FOOD SNOB’S DICTIONARY
Words by Max Olesker Illustrations by Charlotte Knox
Everything you need to know to eat and drink well (without putting your foot in it) in 2018
AMERICAN BAR, THE
The most beloved of The Savoy’s two bars (though spare a thought for the humble* Beaufort Bar, a few corridors away) and the longest surviving cocktail bar in London.
Home to drinks pioneer Harry Craddock in the Twenties and Thirties, and one of Winston Churchill’s regular haunts in the Forties (he locked his own private bottles of whisky behind the bar). It’s been spoken about in reverential terms by hospitality aficionados for years, and in 2017, under the stewardship of head bartender Erik Lorincz it finally won the title of The World’s Best Bar. Why not celebrate its success by ordering a £5,000 Sazerac, made from exclusively vintage ingredients including an 1848 cognac. Or, alternatively, literally any other drink. It’ll be good. fairmont.com/ savoy-london
*Extraordinarily glamorous and popular
Long thought to be merely an ubiquitous brunch staple, the avocado was rightly outed last year as the reason millennials can’t afford to buy property. While the rest of the world might have thought the fruit’s evils extended no further than “ripening trickily”, thank goodness for clear-sighted and good-hearted 36-year-old Australian luxury landlord Tim Gurner, who cannily identified “smashed avocado” (and its inevitable bedfellow “coffees”) as the primary thing holding back young adults from home ownership. Without Gurner’s guidance, naive millennials might have attributed their difficulty in purchasing homes to the various global financial crises, the ever increasing cost of education, an unstable jobs market, wage stagnation and, above all, the proliferation of wildly overpriced properties such as those marketed by, uh, Mr Gurner.
The limpid, slightly-sickly successor to coconut water (itself a successor to, er, water?), with its own raft of possiblylegitimate health benefits. In its natural sap state, dripping from the side of a birch tree tapped by a rugged Baltic farmer, the water is rich in manganese, key in bone development (the fact that basically no one is actually deficient in manganese, and thus has any need to consume it, is neither here nor there). Anyhow, in its processed, pasteurised, massproduced state, the manganese is negligible and birch water’s main active ingredient is xylitol (a sugar-alcohol sweetener used in toothpaste and chewing gum). Is birch water a sexy way to stay healthy, hydrated and young-looking? Possibly. Less sexily, almost all of the benefits of drinking the stuff can be obtained at a fraction of its price by eating oats. Good old oats.
The next move from Tomos Parry, previously head chef at the celebrity-stuffed Kitty Fisher’s in Mayfair. The title of Parry’s new venture due to open soon is not a reference to his status as an irritatingly youthful wunderkind on the London cooking scene, but rather Old English slang for turbot. Brat, in Shoreditch in premises above the fiercelypopular Smoking Goat, is a seafood grill serving quality Welsh and Cornish fish cooked over an open fire, Basque style. Also: fresh, burrata-like cheese made in-house, and a wine list by Noble Rot. You win this round, Parry. Again. bratrestaurant.com
Basically, coffee with oil and butter in it. Also, according to founder/evangelist/biohacker Dave Asprey, it aids: weight loss; attaining a state of monk-like focus; IQ levels; and possibly living forever. Thanks to his evangelising, Bulletproof Coffee is raved about by Silicon Valley investor types (of which Asprey is one) and the sort of computer-literate fitness obsessives who refer to workout plans as “protocols” (again, Asprey). Bulletproof Coffee came about when a heavily overweight Asprey was in
Tibet and spotted monks drinking yak butter tea. He developed his own culturally appropriated take, became incredibly slim and impossibly healthy (allegedly) and found his calling. Now, when you’re not drinking his coffee (which, you’ll be pleased to know, is full of Brain Octane Oil, everyone’s favourite, definitely real ingredient) you can read his blog and listen to his podcast. Asprey is confident Bulletproof Coffee will help him live to 180; you, too, or your money back. blog.bulletproof.com
ACTIVATED CHARCOAL DRINKS Eye-catching magic beverage. Activated charcoal (ignore its indolent, inactive sibling) is processed at very high temperatures to make it more porous and suitable to add to lemonade, smoothies and your Instagram feed.
It is purportedly excellent at absorbing toxins (that most well-loved of vague health-food notions) and also great for detoxing (which most healthcare professionals agree is not a real medical concept). While it is indeed used in emergency rooms to treat drug overdoses and poisoning, it’s not quite a cure-all. Activated charcoal’s mystical powers of absorption actually mean it will indiscriminately prevent anything entering your system including, for instance, vitamins in a coldpressed juice to which it’s been added. D’oh. Does photograph very well, though.
Drinks maven behind the acclaimed Dandelyan cocktail bar at the Mondrian hotel. Prior to that, “Mr Lyan” (as he’s known by all) made his name at White Lyan in Bethnal Green, creating an audacious no-perishables cocktail bar in which every drink came pre-made (but was, nonetheless, spookily fresh-tasting), a space he’s since relaunched as Cub, a state-of-the-art food/ drink/experimental-science hybrid. At the Mondrian, he gave free range to his imagination, collecting awards and constantly reinventing his menu: a recent iteration, themed “The Vices of Botany”, divides the drinks list into Faith, Lust, Currency and Rock ’n’ Roll. With global influence, critical adoration and a Wonka-like fascination with booze, could Mr Lyan be the next Tony Conigliaro? We’ll drink to that (from a glass containing barrelaged vermouth served as a gas, through a straw made of Norwegian glacier-ice mixed with macerated dragon fruit liqueur. Probably). mrlyan.com
The new Prosecco, goddamn it. Crémant (“creamy” in French), has the same biscuity notes as Champagne, and its quality and method of production are similarly strictly controlled; it simply does not need to be made with grapes from the Champagne region. Practically speaking, cheap Crémant, unlike budget Prosecco, doesn’t taste of hastily organised office parties and despair.
DECONSTRUCTED DISHES (fig2)
Laziness dressed up as innovation. Examples of this refusing-to-die phenomenon have included: “white coffee” served in three separate glass tumblers containing espresso, hot water and milk (just like making the drink at home but with a smug, bearded stranger staring at/through you during the process); smashed avocado being served as, horrifyingly, an intact half of an avocado (presumably on the basis that smashing one’s own avo is the best way to give millennials something akin to the thrill of a bit of
DIY on their unaffordable, unbought house). Presumably, “peanut butter” will eventually come as a handful of peanuts and a pestle. A “bagel” will be some flour and a roll of the eyes. It has to end.
EDIBLE INSECTS (fig3)
A perpetual “next big thing” trend. A highly sustainable food group, insects are also good for you (apparently) and also tasty (apparently). Wahaca has tried out toasted grasshoppers, exotic foods specialists Archipelago offers locusts and crickets with chilli and garlic, and speakeasy Nightjar serves buffalo worms in its Inca cocktail. So, if you’re not eating insects, you’re out of touch; they’re part of the diet of 80 per cent of the global population. Insectcookery enthusiast Daniella Martin advocates roast flying ant (“tastes like buttery pork rinds”), fried hornworm (“green tomatoes, shrimp and crab”) and, distressingly, sautéed cockroach (“greasy chicken”). wahaca.co.uk; archipelago-restaurant. co.uk; barnightjar.com
FASTING / CALORIE RESTRICTION
The new dieting! Rats vastly underfed by scientists lived far longer than their contemporaries so, of course, humans eagerly started getting in on the act (before any benefits have been scientifically proven, naturally), adopting ascetic, calorie-deficient lifestyles as they optimistically attempt to bridge the gap between “being very old” and “living forever”. While it’s possible permanently reducing daily calorific intake by 25–50 per cent could lower metabolic rate, reduce core body temperature, slow down
DNA damage and thus see you living to become a (no doubt perpetually grouchy and fatigued) 150-year-old, why would you? After all, “You can live to be 100 if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be 100,” said Woody Allen (which seemed very witty, until we realised what he felt those things were).
With a name so dazzlingly terrible it essentially crosses over into trolling, Flavour Bastard confidently swipes Sexy Fish’s crown awarded for “London restaurant serving as clearest physical proof that Nathan Barley was nothing but a prescient documentary”. Are the plates small, and also not actual plates, but rather hubcaps from vintage cars? Does the menu have six competing “concepts”?
Is it sharing dishes, except you share with everyone in the restaurant? Is the bar referred to as “The Ministry of Curious Libations”? Probably. Who cares? Perhaps most infuriatingly of all, Flavour Bastard is, by general consensus, actually quite good. flavourbastard.com
As our fragmenting media landscape sounds the deathknell of the all-powerful restaurant reviewer, gone are the days when the late AA Gill might have hastened a place’s demise via a 1,000-word dispatch. Into this void in our collective consciousness march the influencers like Clerkenwell Boy or Tun Shin Chang, whose impressive social media reach, eye for a well-composed topdown photo of food, and sense of personal connection with their audience, means they are increasingly ushered past the velvet rope of a hot restaurant opening before the likes of Coren, O’Loughlin, Dent, Maschler or Rayner have even received the press release. With no old-media expense accounts at their disposal, influencers gleefully embrace the marketing freebies, peddling #spon content and artfully filtered fake news in their unique, relatable, monetisable voices.
The once comfortingly-familiar milky coffee is now a muchbastardised beast with infinite unrecognisable permutations. Turmeric, lavender, mushroom and red velvet lattes jostle for attention alongside infinite milk substitutes; as Esquire went to press, lattes could be had in unicorn, charcoal and avocado flavours. Meanwhile, at House of Fraser, you can WhatsApp a selfie to the barista and have it “printed” onto the foam top of a coffee — the “selfieccino”, no less. All cracking fun, and further proof the end times are fast approaching.
Contentious liquid, produced by squeezing. First cow’s milk became de trop, then soya milk was decreed too bland (and bad for the environment), resulting in the great mylk wars of the late 2010s (it’s spelled with a
“y” when it’s non-dairy). Various milk-substitute factions (the alt-white?) continue to vie for supremacy. There’s turmeric, which is actually golden and thus looks cool, and pea, which has the benefit of being so obscure even the terrifying über-hipster barista probably doesn’t stock it yet. As the battle rages, and almond milk (also bad for the environment) is ditched in favour of cashew milk (few defining characteristics), a growing group of visionaries is opting for “raw milk”. This is, er, actual animal milk, albeit with the added fun risk of E coli poisoning. Plus ça change.
NON-ALCOHOLIC DRINKS (fig4)
Grown-up tasting spirits with no booze in them. Seedlip is the first dedicated “new” spirit, distilled — as is mandatory — in a copper still according to ancient apothecary lore by a posh bearded man named Ben. It’s good stuff, though, which is why it’s now found on the back bars at The Clove Club, The Fat Duck, The Savoy’s American Bar and Ryan Chetiyawardana’s Dandelyan. Seedlip currently comes in two varieties; Garden, akin to gin, and Spice, like whisky. Neither is a direct substitute but if that’s what you’re after, GinSin, Ronsin (a rum substitute) and even Versin (booze-free vermouth) are available. seedlipdrinks.com
Nigh-on ubiquitous Hawaiian fast food. Unobjectionable healthy ingredients, usually including rice, soy sauce, avocado, cucumber, seaweed and chopped raw seafood (“poke” in Hawaiian means
“to cut crosswise into pieces”), served in a salad bowl for
£10 a pop literally everywhere you look. Difficult to dislike, impossible to truly love, faintly overpriced? Move over Leon, there’s a new king in town. (And it’s pronounced poh-kay.)
From the same school of thought that brought you “wearing the exact same outfit every day because it saves you precious seconds” comes an array of “total meal replacement” powders, offering every essential component of real food — protein, carbs, nutrients, vitamins — apart from “genuine satisfaction”. US company Soylent kicked off the trend, swiftly followed by Huel, Schmoylent, Ambronite and Jake, all offering to help eliminate the need to go through the lengthy, tiresome daily ritual of experiencing a variety of tastes.
Idiot-invented non-thing. US start-up Live Water collects unsterilised water direct from an Oregon spring and sells it in packs of four 11.3-litre jugs for £46 a time, claiming “vast healing abilities” from the water’s “probiotics”, backed up by “major science”. Mukhande Singh (born Christopher Sanborn) who founded Live Water claims that the first time he drank the water he felt an “energy and peacefulness”, although it’s conceivable he’d simply misdiagnosed the symptoms of cholera. livespringwater.com
Hugely successful fictional restaurant, created by Vice’s Oobah Butler. He flooded TripAdvisor with positive reviews about an appointmentonly restaurant in Dulwich.
His shed eventually became TripAdvisor’s number oneranked restaurant in London, and Butler was inundated with people desperate for a table. In the final set-piece, Butler genuinely opened to the public, serving Iceland ready meals to a lucky few diners, many of whom were keen to come back.
The new quinoa, apparently. Which is exciting. Previously only really a staple in old Southern American cooking, chefs across the globe are now enthusing about “the wonder grain”; protein-rich, glutenfree, vitamin-filled, easy to digest, extremely filling and hugely eco-friendly, requiring over a third less water to grow than quinoa (proving what we’ve long suspected; people who eat quinoa are monsters). Demand for the stuff is booming; US exports to China will soon exceed one billion bushels. Put it in your salad, use it as a substitute for rice, or even pop sorghum instead of corn. But make sure it’s properly cooked, otherwise you will have “sore gums”. [You’re fired — Ed.]
Described by its owner, chef patron Stephen Harris, as a “grotty, run-down pub”, in 2017 The Sportsman in Seasalter, Kent, was crowned the UK’s number one restaurant in the National Restaurant Awards for the second year running. Though not actively grotty, it’s certainly unremarkable to look at, but the food is something else. The self-taught Harris maintains an obsessive devotion to local ingredients — everything on the menu is sourced from within 20 miles and he even makes his own salt by evaporating seawater. Those who have tasted his salt-marsh lamb and poached rock oysters inevitably return. Is the gastropub back? Quite possibly, see “The Wigmore”. thesportsmanseasalter.co.uk
UNICORN TOAST (fig6)
Rainbow-hued snack of nightmares which dominated foodie Insta-feeds in 2017 and still hasn’t died. The invention of Adeline Waugh, an American food stylist (don’t sneer, food can hardly style itself, can it?). To make unicorn toast, simply spread regular toast with vibrant-coloured cream cheese and a variety of natural food colourings, including beetroot juice, chlorophyll drops and blueberry powder. Alternatively — and this is a very viable alternative — don’t. vibrantandpure.com
The poshest pub in London if, indeed, an adjunct of the opulent Langham hotel on Regent Street counts as a pub. If so, then The Wigmore is without doubt a gastropub, featuring as it does a menu courtesy of Michel Roux Jr. Everything is wonderfully done, but look out for the pies with mash, a cheeseburger better than it has any right to be, and the Masala-spiced scotch egg. Six wines are on tap and The Wigmore’s own-label beer is served by the bottle, plus some more eccentric British historical curiosities like punch served in pewter tankards and “hoptails” — mixtures of spirits and beer. Pub or not, it’s a highly soothing refuge from the terrifying hordes on Oxford Street. the-wigmore.co.uk
Food & Drink Special