Annual food trend predicting can be a tricky beast: our food consumption is so far-reaching that to define any one movement often seems at odds with the immediacy and diversity of options we now have available.
Not only that, but the restaurant scene moves so fast, with new spaces opening up on a weekly basis. Some trends fade before you can even sample them, while others quickly go mainstream (salted caramel anyone?). Poutine was hot on the lips of every foodie late last year, with Hawksmoor’s Spitalfields bar serving up one of the best versions in London, and bee pollen led the charge on the health food front.
Meanwhile, fermented foods (try the Street Foodie’s kimchi burger) are still holding strong, while kale – last year’s must-have ingredient – is now a staple of many a weekly shop.
But what’s new? We take a look at some of the best established and upcoming food trends for 2015, along with some recommended places to sample them in London.
1. Garden Greens @ Grain Store
Although the idea of vegetables as a trend is ludicrous, recent years have seen an upsurge in food awareness, and with Paleo and grain-free diets increasing in popularity, the humble vegetable has once again risen to prominence.
Grain Store in London’s King’s Cross features veg as its star, with protein taking second billing. Highlights include roast endives in kimchi butter with hot smoked sea trout and artichoke, and tomato barigoule with almond crusted goat cheese.
For a fun twist, head to London’s Duck & Waffle for a pea-flavoured gin cocktail, aptly titled ‘Mind Your Peas & Qs’.
2. Get Freekeh @ Spring
Quinoa has long been the go-to grain of choice for foodies, propelled by its nutty taste and natural absence of gluten. But now a new super grain has popped up to challenge its supremacy.
Not so useful for the gluten-free crowd, freekeh (pronounced fari-kah) is toasted young green wheat and boasts a distinctly smoky flavour. Try Aussie chef Skye Gyngell’s lamb with freekeh, sivoni, labneh and flat bread at her new Somerset House outing, Spring.
Of course, goes to Ottolenghi, who features a robust freekeh pilaf among his bountiful salad options.
3. Small Plates @ Jin Juu
Perhaps as a backlash to the model of restaurants serving one staple, executed exceptionally (Meat Liquor, Hix), the trend for small, tapas-style plates is gaining some traction. Think maximum flavour in one sitting.
Carnaby Street’s Jin Juu ticks two trend boxes this summer, with their Korean-inspired small plates. Check out their Korean-Mexican disco fries, served with a kicking kimchi Bloody Mary, and their bibim salad with gochujang prawns. Kapow.
You can’t beat Barrafina for tapas, but remember: they don’t take bookings.
4. Love Bugs @ Archipelago
Bugs, crickets, meal worms… Before you baulk at the idea of popping one of these little critters in your mouth, it’s worth bearing in mind that insects are eaten commonly in Thailand and Tanzania, and are packed full of healthy proteins.
Championed by Noma super-chef René Redzepi, edible insects have been creeping into UK health food stores (try Planet Organic for a varied selection) and onto restaurant menus over the last few months.
Head to Cleveland Street’s Archipelago for pan-fried chermoula crickets with quinoa, spinach and dried fruit, along with the charmingly named Love Bug salad.
Wahaca’s Southbank branch serves grasshoppers with salsa and corn chips. Yum.
5. Bitter Bites @ Berber & Q
Good news for the no-sugar brigade, bitter is the new flavour dimension du jour. What does this mean for food? Darker chocolate, roasted coffee, tobacco-smoked tones and an abundance of grapefruit.
Former Ottolenghi chefs Josh Katz and Mattia Bianchi have recently opened Berber & Q in Haggerston, a Middle Eastern and North African grill house serving up the likes of smoked meat with lime butter and pork belly with pomegranate molasses.
Hawksmoor’s tobacco-smoked old-fashioned is the perfect fusion of bitter sweet.