Best things we ate and drank this decade

With the year drawing to a close, we have come to the startling realisation that we are also about to enter a brand new decade. You are probably ready to pop your champagne, raise your glasses and eat your heart out with those you love most, ringing in 2020 in style. With so much to look forward to, we thought it might be a good idea to take a breath and asked our team to reflect on their favourite dishes and drinks over the last ten years. 

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Syed Asim Hussain, Co-founder, Black Sheep Restaurants

I am going to cheat and pick a few, I am lucky to have had so many unforgettable culinary experiences so here is my list of five:

1) I have been drinking chai tea since I first started walking, it is almost ingrained in me now. But in more recent years, I have approached it more scientifically, working with ratios and adjusting ingredients almost methodologically. This decade, I perfected my recipe. It is a closely guarded secret but it involves a lot of fresh ginger and black pepper. 

2) In-N-Out in L.A. I had my first Double-Double ten years ago, in the previous decade actually, but three years ago I had one again, just to see if it was as good as I remembered. It was better. Hands down the best fast-food burger.

3) Wedding korma – when I go back to Pakistan for wedding season, the korma is always the best bit. I have a theory that it all comes from one place and is frozen in huge batches because it always tastes the same and it is always delicious.

4) A highlight of my year, for the last eight years, has been my visits to Trattoria Sostanza. I am in Florence at least once a year and this family-run trattoria never changes its menu and never disappoints. I always order the same thing too, I get the artichoke pie, the butter chicken and the white beans, and finish with a slice of meringue cake.

5) Carbone in both New York and Hong Kong. Both restaurants have been the backdrop to so many special occasions and celebrations for me over the last ten years, they are full of nostalgia for good times. 

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Christopher Mark, Co-founder, Black Sheep Restaurants

Bread, cold cuts, cheese and butter on the back of a boat in the Dubrovnik harbour. The simplicity of this answer might surprise people, but this was a meal I shared with my family, the people I love the most, in a picturesque setting that is hard to beat. For me, that context would make anything taste good. 

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Braden Reardon, Executive Chef, Carbone and Buenos Aires Polo Club

I went foraging with two master foragers in Upstate New York. In what was a series of fortunate events, we harvested around 20 kilograms of beautiful, earthy mushrooms, from wild ramps and ferns to the less common pheasant back mushroom which, when sliced open, smells like cucumber. They were huge and plush and even the foragers were taken aback by the quantity we found that day. After being in this industry for so many years, it is remarkable to be introduced to new ingredients and experiences. Afterwards, I drove across the border to Montreal to a chef buddy of mine and gifted him five kilograms of the pheasant backs, which he then cooked for me in various dishes over four hours. We then went over to another chef friend and shared more of the mushrooms with him for a late-night meal. He showcased the simplicity of the ingredients so beautifully, serving it on a mushroom toast with ramp butter, house-made ricotta, more wild mushrooms and foie gras. It was sensational. I drove back to New York after that completely mesmerised by the whole experience.

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Marc Hofmann, Operations Director, Wan Chai, Black Sheep Restaurants

I went through all my pictures over the last decade and realised I am fortunate to have had a lot of amazing meals, made up of incredible food and (lots of) drinks, especially the reunions I have with friends and family whenever I go back to France. 

But 2019 was marked by the loss of my beloved aunt, my second mother. Before she left us she had asked us not to organise any fancy funeral but to have dinner and a party, to celebrate her life. We had the most incredible meal, sitting together around one big communal table with my mother, uncle, brothers, cousins. We raised toasts to my aunt, sharing funny stories about her and shaping her memory with love and fondness. That was an epic moment and for sure my most meaningful meal this decade.

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Palash Mitra, Culinary Director for South Asian Cuisine, New Punjab Club 

The best meal of the decade for me was on 12 December 2018, one day after New Punjab Club received our Michelin star for the first year, the first Punjabi restaurant to be awarded the coveted honour. On that day, sitting in our restaurant, I knew that I was enjoying the best Punjabi food in the whole world. I will forever associate that meal with intense pride, overwhelming joy and a sense of the utmost respect for what we had achieved as a team. 

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Malique Goldin, Director of Guest Experience,  Black Sheep Restaurants 

In 2012 I had my first ever three-Michelin-starred experience when my husband and I went, almost accidentally, to Alain Roux’s The Waterside Inn in England. Located in the stunningly quaint 16th-century town of Bray, which plays host to several acclaimed restaurants including Michelin-starred The Fat Duck, it almost feels surreal when you look around. We could not get into The Fat Duck and, by chance, managed to get a table at The Waterside Inn. We started with drinks inside and then made our way onto the terrace, right along the River Thames, for dinner. An exceptional feast, highlighting French cuisine, enjoyed in the height of English summer, romantic and elegant and exactly what you imagine when you think of fine-dining. 

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Jonathan Leung, Operations Director, SoHo, Black Sheep Restaurants 

For something to be memorable, it needs to be personal. Over the last ten years, the best of these memories is 15 October 2015 – my wedding dinner in Carbone. As always, the food was phenomenal and the team took exceptional care of us, congratulating my wife and I and going the extra mile to make us both feel special. It was also the first time in many, many years that I had been able to share a meal together with my mom and dad, which made it that much more meaningful. It was a truly wonderful celebration and I will be forever grateful to the team and my Black Sheep Restaurants family for their kindness and generosity. 

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Arnaud Bardary, Group Sommelier, BELON

It is overall hard to think of one wine to point out from this last decade. From 1959 Château Mouton Rothschild and 1945 Bordeaux’s, to top bottles from Roumier Georges Domaine, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Dom Perignon Oenotheque. But one does stand out in my memory:

I was in London, attending a large-scale tasting of one of Italy’s most emblematic wines, opening 19 vintages of Barolo Monfortino Giacomo Conterno. Magnum bottles, in fact, from harvests spanning over three decades, from 1970 to 2006. Really,  this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We had been double decanting all the bottles, tasting each and every one of them, ensuring they were all in perfect condition before sipping the last bottle, a vintage from 1985. It was sensational. The 1985 Monfortino reflected a warmer vintage, explosive and dense, with another 20  years of exceptional drinking. An absolute bomb!

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Billy Otis, Chef de Cuisine, Taqueria Super Macho

Man, a decade of food and experiences, where do I even begin?

I would have to go back to 2016 when I spent a month in Japan with my wife. It was an eye-opening trip, from both a culinary and cultural standpoint. Japan’s pride regarding ingredients and food is unmatched. The restaurant Sushi Sase in Tokyo is a below-ground, seven-seater space known for fresh, seasonal ingredients. I was lucky enough to enjoy a 37-course Omakase menu highlighting Japan’s best produce that September. The food was simple, clean and thoughtfully executed. We also enjoyed lots of Junmai Ginjo Sake with the sushi chefs, adding an extra element and making it a truly memorable night.

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Gisela Alesbrook, Chef de Cuisine, Hotal Colombo

The dhal and devilled calamari from Happy Spice near Unawatuna beach in Galle, Sri Lanka. Happy Spice is run by a mother and her son and they make absolutely everything from scratch. The love, time and care that they put into every meal is extremely special and translates into each bite. This meal reminded me so much of my childhood and my mom’s cooking. This kind of comforting, homely cuisine is what appeals to me most in the culinary world.

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Shunsuke Yoshikawa, Group Whisky Expert, Fukuro

For me, this is The Bruichladdich Distillery’s Octomore 08.3, the smokiest whisky in the world. It has a PPM level of 309. PPM  is Phenol Parts Per Million, which basically translates to how smoky a whisky is. The average PPM? 20 – 60PPM. Octomore is grown in near-impossible conditions in Islay, Scotland and the yield is remarkable, making this an exceptionally special drink. It was also one of the first whiskies I tasted when starting to learn about its depths and nuances and is one I hold very close to my understanding and respect for this drink.

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Tony Ferreira, Executive Chef, SoHo, Black Sheep Restaurants

My line of work comes with the opportunity, and responsibility, to seek out excellent food and its stories. It is my duty to understand where food comes from, how it is made and what it means to those enjoying it. So to choose one thing over 10 years is a challenge for sure. But for me, food’s value comes from what it triggers emotionally, where it takes me and how it makes me feel. Food is transportive. Every time I eat Chef Billy’s Taco Al Pastor at Taqueria Super Macho, it takes me back to the research trip we took to Mexico and all the good times the team had together.

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