Everyone seems to be chipping in with lists of food trends these days but the truth is none of us know what will happen - all we can do is make an educated guess. But based on a fair amount of eating out, reading and a recent visit to that epicentre of new ideas, New York, here’s what I’m predicting.
Top chefs moving downmarket
We’ve seen a fair amount of this already with Michelin-starred chefs like Phil Howard (Kitchen W8) and Atul Kochar (Colony Bar & Grill) opening or about to open cheaper, chainable outlets but I’m willing to bet we’ll see a lot more more. And a loosening up of fine dining.
Upmarket fast foods
Posh burgers and pizzas have been around for a while now but judging by the New York dining scene the trend of giving a sophisticated spin to our favourite fast foods shows no sign of abating. Even the humble baked spud looks like getting a makeover if you take Kitchen W8’s foie-gras topped version and Mark Hix's recent prognostications in the Independent as a straw in the wind. (Vacherin is awesome on baked potatoes too).
The year of the sausage?
Scotch eggs have been spotted at such fashionable outposts as the Harwood Arms and Dean Street Townhouse. Banger Bros. outlets have opened across London offering posh sausage sandwiches. Can a toad-in-the-hole revival be far behind? Probably not given our newfound addiction to . . .
Forget Modern British what we want now is the unreconstructed stuff. Stuffings dumplings, pies, gravy, custard, steamed puddings and - oh joy - high tea (again being offered by the trendsetting Dean Street Townhouse). Expect an outbreak of Welsh rarebit (currently being served by St John as a side) especially given the trend towards . . .
British artisanal cheese
The recession finally seems to have done away with the huge cheese trolley stacked with French cheeses in favour of a modest selection of home grown ones. And why not? Our cheeses are among the best in the world.
Maybe the Americans can persuade us what CAMRA despite their good intentions could not - that real ale aka craft beer is cool. A number of smart bars and restaurants now have a decent list. Good too to see pubs reclaiming their beery heritage rather than turn themselves into - dreaded word - gastropubs. The new Draft House in Battersea being the perfect case in point.
No sign of a let-up in the steak craze which is good news for my boy Will who is opening another Hawksmoor later this year. And for Mark Hix, one of many restaurateurs planning to try their hand at a steakhouse. And would you believe rump steak is better value than brisket these days? Steak is the new salmon. Or maybe the new chicken . . . Whatever. There’s a lot of it about.
Seasonal fruit and veg
Sounds blindingly obvious but there seems to be a real appreciation of in season produce this year with humble veg such as sprouts and parsnips being regularly name-checked on menus. The emphasis now being on seasonal and local rather than organic . . .
The return of the winebar
Winebars have been uncool for so long it’s easy to overlook what a great idea they are, providing the opportunity to drink great wine without spending a corresponding amount on the food. Perfect for these recessionary times. The trailblazer has been Terroirs which has also led the charge for the charcuterie revival. You’ll see more of both when Daniel Boulud hits town with his Bar Boulud this spring.
When does Italian ever go out of fashion but now we like it laid-back, bacaro-style if the evidence from Soho hotspots Polpo Soho and Bocca di Lupo is anything to go by. Bring on the fritto misto . . .
My guess is that if there’s going to be a new must-try cuisine this year it’s going to be Scandi rather than Korean (and not just because one of my contributors Signe Johansen is Norwegian.). Look at the buzz in the blogosphere about Madsen, Scandinavian Kitchen, the Trine Hahnemann books and Peter’s Yard crispbread. The signs are all there.
Tea was pretty big during 2009 thanks to movers and shakers like the energetic Rare Tea Lady. My prediction is that it’ll be even bigger though that won’t result in teabars which no-one has really made a go of. (Instead cafs and coffee shops will offer better tea) Tea as an occasion also looks set for a revival (see Traditional British above).
Pizza restaurants like Pizza Express, Zizzi and Strada set the pace with their 2 for 1 offers in 2009. Now no-one in their right mind would go to a chain that doesn’t offer a deal. (Check out moneysavingexpert.com and toptable.com for the latest). Lunch is of course always better value than dinner, even in the smartest joints.
Anyone can now find a recipe or a wine match on their iphone or online. Will 2010 be the year cookery books become redundant? I suspect not - yet. People like the feel of flicking through glossily photographed pages. And a cook book is still cheaper than going out for a meal. But . . .
Watch the trend towards self publishing. Just as bloggers have encroached on conventional foodwriting so many authors - including me - have taken the plunge into self-publishing. Take a look at Guardian writer Tim Hayward’s innovative Fire and Knives and - er hem - my own A Very Honest Cook, written with Bristol chef Stephen Markwick. (Which broke even in a month btw.)
And 5 that could bomb
Americans have been the grip of a bacon craze for the best part of the last 2 years so given the speed of today’s communications it’s a bit of a mystery why hasn’t it taken off here. Maybe we take it too much for granted or associate it too much with breakfast and roadside caffs. A shame. You can never have too much bacon IMHO.
i.e. mobile restaurants. Huge in the states - especially sunny LA - but I can’t them making the grade here. Even in the summer the weather’s just too unreliable. Expect more pop-ups though.
Most people don’t get kimchi, we don’t have a big enough Korean community and Thai and Vietnamese are too popular. Bahn Mi (basically Vietnamese baguettes) already hot in East London, could catch on though, despite their unpronounceability
Sounds good in theory but like tea bars they've never quite caught on. After all you can have great desserts - and more - in any good restaurant. Chocolatier William Curley is planning to give them another try though and Claire Clark who until recently was Thomas Keller’s pastry chef at the French Laundry is apparently thinking of opening one. We’ll see.
There will be outposts of excellence like Terroirs and Artisan and Vine but the flavours of natural (largely unsulphured) wines are too funky for most. If it means conventional winemakers use less sulphur and other additives though all to the good.
What do you think of my round-up? Do you agree? Disagree? What would be on your list? Do post any comments on my blog.