THE LAST WORD Our columnist Tony Naylor reveals the food trends we should keep and the ones we should ditch
Life is too short for kale smoothies. Our columnist Tony Naylor reveals the winners and losers in the food trend stakes
Trends, trends, trends: food is driven by them, and why not? Eating out would be mighty dull were we not open to new ideas. But this is a notoriously inexact science. For every movement, there is a fad. For every epochal shift, a disposable hype. The jury may still be out on natural wine and British charcuterie, but what of the big trends over the past two decades? Here is my personal overview.
z‘gastropubs’ The concept (affordable, unfussy food in working pubs), is sound. But as soon as the big pubcos piled in, they turned the gastropub into a formula that was all generic-style over scratch-cooked substance: bare floorboards; squishy leather sofas; flabby pan-fried sea bass. Now, every third pub is a gastropub charging £15 for pork belly, yet, often, the food is dire. zthe rise of the restaurant lecture ‘Could I take a moment to explain the chef’s concept?’ asks the head waiter, as if he is about to reveal the Dead Sea Scrolls, rather than some banal context from the chef’s personal life. Then each dish is portentously announced with a list of components that take longer to recite than eat, and which I instantly forget. Such interruptions are painfully awkward for the (previously happily chatting) table and waiting staff alike. Tip: if the food can’t speak for itself, don’t serve it.
zsupper clubs What?! You want me to go to some blogger’s flat, make small talk with strangers, and pay for it? I’ll give you 25 quid if I can stay at home. zdude food Yo, bro! For, like, a hot minute this part-ay was KABOOM! But, maaaan, as we binged on Man v. Food and Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, that funkalicious chow got real old, real fast. All those sloppy burgers and poutine mountains began to taste kinda lame. It’s not adult food, dude. It’s garbage. Where’s the bin? zclean eating Call it pseudoscience, call it lifestyle fascism, but, 100%, clean eating sucks all the joy from food. Life is too short for kale smoothies.
zthe demise of fine dining Ludicrously, the first few times I went out for a ‘posh’ meal in the 1990s, I wore a suit. The experience – starchy waiters, hushed dining rooms, impenetrably French menus – was as relaxing as a colonoscopy. Today, UK restaurants operate in an unrecognisably breezy atmosphere. zbrunching out Britain’s love affair with Oz-style brunch dining and on-point coffee has transformed my weekends. Keep your full English. I’ll have the huevos rancheros or shakshuka. zcraft beer We live in a crisp, golden age of hop-forward flavour and stylistic exploration. From juicy New England IPAS to huge imperial stouts, British beer has never been better. zwood-fired wonders At the intersection of street food and obsessive artisan food (two worlds I enjoy, but with caveats), lies a phenomenon I love: the rise of authentic, Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizza. For £10, you can have perfection on a plate. znew Nordic More than Modern British (creatively limited, ultimately) or molecular gastronomy (an essential if gimmicky movement), this post-noma cooking philosophy offers a cogent, holistic ethos for chefs, diners and the planet. In its respect for technology and historic craft techniques, New Nordic offers vast creative scope, and its focus on seasonal, native ingredients is geographically transferable and sustainable, too. It feels like an end-game for food, generationally.
Tony Naylor writes for Restaurant magazine and The Guardian.
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