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The London menu trends below reflect how the wider UK restaurant trends are being interpreted.  Whats hot, where should you go,  who has the biggest queues, which openings are coming up..  all right here (although not in order).

LONDON NEW COOL CHICKEN

As sure as night becomes day, chicken restaurants are hatching across the capital.  As usual, the trend comes from the states but as well this comes because of global meat price issues and the fact that most people just like it.  And, of course, operators look at Nando’s and want a piece pf the action.  Most offers are buttermilk southern fried chicken or variants of.  British free-range is the currency in this market, with plenty of noise about provenance but steering clear of industry approved ‘happy’ chicken standards because they cost and actually nobody’s really sure what it all means. 


So, The Tramshed by Mark Hix in Shoreditch is a steak and chicken (cock and bull) only offer and this has become a new brand of its own in the form of Hixster, starting int the City. Spit and Roast are the truck of choice, cruising Hackney with their van and the odd residency. Soho House have Chicken Shop in Kentiish Town (great value!) and are rolling-out, also now in Tooting  And check out Los Pollos, Wishbone are down in Brixton market, Chooks are up in Muswell Hill, Whyte & Brown have opened in Kingly Court, ClockJack and Cookhouse Joe have opened in Soho, Lucky Chip have morphed into Lucky Fried Chicken, Mother Clucker.. Clutch in Shoreditch is good, Jamies and Grillshack also have great chicken on their reduced menus and Le Coq in Islington is the new rotisserie king..ENOUGH ALREADY !!  Just two more.. new Rita’s in Hackney, and The Culpepper (wood-fired chicken rotisserie and rooftop greenhouse) from the Forza Win gang.

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THIRD WAVE BURGERS

Just when most everyone predicted that burgers were ‘so-over’, a wave of new burger operators are delighting the capital with higher fat and better provenance, and they’ve created quite a following.  Chargrill is out, flat top grilling is in.


At the forefront of this came #Meateasy which quickly became famed Meatliquor , then followed by Covent Garden version MeatMarket and off it went.  The Goodmans guys joined in with the epic Burger & Lobster.  Down in Brixton Market and rolling out fast are Honest Burger using only 35 day Ginger Pig meat, Bukowski have also joined the Brixton Marketeers from its base in Box Park (Shoreditch).   Lucky Chip are now selling in Giant Robot along with their famous van and are now in Camden too.  Mishkins in Covent Garden have taken the NY steamed patty, as has Dirty Burger in Kentish Town and there isn’t a self respecting slider in town which hasn’t ramped up the fat content.  And check out the Admiral Coddington, Chelsea for an incredible aged-in-house version, Bar Boulud has a pricier patty, still delicious,  Mother Flipper are getting a name, Patty & Bun (our favourite) have the old Stockpot site on Charlotte St. And here come the Americans..  In-n-out are eyeing an invasion after their pop-up, Five Guys have three sites (and want 280!?), say ‘hello’ to Smashburger, and Shake Shack have Covent Garden and loads more ready to go.

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Real Spanish is back in with some notable new entrants, and Sherry's coming along for the ride!  The Spanish resurgence seems to have begun, in part, thanks to Bar Pepito in Kings Cross, famed for their Sherry and winners of Time Out’s best bar 2010. 


Jose Pizzaro's new tapas bar ‘Jose’ on Bermondsey Street is worth the trip and there’s more Spanish from the former Brindisa man further up the street in the former Bermondsey Kitchen.  Relabelled’ Pizarro’s’ he unleashes more a la carte, a larger bar is planned as well as Londons first Cava Bar.  Brindisa have opened Tapas Brindisa in Soho, their third.  Fino at the bottom of Charlotte Street is top end tapas, and the same team operate the excellent Barrafina on Frith St, Soho (counter only, go early) with a third tapas outlet planned for later this year on Drury Lane, Covent Garden.  All time favourite Fernandez & Wells have a small wine & food bar on Lexington St, Saltyard group have three classics.. Dehesa, Saltyard and the newest, the Opera Tavern in Covent Garden. You might want to have a look at Morito in Exmouth Mkt.  Capote y Toros on Old Brompton St has completed a sherry and tapas triangle alongside its brothers Cambio de Tercio and Tendido CeroBar Pepito is still the coolest sherry bar and their Camino stable brings the genre to the masses.

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NATIVE INGREDIENTS

The tipping point - a thousand blog posts extolling the addition of Colmans English mustard to the Spuntino salt beef slider.  But you knew this right?  After all provenance on menus isnt exactly new, but the twist here is the extent people are going to.

Menu development is awash with creatives scouring for even more interesting locally sourced ingredients just to keep up.  Might want to check out Duck Soup for uber-cool, understated yet decidedly British along with 10 Greek St and classic Anchor & Hope on The Cut (Southwark) who are opening their second.


Of course, local produce isn't new, this is more about where its being used.  Flavour heavy international cooking will be increasingly paired with artisan produce.  And English wine will be coming along on this one.  This is about re-defined value for money, flavour, a reflection of increasingly main stream food festivals and a simple desire for the reinvention of classic home comfort food.

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Udon and Ramen done right are still pretty rare round these parts, but times they are a changin’.  If we’re not careful, this is going to get out of control.  Sure, Wagamama forged a path but lately we’ve seen a whole host of organised (big scale) pan-asian offers opening including Yo Sushi (and there’s a lot of Yo’s right!) and East Street (great design).  Noodle House (from Jumeirah) are eyeing a role out too.  These guys are liking the 80% gross profit, and why not.


But thats not the focus, thank god. Koya in Soho have led the artisan small batch gang and its these craftsman that are rejuvenating the category with incredible flavours, freshness and its an ‘in’ on the rest of those gorgeous Japanese treats.. particularly gyoza and tempura..  Koya Bar just opened next door.  Tonkotsu in Dean Street have a short menu along with various whiskies and Japanese craft beers (site #2 in Haggerston)  Bone Daddies ramen bar finally reached the old Melati site on Peter St, Soho courtesy of Ross Shonhan, former Zuma & Nobu Head Chef which has a little more rock n roll (and check out Flesh & Buns their #2) and Shoryu Ramen has found its way to Regent St and is spreading out too.   All queue out most nights.


And guess what (no suprise) this is a carbon copy of the New York ramen trend which was itself invigorated by a host of new entrants a couple of years back and it hasn’t stopped. But thats not for now. Shabu Shabu will just have to wait its turn.  Keep your eyes out for non-traditional, lower-carb variants such as spaghetti squash noodles. And the trickle down into the mass-market, in terms of flavour and connoisseurship is what makes this interesting

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BARBECUE

Barbecoa with now departed Adam Perry-Lang and Jamie Oliver got the media spread but face it, you were uncomfortable with the spend, the hype was tough to meet and the subsequent refurb meant questions were being asked.  No doubt though that the butchery is on message (and with rumours of BBQ2 on the way it seems so is the profit) and the general discussion around cooking techniques had an effect. And then Pitt Cue’s truck on the South Bank came along and stole all the food blog space and before you knew it they'd gone off to Soho and give or take a couple of regional varieties, like John Hargates version at the Worlds End in Brighton, you'd be forgiven for thinking that as far as BBQ was concerned that was that.  


But it hasn't gone away, and there's big money lurking around bringing concepts like ‘Grillshack’ by Richard Caring and his gang along for the ride. It seems though that this time around BBQ is softening up, same things happening in liberal parts of Texas believe it or not.  That means green eggs are poping up in kitchens ALL over town and people like Smokehouse are coming to the fore.  Dukes in Dalston is worth a look as is the aforementioned Pitt Cue Co and now John Salt in Islington.  Dont forget Bodeans either which has been around for years. Also worthy.. Cabana, the Brazilian BBQ/street restaurant is on rollout, Hickory Pitt from the Roast team is heading for the City and look at Red Dog Saloon in Hoxton, Big Easy are back for their second site in Covent Garden and try Salt Yards version.. Ember Yard in Soho. And smoking isnt just for meat, watch out for smoked cream and icecream (its easy to do) and more smoked vegetables. Check out Ribstock while you’re at it. And keep an eye out for off-shoots such as French Dips sneaking onto menus across town.

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I’m a food specialist, living in Brighton and working with the UK’s top restaurant brands. I’m in London most days and this blog is about news, drink and food trends from the bar and restaurant industry and my daily exploration around the City. More about me..

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A Lost in Catering look at one of our last big Browns openings, the Fat Duck and more..
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A Lost in Catering look at one of our last big Browns openings, the Fat Duck and more..

DOGGY STYLE.. HOT DOGS (HAUTE DOGS)

Hot dogs are enjoying something of a renaissance, albeit they’ve been given the gourmet treatment. Forget the Ikea sausage or late night West End filthy concoctions, this is about double-smoked blends of pork and beef with marjoram, topped with exotic treats such as caramelised lettuce.


Stealing all the blog space is Bubbleodgs, the country's first Grower champagne and hotdog joint dreamed up by James Knappett, former chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant The Ledbury. Priced at £6 and up, toppings include BLT with truffle mayo; chilli and coriander; and avocado, lime and rock salt.  Dach & Sons in Hampstead are pairing with craft beer and whiskey, with sides of bone marrow popcorn.  Hanks Hotdogs are dispensing out of the Shacklewell Arms in Dalston; Big Apple Hot Dogs are growing in stature following their guest appearances on a number of menus across town (not to mention the festivals and Old Street trailer); and lets not forget Herman ze German “our wurst is ze best!” down on Villiers St and Old Compton, Soho.

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HIPSTER PIZZA

Uh oh!  A lot of hipsters nursing burnt mouths because they've been eating pizza before it was cool.  We’re noticing some changes in the usual pizza set-up.  Lots more story behind the dough, artisan ingredients, smaller menus, sprinkling of craft beers.. you get the picture.  Some of these guys are awesome.. Welcome Voodoo Rays an offshoot of the Dalston Superstore so we’re safely in hipster territory here. Worth a late night visit and wash it down with the obligatory IPA. Say hello to Sacro Cuore (sister to Ealings Santa Maria), Crate Brewery & Pizzeria in Hackney Wick, Forza Win the pizza rooftop supperclub (whats not to love?) in Bethal Green, Story Deli - the often moving crazy expensive great quality so-cool-we-dont-use-a-sign hangout, Pizza Metro in Battersea retro chic and recognised by Italy’s Gambero Rosso (only 7 in the world!) and take a look at the Agile Rabbit down in Brixton Market, Lardo in Hackney.. here’s the full update.


Gasp.. and there’s more. Pizza East deserve a mention here as do Franco Manca.. both are eyeing the big time and are trying, not entirely successfully to sidestep P’Ex territory.. we’ll see.  Cheese dreams.