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22 hot food and drink trends for 2016

From weird veg to white whisky and deep-fried fish bones – these are the trends we're putting our money on – Happy New Year!

Restaurants you can hear yourself in

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Ever been to a restaurant where you can neither see the menu nor hear the staff to ask? We’re over them: bring back carpets, turn down the music, and let us have proper conversations. Nopi, Noble Rot and 45 Jermyn St. are spot on.


Bao burgers

While the burger trend was flourishing country-wide, a taste for bao buns was also being nurtured in food markets and pop-ups, and now these two trends have collided to make the bao burger. Steak patties with smoky mayo, Vietnamese leaves and herbs are sandwiched into steamed hirata buns that squish when you pick them up.

Already a fixture in hipster-central Berlin, you’ll now find them in London at Andy Le’s Vietnamese street food joint Pho & Bun on Shaftesbury Avenue.


Chicken fried steak

Take one steak (or pieces of steak), pound flat, coat in the same way as you would southern fried chicken and deep fry – it’s the next schnitzel (at least we’d like it to be).


Hybrid veg and fruit

Big business in the US, so it’s only a matter of time before it’s rampant here. In true British style we’ve started with brassicas: there are kalette flowers (sprouts + kale), brocco flowers (broccoli + cauli) and of course broccolini (broccoli + gai lan).

You may have come across a pluot (plum + apricot), but have you seen a blood lime (red finger lime + mandarin), a jostaberry (black currant + gooseberry) or even a plango (mango + plum)? M&S stock the latter and call it a mango plum. Now, where’s our pomato?


Hoppers

The new fast food. Until the end of last year, this Sri Lankan specialty was little heard of, even in the capital, but with the arrival of Hoppers restaurant in Soho, it’s clear this breakfast food, traditionally eaten on the hoof, is here to stay. Gluten- and dairy-free, these fermented rice pancakes are used as edible vessels for your chosen curry and often come with a steamed egg in their base. Think Sri Lankan tacos, but better.


Shopping at Iceland

Good-quality frozen seafood and fish, ready-to-bake bread and ready-made curry. Take a look.


Real Mexican

We’ve been touting real Mexican as a new trend for, ahem, decades now, but until a couple of years ago, Tex-Mex of dubious quality has dominated. So, while Peyote, Mestizo, Casa Morita and Wahaca, among others, have kicked the offer up a notch or two, there’s still a way to go country-wide.

The light on the horizon comes in the form of the increasing availability of authentic ingredients such as the cheese produced by Gringa Dairy, quality tacos from Cool Chile Co, and plenty of online chillis, masa and tamale supplies. Even fresh produce like tomatillos and Mexican chillies are grown here (thanks Natoora). All we need now is for someone to sort out the quality and variety of the avocados we can buy (please).


Paying in advance

Hurrah for Tock, a way for restaurants finally to manage the appalling behaviour of punters who book more than one venue on the night and then simply don’t turn up at the others – often without even bothering to ring and cancel. We like to think there’s a special table in hell waiting for them.

Tock allows restaurants to either sell pre-paid tickets (you pay for the meal ahead and extras on the day) or deposit tickets (the bill is settled on the day). London’s Clove Club got on board in early 2015 – may the trend roll on.


Boulevardier

The world’s gone negroni-crazy, and we’re fine with that, but there are some days when you want something (a little) different. The boulevardier is the perfect candidate, particularly during the colder months as it swaps light, fresh gin for sweet, spicy bourbon but retains that bitter Campari kick. Plus, you’ll get serious brownie points from your bartender.


Raw mushrooms

We’re all used to drowning our mushrooms in butter, often with an obscene amount of garlic, but chefs are looking for other ways to use their fungi now. Most notably – if the menus team olive are seeing are anything to go by – they’re loving shaved ’shrooms in salads, dressed simply with oil and lemon and lots of fresh dill.

London’s Skye Gyngell and New York’s Seamus Mullen are fans, and olive last spotted them at urban, Michelin-starred, Dabbous, where caesar mushroom shavings were paired with lesser calamint, pine nuts and bitter leaves.


Gochujang sriracha

We’re right behind this one: the Mix Made brand Weak Knees gochujang sriracha was spotted by us in Brooklyn, so it’s only a matter of time.


Ready-prepped spiralized, noodled or shredded veg

A no-brainer: dinner in minutes if you’re in a hurry or can’t be bothered to spiralize your own, and it’s an easy way to up your veg intake. Supermarkets will be rushing to spiralize everything, look out for sweet potato tagliatelle and butternut noodles in M&S.

Check out our spiralizer guide (plus loads of courgetti recipes) here


Aged gin

Although it’d been growing for a while, we reached peak gin in 2015 with everyone and their dog releasing a new ‘artisanal blend’. We’re over that, but aged gin is a different ballgame.

Allowing this fresh, botanical spirit to rest in oak brings a whole new dimension, mellowing it and adding a spicy-savoury note from the wood. Go for F.E.W. and Four Pillars if you fancy trying it yourself.


Eating veg

Having a higher proportion of veg in our diets is something many of us should be aiming for, and, at last, it’s getting easier whether you’re Nutribulleting or eating out. Veg is the star in an increasing amount of dishes, and root-to-stalk eating is encouraged by places like Poco, where the spring onion root on top of its brunch (below) shows nothing is wasted. Plus, veg is seasonal, so it rings the changes.


White whisky

This goes by many names – white dog, moonshine, hooch – but it’s all unaged whisky. Fresh off the still, it may seem harsh at first but it’s a sweeter, headier, more floral version of its aged sibling, with nutty, savoury notes coming from the grain.

There have been lots of new brands hitting the shelves over the last year, and we’re expecting to see it make more of a mark this year. See also: Poitín, the Irish version often made from potatoes.


Lower ABV drinks

The cocktail industry keeps growing, and as people become more adventurous we’ve seen drinks like vermouth and sherry make their way back into our fridges. These aromatised, fortified wines vary hugely in flavour profiles and make great bases for cocktails.

The drink to be seen with in 2016 will be a spritz, Aperol or otherwise, or a low ABV cocktail (with a weaker spirit leading, supported by a more serious addition), which we’re seeing more and more of on menus. Think of them as flexitarian drinks. They’re a welcome change from the super-sugary, low alcohol alternatives we’ve seen up until now.


More plates, fewer slates

With more than 80,000 followers of the @WeWantPlates Twitter account, it’s easy to see that we foodies are beginning to reject the slates, boards and even spades (yes, really) of 2015. No more chips in mugs, no more salads in jam jars, we want a plate. Let the food do the talking, yes?


Sake

Brewed rather than distilled (so it’s closer to beer than wine or spirits), sake production is an incredibly labour-intensive process and can produce wildly different results, from fruity and floral to heavier, earthy and even sparkling – there’s sake to suit everyone. With so many restaurants offering sake menus and tasting flights, and even employing sake sommeliers, it’s now easier to try than ever.

Seaweed

As crisps, in cocktails, and as the base for soups, this year mineral- and nutrient-rich seaweed will be everywhere. Already part of the mainstream diet in Japan (from nori-wrapped sushi, to kombu-infushed dashi), 2016 will see it become a regular feature of our diets too.

Add shichimi togarashi (a seasoning blend with peppers, roasted orange peel, sesame seeds, ginger and seaweed) to scrambled eggs, dried dulse to soups and stews for a smack of flavour, and pair sea vegetables with your favourite fish for a brackish hit. And if you like it sweet? How about caramelising nori sheets and sprinkling them over coconut ice cream, like the folk at London’s contemporary Japanese restaurant, Roka do.


Skin and bones

Chicken skin, salmon skin and cod-skin crisps, chicken skin-salt and butter, and crackling made from anything that will crackle. Deep-fried bones in the style of staff meals at Prune, New York and the umami mackerel bone and fish skin at Yashin Ocean House in London will become the snack to choose this year, ticking waste-not want-not boxes and beating a bag of crisps any day. The Japanese have always known this, now the British will. Hugh F-W will approve.


Veg cocktails

We’re shunning sweet, fruity cocktails in place of spicier, more savoury options, and veg is a great base to build on. We’ve seen everything from avocado being used to create a creamy texture (is there nothing you can’t do with avo?), to sweet potato and even the subtle smoke of aubergine. They’re bringing a new flavour profile to cocktails and they’re definitely one of your five-a-day, right?


Calamansi

Move over yuzu, it’s calamansi time. This citrus (also know as a clamondin and kalamansi) is the love child of a mandarin and a kumquat. Floral and tart, they taste like lime and sour orange at the same time, and in Southeast Asia are used in the same way as limes, for drinks, squeezed over food, and in cocktails.

They also grow well in Florida, so can be found in specialist aisles of larger Tescos, or, in Asian shops. Look for Gina brand calamansi juice and knock yourself up a calamansi whisky sour. We also gather there’s a Filipino version of limoncello called manille liqueur de calamansi. We’ll let you know when we find it.


Still going strong

Broth

It’s been around for quite a while now, but if it’s packed with noodles, somewhere like Bone Daddies, it still gets us excited.

Guest-spots

Chefs coming to the UK for a night or two is especially great news for foodies who can’t afford to fly round the world. Check out the Guest Series at Lyle’s restaurant and sign up for the newsletter to stay ahead of the crowds – they sell out fast. Bertrand Grebaut of Septime, Paris, will be here in February. theguestseries.com

Cauliflower

Roasted, steaked, grilled, baked, deep-fried or made into pizza base, or ‘rice.’ We predict a shortage.

Burgers

There’s no stopping this train. More veggie options will appear, and that’s no bad thing. Cauli-burger anyone?

Baking

Less sugar all round is recommended, but baking is not going away. ‘Everything in moderation’ is our mantra. Pass the cake please.

Grains

Grown in the UK, please, like British quinoa – it’s what you’ve been eating at Pret A Manger.

Kale

Oh yes, but you know you have to massage it first, don’t you?

Cupcakes

Regenerate every time we kill them off. Immortal.

Mac ‘n’ cheese

As a main, on the side, pimped with bacon and breadcrumbs, stacked on burgers: carbs and cheese, yes please.


Still to take off

Insects

We know we should for the sake of the planet but, but, but. The good stuff tastes fine, the bad stuff is gross. Then again, it’s them or us.

Hemp

The oil tastes great, and it’s good for you, but its hippie, knitted reputation just can’t be shaken.

Poutine

Chips, cheese and gravy – a source of great Canadian national pride and joy. People started talking about it a while ago but, well, no matter how you sell it, it’s just chips, cheese and gravy. Try the real deal at The Poutinerie 


WORDS: Alex Crossley, Lulu Grimes, Sarah Kingsbury, Laura Rowe

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PHOTOGRAPHS: Stuart Ovenden, iStock, Mike English, Peter Cassidy, Stuart Ovenden, John Carey