In an article originally published in The Drinks Business, I look into my crystal ball to bring you what I think will be the ten biggest food and drink trends in the UK this year. By way of reference, here are my 2013 predictions. Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comment box below.
1: Eastern Promise
Following on from last year’s interest in Korean food, 2014 will see Vietnamese food given the spotlight via Bobby Chinn’s House of Ho, which opened in Soho this week. Drawing on 18 years of cooking experience in Hanoi and Saigon, Chinn (pictured), who was born in New Zealand to a Chinese father and Egyptian mother, will bring a contemporary approach to Vietnamese cooking via the likes of apple-smoked pork belly with braised cabbage, lemongrass monkfish, and duck "a la banana" – shredded confit duck banana blossom salad.
Also set to take off in London this year is Japanese-Peruvian fusion, known as Nikkei cuisine, championed at places like the recently opened Chotto Matte in Soho, where black cod and maki rolls share a menu with sea bass ceviche and scallop tiradito. A buzz is steadily building around Hakkasan founder Alan Yau’s next venture, Duck & Rice, which bills itself as a “Chinese gastropub”, while there are also high hopes that the ramen burger, invented at a New York food festival last summer by Keizo Shimamoto, will make it across the pond this year.
2: Savoury cocktails
With London at the epicenter of innovation, the trend for savoury cocktails will continue to evolve in 2014, championed by the London Cocktail Club and Tony Conigliaro at The Grain Store through creations such as the Pumpkin Bellini and Green Tomato Margarita. Expect to see more of the likes of bacon-infused, mustard and horseradish vodka being used as a base spirit in cocktails, while spices will also weave their way into mixed drinks to add heat and interest without the unwanted calories.
In keeping with the trend for vegetable-based cocktails, The Botanist in Sloane Square has launched a range of ginseng liqueur Kamm & Sons five-a-day cocktails, including the Green Twist, made with juiced spinach, Kamm & Sons and celery; and the Beetroot Mary – a twist on the Bloody Mary using beetroot in place of tomato juice. Speaking of tomato, there is even talk of pizza cocktails coming to the capital by way of New York. You’ve been warned…
3: The return of fine dining
After years of penny pinching, pop-ups, burger joints and casual dining outlets, there will be a return to fine dining in the capital, with Londoners craving attentive customer service and a sense of occasion. As we emerge from the grips of the recession, there will be a change in mindsets and a desire to feel well looked after when eating out. Though rather than stuffy service and starched table cloths, a new breed of fine dining establishment will emerge that prides itself on offering, as Marcus Wareing puts it, “a dinner party atmosphere.”
The Gordon Ramsay protégé is so keen to adapt to the times that he’s ordered a £1.4m makeover of his “dated” two Michelin-starred Knightsbridge restaurant, with heavily starched linen going on the bonfire and less of an emphasis placed on tasting menus. 2014 will see waiting staff taking more of an American approach to service, with warmth and friendliness triumphing over formality.
4: The rise of the restaurant bar
No longer either non-existent or simply an afterthought, we will see the restaurant bar rise to prominence this year, such as the Campari, Aperol and Negroni bars at Russell Norman’s three Polpo sites, with the best becoming destination venues in themselves, independent of the restaurants they inhabit.
An early champion of this trend was Jason Atherton, who pioneered the concept at his Michelin-starred flagship Pollen Street Social, and rolled it out to sister sites Social Eating House in Soho, which boasts a speakeasy-style bar, The Blind Pig, on the first floor, and the hugely popular and regularly star-studded Berners Tavern at the London Edition hotel, where quirky cocktails like the Dill or No Dill and the Cereal Killer are given top billing. As the calibre of cocktails improves at restaurant bars, increasing efforts will be made to integrate cocktails throughout a meal, rather than them being used solely as bookends.
5: The continued brasserie boom
If 2012 was the year of the steakhouse in London, 2013 will be remembered as the year of the brasserie, with seasoned French chef Eric Chavot scooping a Michelin star mere months after opening his eponymous Brasserie Chavot in Mayfair and Bethnal Green-born father of five Keith McNally upping sticks from New York to open the hotly anticipated London outpost of his hugely successful and oft star-studded brasserie Balthazar in Covent Garden.
The ever-buzzing Bermondsey Street also saw the arrival of adorable, stamp-sized bistro Casse-Croûte, run by Hervé Durochat, a partner in José Pizarro’s two restaurants on the same street. And with the recent opening of Blanchette in Soho and all-day brasserie One Kensington, from the team behind Tamarind, opening in March, London’s brasserie boom is showing no sign of slowing this year.
6: Back to basics
There will be a return to simplicity on the cocktail front this year, with contemporary twists on classic cocktails continuing to thrive and molecular mixology shunned in favour of simple creations that shine a light on the quality of the base spirit. In line with the trend, elaborate garnishes will be out, and understated presentation in quality glassware in. The number of ingredients used in cocktails will be reined in to focus on two or three key components. This stripped back approach is in play at Ryan Chetiyawardana’s White Lyan in Hoxton, which brazenly shuns the use of ice, citrus, sugar and fruit and champions pre-made cocktails.
The capital has gone bonkers for all things American, with diners popping up faster than Miley Cyrus can take her clothes off. Late last year saw the likes of the Soho House group’s Soho Diner in Old Compton Street and Jackson & Rye on Wardour Street join the party, offering everything from buttermilk blueberry pancakes, buttermilk-fried chicken, creamed grits and clam chowder to hard shakes. Expect the trend to continue this year through the likes of Strip Bar & Steak in Barbican, Avenue in St James’s, Brooklyn Bowl at the O2 and Big Easy Covent Garden, whose bar will shine a light on Mezcal and Bourbon.
8: Craft beer
Having already exploded in the US, 2014 will be the year when the UK fully embraces craft beer, driven by the proliferation of small independent brewers popping up around Britain. With a slew of new craft brewers shaking things up in the capital, pioneering Meantime is now joined by the likes of the Camden Town Brewery, which produces 30,000 pints a week, Crate in Hackney Wick, The Kernel in Bermondsey and Redemption Brewing Company in Tottenham.
Often boasting quirky, eye-catching packaging, these lovingly crafted brews are bringing beer to a new audience and broadening its appeal. London restaurants and bars are also doing their bit in flagging up these homegrown hops, led by the likes of the Craft Beer Company and the Draft House.
We’ve gone clucking mad for chicken and barmy for beef, but the meat on everyone’s lips in 2014 will be pork. In keeping with the Americana trend, pulled pork will continue to headline on menus, with pioneering Pitt Cue Coe inspiring a new legion of restaurant that specialise in smoking, such as the newly opened Ember Yard (the latest venture in Simon Mullins’ Salt Yard group) in Soho, where you’ll find hot smoked old spot pork belly with Basque cider glaze. At Russell Norman’s new gastropub, The Ape & Bird, pig’s trotter Scotch eggs are already proving a hit, while the latest addition to The Pig hotel group’s litter, The Pig-near Bath, is due to open in March, celebrating all things porcine.
Taking the piggy trend to another level is the recently opened Blackfoot in Exmouth Market, where slow-roasted pork belly with Szechuan pepper and black treacle, pulled pork tacos, and Vietnamese pot belly salad all feature. Owners Tom Ward and Allegra McEvedy decided to embark on the venture due to a joint “emotional attachment” to all things porky. The pair have cannily plucked head chef James Knight from Copita to steer their piggy ship, where the squealers come by way of a friendly farm in Suffolk.
10: Hipster wine bars
Wine is having a bit of a moment with London’s hipsters, spurred on by the opening of Sager + Wilde in Hackney, a no-reservations bar that started life as a pop-up run by husband and wife duo, Charlotte and Michael Sager-Wilde. Achingly hip in an unpretentious way, with open brickwork walls, 1920s station lights and a cast iron bar, S&W serves everything from big gun producers like California’s Ridge to obscure boutique names via Basque Txakoli and Mosel Riesling, including hard-to-source bottles for a set £20 mark-up.
Also making waves are The Remedy in Fitzrovia, which focuses on natural wines from Europe served alongside charcuterie and cheese platters, and Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels in Covent Garden from the team behind the Experimental Cocktail Club. Passionate about championing the unsung rising stars of the wine world, CVS is constantly on the hunt for new independent producers to flag up on its list, which changes on a weekly bases depending on what’s selling.
We'll see the continued democratisation of wine in London this year through evens like Wine Car Boot, run by former fashion model Ruth Spivey, and London Wine Sessions, which are doing their bit in helping to bring wine to a younger, hipper audience.