Eating out trends: What’s cooking?
With the publication next issue of The List’s annual Eating & Drinking Guide to Glasgow and Edinburgh, editor Donald Reid chews over some of this year’s themes and trends in the local eating out scene
Right now we’re busy writing up the late entries, dotting ‘i’s and crossing ‘t’s to get this year’s Eating & Drinking Guide finished. A year ago we revealed over 100 new entries and everyone took it as a sign of a buoyant scene. This year we have over 120, an average of five new places each month in both Edinburgh and Glasgow. Many of them are replacing existing venues, but there’s still a net gain. There have been some notable, and quite sudden, closures in the last few months (in Glasgow more than in Edinburgh), but still the arrivals keep on coming. Every new place, and the way existing establishments adapt to survive, contributes to the constant redefining of the local dining landscape.
Long predicted after coffee-colonisation, it’s now time for tea. Tea rooms, salons and shops are popping up in quiet neighbourhoods and town centres. The early versions were chilled-out hangouts, but the 2009 version is better branded and more likely to sell you a designer cupcake. A choice of five Twining’s speciality teas in tagged teabags doesn’t cut it any more. We’re talking loose leaves, strainers and definitely no milk and two sugars.
Not necessarily to be served with tea (though don’t discount it) are the many versions of small plates. The equation is that small plates mean more variety, more sharing, less formality and smaller prices – per dish, that is, not necessarily at the final bill. The Spanish thought tapas was their speciality, but other nationalities either just stole the phrase – thus ‘Italian tapas’, ‘Scottish tapas’ etc – or realised they had a name for the same thing, be it dim sum or thali.
If it’s not Pittenweem langoustines, Skye scallops, Borders bacon, Perthshire chicken, Shetland lamb or Stornoway black pudding, then ask for ID. Food comes from somewhere, and knowing that your chef knows its history is reassuring.
How now brown cow
This year’s menu essentials are pork belly, sea bass, razor clams, skirt steak, meat and fish on the bone, barley risotto, beetroot, crumbles and lots of wines by the glass.
There’s a lot of concern out there about the tough times. Restaurants look for turnover more than anything else and to achieve this there are deals galore. Don’t look for lots of food for £10 or £15, but instead, smaller tasters of better quality food that might cost double if you were doing a normal à la carte.
It’s not just neighbourhood restaurants – though they continue to be a welcome growing phenomenon – but restaurant neighbourhoods. How many places have opened on Argyle Street recently? Or around Broughton Street? Time to start re-drawing the map.