Read our weekly food trends update to discover right-now ingredients, fun foodie events, Instagramable restaurant dishes, exciting street eats and exactly what you should be eating to stay ahead.
Cacio e pepe spaghetti balls
This week we tried the new Italian-American menu at Mason & Co, a brand-new, keg-only craft beer bar in the Olympic Park. It’s the first permanent venture for Capish?, previously a street food van that parked up across the capital serving meatball and chicken parm subs. Their signature sandwiches are there for the eating, but sublimely decadent small plates and snacks are on offer too. Cacio e pepe (literally translated as ‘cheese and pepper’) is the pasta flavour of the moment, thanks to Padella and our friends across the pond, and here they’re given a genius twist with a dunk in the deep-fryer, plus there’s a modish crackling and an updated poutine on the menu. Diet-destroying, sure, but so very worth it.
Hot on the trail of this vegan trend is Yorica, the UK’s first free-from ice cream parlour. Based in Soho, Yorica specialise in shakes, frozen yogurt and ice cream made from an entirely plant-based ingredients list. We tried this vanilla fro-yo topped with fresh raspberries and brownie chunks. Made with rice milk and coconut cream, it’s creamy, sweet and delicious – and doesn’t taste like a ‘free-from’ option at all. Perfect for people that can’t eat gluten, nuts, dairy or eggs. Other ingenious creations include a ‘peanut butter’ ice cream that’s entirely nut-free. Mind blown.
Possibly the most Instagrammable ingredient of the season, courgette flowers are hard to come by but well worth the effort spent seeking them out. This week we were lucky enough to try some in the chef’s special at Manna, Primrose Hill, stuffed with a herby cashew cream 'cheese’ and served with a vibrant carrot and red pepper sauce. We’ve noticed more and more chefs putting vegetables front and centre of their menus, and giving vegetarian and vegan dishes the care, attention and innovation that they deserve. We were also fans of the gluten and soy-free carrot cake, served with raw coconut ‘vice’ cream, sweetened with coconut nectar.
The Quiet Man Whiskey
Where better to explore the latest drink trends than at our very own BBC Good Food Show Summer? The Quiet Man is a brand-new whiskey from Derry in Northern Ireland - we tried their 8-year-old single malt at their stall in the Birmingham NEC. The intruiging name is a homage to the father of Ciaran Mulgrew, the managing director of Niche Drinks, who apparently saw and heard it all in his 50 years as a bartender, but stayed true to his code and told no tales. Mulgrew’s technique of maturing the whiskey in barrels which have previously held bourbon but never any other whiskey, allows it to soak up sweet, spicy and floral notes and develop a smooth finish – truly delicious.
Fika is more than just a coffee break, it’s a vital part of Swedish culture. To the unitiated – it's the daily ritual of taking time to rest and reflect over a warm drink and a bite to eat. This week we sampled the new fika menu at The Harcourt in Marylebone, all served on quirky Melody Rose china. Highlights included a reindeer scotch egg with lingonberry jam, as well as traditional Nordic dishes such as cured salmon on rye bread. We’ve noticed fika taking off in popularity in all sorts of establishments, offering a more casual and relaxed alternative to formal afternoon tea. We’re keen to make it a regular occurrence in the office – cinnamon bun, anyone?
Hold the gin! We're swapping our much-loved G&T for a P&T this summer. This week we ate at Le Bab in Soho where the kitchen team is reinvigorating the traditional Middle Eastern kebab with a focus on provenance, seasonality, and gourmet techniques. Their cocktail menu is just as inventive. Ramos Pinto white port replaces gin in 'The GB', where it's served along with tonic water, orange and a generous amount of mint. It's super smooth and not too sweet, making it just our kind of summer sipping.
Dinner at the TateThis week we went along to the Tate’s newest restaurant in their brand-new Switch House building, which opens this weekend. The Tate has strong links with its suppliers and supervising chef Stephen Goodlad peppers the menu with references to provenance. The seasonal and beautifully executed menu includes line-caught sea bass, morels and English peas in a champagne sauce. For dessert, we enjoyed an expertly plated lemon brûlée tart, raspberries, blueberry custard and marshmallow meringue. The new restaurant and bar (with signature Tate gin made by Sacred) has views over London and is a sleek affair fashioned from wood and concrete to echo the neighbouring galleries.
From cocktails to custards, sauces to salads, jams to ice cream, this summer’s must-add herb has to be lemon verbena. It's become so popular that buying a plant at this weekend's BBC Good Food Show Summer and BBC Gardeners' World Live has proved difficult. Adam Perry from Urban Herbs explained, "Mary Berry used lemon verbena in a lemon drizzle tray bake and since then demand has just exploded." If you can find some, lemon verbena is easy to grow in a sunny spot. It’s a fragrant herb that adds a sweet, sherberty flavour that can be infused as well as used fresh. After rummaging around the show, we eventually found some from Hooks Green Herbs.
Razor clams & sea urchins
If getting excited over razor clams is the sign of an extreme foodie (as Marina O'Loughlin writes), we’re guilty as charged. This week, we deliriously sampled them with cockles, sea urchins and purple cauliflower at Aqua Nueva in Soho. Newly-appointed head chef Yahir Gonzalez has relaunched the menu, bringing touches of his native Mexico to traditional Spanish dishes. Other stand-out seafood dishes include crispy grilled octopus served with sponge-like 'parcels' made from corn flour and squid ink.
Moscow Mule ice lollies
We’d never turn down a frozen cocktail, but the new way to ingest your ice-cool liquor fix is in a 100% solid state. Premium popsicle vendors POPS have moved away from super-sweet pops by introducing sour, bitter and fiery flavour variations. Their latest launch is a Moscow Mule lolly, with vodka, ginger beer and lime. Ice lollies are setting Pinterest alight at the moment, so stay in vogue by trying our best-ever recipes to recreate at home. Just be sure to label any booze-laden lollies as suitable for grown-ups only!
Mojo fish tacos
If Instagram is anything to go by, tacos could well be the snack of the summer. This week, we went to the trendy Chamberlayne Road to eat at El Barrio, a three month pop-up from Slow Down Food at The Shop NW10. Kensal Rise residents Suzy Strong and Hugh Lynch focus on locally-sourced ingredients, using freshly-made corn tortilla taco shells from Cool Chile Co and meat from traditional family butchers O’Farrells in Willesden. We tried this mojo-marinated fish filling, with crab meat, black beans and a roasted corn slaw. Weekly specials have included cod cheek and pancetta and a crab cake taco with samphire slaw.
Neither quail nor pine nuts are new to us, but this simple combination is. This week, we dined at the newly opened restaurant in Marylebone, Blandford Comptoir. With a focus on fine wine, diners can choose from over 250 wines and 50 Champagnes and the food menu features a selection of small and large plates, designed to be enjoyed in any order. We selected quail with pine nuts by head chef Ben Mellor, served with a light-as–air boudin – poached sausage made from chicken breast, truffle paste and eggs.
Our brand-new Healthy Diet Plan
Food writer Sarah has been putting our new Healthy Diet Plan through its paces this week, joining the 125,000 of you that have tried and tested our previous plans. Sign up now for 7 days of brand-new recipes that are packed with healthy fats, lean protein and slow-release carbs, with each day delivering more than five of your five-a-day and coming in at approximately 1,500 kcals. All the recipes are triple-tested and delicious too, plus we’ve got a separate plan for vegetarians. Join our healthy eating community and share your diet plan journey with us on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #HDPdiary.
So far, 2016 has been full of unexpected flavour combinations, with savoury ingredients popping up all over dessert menus. With tarragon season in full swing, we were keen to see how it could be incorporated into this sweet treat of mascarpone and chocolate-dipped honeycomb, sprinkled generously with tarragon-infused sugar. The brainchild of fresh produce and foraging specialists Rabbit, we enjoyed this innovative pud at their pop-up residency at Pergola on the Roof. We’ve had the savoury herb in stews and salads but never in a dessert dish, but it added a subtle anise flavour that we loved.
Burratina or burrata means ‘buttery’ in Italian and describes a mozzarella pouch, rather than a ball, filled with a silky, creamy, mousse-like blend of cheese and cream that oozes out when cut. We tried it at Italian restaurant Diella’s in Sussex, which the owner, Stefano, had sourced from a recent trip to Puglia and served as a starter, topped with pesto and served with fresh bread. We'll definitely be stealing this idea for a fuss-free (yet utterly delicious) dinner party starter. Bellissimo!
Missed the last food diary? Find out what we ate last month, or visit our 12 month compilation to get fully up to speed...