We love to spot London's latest food trends but every now and then there’s one that just can’t fade away fast enough. Some make their way over from other cities, like New York, while others we have to take full responsibility for. These are the most irritating London food trends of 2016.
1. Freak shakes
Make it end! These grotesque creations came over from Melbourne and we predicted they'd take a firm grip when we interviewed the lady who first brought them to London (she’s lovely, and we definitely do not blame her for cashing in on the trend). The idea behind a freak shake is to layer up as many types of dessert as possible on top of a milkshake, so think a chocolate shake topped with squirty cream, perhaps some melted chocolate, a brownie, a macaron, some sprinkles…etc etc. No limits. There’s just something a bit vulgar about freak shakes; we can’t see the appeal of stuffing yourself with as much sugar as possible in one sitting. It’s gross. Give us a well-made brownie and a nice cup of tea any day.
2. Rainbow coloured foods
Yawn. This one came across the Atlantic from New York where people went crazy for rainbow bagels. They landed in London at Beigel Shop (the yellow one on Brick Lane), and people snapped them up even though they didn't taste any different to a regular bagel. It's just food colouring, guys. After that, it was rainbow toasties, although at least they claimed the colours were the result of different flavoured cheeses. We're not sure, however; where exactly does the blue colour come from? Raspberry flavour Slush Puppy?
3. Single item restaurants
Some of London's single item restaurants are cool; think Lobster rolls at Burger & Lobster, lasagne at Mister Lasagne, or hot dogs at Bubbledogs. There seem to be a lot of questionable concepts creeping in now, such as the painfully juvenile Cereal Killer Café. The café got a huge amount of publicity when it opened, mainly because people couldn't believe what they were hearing. Their book released last year, however, was widely panned. Soon, we will have London's first crisps and dips restaurant, Hipchips. What next? The microwave oven chip café? What about a jelly baby pop up? You heard it here first.
4. Bad BBQ
There are some fantastic BBQ restaurants in London (see our favourites here), but there are many terrible examples too. People seem to think that cooking good BBQ is as easy as slapping some meat onto a grill, and as a result, we've eaten our fair share of shoe soles masquerading as brisket, and, worst of all, poor quality pulled pork. It's funny how pulled pork became a disease that gripped every pub chef and aspiring BBQ cook in the country. Now you can find it on pretty much every bad menu in town. Making good pulled pork requires skill and if you don’t have it, you end up with mushy meat that resembles soggy cotton wool in the mouth. A bad BBQ chef overcooks the pork then douses it in sickly sweet BBQ sauce. You won't have to look far to find it.
5. Stacking brunch items
What is it about brunch that makes people think vertically? We’re happy to eat other meal items arranged on their own area of the plate but when it comes to brunch, it has to be piled up in a big stack, usually topped with a poached egg. It’s fine to put a poached egg on, say, a muffin with hollandaise, but to perch it right on top of a muffin, a tomato, some avocado, bacon and whatever else the chef needs to use up is just a bit grim. Don't even get us started on the mixing of egg yolk and avocado – it's just not right we tell ye. If you want to find out where to go for a good brunch in London, check out our handy map.
6. Clean eating restaurants
Ah, clean eating; where to start? How about with the fact that ascribing a term such as 'clean' to food implies that all other food is impure or dirty? It's extremely unhelpful and potentially very damaging. How about the fact that most of the statements made by the 'experts' behind the movement have been widely discredited? Well, now there are cafés, delis and restaurants opening up which promise to serve only the kind of foods recommended by people behind the clean eating trend. We won't be visiting them. Food is to be enjoyed, not something to feel guilty about.
7. Sterile coffee shops
We don't do hipster bashing here, so let's make it clear that it's not hipster coffee shops per se that we can't stand. It's the décor. What happened to the idea that a coffee shop should be a welcoming, cosy place where people can linger, chat, and hug a cup of coffee with clasped fingers while sinking into a nice comfy chair? Coffee shops now are all tables made out of concrete, filament bulbs, succulents in too-small plant pots with insufficient light (we have to stop ourselves rescuing them) and sneery 'coffee manifestos'. If we want to put sugar in our coffee then we damn well will. They're less Central Perk, more Prisoner: Cell Block C.
8. No reservations restaurants
So yeah, there are benefits, like spur of the moment decisions to just rock up at a place and eat dinner. But even then there’s always a wait. We recently rounded up the best no reservations restaurants in London, and we do love their food, but since when did dinner become a 'put down your number and come back three hours later, drunk' affair? There's a lot to be said for just booking a time, and knowing that's when you’re going to eat. Sometimes old fashioned is best.
9. Badly decorated craft beer bars
Why do some craft beer pubs have to be so uncomfortable? Would the odd soft furnishing be such a terrible thing? There's a consistent teenage boy aesthetic, which means concrete walls, lots of shouty branding, terrible acoustics and rock hard seats. The seats are the worst thing about craft beer bars, where you're either perched on a bench made out of MDF, or there are bike pedals that your feet don’t reach down to or metal spikes which are perfect for scraping your ankles. Enough. Do we always need to remember to bring our own cushion?
10. Pumpkin spice
This is something else that has come over from the USA, where they have a lot of time for pumpkin spice. The sort of spices we're talking about here are cinnamon (a whole lot of cinnamon), cloves, nutmeg, that kind of thing. It's the sort of spice that's sickly sweet, just like pumpkin. Put them together and what have you got? One of the worst flavour combinations to come out of America. London coffee shops, in particular, have jumped on the trend, adding pumpkin spice to their cakes and drinks. We're over it. Just give us a Jammy Dodger and do one.