of fine-dining, the trendiest of tasting menus, the fanciest of small plates with the most thumb-sized of servings. But no perfectly poised plate can beat my weekly treat: a £4.50 falafel wrap from Beirut Kitchen, a Covent Garden street food stall near the Time Out office. Falafel mix is scooped up and fried to golden-brown perfection, then stuffed into a soft flatbread with crunchy sour pickles, hummus, buttery tahini, salad and chilli sauce. Got an extra quid? Opt for extra toppings: you can’t go wrong with the grilled cauliflower.

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Grace Beard
Travel Editor
Sessions Arts Club’s lovage, goat’s curd and egg yolk pasta
Photograph: Sessions Arts Club

11. Sessions Arts Club’s lovage, goat’s curd and egg yolk pasta

It almost feels a bit mean to write about this masterpiece of a dish, given that the ever-changing nature of the SAC menu means you probably won’t be able to order it for yourself. Also, its overwhelmingly delicious nature means I can only half-remember what actually happened on the plate. But it definitely involved a tissue-thin square of ‘silk handkerchief’ pasta, imbued via culinary sorcery with the freshness of lovage leaves, and underneath, some rich assembly of egg yolk, goat’s curd, herb-infused oil and possibly some broad beans. Whatever it was hiding under there, it lives in my memory like a delicious mirage: all fresh flavour, no detail. I’m sorry to chef Florence Knight if I’ve got her dish wrong, and I’m sorry to you if you can’t try it. But honestly, she’s probably serving something even better right now.

🍴 Read our full review of Sessions Arts Club
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James Manning
Content Director, EMEA
Sabor Peruano’s ceviche pescados
Photograph: Charmaine Wong for Time Out

12. Sabor Peruano’s ceviche pescados

I have a soft spot for raw fish, but this classic ceviche platter at Sabor Peruano takes it to the next level. These fresh fish fillets cured in tangy lime juice, cilantro and red onions are something special; refreshing, savoury, citrusy and deeply satisfying. If it’s meant to be eaten as a light starter, I’d gladly have another for my main course. No questions asked.

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Charmaine Wong
Contributor, Time Out Travel
40 Maltby Street’s rice pudding and raspberry jam
Photograph: Alex Sims

13. 40 Maltby Street’s rice pudding and raspberry jam

Taking food pictures in restaurants remains divisive, but as soon as this bubbling bowl of rice pudding topped with a glossy blob of raspberry jam was dropped on my table at 40 Maltby Street I was compelled to shoot it in portrait mode for posterity. Diving a spoon into the bobbly white paste and swirling through sticky red compote was a Proustian experience. Lightly spiced with nutmeg and comfortingly creamy, I literally licked the plate clean. It’s just further proof that this cosy little spot under a Bermondsey railway arch is one of the best restaurants in the city.

🍴 Check out our full review of 40 Maltby Street
Alex Sims
Contributing Writer and Editor
Gordos’ Giardino D’inverno
Photograph: Gordos

14. Gordos’ Giardino D’inverno

Butternut squash and chilli honey might not be classic pizza toppings, but Gordos’ Giardino D’inverno (‘winter garden’ in Italian) makes you wonder why the heck not. The Dalston pizzeria top their usual sweet tomato base and globby mozzarella with tender roasted butternut squash, light puddles of chilli honey and generous drops of ricotta – all on their usual crispy, unsloppy base. It’s hot, it’s sweet, it’s creamy and I dream about it more often than I should admit.

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Ed Cunningham
News Editor, Time Out UK and Time Out London
Tofu Vegan’s gong bao king oyster mushrooms with cashews
Photograph: Tofu Vegan

15. Tofu Vegan’s gong bao king oyster mushrooms with cashews

We know, we know. We banged on about Tofu Vegan for most of last year. But here’s the thing: as one of the most reasonably priced (and best) restaurants on Upper Street, we still love it just as much in 2023. And this time, we’re all about its Gong Bao King Oyster Mushrooms sprinkled with cashew nuts. Saturated in a sticky Lucozade-hued sauce designed to spice up your stomach lining, the mushrooms are meaty enough in texture to satisfy even the most devout carnivores. And don’t worry, an extra Tsingtao beer or two will help you deal with all those nubbly Szechuan peppercorns.

🍴 Read our full review of Tofu Vegan
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SEO Manager
Yeni’s Cornish squid with potato sticks and toum
Photograph: Liv Kelly for Time Out

16. Yeni’s Cornish squid with potato sticks and toum
Liv Kelly
Contributing Writer
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