Brioche prawn toast, Jerk buttermilk fried chicken burger and etro-modern trifle comprised of Kent strawberries, Bristol cream, vanilla custard and crispy almond crumble

2021’s most-wanted dishes

21 dishes - from trending plates on social media to the olive team’s personal obsessions - that show the creativity and skill in our beloved restaurants

The days of chefs cursing camera phones are over. Today, most accept that having their dishes snapped and shared on social media is part of the buzz of eating out. It positively promotes their work and some restaurants are using novel, Instagram-able dishes to actively attract diners.

Dirty Bones’ reverse truffle cheeseburger, for instance, was designed “in part with social media in mind”, says Lyndsay Anderson, head of marketing for the restaurant group. It comes with sauce that’s poured over the bun, which is eaten with a knife and fork. “It’s delicious but also takes a shareable photo. We had fun creating it and hope guests have fun, too.”

Dirty Bones’ reverse truffle cheeseburger, with a pot of sauce that’s poured over the bun

Flavour is always the first consideration. No matter how photogenic a dish is, it needs to taste good. But get that combination right and, in fast-paced venues, such hashtag-friendly ‘hero dishes’ can become a real attraction. “A strongly marketed hero dish can create queues around the block,” says Lucy Golding, co-owner of hospitality PR agency Goya Communications.

Yet in many restaurants social media is a peripheral concern. If dishes attract likes, that’s just a by-product of the chefs’ creativity, says Stefan Chomka, editor of bighospitality.co.uk. Chefs were making “visually arresting dishes before social media. Now, it’s amplified online”.

Cook great food and star dishes will emerge organically, agrees Lucy, as diners document what they eat and boost the visibility of places they love. “The langoustine taco at Santiago Lastra’s KOL has become a hero dish – people love it,” says Lucy, talking of Goya’s clients. “The same goes for Simon Rogan’s truffle pudding. It’s become lauded for being delicious and unique.”


Here are 20 more stand-out dishes that caught olives’s eye in 2021

1. Acton railway lamb at Chapati Club, London

The Guardian restaurant critic Grace Dent called this “the most delicious reason to go to Acton ever”. Need we say more? chapaticlub.co.uk

Acton railway lamb dish with naan at Chapati Club

2. Iberico pork cheek and turnip at Moonfish Café, Aberdeen

Chef Brian Mcleish’s madeira-braised cheeks on a turnip purée, dressed with crispy turnip leaves, screams eat me! moonfishcafe.co.uk

Madeira-braised cheeks on a turnip purée, dressed with crispy turnip leaves

3. Manchester egg at The Pack Horse, Hayfield, Derbyshire

This pub’s pickled onion rings and Manchester egg (pickled egg, black pudding, panko) are perfect pint partners. thepackhorsehayfield.uk

 

Pickled onion rings and Manchester egg (pickled egg, black pudding, panko)

4. Strawberry sherry trifle at The Cadogan Arms, London

This fabulous retro-modern confection (Kent strawberries, Bristol cream, vanilla custard, crispy almond crumble) is a perfect fit for this historic hostelry, with its food overseen by Kitchen Table’s James Knappett. thecadoganarms.london

A retro-modern trifle comprised of Kent strawberries, Bristol cream, vanilla custard and crispy almond crumble

5. Prawn ‘in’ toast at Mr Ji, London

“Ace and all over Instagram,” says olive’s Alex Crossley of chefs Ana Gonçalves and Zijun Meng’s fried brioche with prawn and corn béchamel, topped with parmesan. mrji.co.uk

Fried brioche with prawn and corn béchamel, topped with parmesan

6. Gin and tonic cheesecake at The Engine Rooms, London

Comes with apple and cucumber salsa, and makrut lime sorbet, but they had us at gin. theenginerooms.co.uk

Gin and tonic cheesecake with apple and cucumber salsa, and makrut lime sorbet

7. Andean potatoes at Yakumama, Todmorden, West Yorkshire

Marcelo Sandoval’s tasty, colourful Andean potatoes with Kalamata sauce, paprika oil, pickled peppers and a boiled egg. yakumama.co.uk

Colourful Andean potatoes with Kalamata sauce, paprika oil, pickled peppers and a boiled egg

8. Puerros quemados at José Pizarro at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

This dish of confit leeks in burnt butter artfully decorated with anchovies and edible flowers is striking. josepizarro.com

Confit leeks in burnt butter decorated with anchovies and edible flowers

9. Tuna Nikkei at Chakana, Birmingham

Chef Robert Ortiz’s plates are eye-poppers, and none more so than his tiger’s milk-bathed tuna, radish and sea asparagus ceviche. chakana-restaurant.co.uk

Tiger’s milk-bathed tuna, radish and sea asparagus ceviche.

10. Venison tartare on homemade brown butter crumpet at The Elder, Bath

Topped with apple, citrus mayo, vadouvan- spiced granola and crispy shallots, you have a divine starter. theelder.co.uk

Venison tartare with apple, citrus mayo, vadouvan-spiced granola and crispy shallots

11. Egusi bowl at Chuku’s, London

From steamed moi moi to kuli kuli-seasoned caramel chicken wings, there’s plenty to love at this Nigerian spot. Not least the egusi bowl of three stews, including egusi ground melon seed soup with yam dumplings. chukuslondon.co.uk

Egusi bowl of three stews, including egusi ground melon seed soup with yam dumplings

12. Fried potatoes and yeast sauce at Erst, Manchester

Crispy, gnarly, golden halves of baked, bashed-about, refried potato, often served with a humdinger yeast sauce that packs real umami oomph. As Jay Rayner put it in The Observer: “£5 of glorious, crowd- pleasing fun.” erst-mcr.co.uk

Crispy, gnarly, golden halves of baked, bashed-about, refried potato on a plate

13. Hereford beef pie at Darby’s, London

This croissant-dough topped creation was a cook-at-home lockdown winner. Now enjoy this extravagant bone marrow  pie in person. darbys-london.com

Hereford beef pie with croissant dough top in a black pan

14. Paella de marisco at Porta, Chester

Chef Jose Garzón’s paella (king prawns, squid, mussels, bomba rice) is the star dish at the ‘new’ Porta, which took over sister site Joseph Benjamin. portatapas.co.uk

Paella of king prawns, squid, mussels, bomba rice

15. Baked apple soufflé and rice pudding ice cream at Flitch of Bacon, Dunmow, Essex

Chef Paul Croasdale’s seasonal soufflés are an aesthetically striking signature at this handsome inn. flitchofbacon.co.uk

Baked apple soufflé and rice pudding ice cream

16. Jerk buttermilk fried chicken burger at 12:51, London

In early 2021, folk raved about James Cochran’s Around the Cluck and this signature burger. ATC is currently on ice but watch this space. 1251.co.uk

Jerk buttermilk fried chicken burger

17. Chocolate pot at Elite Bistros at Home

Meal kit kings, Gary Usher’s Elite Bistros peaked with this mousse layered with salted caramel, whipped cream, amaretto sponge, walnut praline and biscuit. elitebistros.com

A mousse layered with salted caramel, whipped cream, amaretto sponge, walnut praline and biscuit

18. Beef fat bun at The Swine that Dines, Leeds

Cult lockdown take-out (a beef fat bun with pickles, peppered soft cheese and homemade salt beef) is now a firm fave on the Swine’s menu. swinethatdines.co.uk

Beef fat bun with pickles, peppered soft cheese and homemade salt beef

19. Tartiflette flatbread at Cave du Cochon, York

The pandemic transformation of this wine spot into a pizza bar gave birth to this flatbread of crème fraîche, pancetta, potato and Rollright cheese. caveducochon.uk

Flatbread of crème fraîche, pancetta, potato and Rollright cheese

20. North Sea crab butter and sourdough at Noto, Edinburgh

Picked crab in a dill oil dressed bath of cultured butter. When olive’s Tony Naylor tweeted a pic of this, it elicited swooning comments of “sheer beauty” and “glorious”. notoedinburgh.co.uk

Picked crab in a dill oil dressed bath of cultured butter

 

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