Yes, it’s here now, okay? The list you twiddle your thumbs waiting for has arrived, as the Secret London team has meticulously determined what the very best things of 2023 (aka the year of Boygenius) have been. I can feel it in my GUTS that these answers are going to be the strongest you’ll find out there if you can stand to read it all to the end (you should), and it definitely hasn’t caused any Beef between the staff who vehemently disagree with each other on the best food, films, records (the record, to be precise), books and more.
Sam Barker – Staff Writer
🍽️ Favourite restaurant: Sonora Taqueria – the cult taco stand in East London’s Netil Market finally got a much-awaited permanent location. I definitely visited four times in four weeks and would still happily go back any day.
🍕 Best thing you ate/drank: The fried chicken at Smoking Goat’s fried chicken takeover – it proved so good that they extended the takeover by a month, and then put it on the menu permanently.
🎪 Best event you went to: I saw Josh Glanc perform his irresistibly silly stand-up twice at the Soho Theatre, and each performance was side-splittingly funny – even knowing the content the second time around.
🍿 Favourite new film: They Cloned Tyrone is over the top, hilarious, and features incredible performances from leading trio John Boyega, Jamie Foxx, and Teyonah Parris. It’s one of the most fun movies anyone could have watched this year.
📚 Favourite new book: I’m terrible at reading actually new books, but a standout read for me this year was Emma Cline’s collection of short stories, Daddy – which was published in 2021 (it’s still 2021, right?). Every story is suffused with pathetic, limp-wristed characters navigating relationships and making some of the most terrible decisions ever. It’s delightfully cringe-inducing and savage in skewering people we’ve all met before.
🎶 Favourite new album: The album I’ve returned to the most this year has been Boygenius’ the record. Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher essentially soundtracked my Covid experience. I then played Lucy Dacus’ Home Video and Julien Bakers’ Little Oblivions on repeat as I watched things slowly go back to ‘normal’. So, I essentially willed this album into being – and I then played it constantly throughout the year.
📺 Favourite new TV series: Barry came to a final conclusion this year, capping off a near-flawless run for what has to be the funniest TV show about an assassin who decides he wants to be an actor instead (yes, really).
🗓️ What you’re looking forward to most in 2024: 2024? Who’s planning that far ahead?? What do you mean 2024 starts next month? Nahhhhh mate.
Sam Hopkins – Senior SEO Writer
🍕 Best thing you ate/drank: Probably the meaty roast at said establishment or the 12-course meal at Mayfair haunt Kanishka for Diwali. Some great flavours, lovely staff and a bottle of smooth red vino – what more could you ask for?!
🎪Best event you went to: A toss-up between Glastonbury (that Fred Again set as the sun was setting – magic) and Lana Del Rey at Hyde Park. She’s a queen, and was only 20 minutes late this time so she actually finished her set!
🍿 Favourite new film: I know it’s a bit like Marmite, but I loved Saltburn – Rosamund Pike is insanely good – and Talk To Me. If you like a horror film, this Aussie export is pretty damn good. Barbie was also up there.
📚 Favourite new book: I haven’t read as much as I’d like at all, but probably The Shards by Brett Easton Ellis (American Psycho hello ) – a great thriller and satire and his first in 13 years!
🎶 Favourite new album: I’d have to flip a coin between When Will We Land by Barry Can’t Swim and Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd by Lana Del Rey.
📺 Favourite new TV series: I’m a massive Rachel Weisz stan – she was my first love in The Mummy back in 1999 – so I’m gonna have to say Dead Ringers. Both she and the show are incredible – definitely worth a watch!
🗞️ Best news story of the year: It’s all been pretty bleak this year hasn’t it? But probably the fact that beavers are thriving in the UK and are back in London. Niche I know, but it’s nice to know we may not have completely fucked everything up.
🗓️ What you’re looking forward to most in 2024: Jetting off to Central America on a one-way adventure in January to become a divemaster. Wish me luck!
Georgie Hoole – Executive Editor (SMN UK)
🍽️ Favourite restaurant: Plant Club, a free from Italian restaurant that fills every hole in my heart left by gluten. Special mention to In Horto, too. This gorgeous restaurant opened in Southwark earlier this year and is such a perfect date night spot.
🍕 Best thing you ate/drank: Best thing I ate was the cacio e pepe gnocchi from Plant Club, but also those Funky Chips from Camden Market that went rightfully viral this year. Oh and the pistachio gelato from Badiani. The best thing I drank was The Sofia Mendez from The Laslett: a shake-up of mezcal, Aperol, yellow chartreuse, lime juice and sugar syrup.
🎪Best event you went to: My Own Wedding, naturally. But keeping things closer to home, I’d have to say the launch of ‘Discovering Hogwarts’ at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, which was an extra special feature for 2023. My sister-in-law and I got to enjoy a HUGE feast in the Great Hall, which was adorned with over 400 floating candles for the first time since filming. Absolutely magical.
🍿 Favourite new film: The fact that the only new film I remember watching this year is the Paw Patrol Movie says a lot about me.
📚 Favourite new book: Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey. It’s about a young divorcee’s life after marriage, and it is equal parts tragic and hilarious. Heisey has written for Schitt’s Creek, which I actually didn’t know until after I’d read the book… but explains a lot.
🎶 Favourite new album: Yumi Zouma’s new EP, EP IV. A last-minute addition to the category, this gorgeous Extended Play (yes, I realise it’s not technically an album) was only released at the beginning of December. It’s more of the same from a band I absolutely adore: pure good vibes.
📺 Favourite new TV series: Boiling Point was epic. If you liked The Bear, you’ll like this. The film was good, but the series is arguably even better.
🗞️ Best news story of the year: An event that subsequently turned into a news story I guess, but the Lionesses reaching the World Cup final. Flippin’ legends. Gimme more of that.
🗓️ What you’re looking forward to most in 2024: My honeymoon (wow, I’m insufferable). Secret Los Angeles, I’m coming for you 👀
Jack Saddler – Editor
🍽️ Favourite restaurant: For some high-quality, low-price Thai food, Poppy’s, a string of BYOB restaurants around the Hammersmith area, is the way to go. Jungle Curry for those who enjoy enduring/actually enjoy spicy food, and mean platter of small dishes should be enough to tempt you back a few times every year.
🍕 Best thing you ate/drank: Sadly for London, I went to the south of Spain this year, and nothing in our city could really come close. Bar Alfalfa served me the best gazpacho I’ve ever tried. Still, when it comes to my favourite drink, I did manage to enjoy a few pints of Guinness at The Devonshire in Soho before the year was out, and that did exactly what it set out to do (make me exclaim “oooh that’s a good Guinness”).
🎪 Best event you went to: The greatest supergroup of the 21st century playing their first UK show to a modest crowd of 25,000… 2023 was the year of Boygenius, and Gunnersbury Park on a stiflingly hot August evening was their altar to deliver a sermon of fireworks and tears, PDAs and cheers. The Boys were back in town, only this time they were all together on stage in London for the first time with icons MUNA along for the ride — life’s so fun, life’s so fun.
🍿 Favourite new film: Straight penalty shootout between Past Lives and Anatomy Of A Fall. Nothing matched the piercingly affecting tale of distance that was the former; and the latter’s nail-biting journey through a court case in the family coming in the immediate aftermath of tragedy will have you on tenterhooks.
📚 Favourite new book: I’d implore anyone to read The Bee Sting by Paul Murray, the last book I read this year and the one I was crying out for without knowing. East Of Eden is one of my favourite books of all time, so anything that winds through time and characters in a similar style was always going to have me gushing.
🎶 Favourite new album: Nothing came close to the record by Boygenius, but for the sake of variety I’ll give shoutouts to Famous Last Words by CASISDEAD—an unflinching rap record with Blade Runner-esque soundscapes and 80s synths as its backdrop—and Free Rein To Passions by my favourite Canadian rockers in The Dirty Nil who never stop making anthems that I can scream back at them. Paramore’s This Is Why also demands a mention, with the angular and cutting record hat proves yet again why they’re a level above the peers they came up through the mid-2000s scene with.
📺 Favourite new TV series: Carmy Bear locked in a fridge and ‘Cousin’s’ Taylor Swift-soundtracked elation at finding his place in the world have lodged themselves into my psyche this year, and they’ll never claw their way out. The Bear’s second season cemented itself as the finest portrayal of grief on TV right now, and acutely showed the drawn-out fallout of the loss of a family member, the loss of a friend. Of course, there are more great plates of food to gawk at, alongside some unflinching cameos.
🗞️ Best news story of the year: Arsenal signing Declan Rice. That man is a fucking barnstormer of a football player – I’m quietly hopeful he will be the difference in helping the team go one better this season.
🗓️ What you’re looking forward to most in 2024: Glastonbury Festival and (hopefully) The Bear season three.
Laura Ellis – Managing Editor (SMN UK)
🍽️ Favourite restaurant: Voodoo Rays IDST. Those ginormous pizzas just really mend my heart.
🍕 Best thing you ate/drank: Rudy’s Calabrese pizza. It’s heaven-sent. And I always add red onion to it, too, which, in my opinion, elevates the whole thing to new heights. Sorry to the professional pizzaiolo whose recipe I’m messing with.
🎪 Best event you went to: Does the Secret London summer party count? [yes, Laura. yes it does.]
🍿 Favourite new film: This is a tough one, because I think out of the Secret London team, I’m most certainly the most anti-social of the bunch. I watched a few really great movies this year and always make it my mission to keep up with what’s on at the cinema, so I’d say that it’s a tie between The Menu and The Banshees of Inisherin. I love Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes in equal measure. Closely followed by Triangle of Sadness, because let’s face it, we’re in our ‘Eat the Rich’ era.
📚 Favourite new book: I didn’t finish as many books as I’d have liked this year, but I did absolutely inhale every single page of The No Show by Beth O’Leary. One for my rom-com girlies.
🎶 Favourite new album: Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd by Lana Del Rey. On repeat. I don’t think that needs any further explanation.
📺 Favourite new TV series: I’ve been hooked by a few this year, I won’t lie. Good tele has returned at long last, but I’d say my most addictive of 2023 have been The Morning Show (Jen An AND Reese Witherspoon? Iconic) and Ted Lasso. I can’t describe how heartbroken I am that Ted Lasso is no more.
🗞️ Best news story of the year: That Chanel were hosting their Métiers d’art show in Manchester. I’m a very proud Northerner, so to see the UK’s best city (sorry, London, I have allegiances that will never die) put on the fashion map made me a very happy gal.
🗓️ What you’re looking forward to most in 2024: More amazing food, if I’m being honest.
Tamsin Salfrais – Senior Sponsored Content Creator
🍽️ Favourite restaurant: Akara, London Bridge. This place is the relaxed little sister of fine dining West African restaurant Akoko. All the fabulous, fiery flavours and fine dining service of Akoko still take place here, but at a price point way more suited to my monthly budget. I’ve already planned my next visit, and I only recently visited!
🍕 Best thing you ate/drank: Aside from everything I ordered at the aforementioned Akara, I’d say the risotto gamberi e zucchine at Azzurra, Chelsea. This bright green risotto was topped with bright pink Sicilian prawns and anchovy speckles; this dish burst with both colour and flavour.
🎪 Best event you went to: I go to Notting Hill Carnival every year (and volunteer behind the scenes too), and yet again, I had a great time with my friends and family. I went all out and wore a costume in the parade this time around, and I felt amazing – and the feathers now sit above my desk in my home office as a reminder.
🍿 Favourite new film: Basic answer here: I loved the Barbie film. It was nostalgic, heartwarming, and also pretty vindicating.
📚 Favourite new book: The Woman In Me by Britney Spears, of course. I’ve loved her for the past 25 years, and the book was eye-opening. I enjoyed hearing her view of stuff we’ve seen in the media over the years, and I really felt for her with some of those revelations.
📺 Favourite new TV series: I’m always a sucker for Netflix’s You (then can’t sleep, and have to shut my curtains tight), and I really enjoyed Squid Game: The Challenge. My fail-safe lunchtime watch on WFH days is Friends or Modern Family though.
🗞️ Best news story of the year: The four-day working week trial in the UK was successful for the companies that partook. Maybe one day it’ll be rolled out nationwide…
🗓️ What you’re looking forward to most in 2024: For the first time in a while, I’ve no big plans or holidays in the diary, so I’m simply excited to see what’s around the corner.
Franchesca Villar – Staff Writer Intern
🍽️ Favourite restaurant: We managed to snag the last same-day late-night res at Brutto on a spontaneous whim over the summer and it was simply dreamy. It oozed romance but in a casual and non-fussy way, had a pretty epic playlist (lots of RHCP), and couldn’t fault a single dish that we happily mopped up. For a name that means ‘ugly’, it was nothing of the sort.
🍕 Best thing you ate/drank: LLama Inn’s crispy squid and yuca was a tangy delight and I miss it every day.
🎪 Best event you went to: It would have been Rauw Alejandro’s concert had it not been cancelled but seeing Jyoty at the Boiler Room’s World Tour was a big fat vibe.
🍿 Favourite new film: Past Lives – I watched it alone and sat the the back of the cinema and went through a lot of emotions.
📚 Favourite new book: By no means is it new, but I read Emma by Jane Austen for the first time this year and re-read it a lot this year.
🎶 Favourite new album: GUTS was so excruciatingly good at conveying girlhood, it’s an endearingly self-aware teenage pop-punk girly 90’s grunge album that’s always on when I’m getting ready to go out, and I’m devastated I couldn’t get tickets for Olivia Rodrigo’s London dates next year.
📺 Favourite new TV series: The Bear season 2 – it was sublime, that’s it.
🗞️ Best news story of the year: That The Devil Wears Prada is being turned into a musical.
🗓️ What you’re looking forward to most in 2024: More holidays, get me to a beach pronto.
Tom Forte – Video Producer
🍽️ Favourite restaurant: The Cheese Barge – how could you refuse cheese and wine on a floating restaurant? It’s such a tasteful novelty, curried cheese curds and fondue was an absolute highlight and put me in a deep cheese coma.
🍕 Best thing you ate/drank: K-elote ribs from Mexican Seoul – one of the first shoots I did and I still think about this place on a weekly basis.
🎪 Best event you went to: Fred Again… surprise party – one of the hottest days of the year was spent raving in Alexandra Palace seeing one of my favourite artists of the year. Unforgettable.
🍿 Favourite new film: Polite Society – quirky action comedy that would make any Edgar Wright fan excited. Set against the backdrop of an arranged wedding, I was not expecting to resonate with it as much as I did.
📚 Favourite new book: Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain- not new, but I read it this year and it has definitely enlightened me about Bourdain and his approach to reviewing food, immersing yourself in new cultures and not giving a shit about what anyone thinks.
🎶 Favourite new album: Messy by Olivia Dean – A truly beautiful lyricist who deserves all her flowers this year – I could listen to her luscious vocals and infectious lyrics over and over again. Her album is a masterclass in songwriting and smooth soul production.
📺 Favourite new TV series: Beef – I’m a sucker for anything made by A24 but this show in particular is a rollercoaster. Steven Yeun and Ali Wong are gold together, hilarious and nuanced, this show even beat Succession to the top of my list this year.
🗞️ Best news story of the year: Skrillex, Four Tet and Fred Again… (okay Tom, we get it: you’re obsessed) performing three last-minute gigs in London in the first week of January was the trio we didn’t know we needed and one I came to religiously follow for the rest of the year.
🗓️ What you’re looking forward to most in 2024: London summertime and festivals with friends.
Katie Forge – Staff Writer Intern
🍽️ Favourite restaurant: Tacos + Tequila in Tooting Market – great food, great vibes, and the place I associate with starting my job at Secret London so of course it needed a mention.
🍕 Best thing you ate/drank: I mean, the five McDonald’s hash browns that I smashed back to back the morning after our office Christmas party definitely deserve a shoutout, but my ‘I promise that I am, in fact, a fully-functioning adult’ answer would have to be the Cacio e Pepe at Padella because it’s just the best.
🎪 Best event you went to: Sorry, London — I love ya, but my favourite weekend of the year was spent up at the Edinburgh Fringe, belly laughing and drinking pints with my best pals for 48 hours straight
🍿 Favourite new film: A Man Called Otto – I laughed, I cried (a lot) and I delighted in the fact that they had actually done one of my favourite books justice (all whilst sat on a plane to Dubai, receiving some very odd looks, might I add).
📚 Favourite new book: Dolly Alderton’s Good Material – that woman can do no wrong in my eyes.
🎶 Favourite new album: 1989 (Taylor’s Version), duh…
📺 Favourite new TV series: I absolutely loved Big Brother, and I’m not even ashamed to admit it
🗞️ Best news story of the year: ‘A Ferret Has Been Rescued From Victoria Station’ – still hoping that the little ferret got her ferret-tale ending.
🗓️ What you’re looking forward to most in 2024: Watching Fleur attempt to run the Hackney Half (joking – she’s obviously going to smash it). Oh, and I’m excited to go to New Orleans, baby!
Fleur Bailey – Community Manager
🍽️ Favourite restaurant: Nest in Shoreditch was incredible, smack bang in the heart of Shoreditch next to the town hall! They’re all about embracing the very best of the season, the menu changes quite frequently and when I visited they were doing the game menu. It’s dark, it’s moody, it’s cosy, it’s the best ‘I know a place’ spot!
🍕 Best thing you ate/drank: I think about the lamb leg at Little Duck Picklery in Dalston at least once a week. Again, another joint that changes seasonally, but still a must-visit.
🎪 Best event you went to: Barry Can’t Swim at Islington Assembly Halls. If you want to leave a night feeling good, then you need to see Barry Can’t Swim live. Blending jazz and electronic music, Barry Can’t Swim is certain to be making waves in 2024 and I cannot wait to see him at the Roundhouse in March.
🍿 Favourite new film: Technically not a film of 2023, but a film I watched for the first time in 2023: Aftersun. It’s no secret I am a huge fan of Mr Mescal but this film blew me away, the performances from both Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio are phenomenal and boy don’t watch if you’re not ready to sob.
📚 Favourite new book: If I could recommend one book from 2023, it has to be That Peckham Boy by Kenny Imafidon. A raw and captivating memoir of Kenny Imafidon’s life. It portrays the struggles of a young black male in Peckham, revealing the harsh realities of deprivation and gang culture. It’s a powerful manifesto of hope and determination.
🎶 Favourite new album: Sampha – Lahai. Now, I’m not saying that this album had big shoes to fill but given that his prior (and debut) album won the 2017 Mercury Prize; a lot was riding on it. I realllly like it – listen to it from start to finish, it’s a good’un.
🗞️ Best news story of the year: KATIE FORGE. Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I read Katie Forge’s articles; any news article she’s written makes me laugh. (In particular when she wrote about the ferret getting stuck in Victoria Station)
📺 Best new TV series: A toss-up between the final seasons of Happy Valley and Ted Lasso, two completely and utterly different shows. Happy Valley: tense and a bit sad. Ted Lasso: chill and very happy. Both: really quite bloody good!
🗓️ What you’re looking forward to most in 2024: ̶R̶u̶n̶n̶i̶n̶g̶ Attempting to run the Hackney Half Marathon 🥴 and then celebrating that at Glastonbury 🎉
Annie Simon – Commercial Editor
🍽️ Favourite restaurant: Normah’s – it’s a tiny spot tucked away in the middle of Queensway Market serving up some absolutely mouthwatering Malaysian food. Even my extremely picky dad (who grew up in Malaysia) was impressed.
🍕 Best thing you ate/drank: The potato pie at Joyau – It’s the signature dish at this cosy little wine bar in Forest Gate. With lovely crispy pastry and creme fraiche, it tastes every bit as good as it sounds and it’s the perfect accompaniment to a glass of nice wine.
📚 Favourite new book: The Covenant of Water – a family in Kerala is beset by a mysterious “Condition” which causes someone in every generation to die by drowning… It had me hooked from the start, but if you’re really squeamish be warned that some of the medical descriptions are quite vivid!
🎶 Favourite new album: GUTS – As a 28-year-old teenage girl I need a daily hit of Olivia Rodrigo to keep me going.
📺 Favourite new TV series: I binge-watched Beef which was a wild ride and truly phenomenal, but Made In Heaven Season 2 coming out on Amazon Prime, bringing me even more drama-filled Indian weddings, was another 2023 highlight.
🗞️ Best news story of the year: Taylor Swift announcing the international leg of her Eras Tour.
🗓️ What you’re looking forward to most in 2024: Seeing The Eras Tour in person, naturally.
Caitlin Odell – Commercial Content Writer
🍽️ Favourite restaurant: Naughty Piglets.
🍕 Best thing you ate/drank: A cheesecake from Casa Dani in Madrid. Thank you, Annie Simon!
🎪 Best event you went to: Burger and Lobster’s National Lobster Day party.
🍿 Favourite new film: Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé obvsss.
📚 Favourite new book: I’m still working my way through books from 2018.
🎶 Favourite new album: I didn’t know I was a Nicki Minaj fan but it’s Pink Friday 2.
📺 Favourite new TV series: Does the latest season of Real Housewives Of Beverley Hills count?
🗞️ Best news story of the year: Leonardo DiCaprio’s new girlfriend wasn’t even born when Titanic was released.
🗓️ What you’re looking forward to most in 2024: Seeing Secret London hit triple Time Out’s IG followers 🤞.
Louis Schofield – Commercial Video Producer
🍽️ Favourite restaurant: Speedboat bar – I love it in there. Really good Thai food that will leave your lips tingling, banging cocktails and a pool table (which seem to be dying a slow death in London these days). The beef tongue and tendon curry and the Jelly Bia are my must-try suggestions.
🍕 Best thing you ate/drank: I’m not normally a dessert guy but the Torta De Queso from Solis Grill at Arcade was incredible.
🎪 Best event you went to: Little Simz at Ally Pally. She’s so fucking talented and always puts on a show.
🍿Favourite new film: It’s hard to think of a better film than Past Lives this year. It’s gut-wrenchingly beautiful.
📚 Favourite new book: Come on I’m a videographer I don’t read books! Saying that I did read Making Movies by Sidney Lumet again.
📺 Favourite new TV series: Mawaan Rizwan is a national treasure, so I’m gonna go with Juice.
🗓️ What you’re looking forward to most in 2024: Arsenal winning the Champions League.
Hard agree, Louis. Hard agree. See you all this time next year!