Every year around this time, people begin asking me one key question: what will the key food and drink trends be for the coming year? In our profoundly interconnected world, different national dishes and cooking styles go in and out of fashion at an astounding rate. But although one year may see a revival of burritos and the next features sliders as a main player, this doesn’t necessarily suggest any revolutionary change in the dining sphere if both remain the purview of street food vendors and fast-food joints. What is perhaps more compelling for restaurant owners and chefs alike is which cuisines are anticipated to undergo premiumisation in 2017, venturing from one dining sphere into one previously outside of its reach. I’m much more excited to see something like Nepalese momos in a high-end restaurant than I am to see a third nachos waggon in town (although, as a foodie through-and-through, both scenarios are welcome!)
So, in anticipation of these discussions, I’ve compiled the top three ways that foodservice is set to ‘go premium’ in 2017. Read on to see which high-end trends you need to know about this year.
Making familiar ingredients indulgent
There’s nothing quite as exciting to the food enthusiast as encountering a familiar ingredient in a wholly unfamiliar way. In 2016, we saw this phenomenon – formerly the domain of restaurants – branch out, as items such as ‘courgetti’ (spaghetti made with courgettes) and even ‘boodles’ (butternut squash noodles) went on sale in almost every chain supermarket. The initial success of this trend may have laid in its novelty value, but their utility in gluten-free and low-carb diets has ensured that vegetables as alternatives to refined carbohydrates are here to stay. This has spurred a wider interest in the practice of reinventing traditional ingredients, particularly vegetables, and, unsurprisingly, high-profile restaurants were quick to tap into the movement.
The renaissance of root veg
One key way in which the reinvigoration of traditional ingredients is being championed is in so-called ‘vegetable butchery’. The Telegraph predicts that we can “expect to see more broccoli, aubergine and cauliflower, among others, replacing meat as mains.” However, this is not necessarily simple an expansion of formulaic vegetarian dishes such as mushroom risottos and bean burgers. Instead, food experts such as Amber Locke advocate for treating vegetables with the same reverence as you would a joint of meat. In 2016, she opened the UK’s first vegetable butchers to show consumers how to prepare vegetables in order to maximise their flavour and texture.
In premium restaurants, we can expect vegetables to comprise a central focus on the plate. Produce will be more cleverly infused with meat-like flavours and textures “using soy, pea and other proteins to create realistic-looking, and tasting, meat alternatives.” Whether it be a joint of aubergine or an uncannily realistic meat-free burger, vegetables, and root vegetables in particular, are a key factor in food premiumisation in 2017.
Comfort Food gets a high-end makeover
There are few culinary experiences that I find as enthusing as perusing the menu of a high-end restaurant and finding that your favourite comfort food is offered, only with a gourmet twist. This appears to be a rising fashion for 2017, with several restaurants set to open premised on the premiumisation of comfort foods such as paella and tacos.
One particularly notable example of this trend is new Spanish restaurant, InPaella. However, for the owners of this new venture, national cuisine is no longer specialised enough. Big Hospitality reports that Michelin-starred Spanish chef Quique Dacosta is set to open the new premium restaurant in London this year, which focuses entirely on paella. The chain of venues will each feature 25 metres of stoves where customers can sample traditional Spanish paella straight from the pan. The project is hotly anticipated, which is unsurprising considering that Chef Dacosta was awarded three Michelin stars for his restaurant in Denia and one Michelin star at El Poblet in Valencia. As Urbanologie explains, his eponymous restaurant is named 39th in the top 100 restaurants in the world, so there’s no doubt that paella will become a very premium affair with this new endeavour.
World foods set to go premium
‘Fusion food fervour’ is at large in many high end restaurants around the world, but each year we are lucky enough to see the world cuisines available to the gastronome expand. No longer are restaurants restricting themselves to Asian-British cuisine or Italian-French favourites, almost any culinary speciality is available to the culinary connoisseur. One prime example is the rise in Taiwanese food set to take 2017 by storm.
Taking Taiwanese cuisine up a notch
According to Big Hospitality, the team that established leading London street food chain Bao are now opening a new restaurant in Soho serving quality Taiwanese cuisine. The venue will be called Xu, and will be pitched at a price point of around £55 per person before drinks – so a significant step up from the £5 steamed buns for which Bao is famous. In this all-immersive experience, there will be interactive dishes such as a whole chicken stuffed with herbs and spices that actually requires diners to apply gloves to break it apart. Another feature will be a tea bar serving hot and cold brews of traditional Taiwanese tea, which diners can even take home. Evidently, if restaurants and chefs are to successfully introduce a relatively unknown culinary niche to the UK market, they must share not only the cuisine, but also the culture.