Sunday, 27 December 2015
Welcome once again to this most glamorous and esteemed of events. It's the definitive epilogue to a year gone by, considered by some to be greater than shark, tornado, and sharknado combined. It is of course The Ephemeric's famous annual tradition. Live from the Swiss Alps for some reason, It's The Debbie Awards: the year ends when we say it does.
So without further ado, let the curtain fall upon 2015 as we begin our definitive review of the past 12 months:
2015 Debbie Awards
Cinema & TV
1. The Debbie for TV Show of the Year
Winner: Mr. Robot
Runners Up: Fargo, Man in the High Castle
This year's most buzzed about TV show came seemingly out of nowhere, from the oft forgotten USA network. It's swept awards and earned widespread plaudits, and now Mr. Robot can add a Debbie to it's growing list of accolades. Mr. Robot's tale of cybercrime, social inequality and psychology could not be more timely, but it's the slick quality of production that stands out. Dazzling, thrilling, and pleasantly self-aware, this is the rare type of drama that makes everything else look lacklustre by comparison. The strongest start we've seen to a series since Lost.
Runner up prize goes to last year's winner Fargo. Different cast, different decade, same sharp writing. While these hit series come and go (see True Detective) in the blink of an eye, Fargo has proven itself to have real staying power, and remains one of the very best things on TV.
Lastly we give honourable mention to another new show, Man in the High Castle. The first major success from Amazon's original programming, Man in the High Castle is based on the Phillip K Dick novel of the same name. Set in 1960s America in an alternate history where the Nazis won World War II, the show explores what a world under Nazi rule might have looked like, from the extrapolation of the party's hard line right wing ideology, to the complex cold war politics between a post-war German Reich and Japanese Empire, and focusing in particular on the inevitable resistance movement.
2. The Debbie for New TV Show of the Year
Winner: Mr Robot
Unsurprising that the best TV show of the year would also win best new show of the year. Mr. Robot really is that good. Season 2 duly approaches in 2016, and you would do well to ensure it's top of your list.
3. The Debbie for Film of the Year
Winner: Steve Jobs
Runner Up: Ex Machina, The Martian
Billed as a Social Network 2.0 due to the Aaron Sorkin script, this moniker does a disservice to the overall quality of Steve Jobs. Director Danny Boyle brings his trademark kinetic style and is once again on song, while Michael Fassbender puts in perhaps the best performance of the year. What really stands out is the unique film structure, focusing on just three key moments in Jobs' career and using them to illustrate the late Apple CEO as a man and as a tech innovator. Capturing an entire person, an entire life's worth of story in just three scenes leads to some starkly dream-like sequences, unlike any other biographical film you'll have seen. Steve Jobs is one of the most glowingly reviewed films of 2015, and yet it disappointed at the box office. Why the disconnect? Attribute that to the general public animosity towards Steve Jobs the person, the brand confusion caused by the cheap and crummy Ashton Kutcher movie two years ago, and all the behind the scenes drama, something that was only revealed during last year's massive Sony hack. It's a shame that this film will be so dwarfed by factors outside its control, because it is as brilliant as one would expect.
Indie film Ex Machina is the first of our runners up. A film that looks likely to fly under the radar of many of the Academy, it nevertheless remains one of the best received films of 2015 by critics and moviegoers alike. It takes an important contemporary issue like AI, adds in the impressive debut direction of veteran screenwriter Alex Garland, and a top cast that includes Oscar nominee Oscar Isaac, and the incredibly hot up and coming duo of Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander. A truly excellent film that would be most deserving of the Debbie in another year.
Also worthy of note, but behind Steve Jobs and Ex Machina in the pecking order, The Martian has been one of the big Hollywood success stories of 2015. In many circles, Ridley Scott has recently been considered a bit past his prime, long overdue for a critically acclaimed hit, while Matt Damon has yet to convince the critics that he has what it takes to be anything other than a franchise movie star. With this movie they are both vindicated, and what we have is a smart, thrilling survival movie, one which is rightly being hailed alongside the other top movies of the year.
4. The Debbie for Talk Show Host of the Year
Winner: John Oliver, Last Week Tonight
Runner Up: Stephen Colbert, The Late Show
The retirement of John Stewart has left a hole in television. America badly needs an intelligent and informative host to offset the Doocys and the Borgers of the media. Leading the charge in 2015 is Stewart's former charge John Oliver. Oliver was always a talented comedian from his Daily Show tenure, but now with the support and freedom that a network like HBO provides, he has taken his craft to a whole new level. Some of Oliver's work on Last Week Tonight has been revelatory. Oliver consistently picks important and complex issues, the kind that the rest of the media won't touch with a 6 foot pole, and tackles them with an energy and wit that has become trademark of his show. Oliver has long been seen as a second-string to the more famous Stewart and Colbert, but after a year on his own he is fast becoming the most important voice on television.
Oliver isn't the only one with a new show, Stephen Colbert has also this year taken over The Late Show from the outgoing David Letterman. Some of Colbert's work on his old show was up their with the very best political satire every created, most notably his work on SuperPACS, and his testimony before Congress on the issue of migrant labor. The good news is that Colbert's trademark intellect and unmatched showmanship have carried over to the new format well. The trouble is that on a major network like CBS, one often gets the impression that Colbert is having to reign in his edgier ideas and appeal to a broader audience. The jury is still out as to exactly how he will settle in this new role, but so far he still looks to be one of the best on TV.
5. The Debbie for Hollywood Rising Star of the Year
Winner: Domhnall Gleeson
Every year has that one star, the one who all of a sudden goes from the c-list to being in absolutely everything. Previous years have included such actors as Chris Pratt, Ryan Gosling, and Benedict Cumberbatch. This year our pick for this esteemed prize goes to the young Brit Domhnall Gleeson.
Gleeson has in recent years has starred in the Richard Curtis movie About Time, the Harry Potter series, and the art-house flick Calvary. But this year has moved his career to a whole new level, with roles in no fewer than four of the year's biggest films: the critically acclaimed Ex Machina, the hotly tipped for awards duo of Brooklyn, and The Revenant, and also a little film called Star Wars. An astonishing cv for any actor, it's been a year to remember for the man.
Music & Theatre
6. The Debbie for Best Theatrical Production of the Year
Runner Up: Sleep No More
This year all of London may have been abuzz about Cumberbatch's sold out production of Hamlet, but the real highlight in theatre has been the Royal Court's Hangman. Written by the twisted but brilliant Martin McDonagh, best known for writing and directing the films In Bruges and Seven Pyschopaths, as well as a host of other theatre productions. True to form, McDonagh's 1970s tale of a retired hangman running a pub is dark, uncomfortable, and absolutely hilarious, offering an exploration of male ego, teenage angst, and psychotic detachment, as well as a well thought out period analysis of England's transition to end capital punishment. Fans will recognise the style, the blend of menace and absurd humour. The balance here is about as perfect as it's ever been done. This is a play that really no one else could or would ever write, and one of the funniest things you'll see all year.
7. The Debbie for Album of the Year
Winner: The Desired Effect - Brandon Flowers
Runner Up: Every Open Eye - Chvrches
A pleasant surprise and a return to form for The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers with his second solo LP after a few duff albums. The Desired Effect was a nearly perfectly honed pop-rock record, with some of the most irresistible tunes on the radio in 2015, including tracks like Lonely Town, and Still Want You. The Desired Effect is what happens when an undeniably gifted songwriter finds the right producer and strut their collective talent.
Our runner up goes to the highly impressive sophomore album from Scottish electro-rockers Chvrches, Every Open Eye. Chvrches burst onto the scene in 2013 as one of the hottest tipped new artists in Europe, with widespread coverage and acclaim. Their debut was solid, and the follow up takes them one step closer to realising that potential. Every Open Eye is slicker, bolder and just a much tighter album. While it's hard to pick stand out tracks from such a solid album, Never Ending Circles, Clearest Blue, and Empty Threat seem to be the key singles to look out for. They have gone from fairly interesting hype band to genuinely solid headline act, we look forward to what the future holds.
8. The Debbie for Debut Album of the Year
Winner: In Colour - Jamie xx
Runner Up: Goon - Tobias Jesso Jr
In an impressive year for debut albums, In Colour, the debut studio album from Jamie xx, stands out. Jamie xx is better known as one half of the Mercury Prize winning band The xx, and fans of theirs will feel right at home with his solo debut. Widely acclaimed by critics everywhere as one of the best albums of the year, it is indeed very deserving of the praise it has received. Jamie xx has a real flair for understated complexity, and with In Colour he has crafted a wonderful, and rich collection of tracks. A slow burner, we predict this is going to be one of those albums that hangs around for a few years yet. In the mean time go and enjoy the key track, Loud Places.
Elsewhere we have Goon from Tobias Jesso Jr, an album which has become by some pundits' reckoning the 2015 soundtrack for heartbreak. There's no gimmick here, and nothing too audacious, just 12 smooth songs with a vintage aesthetic. In particular the tracks Hollywood and How Could you Babe are standouts.
9. The Debbie for Song of the Year
Winner: Lifted Up (1985) - Passion Pit
Runners Up: Lonely Town - Brandon Flowers, Loud Places - Jamie xx
We have had some excellent songs this year from which to choose, and while Passion Pit's new album Kindred may have disappointed, its lead single Lifted Up (1985) did not. Lifted Up is a balls to the wall uplifting good-times song in the classic Passion Pit mould, deliciously over the top, and incessantly catchy. Frisson all around, this is an absolutely top song that will get the room jumping.
First runner up is our pick from Brandon Flowers' album of the year winning The Desired Effect, Lonely Town. A spiritual successor of sorts to Sting's Every Breath You Take ode to stalkers, Lonely Town is the catchiest song that has been released all year, with that toe-tapping, get stuck in your head quality that few can match. Pure pop gold.
And finally Loud Places, the impressive single from Jamie xx's debut solo LP In Colour. Soulful, inventive, and the track most reminiscent of the xx, Loud Places is a glorious track worth listening to on repeat for a while.
10. The Debbie for Live Performance of the Year
Winner: Passion Pit
Passion Pit is always good. Passion Pit live is even better though. The band is known for its euphoric choruses and high energy, but experiencing it live is a whole other proposition. The energy is palpable, the music feels as though you could reach out and touch it. It is a few hours of pure euphoria.
Videogames & Technology
11. The Debbie for Greatest Technological Innovation of the Year
Winner: Net Neutrality
At last year's Debbie Awards we raised the issue of Net Neutrality as our cause of the year. It may seem an unusual choice with all the strife and worthy charitable causes in the world, but Net Neutrality is one of those deceptively crucial issues, one that effects everyone even when most people will have no idea what it actually means. The internet has been one of the most revolutionary inventions in the history of mankind, and yet we have barely even scratched its potential.
The internet has the capacity to provide endless and instant information to every person in the world, this gives it the potential to be a singularly important device for education, to say nothing of its promise as a tool for driving awareness and social change. The key to realising this potential is to keep the internet unbiased and equal, not giving anyone control over the content or prioritising one piece of content over another. The moment you start doing that you open the door to propagandising. This year the FCC reclassified the internet as a title II (common carrier) telecommunications service, which guarantees net neutrality in the United States. It's flown under the radar for a lot of people, but in the long term this may be the single most significant action of the Obama administration.
12. The Debbie for Greatest Scientific Discovery of the Year
Winner: Liquid water, everywhere
The Universe is a desolate, empty place, full of dust and ice. Only the jewel of the Solar System, Earth, is different, with its water, climate, and life. Or is it? Until now, the guiding principle of all exobiology has been the search for liquid water. Everywhere we have found liquid water so far, we have found life. Now, for the first time, we have definitive proof of liquid water somewhere other than Earth. Liquid, albeit highly salinated, water is now known to exist on the surface of Mars, with potentially even more under the surface.
But that's not all! In the same year, we have confirmed beyond reasonable doubt that there is liquid water under the icy surfaces of Jovian moon Europa, and the Saturnian moon Enceladus. Add to this the fact that we are pretty damn certain that Ganymede, Callisto and Titan also have water, and several other bodies may also do so, and suddenly our entire view of the universe has been transformed. Liquid water is not a rarity, it is common. Everywhere we have found liquid water until now, we have found life.
13. The Debbie for Videogame of the Year
Winner: Kerbal Space Program
Runners Up: Fallout 4
It has been a big year for gaming. We've seen some huge AAA releases, and big money mega-hits. Yet our pick for the winner of this grand prize goes to the indie darling, Kerbal Space Program. A deceptively complex simulator of realistic space travel mechanics wrapped in a cute shell and a competent management game to boot, KSP is a game you can lose countless hours to. It's a triumph for such a small development team to produce such a tight and enjoyable product, and the greatest vindication we have yet seen that the crowdfunding early-access model can really work.
Our runner up choice may come with some controversy. Fallout 4 is an undeniably excellent videogame, and the biggest release of 2015 in terms of both hype and sales. It comes with more than its share of bugs, and is held back from true greatness by poor design choices, a probelm entirely of its own making, but this is nevertheless one of the essential games of 2015.
14. The Debbie for Videogame Console of the Year
For all the competition between Microsoft and Sony, and to a lesser extent Nintendo, PC gaming has been making a quiet resurgence. In recent years the vogue has been for developers to focus on the consoles, you can charge more for games, the infrastructure for paid add-ons is well developed, and crucially since every console is the exact same design, you only need to design your game to run on one piece of hardware. But PC gaming has its own advantages, flexibility, customisation, better control options, and of course the wonderful Steam platform. In 2015 the winds seem to have changed back towards the PC, with several of the year's biggest releases, including our two game of the year contenders, releasing on PC, and a new raft of developers deciding to focus solely on the PC platform, particularly in the indie and Kickstarter scene. With the advent of the new Steam Machines, the use of this platform for gaming will increase further, so we expect this trend to continue.
15. The Debbie for Company of the Year
Runner Up: Alphabet
They've been all over the news this year, and not always for the right reasons, but there is no denying that Uber are one of the most disruptive companies in the world today. The potential for cheap and convenient transport, available to everyone, at any time, in any place, will revolutionise city life, and even more so as prices continue to decrease. In London right now, Uber taxis are still relatively expensive, albeit cheaper than any competitor. In other cities a single ride can be as cheap as a few pounds. But that's just the start. Going forward, the stated goal for Uber is ultimately to transition to driverless cars. When that happens, with no driver salaries, benefits or related recruiting and administrative costs, the price for an uber taxi will crash to the point where it is practically negligible. At those prices, what justification is there for ever not using Uber to go somewhere? The potential ramifications are huge.
In a similar vein, we have Alphabet, the newly rebranded parent company for Google, and all associated Google companies. Alphabet/Google have always been on the cutting edge of technology, in particular the research-oriented Google X branch. Now we are at the point where some of the company's loftier ideas are coming to fruition, and the sheer breadth of their operations is staggering. For starters there's the driverless car tech they are in the process of testing, the very technology that Uber are likely to use. Then there is Project Loon, due to launch shortly, which will use a network of high altitude balloons of all things to provide uncensored internet access to the world, particularly those in repressed autocratic nations. Project Sunroof has the lofty goal of making roof solar panels mainstream, easily available and convenient to install anywhere in the country. Last but not least there's Calico, a company with the no less lofty ambition of significant life extension. Alphabet has their finger in a lot of pies, all with astonishing ambitions and the massive financial heft of Google. This can only be a massively good thing for humanity, so why is this only second on their list? Uber represents an active, existing business. These Alphabet ideas, incredible though they may be, are still just ideas. Stay tuned over the coming years and we'll see which of these come to fruition.
16. The Debbie for Small Company of the Year
Winner: Gilead Sciences
Runner Up: Organovo
This year we're going for something a little bit different with Gilead Sciences. Not a household name like some of the other companies we've discussed on this blog, but one that looks set to be equally significant. The pharmaceutical company's growth over the past 10 years has been staggering and earned such hyperbolic praise as "the Apple of pharmaceuticals". Over the top gushing aside, Gilead is indeed an up-and-comer, and while right now is heavily focused on the hepatitis market, is set to branch into many huge areas of research from oncology and liver disease to rheumatoid arthritis and HIV/AIDS. Gilead has shown its ability to identify, acquire, and market drugs as second to none, this will be a very big player in pharmaceuticals indeed.
Our runner up stays in the biomedical field. Organovo has got to be one of the most unique and potentially groundbreaking ideas in the field today. Essentially, the idea is to combine the burgeoning field of 3D printing with medicine, 3D printed cells. Currently the company is close to being able to print actual functioning human tissue. That in itself is a remarkable achievement. The next logical step after that is printing whole organs. The potential significance of such a breakthrough needs no further elaboration, it would change the world to be able to print even the more simple organs, let alone vital systems. One to keep an eye on over the coming years.
17. The Debbie for Gadget of the Year
Winner: Apple Watch
Wearable technology is the big thing in gadgets right now. Apple is one of the world's biggest tech companies. It's about time they got involved in this growing field. Their addition to the market is the Apple Watch. This is far from the first smartwatch to be released, there are already several Android alternatives available, but as one would expect from Apple they manage to find that little bit extra quality to stand out in an increasingly crowded market. The physical design is clever for a start, intuitive to control despite the obvious limitations in size, and the ability to easily switch watch bands is nothing short of brilliant. The fitness and exercise features make another nice addition for those who have not yet invested in an Up3 or Fitbit. The cherry on top is the addition of Apple Pay features. You can use this watch as a credit card, oyster card, airplane boarding pass, cinema ticket, and just about anything else that's scannable. This is technology that allows you to control an increasing amount of your life from a tiny device on your wrist, and that's pretty remarkable.
18. The Debbie for Subreddit of the Year
Reddit at it's best can be a place of real insight, performing great service to the goal of free exchange of information, whilst offering the pinnacle of crowdsourced wisdom, and crucially featuring highly specified subreddits to cater to every interest or hobby. If ever there was one single website that could handle every need on the internet, it's Reddit.
This year for our all new subreddit of the year Debbie we're looking to the other side of Reddit, the users' penchant for the silly and surreal. In the past year the best of these has been /r/BatmanAdvice, an alternate take on the popular legal advice sub, this time imparting wisdom on the best way to Batman. Includes such pearls of wisdom as dress for the job you want, and how to choose your Batman name. However, and important disclaimer as stated on the subreddit sidebar: "A place to ask for advice on being Batman. Any advice here will NOT make you into the actual Batman. Reddit is not a substitute for a real Batman".
19. The Debbie for Footballer of the Year
Winner: Lionel Messi - Barcelona
It might seem like a way too obvious choice, but there's a reason for that. Lionel Messi is the best footballer in the world right now, and this season has seen him back at his best, and heads and shoulders above the rest.
His record in the past year has been incredible, 58 goals last season being his third highest ever tally in a season that saw his Barcelona team claim both the league title and Champions League. The good form has continued into the current season, as the team sits pretty at the top of the table once again, largely a result of this man's form.
20. The Debbie for Under-21 Footballer of the Year
Winner: Angel Correa - Atletico Madrid
Picking one player as the next big thing is a near impossible task, but The Ephemeric prides itself on having a pretty solid prediction record. This year the exciting young talent to catch our eye is Atletico Madrid's Angel Correa. The 20 year old Argentinian forward has been out of the game for a year due to health concerns, but despite that has come back and immediately become a key influential player in this impressive Atletico side. Correa's speed and skill makes him a deadly opponent for even the best of the defences, and if he can stay healthy then he can become one of the best players in Europe without question, and an important player at both the club and international level.
21. The Debbie for Football Manager of the Year
Winner: Luis Enrique - Barcelona
It's been a year of struggle for some of the world's best managers. Ancelotti won la decima, only to be sacked a year later. Mourinho won a league and cup double, only to be sacked 7 months later. Klopp was out of a job, and only just restarted his career with Liverpool, and of course Pep is Pep, master at the art of underperforming with the best team in the world. Really this year the award has to go to Luis Enrique by default, and it's hard to suggest he doesn't deserve it. A league and Champions League double, plus seemingly on course for another title this year. Enrique has firmly reestablished Barcelona as the best team in the world after Pep's dire last few seasons, and certainly has earned this cherished prize.
22. The Debbie for Politician of the Year
Winner: Barack Obama
Runners up: Hilary Benn
Alright, bring it on you lot. It's always popular to bash on the sitting President, especially during his lame duck years. We almost didn't go for him, but frankly with objective analysis of the past 12 months it became impossible to deny that 2015 was a very good year for Barack Obama indeed, one filled with a succession of strong accomplishments. It may not be the popular thing to say, but it is undeniably true. Obama's 2015 has included his administration's successful arguing at the Supreme Court that resulted in the legalisation of same sex marriage nationwide, realising finally the dream of marriage equality. It has included the institution of strong Net Neutrality laws, ensuring the validity and equality of history's greatest education and information tool. It has included the Paris climate accord, currently being hailed as a watershed moment in the fight against man-made climate change. These three historic accomplishments already top anything ever accomplished by the previous President, and probably any for decades, let alone in a single year.
Our runner up is the British Labour MP and probably future party leader Hilary Benn. Anyone who knows The Ephemeric will know that we are no friend of the Labour party, in fact we have a strong disagreement with the majority of their policies. This year Benn had a moment, a moment where he stood up to his party's fanatical leadership and did what he believed was right, arguing in favour of increased military action against ISIS in Syria. The speech went viral, considered by many to be one of the finest speeches on the floor of Commons of all time. Benn is an example of how politicians should really be, saying what needs to be said and doing what is right in spite of the political consequences. We give Benn this accolade as recognition for his bravery.
23. The Debbie for Political Scandal of the Year
Winners: Ben Carson has problems with reality
This one's just hilarious. Ben Carson came onto the scene as a popular conservative figure, and used his outsider position to become one of the top polling candidates in the GOP primary. Then something happened, Ben Carson happened. It started off with a claim that Carson had attempted to murder a friend as a teenager. He described himself as an angry person, "consumed by rage" who, and I'm not making this up, has to pray in order to control his urges. Yes, a Presidential candidate went on record as describing himself as a violent deviant, who needs the solace of an imaginary friend in order to control his tendencies. Just the kind of guy you want to have his finger on the nukes.
But that's not the ridiculous part. The ridiculous part is that this was all a lie. Yes, a Presidential candidate lied and pretended to be a violent deviant, who needs religion to prevent himself from destroying the world in nuclear fire. I just... don't even. But that's not all! After this somewhat bizarre lie, all the crazy started pouring out. Whether it's Ben Carson pretending that he got offered a scholarship to West Point, or Ben Carson pretending that he attended a class in Yale that it turns out never even existed... this... this is the guy who was for a while top of the polls in America. Seriously guys WTF?
24. The Debbie for Cause of the Year
Winner: Humanitarian crises in the Middle East
There is a lot of awful stuff going on in the world. This is not a secret to anyone anymore. But this knowledge doesn't do justice to just how horrific the violence being perpetuated in certain parts of the world really is. We all lose our shit when a bomb goes off in Boston and 3 people die, while in places in North Africa and the Middle East you have attacks that claim the lives of hundreds in a single day with alarming regularity. Even that only scratches the surface; there are millions suffering as a result of the civil war in Syria and the ongoing conflict in Iraq, 4 million refugees at the last count.
Now humans are notoriously bad at tangibly picturing large numbers. We can sense that there is a big difference between 1 and 10, or even 1 and 100, but when you start talking about the millions, we are very bad at conceptualising just how much that is. So here is a pictorial representation of a million. You see how that big square is made up of smaller squares, and each of those smaller squares made up of even smaller squares? Well if you zoom in you will see that each of those even smaller squares is made up of even even smaller squares, and there are a million of those in this image, and that's a lot. There are four times that many refugees from Syria alone. Clearly it's a tragedy when a handful of people are affected by terrorism in the West, but compared to this, well that's a level of human suffering that simply has not been seen since World War II.
25. The Debbie for Person of the Year
Winner: Bill Gates
Our 2015 Person of the Year, Bill Gates serves as a great example of how much a person's image can change over time. When I was growing up, the reputation of Gates was far from flattering; an unethical, monopolising, tyrant, constantly in the courts over antitrust suits and ruthlessly crushing the little guy in competing start ups. There were whole movies based on this.
In 2015 Gates has reinvented himself as a towering figure in philanthropy. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the wealthiest charity in the world, and one of the most prominent forces for good. Huge resources have been devoted to such causes as malaria, clean water in third world countries, clean energy, and other agricultural and healthcare initiatives. Gates also recently announced the creation of a historic multi-billion dollar fund for clean energy R&D. He has previously declared that the majority of his fortune will go to charity. There are few people in the world who are doing as much good as Bill Gates, and even fewer who have the means and reach to actually bring it to fruition.
Social & Lifestyle
26. The Debbie for Restaurant of the Year
Runner Up: The Ledbury
London is fast turning into one of the foodie capitals of the world, blessed with some of the hottest and most acclaimed restaurants anywhere. Our pick of the bunch for 2015 is Peruvian restaurant Coya. The Green Park establishment specialises in char-grill, ceviche, and other Latin American classics. But it really is difficult to convey just how good the food is until you try it for yourself. The lomo de res beef skewer melts in your mouth, the patatas bravas is finger-licking good, but the undoubted highlight has to be the arroz nikkei seabass with rice, a dish that simply needs to be tasted to be believed.
Our runner up is a restaurant generally considered to be one of the top one or two in all of London, The Ledbury. Let's be clear, it may have lost out to Coya this year, but really when you're talking about restaurants of this calibre there isn't much between them. The Ledbury is a very different sort of restaurant of course, two michelin star, multi-course tasting menus (although they do offer a la carte as well). But the Ledbury stands out not for its pomp and accolades, but because its food is absolutely excellent. Every single dish, excellent, no matter what it is. See something on the menu that you don't think you would ever eat? You'll like it, trust me.
27. The Debbie for New Restaurant of the Year
Winner: Taberna do Mercado
Chef Nuno Mendes was all the buzz in London last year when he launched the Chiltern Firehouse, which quickly became the hottest restaurant in the city. Its celebrity was well deserved, but Mendes may already have outdone himself with his newest creation, Taberna do Mercado. In complete contrast to the grandiose Chiltern Firehouse, Taberna is a tiny, unassuming place, in the most unassuming of locations near Liverpool Street, you could honestly be forgiven for walking by and thinking nothing of it.
The menu itself is also the complete opposite of the creative, themed dishes at Chiltern. On the surface it appears to be mostly just small sharing plates of meat, cheese and various homemade breads, with some fish and veggies thrown in for good measure. Once you try it, you realise that Nuno is just as intricate and innovative as ever. Whether it's in the preparation or treatment, the unusual combination of simple ingredients, this is delicious, well sourced food that's greater than the sum of its parts. We most highly recommend the outrageous sandwiches.
28. The Debbie for Nightclub/Bar of the Year
Winner: The Holly Bush
The temptation when considering this award is to think of the trendy speakeasies, the wild clubs, the quirky new bars, but this year we are just going with a classic English pub, The Holly Bush. There's a marked difference between the city pub and the country pub. Your typical city pub leans more towards just being a regular bar, tries hard to be trendy, uptight management. A country pub is a relaxing place, friendly to all, usually has a dog running around somewhere and board games to play. A friendly local. The Holly Bush manages to hang on to that old fashioned country feel despite being located in London. Part of that is down to the more secluded location up in the suburbs of Hampstead, but the atmosphere, the service, and the extras are all spot on for that right pub feel. The Holly Bush is currently undergoing refurbishment, so we shall see if it maintains its charm, but for now it's a lovely spot.
29. The Debbie for Mixologist of the Year
Winner: Alessandro Palazzi
Another Debbie for... guess who? The Duke's Bar owner Alessandro is famous across London for making Ian Fleming's drinks, and in particular his flair for unique martinis turn heads. Whether he's making his signature Fleming 89 or whipping up some original creation on the spot, there's no finer cocktail around. This year's special creations include the coffee flavoured Oracabesa martini.
30. The Debbie for Destination of the Year
Winner: New York, USA
This year's destination of choice is New York, USA. If you're going to visit a city, you might as well make it the biggest in the world. Too obvious? Perhaps, but there's a reason why it's the world's most popular tourist destination, from the wall-to-wall landmarks, the shopping, the gorgeous central park, to the world class restaurants, nightlife, and theatre. Now even the formerly undeveloped areas, the industrial, warehouse districts, have all been turned into wonderfully trendy neighbourhoods bristling with new developments like the Highline. Still one of the best ways to spend a week.
31. The Debbie for Wine of the Year
Winner: Haiku 2009
Patrons are unanimous, the Castello di Ama vineyard is consistently among the very best in Tuscany, and this year we bestow our most coveted award in wine to their Haiku 2009 vintage. Elegant and delicately fruity, this wine is a 50% sangiovese and 50% equal parts cabernet franc and merlot. A smooth drinking wine, very fine to drink now, but can also keep cellared for another 3-4 years.
32. The Debbie for Champagne of the Year
Winner: Nyetimber blanc de blancs 2007
Whisper it quietly, but the English sparkling wines are starting to develop a name for themselves. Thanks to global warming, the English climate is becoming increasingly favourable to the traditional grapes of the Champagne region, to the point where many are declaring southern England as the future of sparkling wine in Europe. It is now becoming commonplace for the top English wines to win blind tastings against even the biggest names of Champagne, and in that regard no English wine is more celebrated than Nyetimber. Nyetimber operate a vineyard on a par with any other in the world. Specialising entirely in sparkling wine, their classic cuvée is award winning. However our pick from the bunch is the Nyetimber blanc de blancs. 100% chardonnay as all blanc de blancs are, this is a supremely crisp and memorable sparkling wine, and a fine choice for any festive meal. Drink well, drink British my friends.
Well there you have it. 2015 will go down as a troubled year for sure, but here's to the next one being better!