Looking for new restaurants and the latest foodie trends? Here are our top picks for food trends for 2020…
This is a new word to familiarise yourself with as aged and cured fish is going to be big this year. Japanese sushi chefs have long used curing techniques to enhance texture and flavour in fish and seafood but we’ll see much more of it in restaurants. One of the trailblazers is Australian ‘gill-to-fin’ chef Josh Niland, whose best-selling The Whole Fish Cookbook embraces the hanging, dry-aging and curing of fish – hear more from Josh on episode 174 of the olive magazine podcast here. He’s not the only one.
In London, Tom Brown is serving bresaolas and salamis of monkfish, salmon and cuttlefish at Cornerstone, and Portuguese chef Leandro Carreira is using a bespoke fish ageing cabinet at Chelsea seafood bar and fishmonger The Sea, The Sea. Carreira uses a range of fish for ageing, from gilthead bream to Cornish garfish and ages different fish for different periods of time.
He says: “We have found that fish with a high content of oils and round fish have the best results. Depending on the species and size, we hang fish for four to 12 days. Sourcing high-quality fish is the key to achieving firmer flesh, meatier texture and long-lasting flavour with extended umami notes.” As well improving texture and flavour, ageing fish means you can extend its life, which also ticks the box for reducing food waste.
The days of dry, drab sarnies curling at the edges are over thanks to a swell of premium sandwich joints opening around the UK. From Tou (of ‘egg mayo and katsu sando’ fame) in London to Pinkmans Bakery in Bristol (which served its savoury buns at the Best of British Fair 2019 in Japan, where it represented the UK), posh sandwiches packed with high-quality ingredients are all the rage. At Sons + Daughters in London’s Coal Drops Yard, the bestseller is chicken but it’s not any old chicken sarnie. “It’s made with beautiful Swaledale chicken, crispy skin, soy-cured parmesan, garlic oil, green sauce, miso mayonnaise, Gem lettuce and wasabi cress… it’s pretty epic,” says owner James Ramsden.
Run by Natasha Ferguson and Matt Belcher, Alby’s in Leith prides itself on “big hot sandwiches” such as the braised Highland beef short rib cooked in gravy, horseradish mayo, red sauerkraut, parsnip crisps and rocket; and the calamari, squid-ink aïoli, fried capers and Iceberg sandwich.
And lest we forget the sandwich king, Max Halley, of Max’s Sandwich Shop in London’s Crouch End – who reignited our love for the finger food with his egg, ham and chip sarnie, made with slow-cooked ham hock, fried egg, piccalilli, shoestring fries and malt vinegar mayo. Recreate his masterpieces at home with his book Max’s Sandwich Book: The Ultimate Guide to Creating Perfection Between Two Slices of Bread, or click here for exclusive recipes from Max (including a Boxing Day sandwich that is good anytime of the year) and podcast episode 100 to hear from the man himself.
The campaign to reduce plastic packaging has gathered momentum since the BBC’s Blue Planet II two years ago and, whether it’s carrying around a reusable water bottle or buying paper or metal straws, lots of us are doing our bit and more than 50% of consumers have reduced the amount of disposable plastic they use. One trend is the rise of low-waste stores that encourage us to BYOC (‘bring your own container’) and use refill stations to cut out single-use plastic.
Waitrose & Partners successfully trialled its Unpacked refill section at its Oxford Botley Road store and it has expanded to four other branches. The Unpacked aisle features refill stations for dry goods, frozen fruit, beer and wine. Waitrose & Partners has pledged that, by 2023, all own-label packaging will be widely recycled, reusable or home-compostable. It has already introduced the world’s first compostable, fibre-based ready-meal tray and it is removing the plastic wrapping from multi-packed baked beans, tinned tomatoes and sweetcorn, which it says will save 18 tonnes of plastic annually.
Clean Kilo in Birmingham brands itself as a zero-waste, plastic-free supermarket with the motto “weigh, fill, reweigh, pay”, and frozen food specialist Field Fare, which supplies 400 farm shops, garden centres, butchers and delis, has a range of 80-odd ‘loose-serve’ items, including fruit, vegetables and patisserie products, which continues to expand year on year.
Cooking with hay
No longer just for horses or the rabbit hutch, hay is now being regularly used as an economical and delicious ingredient by innovative chefs across the UK. “Hay has a wonderful, toasted caramel and vanilla flavour, and when paired with chocolate tastes like Maltesers,” says Imogen Davis, the co-founder of Native, a modern British restaurant in Borough Market where a hay panna cotta appears on the menu.
Richard Craven, at The Royal Oak at Whatcote in the Cotswolds, uses hay in a number of ways, from a hay-infused custard with strawberries macerated in elderflower, to using it to smoke rare-breed Cotswold hogget. And at Rothay Manor in the Lake District, Dan McGeorge bakes leeks in hay for an English rose veal dish, and as an ingredient in an ice cream.
He says: “Cooking with hay is actually a centuries-old European technique and a century ago most rural homes used hay box cookers because they were efficient and above all a low-cost kitchen tool. Hay works because it brings earthy and grassy notes to a dish, regardless of whether it’s sweet or savoury. It can bring out the sweetness in pears while complementing their natural flavour, and it can also enhance the flavour of a range of meats and vegetables, adding subtly of flavour to a dish.” Look out for it on a menu near you.
Mental health matters
Not so much a trend but more a fundamental shift in thinking that we at olive wholeheartedly endorse – here’s hoping 2020 will see more professional kitchens adopting better practices when it comes to looking after the physical and mental well-being of their staff. There has already been a move by a number of high-profile restaurants to reduce hours and restaurant opening days to improve the work/life balance for chefs.
Sat Bains introduced a four-day week at his eponymous restaurant a few years ago, and other top establishments have done the same, including Paul Kitching’s 21212 restaurant in Edinburgh, which opens Wednesday to Saturday. Reducing hours can mean the owners taking a financial hit but it can mean three full days off for the chefs, more quality time with their families and it improves morale, which is better for staff retention.
It’s not just about improving the hours – olive Chef Awards winner Tommy Banks has four-day working patterns, family-friendly hours for older and more experienced staff, and weekly check-ins regarding anxiety and diet to make sure his team are okay. Pilot Light was founded by chef Andrew Clarke of St Leonards restaurant in Shoreditch (listen to episode 164 of the podcast here for more from Andrew) after being brutally honest on social media about his own depression and addiction. The campaign helps individuals in crisis and works with restaurants, hotels and suppliers to raise mental-health awareness, and with bespoke training packages, free of charge.
One of the long-established charities for the industry is Hospitality Action, which has observed an upward trend in mental-health-related referrals, according to its marketing director, Jeremy Gibson.
“In 2019 we saw a 19% increase in cases relating to a mental-health problem but over the past couple of years we have noticed that more hospitality workers, including chefs, have felt able to open up about a mental-health problem and discuss it with their boss.” Jeremy says Hospitality Action is spearheading an industry-wide campaign to break the taboo that still surrounds talking about one’s mental health, particularly in men. It has launched a website with factsheets and videos to give employers the confidence to be receptive to calls for help and to help signpost them to professionals who can help.
The latest platform for chefs and others in the industry is Hospitality Speaks, which was launched at the end of 2019 by journalist Victoria Stewart. The not-for-profit website features anonymous stories of toxic behaviour in the hospitality industry, interviews with ‘people pioneers’ about how they create supportive working cultures and a support page listing organisations, networks and helplines that people can access for advice.
Victoria says: “It’s really important that people understand the range of these troubling experiences but the real beauty of this initiative is in the powerful and positive stories of progress, of an urgent desire to shake up an age-old industry that has got stuck in its ways. I hope it becomes a catalyst for positive change within the hospitality industry.”
Premium functional soft drinks
So-called ‘functional’ soft drinks continue to rise in popularity. Okay, they may be a bit more expensive than mainstream energy drinks but people are happy to pay that little bit extra when they contain high-quality and specialist ingredients such as CBD. More importantly, they taste good, too. Look out for brands such as Equinox Organic Kombucha Pink Grapefruit & Guava, and Good Hemp’s new CBD Barista Seed Milk.
Salted honey is the new salted caramel
We wouldn’t want to deprive you of salted caramel in all of its glorious forms but 2020 may see it usurped by salted honey. Nigella makes a fantastic salted honey pie, as does influential American food writer David Lebovitz, and regular olive contributor Edd Kimber loves the stuff (try his tahini shortbread cookies with salted honey ganache). Make your own (click here for more salted honey recipes) or hunt down brands such as Bees Knees, which makes bottles of wildflower honey infused with sea salt.
Immersive foodie breaks
In 2020 it will be all about food trips that are more in-depth and hands-dirtying than traditional cooking holidays. If you’re a fan of adventures, start researching producer-related trips where you learn cooking, kitchen gardening or artisanal skills, perhaps in a remote cabin that offers unique add-ons for hands-on foodies. Click here to find adventures in the Lofoten Islands in Norway and the Ourika Organic Kitchen outside Marrakesh in Morocco.
Juniper-free botanical spirits
The gin bubble hasn’t quite burst but the more innovative distillers will be looking beyond juniper-flavoured spirits this year. Ketel One has already set the pace with its juniper-free Botanical brand, a spirit distilled with botanicals and infused with natural fruit essences such as peach and orange blossom, and grapefruit and rose.
Tapping into the lower-alcohol trend, the Botanical range is also bottled at 30% ABV. Similarly, Edinburgh distillers collective Sweetdram has produced its own version of an old French liqueur. At 34% ABV, it features notes of caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, coriander, green anise, lemon, liquorice, sweet and bitter orange, nutmeg, star anise and vanilla. It says it tastes like “caraway butter on cardamom buns with a tall glass of tropical diluting juice” and we’re not arguing with that.
New to the market is a non-alcoholic botanical spirit inspired by plants native to the Cornish coastline: Pentire is made in Port Isaac by former surf instructor Alistair Frost who says he wanted to “bottle the coastal experience”. Pentire includes a blend of ingredients such as rock samphire, sea purslane, sage and sea rosemary. It’s already on the drinks lists of Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Prawn on the Lawn, and Paul Ainsworth at Number 6.
The rise of Sri Lankan food
When it opened three years ago, Hoppers in Soho kick-started a new wave of contemporary Sri Lankan restaurants in the UK. The Coconut Tree mini chain of street-food restaurants is already expanding rapidly with sites in Cheltenham, Oxford, Cardiff, Bournemouth and two in Bristol.
Kolamba in Soho’s Kingly Street is also making an impression with its tantalising combination of Sinhalese, Tamil, Moor, Dutch and Malay dishes, including sambals, string hoppers, patties and pineapple curry (see page 73 for recipes to try at home). And we predict more to come in 2020, starting with Paradise, a new Soho restaurant from Dom Fernando. Chef Charith Priyadarshana uses seasonal British produce and Sri Lankan ingredients in dishes such as mutton rolls with fermented chilli sauce and slow-roasted pork cheek with tamarind and Sri Lankan stout.
Vegetable and fruit ketchups
Tomato ketchup simply doesn’t cut the mustard these days. At Bath’s Landrace Bakery, the team makes seasonal fruit ketchups depending on what arrives in the kitchen, often from local growers who have surplus produce from their allotments and smallholdings – try quince ketchup in a bacon and egg milk bun.
Gareth Ward (who bagged himself an olive Chef Awards gong last month) serves shiitake ketchup with slow-cooked Japanese wagyu beef ribs at his Michelin-starred restaurant, Ynyshir, in Wales. And it’s not just restaurants keeping up with this condiment trend. Award-winning online heritage-breed butchers Farmison & Co in North Yorkshire has launched a spiced cranberry ketchup which goes brilliantly with cold roast or cured meats, and Tom Kerridge’s online shop has also launched a range of bottled ketchups including black garlic, chipotle barbecue and (our fave) gherkin.
Root to shoot
In much the same way Fergus Henderson championed ‘nose-to-tail’ cooking that used the whole animal, a growing army of chefs are now looking at ‘root-to-shoot’ dishes that utilise every part of fruits, vegetables and herbs. Chef Tom Hunt, whose debut cookery book, The Natural Cook: Eating the Seasons from Root to Fruit, came out in 2014, releases his follow up this March, Eating for Pleasure, People & Planet, which will focus on shopping and cooking sustainably, while eating healthier, better-tasting food at no extra cost (to your wallet or the environment).
The chef, who co-founded low-waste restaurant, Poco, also recently announced that it will only serve high-welfare, zero-carbon meat (such as offal, waste cuts, culled wild animals including squirrel, crayfish and muntjac deer).
Down the road in Bristol, chef Mark Chapman has adopted a similar philosophy at Masa + Mezcal, where the plant-based menu is packed with dishes made from the likes of vegetable skins, leaves and tips that might normally go in the bin. These include potato peelings (blanched and deep-fried to make crisps on the fish dishes or tostada fillings), coriander (the leaves are chopped and used in crudo dishes and sauces, the stalks are used alongside the leaves to make dressings) and hibiscus (they hydrate dried petals to make a dressing and dry the rehydrated hibiscus leaves which are fried into crisps for a cabbage salad).
At Haar in St Andrews, Dean Banks runs a zero-waste kitchen where examples of ‘root to shoot’ range from oils made from the tops of spring onions to cabbage trimmings used to make kimchi.
From the salted grapefruit soda served at London’s Bubala to the plum, tonka and fig leaf old fashioned on the drinks list at The Ethicurean in Somerset, homemade aperitifs are certainly on the rise across the UK.
Northumberland restaurant Hjem has a juice menu curated by chef Alex Nietosvuori and sommelier Anna Frost. They work together to develop an offering that reflects the seasons and the produce available locally – the juices are made predominantly with produce foraged or grown around the restaurant. Juices currently on the menu include autumn squash, chanterelle tea and rye butter, and apple and hay.
At The Black Swan in Oldstead, James Banks has created a range of seasonal libations, including pink gooseberry tonic, raspberry shrub and a rhubarb and woodruff infusion. He has even created a lemonade flavoured with Douglas fir.
“We wanted to find a way of using local produce to re-create those amazing citrus flavours we all know and love. Young springtime shoots from the Douglas fir tree give an amazing zingy grapefruit flavour and leaves from our lemon verbena add an intense sherbet hit. Acidity is added in the form of Bramley apple juice.”
Holiday hot spots
Want to discover the next foodie hot spot on your travels this year? Head to eastern Europe and the Caucasus, which we predict will see a surge of interest in 2020, especially Romania, Ukraine and Georgia, thanks to the popularity of social-media-friendly food writers including Irina Georgescu (her cookbook Carpathia: Food From the Heart of Romania is out in March 2020) and Ukrainian chef Olia Hercules.
If you care as much about the post-rave munchies as the music, then Ibiza is where it’s (still) at. Head to Casa Maca for celebrity-spotting dinners featuring spicy sobrasada, alongside flame-grilled meat and veg; and Es Boldadó for clams bathed in local white wine.
Affordable flights to Latvian capital Riga will enhance its reputation as an up-and-coming foodie destination, too, while Bali resorts Ubud and Seminyak are gaining in popularity for their culture and food as much as their natural beauty.
Waste not, want not
With 40% of British-grown fruit and veg discarded before it even reaches the shelves because it’s deemed too ugly, or the wrong shape or size, more chefs and home cooks are using produce which might otherwise have gone to waste. Ethically savvy organisations such as Waste Knot, Food Chain and Feast Fairly are coming to the fore, delivering imperfect or hard-to-sell produce to the restaurant industry and the public alike.
Church Road restaurant in Barnes, London, works closely with these companies, and others including Nature’s Choice, FloGro Fresh, Lake District Farmers, Flying Fish and Wild Room, who supply ethically sourced and grown produce from fruit and veg to fish, shellfish and meat. Church Road’s Little Sprouts menu is a celebration of seasonal, produce that might be imperfect looking but packed with flavour.
Co-proprietor and chef Phil Howard says: “We’re determined to show consideration to the welfare of the world and the animals that we share it with. After more than three decades in the industry, I see more changes today than ever before. Now we have a chance to make a real difference to the planet and working with companies like Jess Latchford’s Waste Knot helps us achieve a much lower carbon footprint and higher awareness of the direction in which we should be going.”
At Spring in Lancaster Place, Skye Gyngell’s pre-theatre Scratch menu creates dishes made from ‘waste’ such as beetroot tops and potato skins, left-over cheese and day-old bread. At Nottingham’s Small Food Bakery, baker Kim Bell goes above and beyond when it comes to using everything that arrives in the kitchen, including making molasses out of apples instead of sugar and even using dried pot marigold petals to supplement pricey home-grown saffron.
Check out ‘rescue’ fruit/veg box schemes near you, including Wonky Veg Boxes, Oddbox, Riverford and Morrisons stores.
For decades dominated by knubbly bits of fatty pork skin of indeterminate provenance, crackling is enjoying a makeover that elevates it way beyond its pub-snack status. Wilding’s is a Wiltshire-based company run by former chef Adam Wilding and his partner, Polly. These bags of gourmet crackling include peking duck flavour, smoked sea salt and kampot pepper, and habanero chilli and lemongrass. As well as being deliciously moreish, these high-protein snacks are gluten-free. Seasoned with natural flavours, they are ideal for people who follow low-carb and high-fat keto and paleo diets. Also from Wiltshire is Little Bobby Jebb’s Original Chicken Crackling made using Grade-A/Red Tractor British chicken skins. Sold as a snack, it is also appearing on restaurant menus.
Michelin-star chef Simon Hulstone of The Elephant restaurant in Torquay has created various dishes with the chicken crackling, including roasted Crediton chicken breast, crushed chicken crackling and pine nuts, with wild mushrooms and lemon and thyme. And if you still crave a crackling pub snack, the chicken skin with hot sauce and blue cheese served at Loyal Tavern in Bermondsey, London, is hard to beat.
Prosecco loses its fizz
Prosecco still has its fans but more discerning drinkers are looking to alternative sparkling wines. These include crémant (French sparklers made outside the sacred Champagne region) and even proper champers itself thanks to the number of great bargains on the supermarket shelves. Closer to home, sales of English sparklers are on the increase as the likes of Coates & Seely in Hampshire and Sussex vineyard Nyetimber prove UK producers can match anything from the other side of the Channel.
Most of us start the new year with promises of reducing our alcohol intake but there is now an all-year-round trend of cutting down, if not giving up completely. Drinks expert Fiona Beckett’s new book, How to Drink Without Drinking, is an invaluable guide to making booze-free drinking delicious. According to Whole Foods Market, botanical-infused ‘faux spirits’ and hops-infused sparkling waters are the way to go, with examples including Detroit’s Käter Wingman electrolyte-infused sparkling lime water and Run Wild’s non-alcoholic ‘session’ IPA made with a blend of five hops.
Alternatively, you could visit one of the Hawksmoor restaurants in London, Manchester and Edinburgh to try its first new cocktail list for a decade. Created by Liam Davy, Nick Strangeway and the Hawksmoor bartenders, there’s an increased range of non-alcoholic drinks, including Mother Mule made with Mother Root, a ginger drinking vinegar made in south London.
We can’t be the only ones with an increased appetite for more sustainable travel – think foodie city breaks taken by train rather than plane. olive’s travel editor, Rhiannon Batten, reckons we should all be more conscious when choosing where to travel: “Think about trips that are socially responsible as well as environmentally, so staying in small, independently owned guesthouses and learning to cook heritage recipes with ‘pasta grannies’.
It’s about getting off the beaten track, rather than swamping places that are suffering from over-tourism, and eating at small neighbourhood restaurants that use local ingredients and regional recipes, as well as wine bars that focus on local natural wines.” Click here for loads of inspirational ideas.
When he turned vegan, chef Gaz Oakley, aka Avant Garde Vegan, missed fish and chips so much that he recreated it using tofu (for the fish element) and nori (for the skin). Since then, faux fish has become something of a trend, appearing anywhere from gastropubs to supermarket aisles. Sutton and Sons, a vegan chip shop with three sites in London, makes faux fish and chips using banana blossom that’s been marinated in seaweed and samphire before being deep-fried in batter.
Bristol-based Cosy Club chain won Best Vegan Fish at the PETA Vegan Food Awards for its crispy battered tofu with minted mushy garden peas and creamy tartare sauce. Linda McCartney’s vegetarian scampi bites (made from rehydrated textured soya and wheat protein) are a regular feature in supermarket chill cabinets, as are Vivera’s Plant Fish Fillet.
Willem Van Weede of Vivera says: “People are waking up to the fact that eating less meat is better for the planet and that goes for fish, too. Overfishing is a serious environmental concern and we’re continuing our commitment to providing consumers with high-quality, great-tasting, plant-based alternatives.” From this month, Sainsbury’s is also launching its own Fishless Fingers.
Words by Mark Taylor
Photographs by Lizzie Mayson, Dominika Kubalova, Polly A Baldwin, Getty Images, Andrew Hayes Watkins