Stephen Jardine: Food never tasted so good as in 2012

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AS 2012 draws to a close and the last turkey leftovers disappear, it’s time for our annual food and drink review of the year.

Twelve months ago I predicted there would be casualties in the restaurant business and, sad to say, I was right. In Edinburgh, Tony Singh closed Oloroso and Dave Ramsden also had to slim back his Dogs eating empire.

So far, independent operators have been hardest hit by the decline in dining out caused by the recession.

Restaurant groups have deeper pockets and are more able to ride out the storm as evidenced by the fact that multiple chains have now moved into both the Oloroso and Amore Dogs sites.

The bad news out of the way, overall 2012 was a great year for Scotland as a land of food and drink. For every restaurant that closed there was another eager to take it’s place.

I had some of my best meals ever in the past 12 months. The top end of the Scottish eating scene continues to go from strength to strength, but the centre ground is just as exciting.

2012 was the year good food became mainstream in Scotland. For years, eating out here was a hit-or-miss affair involving big spending to ensure any kind of quality. In the past 12 months, a bad meal has started to become the exception.

Low points in the year were trudging round the Taste of Edinburgh food festival in torrential rain and being served yet another bland and tasteless cupcake, but the high points were too numerous to mention.

From the cusp of extinction, Scotland’s great home baking tradition is suddenly fashionable with places like Porto and Fi offering a delicious selection of treats. And the march of the supermarkets slowed and then stopped. Tesco’s trading is down and it has been forced to abandon a disastrously expensive attempt to expand into the American market. The days when it looked certain to take over the world are definitely over.

In contrast, Wholefoods Market arrived from America and is doing brisk business here. Expect to see it arriving in Edinburgh in 2014. It will join Earthy which has also taken off as a new way to eat and shop, selling and serving brilliant local and seasonal produce 
in three locations in the capital.

With whisky and salmon exports booming in the teeth of a recession, there was much to celebrate and be proud of in 2012.

But if I had to choose one defining food flashback of the year, it would be the watershed provided by chef Andrew Fairlie.

As the year came to an end, his restaurant inside Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire was named best in the UK by a London quality Sunday newspaper.

What a long way we’ve come and what a great way to end 2012. Whatever you are eating and drinking this Hogmanay, have a Happy New Year.

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