THE LONDON LOCKDOWN FOOD & DRINK AWARDS
London’s restaurants were dealt a crushing blow when they were forced to close for lockdown. But almost immediately, we watched as businesses found creative new ways to stay afloat and to keep us all fed with our favourite dishes on those nights when you just couldn’t face cooking. Many jumped on delivery platforms within days; suppliers launched online shops to sell directly to consumers; and some even launched brand new concepts during lockdown. There’s still much uncertainty around the future of restaurants in London and the UK but it’s been incredible to see how many have risen to the challenge in the past few weeks.
With a potential reopening date of July 4th for some restaurants (although that’s still well up in the air), we wanted to give special recognition to some of the best, most impressive food and drink deliveries, with our Lockdown Food & Drink Awards. Hopefully, this is one awards that won’t be annual!
Best Overall Delivery | Jose Pizarro
When anyone has asked us what the best delivery we’ve had in lockdown, there’s only really been one answer – Jose Pizarro. His tapas at home menu gave us amazing dishes for minimal effort, a winning combo that not many others managed to get right. All the cooked dishes are vacuum packed, meaning to finish them at home you mostly just have to pop the bags into simmering water for a few minutes and then cut it open. But just to make sure you get everything right, José has done a video to every single dish, showing you how to assemble the final bits. We recommend getting the Iberico Bellota ham, olives, boquerones, pan con tomate, the chorizo, mini Spanish tortilla, and the incredible suckling lamb leg cooked in rosemary. Super professional and super easy – we say, yes way Jose.
Best Burger Kit | Burger & Beyond
WOW. Even though we’re big fans of Shoreditch-based Burger & Beyond, we were not prepared for just how good its DIY home kit was going to be. The £25 box has everything you need to make four of its signature Bacon Butter Burgers, and let us tell you, you may want to order enough so you have more than one each, because they are EPIC. You get brioche buns, aged beef, pancetta bacon, American cheese, burnt butter mayo, and pickled onions in the box, as well as instructions on how to make it (it’s a breeze). The result is a delicious sloppy mess of a burger that became the DIY burger box to beat.
Winner Winner Chicken Dinner | SideChick
From Leroy launching Royale, to Honest Burgers starting Honest Chicken, lots of new chicken deliveries have popped up in the last few weeks. Ruling the roost so far is the newest, Patty & Bun’s SideChick. The corn-fed birds are covered in a choice of three different marinades – za’taar, garlic, honey, olive oil & lemon; clarified butter, herbs & lemon; and piri piri – and served whole or in halves. We went for piri piri and it was so good, the chicken is juicy AF and you’ll want to drink the sauce that’s left on the plate. In fact the one thing they could do to make it better is give you a baguette to mop up those juices with! The roast chicken mayo it comes with is a beaut too. You won’t ever look at Nando’s again once you’ve had this.
Caffeine Highs |The Roasting Shed
Coffee deliveries were big business even before lockdown but again it was one of the newbies that impressed us the most. Hackney Wick’s The Roasting Shed was exclusively supplying restaurants and offices before lockdown, but quickly launched ‘Kind Coffee Subscriptions’, delivering fresh hand-roasted beans direct to consumers. For the ‘kind’ part, The Roasting Shed will send a free bag of coffee to an NHS worker or vulnerable person with each new subscription purchased. This could be a volunteer, a teacher of key worker children, or maybe even parents self-isolating and feeling the effects of this very difficult time. The Roasting Shed specialises in small-batch hand-roasted coffee with a fully traceable supply chain, so even without the NHS donation, this is some of the best coffee you can buy.
The Pasta You Want To Order Again | La Tua Pasta
Pasta deliveries are EVERYWHERE at the moment and while we’ve had lots of very good ones, the standout by far is La Tua. La Tua, who usually have a market stall at Broadway Market and Borough Market started delivering during lockdown and boy are we glad they did. With some rather fancy fillings – truffle, smoked salmon, beetroot and a great selection of fresh pasta shapes it’s, without doubt, our favourite fresh pasta out there.
Best DIY Kit (non-burger) | Lahpet
Burger DIY kits were everywhere early on in lockdown and it wasn’t long before readers were asking us if there were any that weren’t patty-related. Island Poke was a good early contender, but our favourite was Lahpet. Even though we love Lahpet and Burmese food in general, we were surprised at just how good it translated to the home delivery / DIY kit concept. You can tell Lahpet really thought about their offering, choosing to focus on a few key dishes as well as condiments and ‘larder’ items, rather than trying to throw their whole restaurant menu on Deliveroo.
The best was the eponymous ‘lahpet’ tea leaf salad. We totally fell in love with tea leaf salad on our epic trip to Myanmar a few years ago and to be able to recreate it at home was amazing. In the kit you’ll get the pickled tea leaves, fried beans, cabbage, chilli, garlic, dried shrimps, dressing, fish sauce and sesame seeds. You just need to add your own tomatoes and lime, mix it all together and you’ve got an absolute banger of a salad.
Best Meat To Eat | The Ethical Butcher
We’ve been championing The Ethical Butcher for a long time, ever since we first wrote about its crowdfunding scheme in January 2019. We were very excited about the prospect of quality carbon-neutral meat being delivered to our homes and, in the current climate, The Ethical Butcher is even better. We made an order with The Ethical Butcher early in lockdown and we were seriously impressed with the service. We ordered on a Wednesday night and it was delivered to us on Thursday afternoon, by a man dressed as a butcher no less!
Aside from the incredible service, this is some of the best meat you can buy in the UK, and is as friendly on the environment as can be. Animals are reared humanely and using methods to reduce the carbon footprint, and of course everything comes in environmentally friendly compostable packaging. Many of the farmers have even measured a net loss of carbon as a result of the methods they employ, improving soil health and combating climate change. When it comes to eating meat, you can’t get fairer than that.
Wine Time | Modal Wines
Looking back at our bank statements over the last few weeks, by far the biggest expense has been wine, a good chunk of it with natural wine heroes Modal Wines. Modal supply some of our favourite wines to some of our favourite restaurants – and now, praise be, they are delivering direct to your house! We couldn’t have been happier when we saw this and wasted no time in placing our order, which was delivered the next day. Modal specialises in natural, small batch, distinctive wines from independent growers across Europe. Modal will put together a list of recommendations depending on your budget and preferences but you can pretty much guarantee you’ll get great wine whatever you choose.
Something Fishy | Wright Brothers
Fresh fish can sometimes seem like an expensive luxury but Wright Brothers have got some fantastic bargains, considering the quality. We loved their smoked seafood box, which contains smoked salmon, smoked mackerel fillets, smoked trout, smoked haddock, and hot smoked salmon – all for £32! Elsewhere on their online shop you’ll find all the fish you can hope for, including oysters, crab, lobster, caviar, and oven-ready whole fish. Brill-iant.
Have Your Cake and Eat It | I Have This Thing For Cake
Another new lockdown business, @ihavethisthingforcake is baking some incredible cakes and packaging them up SUPER CUTE. She’s an Interior Designer for the hospitality industry so has an eye for beautiful details. With only 15 made per week, and orders done through Instagram DM, you’ll have to get in there quick though! Head to the Instagram and you’ll see just how good all of these cakes look… though our favourite so far has to be the banana tarte tatin.
Good Things In Packages | Dishpatch
It’s no surprise that food companies whose business mainly came from supplying restaurants, have had to think fast to stay afloat under lockdown. Many have had to set up makeshift home delivery systems almost overnight to reach consumers directly. Dishpatch is a new service, which launched on April 30th, that is aiming to bring together many of these independent restaurant suppliers onto one platform. Stick in your postcode and you’ll be able to see what’s available, with everything from Cobble Lane Cured (suppliers of cured meats to Yard Sale Pizza) to fresh Scottish fish from Marrfish. There’s already a very decent selection on there, and more are expected to be added in the coming weeks. It’s a great way to buy your ingredients, as you’ll be getting restaurant-grade supplies and helping to support small independent businesses at the same time.
Born In Lockdown | Hot 4 U
There’s been lots of restaurants flipping to delivery but we’ve also seen completely new brands arise from the pandemic. First up was Rice Error, followed by a coq fight and now Hot 4 U is the newest delivery kitchen to enter the game. It’s been set up in the throws of lockdown by Matthew Scott, currently head chef at Cub, and Eddy Tejada, previously of St John and Silo (yep that’s some CVs right there!). The restaurant creates a £35 weekly-changing set menu featuring some very ambitious dishes, influenced by nose-to-tail eating and with nods to countries around the world, from Japan to Peru. Not only do they sound the part, they look it too – in-fact it might just be the most restaurant-like dishes we’ve seen on delivery.
The OG| Yard Sale Pizza
Yard Sale Pizza are pretty uniquely placed for lockdown. They’ve run their own delivery service in-house from day one, so they’ve been able to keep going strong, offering contactless deliveries and high standards of hygiene. Pizza is the perfect thing to see us through these times, and not only have Yard Sale been keeping their loyal customers fed and happy, but also thousands of NHS staff. They raised £20,000 for their NHS fund and have been doing regular pizza deliveries to their local hospitals throughout lockdown. PLUS *news just in* they launched a lockdown co-lab kebab pizza with Mangal.
YOLO Sourdough | Dusty Knuckle
We’re ashamed to admit we didn’t bake sourdough once during lockdown but that doesn’t mean we didn’t eat our bodyweight in it. The holiest sourdough out there, in more ways than one, is from Dusty Knuckle, and it’s available from their Dalston bakery, on local delivery, and now also from their new milk float. Plus if you do want to jump on the baking bandwagon, you can buy their sourdough starter too.
Best Basic Batch (Cocktail) | Tails Cocktails
Batch cocktails have exploded since lockdown and the best ones we’ve been supping on of late have been from Tails Cocktails. These guys used to only supply the hospitality industry before expanding to consumer deliveries when lockdown hit, so you know you’re getting bar-quality bevs. Tails has batched up the classics, including the UK’s most popular cocktail aka the Pornstar Martini, as well doing some special edition co-labs like the VE Fizz with Mr Lyan. CHIN CHIN
Most New Ideas | Top Cuvée
One of our fave neighbourhood wine bars Top Cuvée WON at lockdown when it came to coming up with new ideas – they did something crazy every week. First they started by offering their chefs to come to your house and cook you a meal; then they flipped to Shop Cuvée, becoming one of the first to turn a restaurant into a deli, bringing local brands into the mix; then they launched local delivery by bicycle; and as soon as the restrictions lifted they started park delivery. Plus, they should win an award for the most entertaining social media too. With plans to take on Amazon and keep the Shop Cuvée brand, this is one to watch when lockdown lifts.
Readers Choice | Around The Cluck
Around The Cluck is a new chicken concept by James Cochran, having developed his signature fried chicken from 12:51 into the hero of his lockdown delivery brand. The Great British Menu winner has absolutely nailed his Buttermilk Jamaican Jerk Chicken and if you’ve already tried it, you’ll know just how good it is. The Original Buttermilk Chicken Burger sees Crispy buttermilk chicken, scotch bonnet jam, blue cheese mousse, crispy smoked streaky bacon, iceberg lettuce served in a brioche bun. It’s proved massively popular with LOTI readers and pretty much everyone else it seems, as Around The Cluck will actually be taking over 12:51 in dine-in format when restaurants are allowed to re-open, most likely until the end of the year (James reckons he can’t do 12:51’s regular menu justice with social distancing). With some of the best fried chicken in town, Around the Cluck is a more than worthy winner of our reader’s choice award.