After some accurate predictions last year, Stephen Jardine sticks his neck out to predict the next big trend in food and the decline of the current gin craze.
As is traditional, it’s time for our annual review of the year in food and drink served with a side dish of what 2020 may bring.
Looking back on this column 12 months ago, it proved to be unusually prescient. In fact on the basis of it alone, I might give up the day job and concentrate on predicting racing results and lottery numbers.
For starters, I suggested this would be the year of the vegan and so it proved to be. I also saw more problems ahead for the major restaurant chains who had swaggered into Edinburgh as if Princes Street was made of gold.
So far so smug, but one major snag prevents me from claiming the title of lowland seer. Brexit. Back in January I warned it was the biggest challenge to the food-and-drink sector “and the next three months are crucial”. Well it didn’t turn out that way and it has taken a year and a General Election to unblock the deadlock.
The uncertainty has produced lasting consequences. The Jamie’s Italian chain collapsed in May following in the messy footsteps of Strada, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Byron. Now Pizza Express and Frankie and Benny’s are also known to be struggling. Rising costs, lower public spending as a result of Brexit jitters, and over-saturation of the middle market mean those casualties are unlikely to be the last.
While the chains break, the independent restaurant sector in Scotland continues to strengthen with fresh openings all the time. We should be really proud to support that.
So what will the next year bring?
Brexit is by no means sorted but at least we have more clarity than 12 months ago. There are many bumps on the road ahead but at least we now know the direction of travel.
Healthy eating and peak gin
As for food-and-drink trends, I’m going to stick my neck out and say all things Greek.
In recent months, a few new Greek eateries have started to appear and I think more are to come. Just as Spanish food took years to emerge from under British mass tourism, so Greek food is getting ready to shine. And with the increased focus on healthy eating, a national cuisine famed for its salads, seafood, fruit and vegetables is at last getting ready for its moment in the sun… which will make my Greek pal Markos very happy.
Some supermarkets stock a few Greek wines but with a new generation of young winemakers starting to target the UK, expect to see a lot more on the shelves in the months and years ahead.
They can happily take the place of ubiquitous gin which really has reached its sell by date. We were always going to reach peak gin at some point and it came this month in the shape of a Christmas-pudding flavoured variety. Yup, they really have made gin out of everything except old socks but the boom was fun while it lasted.
So stock up on the Santorini white and get ready with the souvlaki, 2019 is almost over. It was the year we lost Andrew Fairlie and Gary Rhodes, both dead before they reached 60. No one really knows what 2020 will bring so on that basis, let’s eat, drink, be merry and hope for the best. Happy New Year.