It's that time of the year again when I try to remember the best of the best. I eat out a LOT. I adore eating out and I love cooking so it's always a pleasure to look back at where I've been and choose my very favourites. I try to only eat out at places I think I'll love - I don't see the point otherwise. There's not enough time for bad restaurants. Sadly good restaurants can have bad days, but luckily most of the places I go are excellent. So here are my best of the best....

Temper - my first two on this list are restaurants from two of my favourite chefs whose food I've always loved. Temper is the first solo venture of Neil Rankin, who headed up Smokehouse in the days I couldn't get enough of it. Temper is bang in the middle of Soho, a huge, beautiful room centred around the open kitchen. Go for the tacos, and stay for the rest of the menu, flights of mescal and ridiculously good puddings.

Kricket Soho - one of my favourites from last year now have a bricks and mortar site in Soho. They've literally only just opened, but have a beautiful site on Denman Street. The interiors are gorgeous - beautiful tiles, gorgeous bar stools, cabin style seating upstairs and long sharing tables downstairs. And the food... the food is even better than I've had in their previous site in Brixton. Lots of the same favourites, with new additions like bone marrow and cep kulcha, Delica pumpkin with fresh paneer and hazelnut crumble, and goose vindaloo with sprout thoran and fried onions. They're taking booking for groups of 4 or more from 5th January. 

Ormer - it's a bold statement, but one I still stand by. Ormer is where I've eaten my favourite dish this year. Shaun Rankin's first London restaurant is definitely at the top end of the scale price wise, but absolutely worth a visit for out of this world dishes. His focus on excellent produce shines through in all the food, he's got a great wine list, lovely staff, and a turbot dish of dreams. Worth saving up for!

Fera at Claridges - another more expensive restaurant (though less so if you use the Bookatable lunch deal of 3 courses for £42), but one that I adored. Fera is headed up by Simon Rogan who's delicate touch with food shines through here. Perfectly balanced plates, as pretty as they are tasty, this is the kind of restaurant to take someone you love, or someone who you want to love you!

Chick n Sours - from the grand and expensive, to the fun and much less expensive. Chick n Sours opened a second site this year just off Seven Dials in Covent Garden. They serve the best fried chicken I've tried, offer spicy Asian inspired sides and pickled cocktails, have a playlist so good you'll want to stay all night, and they play David Attenborough in the toilets.... perfect?!

Six Portland Road - I've only been once, but having just moved not too far away from Six Portland Road, this French inspired restaurant is firmly on my revisit list, having only heard good things since I went. With a splendid wine list and a menu boasting a wonderful game terrine and a potato, brie de meaux and black truffle pie with creme fraiche this really is a gem of West London. 

Koji - no surprise to see Japanese restaurants on my top ten list, with another further down. Koji is smart, sexy and serves excellent food. The menu is long so covers all bases, with sashimi and sushi, robata grill dishes and yakitori, tacos and lots more, all of which was delicious. The cocktails are really good, and there's a bar area in front of the restaurant if you just want a couple of dishes and some drinks. 

Gastrovino - the best Italian food is about great ingredients treated well. No fancy oils or puffs or smokes or flashes of light. Just the best of what's come off the plane today straight from the restaurant's favourite regions of Italy. Gastrovino's menu constantly changes with the seasons but offers homemade breads and cheeses, delicate salads, very few pasta dishes but they're not missed, and a whole list of chef's daily specials. It's also cheap as chips with the most expensive dishes coming under a tenner.

Yashin Ocean House - a very modern Japanese restaurant that I yearn to go back to, but can't afford the number of visits I wish I could! Yashin Ocean blew me away when I went just before my Japan visit, and still blew me away post Japan when I'd compared it to the real thing. They do a lot wagyu dishes, a soy free sashimi island that is the best sashimi I've tried in London, and dishes from their big green egg, like head to tail sea bream. 

The Pointer, Brill - not in London, but one hundred per cent worth leaving London for, The Pointer is everything I love. They have a farm where they raise very well looked after and cared for, free range animals, and grow all the fruit and vegetables that end up in their pub in the local village. The pub has its own butcher, and the food at the pub is phenomenal. We had the best roast I've had all year there and I'm planning another trip in January for more of the same. 

I know this is a Top Ten and I've already listed ten restaurants but I can't not mention Amarante in Paris, and Bodega 1900 in Barcelona, both of which I would travel back to each city for in an instant. Full reviews of both in the links above. 

And because I'm so kind (!!) here's a recipe for you too - a lovely, fresh and zingy salad to make with all your Christmas turkey leftovers :)
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For our third holiday together this year, after a crazy fun weekend in Paris and a wonderful few days in Menorca, Lucy and I went to Barcelona to stay in the very newly opened Soho House. Most of our pre-holiday plans revolve around picking out the best spots to eat and drink, and this was no different. Apart from the fact that it being Barcelona, one of the culinary destinations of Europe, there seemed to be even more to choose from. We'd decided not to book anywhere and go with the flow, hopping from tapas bar to bar and back to tapas bar, but I sneakily made a reservation anyway as I couldn't resist what I'd seen of Bodega 1900 so after dumping our bags at the hotel we headed straight there.

Bodega 1900 is a reincarnation of the traditional bodega restaurants of the past, where the food that's served is modern versions of classic dishes. We kicked off with a vermouth or three, toasting our arrival and the start of what was to be one of my favourite weekends this year. An early start, plane journey and speedy cab ride had left us both feeling a little delicate, so we opted out of the set menu in order to choose our food ourselves. We chose well. First to the table were the "olives" - straight out of El Bulli, these spheres of olivey liquid burst into the roof of your mouth filling it with salty goodness and amazement. Once we'd got over how good they were we moved on to the rest of our choices - thin tubes of confit squid, soft and delicate and stuffed with mince, swimming in a bowl of the herb infused olive oil they'd been cooked in; "la rubia gallega" beef tenderloin cured in salt and spices, which was rich and meaty and so moreish; fresh tomato salad doused in lip lickingly good olive oil and topped with snowflakes of salt; clams "de carril" cooked in a rich tomato sauce (not pictured); and melon drenched in vermouth to finish, which Lucy kindly let me eat nearly all of! 

I'm going to say this about all of the places in this post, but if you go to Barcelona, make sure you eat at Bodega 1900. We ate a lot more than I've written about and drank a fair few vermouths etc, and I think our bill was around 70euros each - not the cheapest place we ate, but worth every cent. 

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Mid December can feel like the time of year when diets get ditched and anything goes, but personally I try to keep more of a balance - indulgences have to be balanced out with a bit more clean eating. So the launch of pop up turned restaurant Ceru has come at the perfect time. Ceru is a "contemporary Levantine restaurant serving dishes and drinks inspired by the flavours of the Eastern Mediterranean cuisine". And it's damn good, and right up my street. They use natural flavours wherever possible, and avoid adding sugar or other nasties to any of their drinks and food. My non alcoholic apple/lime/ginger concoction that was whipped up for me on arrival to their menu preview evening was spot on. 

The new site on Bute Street in South Kensington is open all day, with a breakfast menu (think almond milk porridge with barberries, molasses, pistachios etc, fried egg with merguez and halloumi or salad of avocado, chickpea and feta) and an all day menu which is what we sampled.

Snacks include Pancar - roasted beetroot, yoghurt, garlic and crushed pistachio served with crudites or freshly baked Greek pitta:

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In between all the eating out I do, sometimes I actually manage to cook for myself (and others) too. Helpful, seeing as I run a pop up restaurant........ Honestly though, it often feels like I'm either only recipe testing or cooking for 30+ people with little in between. I've done a lot of both of the above recently and wanted to share some of it here. 

Starting small, I made this dish as recipe testing disguised as Friday night dinner for the girls on my last Friday night in my old flat. I'd been invited to try out some meat from Selfridges' new butcher, Campbell Brothers, so picked up a rack of lamb, ribeye steak and strip of pork belly. None was quite enough to feed all three of us, so I seared the steak and cooked the lamb off in the oven after browning it, and popped it on top of some truffled cauliflower puree (cooked in milk then drained and whizzed in the blender with butter and truffle paste), steamed cavolo nero and purple sprouting broccoli, roast purple carrots and squash, and finished it off with fresh blackberries. 

Another hit with the girls were the tacos I made using Wahaca's new taco kits. Normally I'm a make-it-myself kinda girl, but the marinades and salsas that come in the Wahaca kits with the corn tortillas are really good. Below are the flank steak marinated in chipotle served with herbs and chillies, and a tuna marinated in lime juice with the tomato and garlic salsa, avocado and more herb salad. 

From cooking for 2/3 to cooking for 50.... I offered my services helping out some mates who wanted to put on a supper club to raise money for a Sahara trek they'd done for the charity Trekstock, who support young people with cancer. They hired a proper chef so I just followed orders as he created an epic Moroccan inspired feast for 50 people. It was such a fun evening, and inspired me so much that I've signed up to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in August 2017 for the same charity..............! Please feel free to sponsor me if you want to donate to the cause!

Jumping all over the place calendar wise, I hosted a Thanksgiving pop up (on Thanksgiving...) for Tiki Chris, who's celebrated 10 years of blogging this year with 10 different hosted events. It was a fun, friendly night and I think I managed to pull off cooking turkey for 30 for the first time professionally. One up from last year when I spent the afternoon FaceTiming my mate's turkey!

2016 has also seen me doing a lot more food for press events, particularly for River Island, which I love doing. I make canapes and nibbles for their ANEVENINGWITH events which have been hosted by lots of lovely ladies including editor of Glamour magazine Jo Elvin, singer and all round cool girl Whinnie Williams, and Sunday Times fashion chic Pandora Sykes. 

Last but not least, and definitely not all, but I'm not going to bore you with everything I've cooked this year, one of my cooking highlights was a takeover I did at Jeremy Pang's School of Wok. I used influences from Asia to design a menu that was still very much A Little Lusciousness, kicking things off with yuzu marinated salmon, pickled radish and lotus root crisps. I'm hoping to do more at SoW in 2017 so watch this space!

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While I sit here trying to work out quite how we've nearly reached Christmas/2017, I've realised there's a whole lot of eating out I haven't written about yet. I've still got a post to go up on the best of the best in Barcelona as well as a couple more about my time in Provence, and some other more detailed reviews, but in the meantime let's catch up on my recent eatings and feedings at London's newest restaurants. 

No longer as new as when I visited, but still just as good, Margot is classic, stunning Italian in the heart of Covent Garden. Classy, sophisticated with a menu full of pasta, fish and meat dishes, and enough to satisfy vegetarians, this is the place to go to impress. It's the kind of place I wish I could take my parents to and spend a long, cosy evening with them sampling the best of the menu and wine list. Highlights from my visit included the raw Sicilian red prawns, and monkfish with cannellini beans. The pasta that the others had is another reason I want to go back. 

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I've long been a fan of the Polpo restaurants - they do Italian (mostly Venetian) staples so very well, there's always a great atmosphere at their restaurants and the cocktail list isn't too shabby either. So what's better than an evening at Polpo....? An evening at Polpo full of wines and truffles, that's what. Honest Grapes invited me along to their five course truffle dinner with paired wines at Polpo at Ape and Bird for a feast of an evening. After a chat with executive head chef of the Polpo group it was time to get down to the serious business of eating.

Dinner kicked off with what was to be my favourite (if I had to choose one) course - cured halibut with truffle dressing. The lightly almost-ceviche'd fish's delicate taste went so well with the subtle but heady truffle. Such an unusual but delightful pairing, and so pretty too. It was paired with the young, fresh Vette di San Leonardo white wine.

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