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Top 10 food and drink trends for 2017

Many of us will be delighted to see the back of 2016 – a year that brought us Brexit, Donald Trump as President Elect and the untimely deaths of beloved musical icons, from Prince and David Bowie to George Michael.

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While 2016 was an annus horribilis on many levels, the dynamism of the London restaurant and bar scene provided us with much-needed escapism and a plethora of places in which to drown our sorrows.

With the new year comes fresh hope and a chance to look forward optimistically. As is customary at db, at this time of year we like to look ahead and outline what we believe will be the big food and drink trends to sweep the UK capital this year.

With London enjoying its status as the culinary capital of the world, the pace of change in the city is lightening quick, making trends hard to predict, but we’ve come up with ten we think will make an impact this year, from tacos and Thai to closed-loop cocktails and the rise of counter dining.

Whether or not our predictions come true, London is on fire at the moment and continues to set drinking and dining trends rather than follow them.

Tacos

tacos

Love them or loathe them, you won’t be able to escape tacos in 2017. The Mexican staple is set to make serious waves in London this year following the hotly anticipated opening of Sam and Eddie Hart’s taco joint El Pastor in Borough Market in December. The walk-in only venue serves homemade tortillas including sesame tuna tostadas and 24-hour marinated pork shoulder tacos washed down with Margaritas and Mezcal.

Also in on the taco game is Breddo’s in Clerkenwell, which began life as a popular food stall at Street Feast and found a permanent home on Goswell Road late last year for its pig’s head and masa fried chicken tacos. Another much hyped new opening that seems to tick all the trend boxes going is Neil Rankin’s Temper in Soho, which specialises in tacos, barbecued meat and Mezcal.

The tacos here sound insanely good, and include the likes of soy cured beef, chipotle miso pork and ‘aged cheeseburger’. Also in Soho is Corazón on Poland Street, that boasts its own tortilla making machine, where you’ll find tacos rammed with chorizo verde, soy marinated steak and confit duck in root beer – ay caramba!

Closed-loop cocktails

closed-loop-cocktails

We’ve had molecular cocktails and savoury cocktails, and now a trend is emerging for ‘closed-loop’ cocktails made with ingredients people throw away. The movement is being championed by cocktail maverick Ryan Chetiyawardana of White Lyan and Dandelyan, who upcycles ingredients bartenders would traditionally bin, turning lemon husks into a sweet falernum syrup used in a gin sour and fermenting fruit scraps.

“By controlling every part of the production process we’re able to significantly reduce waste,” says Chetiyawardana, whose Moneypenny Martini features lemon balm made from leftover lemon peel, citric acid made from used lemons, coffee oil extracted from used coffee and a coffee distillate from coffee grounds.

Across town at Duck & Waffle in the Heron Tower, liquid alchemist Rich Woods released a daring cocktail menu last summer featuring banana skins, tomato stalks, avocado stones and burnt toast in order to shine a light on ingredients chefs and bartenders tend to throw away.

“Being able to control every element in your drink like a chef does with a dish is crucial. It’s not just about throwing liquid in to a glass, it’s conscience drinking, from nurturing the growth of roots and shoots to lowering waste by harnessing flavour in produce that society tells us is past its best,” says Woods. Expect more thoughtful drinking this year.

Authentic Thai

 thai

While until recently the closest most Londoners got to Thai cuisine was green Thai curry and prawn pad Thai at reliable chains like Busaba Eathai and Thai Square, last year saw the dawn of authentic Thai cuisine hitting the capital and knocking our socks off with spice in the process.

Pivotal to this trend was the Smoking Goat in Soho, which sent foodies into a frenzy with its Thai barbecue cuisine served in a ramshackle pub in Soho. Still boasting snaking queues around the block, it pioneered the likes of chilli fish sauce wings, spicy green papaya salads, coal roasted scallops and smoked lamb ribs.

Owner Ben Chapman branched out with sister Soho site Kiln late last year, where meat is cooked in clay pots. With a regional Thai focus, Kiln shines a light on fish dishes like steamed wild brill with soy and lemongrass; and langoustines with kaffir lime and sweet mint. Among the meaty numbers are grilled Tamworth pork loin, and Burmese wild ginger and short rib curry.

Also flying the flag for authentic Thai in London is chef Andy Oliver’s Som Saa in Spitalfields, which started life as street food stool, where you’ll find regional Thai dishes made with British seasonal produce like grilled pork red curry, green banana and basil. Its salted palm sugar ice cream with toasted bananas has become one of London’s most lusted after puds. Expect similar sites to open this year.

Orange wine

orange-wine

While orange wine will always be niche, it’s tipped to surge in popularity this year as savvy Londoners seek to broaden their wine knowledge and experiment outside of the safe realm of red, white and rosé. As more skin contact wines enter the market, an increasing number of restaurants and bars will be willing to take a punt on them beyond the likes of natural wine specialists like Terroirs, The Remedy and The Laughing Heart.

Orange wine’s reputation received a boost when The Ritz’ head sommelier, Giovanni Ferlito, was bold enough to add five orange wines to the restaurant’s wine list last year, including two by the glass pours – Iago Bitarishvili Chinuri 2007 from Georgia and Dario Princic Ribolla Gialla 2010 from Friuli.

UK-based natural wine specialist Les Caves de Pyrène now imports over 100 orange wines from all over the world, including Spain, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, while English producers like Chapel Down and Litmus wines are experimenting with skin contact wines made from the Bacchus grape. Expect to see more orange wines popping up on lists across the capital.

Britalian

britalian

While we may not be a fan of the portmanteau, there’s no denying that the trend for ‘Britalian’ restaurants is set to mushroom this year. London’s love affair with Italy is showing no signs of abating with queues still a regular fixture at pasta palace Padella next to Borough Market as foodies patiently await steaming plates of Dexter beef shin ragu pappardelle and goat’s curd ravioli with marjoram butter.

Championing the term ‘Britalian’ are Isaac McHale, Daniel Willis and Johnny Smith of The Clove Club, who opened second site Luca in Clerkenwell late last year. Specialising in Italian food made with British seasonal produce, among the dishes on offer are spaghettini with Morecambe Bay shrimps and mace butter; grouse ravioli with potato and whisky sauce; and Angus beef rump stuffed with pancetta mushrooms and kale juice, while up at the bar you’ll be served Italian cocktails laced with Aperol, Campari and limoncello.

Also keen to give Londoners a slice of La Dolce Vita is Simon Mullins of Salt Yard and Opera Tavern, who recently opened Veneta in St James’s, a Venetian-inspired restaurant serving Italian dishes made with British ingredients. Among the delights are kid goat ragu with pappardelle; charcoal grilled monkfish with anchovy sauce and salsify; and chicken braised in almond milk with Medjool dates and saffron. Jason Atherton is also turning his hand to Italian at Hai Cenato, soon to open in Victoria, only his place has a New York twist. 

Bars within bars

bars-within-bars
Jeff Bell of New York’s PDT at the bar’s pop-up in Barcelona

Mixologists are a restless lot. To keep themselves entertained they’ve started opening pop-up versions of their popular bars in achingly cool cities around the globe. New York speakeasy PDT was one of the first bars to trailblaze the Inception-like ‘bar within a bar’ concept with pop-up PDTs in Tokyo, Melbourne, Hong Kong and, most recently, at the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona, where it enjoyed a month-long residency last September.

Dubbed “PDT BCN”, guests entered the bar via a phone booth in a hat tip to the entrance of PDT in the East Village, which is hidden behind a vintage phone booth at hot dog joint Crif Dogs. In London, one of New York’s most renowned and revered bars, The Dead Rabbit, popped up for a month at Big Easy in Canary Wharf last July. During the residency a Rumble in the Tumbler menu pitted six cocktails from Dead Rabbit against six created by Big Easy’s Csabi Toth in a battle of the bartenders.

Among the Dead Rabbit cocktails on offer was the Pub Thug, made with Bulleit rye, Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac, Blandy’s 5yr Madeira and cinnamon syrup. Also popping up in the capital last year was Athens cocktail bar The Clumsies, which enjoyed a brief tenure at The Bloomsbury Club Bar as part of its Club Residencies project. Next it’s the turn New York-based Cuban bar BlackTail, which pops up at TBC next month in a trend we believe is soon to catch fire in the capital. 

Fancy fried chicken

fancy-fried-chicken

What the cluck? Fried chicken has had a makeover. Battered birds have been gentri-fried and are being served across town with all manner of upmarket accouterments. Free range and often exotically spiced, fried chicken has been given the gourmet treatment at sites like Chick ‘n’ Sours in Covent Garden, where you can get your lips around a mammoth K-Pop burger oozing with gochujang mayo, chilli vinegar and Asian slaw, served with swish sides like pickled watermelon and Szechuan aubergine.

Across town at Kricket in Soho you’ll find the finger-licking good KFC (Keralan Fried Chicken), served with curry leaf mayonnaise and pickled moult. Even Michelin-starred venues like The Clove Club are in on the act, pimping their buttermilk-fried poultry with pine salt. At Fancy Funkin Chicken in Brixton you can choose between breast or thigh burgers, while daring diners might like to attempt a plate of ‘I Can’t Feel My Funkin Face Hot Wings’ that require you to sign a disclaimer first.

Free range specialist Bird has spread its wings to four sites in Islington, Camden, Shoreditch and Westfileld, while Mother Clucker serves tea brined, buttermilk-soaked, twice battered fried chicken from a converted American army ambulance parked at the Truman Brewery in Spitalfields.

English wine sparkles

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Having been patiently bubbling away under the surface for years, we predict 2017 will be the year that English sparkling wine gets the glory it deserves in the UK on-trade, expanding beyond the realm of specialist sites manned by savvy sommeliers and trendy wine bars into more mainstream venues as Brits develop a thirst for homegrown fizz.

No longer a little-known enterprise skeptically dismissed by critics as an eccentricity, English sparkling wine has emerged from its chrysalis into one of the most exciting and promising developments in the wine world. Last May, Ridgeview and Chapel Down were named as the official sparkling wine suppliers to Downing Street, toppling Champagne’s long reign, while this week it was announced that Chapel Down will replace Bollinger as the official sponsor of the Oxford & Cambridge boat race.

With at least one big name like Nyetimber, Gusbourne, Hush Heath and Hambledon now on pour at most forward thinking London restaurants, we’ll see English sparkling blossom outside of the capital this year, as the rest of the country catches on to its crisp, mineral charms. Though still without a catchy name like Champagne or Prosecco, consumers will be increasingly more open minded about drinking local as the price of imported wine edges up in the wake of Brexit.

Counter dining

counter-dining

While once considered undesirable, Londoners are taking a leaf out of New Yorkers’ books and have embraced the beauty of counter dining. The equivalent to a front row seat at the theatre, when sat up at the bar you’re treated to all the sites, smells and swearing wafting from the open kitchen in front of you. Early in on the trend was Barrafina with its Michelin-starred Soho flagship that has since spawned sister sites on Drury Lane and Adelaide Street in Covent Garden.

Edgy New York-inspired Spuntino in Soho is another counter-only site where you can pull up a stool and get stuck into truffled cheese on toast, deep fried olives and peanut butter and jelly ice cream sarnies.

Newer to the game are taco mecca Temper in Soho and The Barbary in Covent Garden – a sister site to The Palomar that set London alight last year with its dishes inspired by the Barbary Coast, including smoky pata negra Ibéico pork neck; monkfish chermoula doused in herbs, spices, garlic and lemon; and knafeh ­– a syrupy bird’s nest layered with goat’s cheese and mozzarella. We predict big things for counter dining this year as eating out becomes ever more theatrical.

Hybrid venues

An artists's impression of The Ned's roof terrace
An artists’s impression of The Ned’s roof terrace overlooking St Paul’s

To succeed in London’s cutthroat catering business, it’s no longer enough to be simply a bar or a restaurant these days – bars are now expected to serve killer snacks, and restaurants are held to account if they can’t pour the perfect Old Fashioned. Taking things to extremes, some venues are so keen to please that they’ve morphed into giant sites boasting a restaurant, several bars, a nightclub and a private members’ club to boot.

Among this new guard is the Prohibition era-themed Six Storeys, which sprawls over six floors of a townhouse in Soho Square and takes in a Lobby Bar on the ground floor serving classic cocktails, The Parlour on the first floor where wine and French fancies like twice bake soufflés are the order of the day, and The Decantry on the third floor dedicated to fine wine and craft cocktails like fig Martinis and truffle gin cups.

Another hybrid site hoping to lure Londoners into its midst from dusk till dawn is M on Threadneedle Street in the City, a playpen of a venue featuring a steakhouse, raw restaurant, cocktail bar, tasting room, private members’ den and four private dining spaces to cater to your every whim.

100 Wardour in Soho is a similar beast, offering food, drinks and dancing into the small hours, while newbie The Distillery is a four floor gin mecca that includes a restaurant, a red boothed bar on the first floor serving gins from around the world, and three guest rooms for when you’ve indulged too heavily in mother’s ruin. Meanwhile, Nick House’s The Ned, a £200 million pleasure dome in in Bank boasting 252 rooms, eight restaurants, a hamam, rooftop pool, various bars and live entertainment, is sure to keep the City boys up all night.

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