Happy New Year, one and all! In an effort to amuse myself and pass the time until
society allows me to be fun again February, I’ve compiled my thoughts on 2019’s food and restaurant trends and non-trends. I’m absolutely in no way qualified for this except that I have eyes and also I eat a lot, so let me know if you agree or not on Twitter.
Top of everyone’s list for 2019 is veganism, as David Attenborough continues to make TV programmes about what shits humans are to the planet and meat-eating goes out of fashion.
With Veganuary and Meatless Monday making their way into the lifestyles of literally everyone except Piers Morgan, crusader against unporked sausage rolls, vegetarian restaurants have been popping up everywhere, with an especially bumper crop landing this January. (See Spicebox, Stem + Glory, and a new outpost of The Gate in St John’s Wood.)
I for one welcome our new plant-based overlords, mainly because there are just SO MANY tasty things you can make without bits of dead cow and it’s nice to see people getting creative with vegetables. And also because Piers Morgan is a c*nt.
2. VEGGIE BURGERS
So massive they get their own bullet point. The burger trend has boomeranged and is now coming back on itself with all the momentum of an enraged mother hippopotamus, coincidentally the largest vegetarian of them all.
This time the trend has shed its meaty mantle and gone full veeg; you can now take your pick from The Vurger Co, Mooshies Vegan Burger Bar, Honest Burger’s Beyond Meat collab, VBurger, Mildred’s and many more. I’ve long been a fan of Patty & Bun’s Portobello ‘Dig It’ Mushroom burger, even though one once spurted hot garlic butter with a trajectory that would have been quite amazing had it not been all over my brand new jumper. But I forgave it, because you always forgive the people you love. Even if the person is a garlic-stuffed breaded mushroom. <3
3. GOING DRY
The rest of the world has finally come to understand what I secretly have always known, and that’s that non-alcoholic cocktails – or mocktails, if you’re the kind of person who also goes on holibobs – are absolute garbage drinks. There is nothing worse than having to pay £7 for five kinds of juice swirled into a glass which no matter the pedigree of its ingredients inevitably ends up tasting of fruit sick.
Non-alcoholic spirit producers Seedlip are doggedly trying to change the game, even though its three variations all taste of varying degrees of algae and, at £28 a bottle, hardly offers the savings teetotallers have come to expect, nay, deserve. Zero-alcohol brewers Nirvana do a pretty good job of replicating craft beers but aside from that, non-drinkers are better off with a nice tonic water or a Diet Coke.
4. YEAST BUTTER
‘Yeast butter’ does sound a bit gross, but, let me tell you, it’s absolutely titting delicious. It’s the closest thing one can get to spreading Jesus on bread. I don’t know if it’s having a Moment or if it’s always been there and I’ve just never noticed, but I’ve seen it cropping up quite a bit recently. If you haven’t tried it, it’s like an ultra-savoury umami overload. You can find the stuff at Anglo, Vanilla Black and Brigade. #yeastspotting
5. GENDER-NEUTRAL LAVS
Big fan of unisex bogs, because not only are they helpful to our transgender friends, but there’s a special joy to be had in the face of a man who walks in on a woman retouching her lipstick in the mirror and thinks he’s accidentally gone into the Ladies.
Plus, they upset Piers Morgan. (Anything that upsets Piers Morgan should be embraced wholeheartedly, I find).
6. FOREIGN CHAINS
God knows how the usually stoic Londoners can get so excited about other countries’ crap coming to our already overcrowded junk food landscape, but the runaway successes of Five Guys, Shake Shack and other bastions of mediocrity (don’t @ me) are proving irresistible to major players from the USA and beyond. I will never forget the delirium when California’s In N Out came to Swiss Cottage, of all places, for literally four hours a couple of years ago and everyone lost their shit. I have eaten In N Out a few times in its native land and its weird raw onions and wafer-thin burger patties are not for me. No, I don’t care if it’s ‘animal style’ – that literally doesn’t mean anything because the animal it’s based on is almost certainly something irredeemably crap like a head louse.
In any case, Filipino mega-chain Jolibee just opened a couple of months ago, and we can look forward to Wahlburgers from the USA later this year. Rumour also has it that we’re also getting a Taco Bell this summer. I don’t know if you’ve ever eaten a Taco Bell, but imagine a dog turd sandwiched between two Doritos and you’re halfway there. God help us all.
7. FREE WATER
You know what I’ve been enjoying recently? Not having to pay £4 for a bottle of fizzy water. I’m not sure what’s going on but a lot of London restaurants seem to have invested in a Sodastream and are passing its glorious, effervescent bounty onto diners free of charge. I like it a lot.
They do it with still water too, so you never have to be made to feel like a right povvo for asking for JUST TAP PLEASE. (I’ve noticed the less I have to spend on water, the more I want to spend on wine, so maybe it’s all part of an ingenious marketing ruse.)
8. THINGS WITH ‘COAL’ IN THE NAME
Coal Rooms. The Coal Shed. Coal Drops Yard. Stahhhhp.
9. COMMUNAL DINING
Thank the lord that restaurant designers seem to be giving up on the a-cursed trend of ‘communal’ dining. Hell is having somebody’s elbow in your soup, and frankly men in general can’t be trusted not to unfurl their shaggy pins to the maximum degree and encroach all over my legroom. I don’t even put up with that shit on the tube, pal, so you bet I’m going to sit there for a full ninety minutes, legs grimly akimbo airing the good china, just to make a point.
This is my hill to die on.
10. SMALL PLATES
I actually enjoy small plates when sharing with just one other person, or even two, if we’re mates enough to duel amicably over the last bit of charred octopus. Sharing maximises the flavours one can wrap their gob around in a single sitting, I find.
But sometimes it’s nice to have a small plate all to yourself, and then a larger plate, and then another small plate at the end, perhaps with something sweet on it, or some cheese. Also, some people are just crap to share with. Like people with special dietary requirements, or people you’ve only just met. Or people with a very literal sense of sharing. I have a friend who will go through every small plate and painstakingly cut it into even portions, which makes me want to bludgeon him with the salt cellar. (I don’t, though, because that would spoil the ambience. Nothing worse than an ambience-spoiler.)