London’s food scene is progressive, diverse and world-leading. London has the sixth highest restaurant density in the world, with a staggering one restaurant for every 221 inhabitants! Let’s recap the food trends of the last 12 months in London. Be sure to read this with a full stomach.
London New Cool Chicken
As sure as night becomes day, chicken restaurants are hatching across the capital. As usual, the trend comes from the states, but as well this comes because of global meat price issues and the fact that most people just like chicken. Of course, operators look at Nando’s and want a piece of the action. Most offers are buttermilk southern-fried chicken or variants of, with British free-range being the currency in this market.
- Tramshed by Mark Hix in Shoreditch is a steak and chicken only offer and has become a new brand of its own, in the form of “Hixster.”
- Spit and Roast are the truck of choice, cruising Hackney with their van and the odd residency.
- Soho House has Chicken Shop in Kentish Town Tooting
- Los Pollos has Peri Peri chicken and milkshakes
- Wishbone are down in Brixton market
- Chooks are up in Muswell Hill
- Whyte & Brown have opened in Kingly Court – lots of eggs!
- Clockjack and Cookhouse Joe have opened in Soho
- Clutch in Shoreditch
- Jamies and Grillshack also have great chicken on their reduced menus
- Le Coq in Islington is the new rotisserie king.
- Rita’s in Hackney
- Fire and Feathers in Fulham Road
- The Culpeper wood-fired chicken rotisserie and rooftop greenhouse
Ham and Cheese
Nature’s favourite double act is spreading across town fast. High-quality ingredients requiring less skill to assemble, recognisable strong flavours that present well and lend themselves to sharing and casualness. This is a testament to the volume of openings and the London food scene in general that consumers are increasingly seeking out specialist operators. Who’s best?
- Champagne + Fromage
- Antidote and Fernandez & Wells all in Central
- Sager + Wilde and L’Entrepot in Hackney
- Kappacasein in Matlby Street
- Ember Yard in Soho
Uh oh! A lot of hipsters nursing burnt mouths because they’ve been eating pizza before it was cool. We are noticing some changes in the usual pizza setup. Lots more story behind the dough, artisan ingredients, smaller menus and a sprinkling of craft beers. Some of these guys are awesome, such as:
- Voodoo Rays is worth a late night visit
- Say hello to Sacro Cuore (sister to Ealing’s Santa Maria)
- Crate Brewery & Pizzeria in Hackney Wick
- Forza Win the pizza rooftop supper club in Bethal Green
- Story Deli is the often-moving, crazy-expensive, great-quality, so-cool-we-don’t-use-a-sign hangout
- Pizza Metro in Battersea is retro-chic and recognised by Italy’s Gambero Rosso (only 7 in the world!)
- Agile Rabbit down in Brixton Market
- Lardo in Hackney
Barbecoa, with now departed Adam Perry-Lang and Jamie Oliver, got the media spread but let’s face it – the spend was uncomfortable and the hype was tough to meet. No doubt, though, the butchery is on message and rumours state that BBQ2 is on the way. Then Pitt Cue’s truck on the South Bank came along and stole all the food blog space. Before you knew it, they’d gone off to Soho. Then, from a few regional varieties, like John Hargate’s Bar-B-Q Shack at the World’s End in Brighton, you’d be forgiven for thinking that, as far as barbecue was concerned – that was that. However, barbecue has not gone away, and there’s big money lurking around bringing concepts – like Grillshack by Richard Caring and his gang – along for the ride. This time around barbecue is softening up, that means Big Green Eggs are popping up in kitchens all over town and people, like Smokehouse, are coming to the fore. Smoking isn’t just for meat, watch out for smoked cream and ice cream, and smoked vegetables.
- Duke’s in Dalston is worth a look
- Pitt Cue Company and now John Salt in Islington
- Bodean’s has been around for years
- Cabana Brazilian barbecue/street restaurant
- Hickory Pit from the Roast team
- Red Dog Saloon in Hoxton
- Big Easy are back for their second site in Covent Garden
- Try Salt Yards charcoal version
- Ember Yard in Soho
Ramen done right is still pretty rare around these parts, but times are changing. Sure, Wagamama forged a path, but lately we’ve seen a whole host of organised pan-Asian offers opening, including Yo Sushi and East Street. Noodle House from Jumeirah is eyeing a rollout, too.
However, that is not the focus, thankfully. Koya in Soho has led the artisan, small batch gang and its these craftsmen that are rejuvenating the category with incredible flavours, freshness and the rest of those gorgeous Japanese treats – particularly gyoza and tempura. Keep your eyes out for non-traditional, lower-carb variants, such as spaghetti squash noodles. The trickle-down into the mass-market, in terms of flavour and connoisseurship, is what makes this interesting. All of the following spots queue out most nights:
- Koya Bar just opened next door
- Tonkotsu in Dean Street has a short menu
- Bone Daddies ramen bar finally reached the old Melati site on Peter Street, Soho courtesy of Ross Shonhan, former Zuma and Nobu head chef
- Shoryu Ramen has found its way to Regent Street and is spreading out
- Kurobuta is worth a journey (Izakaya – not just ramen) and no surprise this is a carbon copy of the New York ramen trend
Just when most everyone predicted that burgers were “so over,” a wave of new burger operators are delighting the capital with higher fat and better provenance, and they’ve created quite a following. Chargrill is out; flat-top grilling is in. At the forefront of this came #Meateasy, which quickly became famed Meatliquor, then followed by Covent Garden version MeatMarket. Now there isn’t a self-respecting slider in town that hasn’t ramped up the fat content.
- The Goodmans guys joined in with the epic Burger & Lobster
- Down in Brixton Market and rolling out fast are Honest Burgers using only 35-day Ginger Pig dry-aged beef
- Bukowski has also joined the Brixton Marketeers from its base in Box Park
- Lucky Chip is now selling in Giant Robot and Camden, along with their famous van
- Mishkin’s in Covent Garden have taken the New York steamed patty
- Dirty Burger in Kentish Town
- Admiral Codrington in Chelsea has an incredible aged-in-house version
- Bar Boulud has a pricier patty, but still is delicious
- Patty & Bun (my favourite) have the old Stockpot site on James Street and now in Liverpool Street
- Here come the Americans! In-n-Out Burger is eyeing an invasion after their pop-up, Five Guys, has a lot of sites
- Smashburger and Shake Shack have Covent Garden and loads more ready to go
Hot dogs are enjoying something of a Renaissance, albeit they’ve been given the gourmet treatment. Forget the Ikea sausage or late-night West End concoctions, this is about double-smoked blends of pork and beef with marjoram, topped with exotic treats, such as caramelised lettuce. Stealing all the blog space is Bubbledogs, the country’s first grower Champagne and hot dog joint dreamed up by James Knappett, former chef at Michelin-starred restaurant The Ledbury. Priced at £6 and up, toppings include BLT with truffle mayo; chilli and coriander; and avocado, lime and rock salt.
Whether French food actually went away is up for debate. “New French” arrives just as Asian hipster cuisine may have peaked. The excellent Grub Street point out that in a market full of pork buns and kimchee, there seems to be room for a softer cuisine. That seems to mean a renewed interest in French food. This time around it is less stuffy, less mannered, less “French!” Here, just as hybrid menus begin to take hold around town, resembling your last monthly shop at Waitrose, in comes something simpler. These are bistro classics animated by Parisian-North African trends alongside the usual London hipster influences, like exposed lighting.
- Take a look at Le Bun, currently “street-fooding” their way across town
- Cafe Pistou in Exmouth Market from the team that brought us CAU
- Shoe Shop in NW5 from the old Giaconda expert Paul Merrony
- Wormwood in Notting Hill (mezze/tapas/French) is imagined by an ex-Paris based Algerian rapper
- Bistro Blanchette in Soho is French sharing heavy
Which of these food trends do you predict are here to stay throughout 2015?
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