London’s dining and drinking scene continues to boom, with ever more trends growing and themes emerging. Here’s an A-Z of eating and drinking in London in 2015 so far, encompassing the concepts, cuisines, fads and formats which are becoming — and set to become — big deals and defining eating and drinking in the capital.
This is part two. See the first half of our alphabetical list here.
N is for… No choice
Choice. What’s that? It went out the window with reservations, don’t you know. London’s food scene as a whole might be more varied than ever, but individual restaurants are becoming increasingly limited in their ranges. London is now home to a cereal café, a soup shop, a polenta restaurant, a mozzarella chain, a salmon restaurant and a mac and cheese joint alongside countless places singularly devoted to burgers, pizza, steak, hot dogs, pies and fried chicken. It could be our fondness for street food — where stalls traditionally sell just one thing — which has led us here, but is it a good thing?
O is for… Oyster happy hours
The most middle class thing you’ve ever heard? Possibly. These bivalves were once the plentiful food of the poor before becoming the luxurious fare of the rich, but oysters have now reached something of a middle ground. Wright Brothers South Kensington will offer pound-a-pop oysters during its happy hour once it opens in June, and there’ll also be an oyster happy hour at The Richmond which is launching shortly in Hackney. Such a thing already exists at Randall & Aubin in Soho and The Culpeper in Spitalfields.
P is for… Poutine
It’s easy to see why the Canadians love this dish of chips, cheese and gravy. It is, after all, chips, cheese and gravy. It’s only recently that us Londoners — and indeed Canadian expats — have been able to get our hands on the stuff at home. You can find it in varying pimped-up guises at Hawksmoor’s bar in Spitalfields (topped with pulled pig’s head), at Battersea’s Dip & Flip and Village East on Bermondsey Street, as well as at dedicated outlets Stacks Poutine in Stoke Newington, and The Poutinerie stall on Brick Lane.
Q is for… Queue
An integral part of eating out these days, whether for vibrant Middle Eastern flavours at The Palomar, hangover-beating fuel at The Breakfast Club or a cheese-slathered Patty & Bun burger. We’ve heard that Michelin stars will soon be scrapped in favour of rating the quality of an establishment by the mean length of its 7pm queue.
R is for… Residencies
These days every pub should have one. By installing a street food trader in the kitchen, customers can enjoy decent — often exciting — freshly cooked food rather than frozen pub grub. The landlord needn’t worry about any of that cooking malarkey. And traders get a stage to showcase what they can do. Everyone’s a winner.
S is for… Soft-launches
Traditionally when a restaurant launches it does so gradually, allowing both front-of-house and kitchen teams time to get used to the flow. Many will offer a soft-launch for a period, which usually involves 50% off the food bill in return for a bit of patience with service and perhaps a slightly limited menu. This year we’re already seeing soft-launches become an attraction in themselves. They are flagged up on social media and written about by the online food press (including us, sometimes) causing seats to book up within hours of lines opening. We’ve noticed reviewers heading in during soft-launch, too. It all seems to defeat the point of the premise, but is a very good way to get a meal on the cheap all the same.
T is for… Tinnies
We all love a tinnie on a train. Or anywhere for that matter. But no longer need they carry a sense of shame and 300ml of generic lager: cans are going craft. Breweries leading the tinnie revolution by bringing out their brews in metal include: Beavertown, BrewDog, Camden Town and Fourpure. Why? Well, compared to bottles cans are cheaper to make and transport, more environmentally friendly, and better at protecting the beer from oxygen and light. Bit of a no brainer, really.
U is for… Under ground
London has plenty of sky-high restaurants, but now the food scene is turning its attention to going underground. A former bomb shelter in Soho Square is set for development; public loos are being turned into subterranean bars and coffee shops left, right and centre; and even our veg is being grown under the ground. Add a new bar themed like an Underground station into the mix and it’s clear the industry has a real thing for the below ground at the moment.
V is for… Virtuous
We might still be loving burgers, ribs and ‘dogs, but a slew of new cold-pressed juice bars (such as Press in Soho), healthy restaurants (such as Maple & Fitz in Fitzrovia) and diet-conscious eateries (such as Pure Taste near Notting Hill) suggest that London may have reached peak junk and turned a corner.
W is for… Wine on tap
Like beer from cans, it’s more cost effective and environmentally friendly to serve wine on tap than from a bottle. It’s the only way it’s served at Blacklock in Soho, you get it at Vinoteca and one of the city’s biggest wine distributors has just started to push a new range of taps — bye bye bottles.
X is for… XXX
London’s food scene is getting x-rated. We recently previewed a whisky tasting involving supping 50-year-old whisky from the navel of a half-century-old Hell’s Angel. Miss Cakehead has created cakes which resemble Buffalo Bill’s Skin Suit. We’ve been presented with burgers that taste like human flesh. And La Bodega Negra is a Mexican disguised as a sex shop.
Y is for… Yuanyang
We’re a little biased because we particularly love this stuff, but reckon this Chinese combination of tea and coffee could be about to hit coffee shops and cafés hard. For now you’ll have to go to Chinatown to get your fix.
Z is for… Zzzz
Unlike in some global cities, London’s food and drink scene is not 24 hours — it still likes to catch a few zzz’s. But it is getting there, and it’s being led by the industry for the industry. Clapham’s The Dairy now runs monthly Bloodshot supperclubs on the last Saturday of every month, aimed at hospitality workers who have finished service and have the next day off — it starts at 1am and runs into the early hours. It will be a similar story at Brunswick House in Vauxhall which starts its monthly run of Sinning On Sundays dinners on 19 April.