#FtLionAwards 2018 – Best Starter of the Year?

After the #FtLionAwards 2018 Best Beverage of the Year (sponsored by Chai Naasto and the newly opened Patri), we continue with our second of 12 categories: Best Starter of the Year.

After much debate and dialogue, we’ve shortlisted the following seven nominees.

And while you salivate over these incredible starters, remember that not only can you also vote for your favourite on our Instagram and Facebook pages, but in doing so you’ll automatically be entered in our prize draw with the chance of winning a fantastic Celebration Set Menu for 2 at Chai Naasto’s west London branch in Hammersmith.

SHORTLIST – Best Starters of the Year

We want you to either: 1) vote for the following nominees, or 2) let us know both your favourite starter and the place you had it, all on our Facebook and/or Instagram pages.


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Chakra Restaurant’s Samundari Khazana has been shortlisted for best starter, with its assortment of perfectly cooked seafood elements that comprised Atlantic sea scallops, squid and fresh water prawns.

Its secret? The spices used as a rub for each element elevated this entire plate to something far more intriguing than it would have otherwise been. The chilli-sweet passionfruit chutney was wonderful, and worked well against the beautifully soft, salty squid, and masala-fied prawns, and the lightly marinated and delicately charred scallops.


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No amount of adjectives can sum up the cooking of this tandoori Murgh Joshila by fine-dining establishment Chokhi Dhani, which effortlessly combined poussin and chicken with red quinoa, and whose highlight was, without question, the Poussin!

In effect, as close to melt-in-your-mouth poultry as you’re ever likely to be served; and marinated in a soothingly spicy masala rub that perfectly complimented its delicate nature. Superb!

And though its older cousin similarly held its own in terms of cooking, its marination, while gentle, delivered a touch more heat, and went fantastically well with the smooth and beautifully made coriander and garlic dip.


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For those who don’t recall, Drunch won last year’s Best Main with its Cumbrian Chicken, Best Newcomer in London’s St John’s Wood, and were our Readers’ Choice for Best Restaurant.

So it’s not surprising that they’re here again with a starter. This time with these Cod Goujon – each one of these plump fingers being beautifully fried to a golden-brown colour. Not only did they, therefore, boast a light, crispy exterior, but contained moist and flaky cod cheeks with that distinct, heady smell of cod. Coupling that with the freshly made tartar sauce, which had texture and delivered that tangy-vinegary kick, and this turned out to be the highlight of the starters.


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Indique in Manchester presented this Bhelpuri was by far the best dish we had the pleasure of experiencing during this review.

This was a modernised and Indique-approved version of the classic Bombay mix, with the perfect balance of textures and flavours, that assured an Asian explosion of sweet vs savoury with every given mouthful. A masterful combination of the crisp and crunchy with the soft and creamy, this dish was something uniquely different, tasty, and a starter we’d happily return for.


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What an absolutely delightful bag of Chicken Nuggets presented by Le Bab in Soho’s Kingly Court. It would be cliched to evaluate this upon the obvious, not to mention boring. Yes, the chicken was, indeed, perfectly cooked yadda yadda yadda; but what we marvelled over, believe it or not, was the fantastically light and airy, mildly spiced crispy batter. Had with the paprika mayonnaise, these nuggers were astonishingly good and one hell of an addictive munch.


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A little starter by Le Comptoir that took us completely off guard! We simply weren’t expecting such depth of flavour from something so unassuming.

This Chicken Pastilla (or Bastila) is, essentially, a super-miniaturised version of a ginormous dish that’s traditionally reserved for über special occasions, such as weddings, where its prepared large enough to feed well over a dozen people, it not more. And this particular one had us immediately standing to attention as soon as we drove our knife into its thin, multilayered, über crunchy pastry encasing, and towards its über generous chicken filling. What we encountered was an undulating roller coaster ride, whose strong and subtle spicy peaks and troughs combined with a variety of sweet and savoury bends and turns to create a fully immersive taste and textural experience!

The first thing to come through was the spicy cinnamon. This was quickly followed by the distinct sweetness of the sugar powder along with the caramelised onions, before slowly giving way to the spices folded through the softness of the shredded chicken therein, which had a deeply rich and umptuous meaty flavour that kept us thoroughly enthralled right till the very end.


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With a beverage in contention for this year’s award, Mango Tree put forth the above which confounded us.

While the subtle aroma of the ginger and soy sauce was appetising, it was the texture in this Pla Muk Tod Ta Krai that had us sold.

With a familiar springiness so indicative of a perfectly cooked squid, this cephalopod was encased in an airy almost Rice Krispies like batter which, courtesy of the sticky soy sauce glaze, had taken on an addictively chewy texture that helped in prolonging the experience of sheer enjoyment. This wasn’t only about the textures though, because taste-wise, this was superb, with the subtle tones of the lemongrass, ginger, and coriander combining with everything else to deliver a sweet overtone offset by a touch of the sour.

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