Fine dining chefs enter fast food market

North Berwick's Lobster Shack is at the forefront of the movement to bring a touch of class to the fast food market
North Berwick's Lobster Shack is at the forefront of the movement to bring a touch of class to the fast food market
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IT WAS once just a quick, cheap and often unhealthy snack, grabbed on the go and blamed for much of the western world’s obesity problem.

But now diners are looking for something more upmarket than traditional fast food, as “fast fine” food hits UK shores.

Posh kebabs including ingredients such as veal and halloumi and other upmarket fast food will be in demand among diners in 2015, according to predictions of the nation’s restaurant trends for the coming 12 months.

Cauliflower – dubbed “this year’s kale” – rotisserie vegetables and non-dairy milk alternatives such as almond milk will also enjoy a year in the spotlight, say experts writing in this month’s Restaurant magazine.

Editor Stefan Chomka said a growth of restaurants focusing on egg-based dishes was likely, while modern Thai and Mexican foods were set to be popular among diners, driven by chains such as Wahaca, which serves Mexican street food in its 16 restaurants in London and Cardiff. Pop-up restaurants such as London’s Som Saa, created by chef Andy Oliver, are expected to come to prominence too.

The magazine predicts more high-quality restaurants will instigate home delivery services, which are already popular in ­cities such as New York.

“The trend for better-quality fast food has taken off in the US, leading to the term ‘fast fine’, and you can bet it’s on its way here,” said Mr Chomka, pointing to fast food outlets opened by chefs including Heston Blumenthal, who is behind the Perfectionists’ Cafe in Heathrow Airport.

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The restaurant serves £14 burgers and fish and chips cooked in a beer batter “aerated through a siphon” with “atomized” malt vinegar.

Mr Chomka said: “Over here the casual dining scene seems the next logical step for some of our best chefs.”

Queues outside some of London’s new “posh kebab” restaurants demonstrate a demand for high-end fast food, he added.

Some of Scotland’s best-known chefs have already moved into a more casual dining environment, while retaining high quality. Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin now runs capital gastropub Scran & Scallie in addition to his eponymous fine dining restaurant, while Mark Greenaway last year opened Bistro Moderne, offering more casual fare.

“I think this trend is already here,” said Mr Greenaway, who has appeared on BBC2’s The Great British Menu and has a fine dining restaurant on the capital’s North Castle Street.

“We are looking at doing a delivery service from our bistro, which is something you just can’t get in Edinburgh at the moment,” he said.

“Other chefs, in London particularly, are doing things like opening a hot dog restaurant in front of a Michelin-starred place.

“I think the beauty of it is that you want to feed the many, not the few, and this just widens the net.”

The trend has also seen the emergence of upmarket street food stalls at events and farmers’ markets north of the Border. “Scotland is as advanced in terms of its restaurant industry as London,” Mr Chomka told The Scotsman. “There are some really great chefs doing great work.”

Restaurant magazine also predicted the end of fancy serving dishes in 2015, claiming that white porcelain plates would enjoy a resurgence.

“The sound of cutlery being dragged across slate has always been like nails on a blackboard to us, but we hope it will soon be a distant memory as restaurants bin the novelty tableware,” said Mr Chomka.

“Last year, chefs seemed unable to serve a side unless it was in some sort of quirky receptacle – think flowerpots, mini colanders, frying baskets and cocktail shakers. But good old porcelain will reclaim its place on the table this year – just you watch.”

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