Out with the old and in with the new, writes Dee Laffan, as we take a look at what’s on the hot, and not, list in Ireland in 2018.
You could argue that the island of Ireland is regional, and it is, however now more than ever there is a sense of supporting local at an even closer proximity. It definitely has to do with a want for more transparency in food production and investing in local economies, but it also has to do with going back to basics. There has been an increase in the number of butchers, bakeries and local neighbourhood restaurants opening. Consumers want to buy produce grown locally and see provenance on menus when they eat out, from craft beers to cheese, vegetables to meat. Regionality will become even more defined this year and local food experiences will grow in the tourism sector.
There are no signs of the interest in our health and its connection to food waning in 2018, but perhaps with a renewed insight. It’s strange to see ‘health’ as a trend at all, good health is something everyone wants, but with the appearance of free-from trends in the past few years, food has taken the blame for many ailments. The healthy food trends have been more negative and involve exclusion. This year, we will see a return to focusing on a well-balanced diet and the positive health benefits of food. Not eliminating, but adding to diets – more vegetables, less sugar, older grains, more seafood – as we look at food sources and labelling to eradicate the bad.
This is a further increase in our interest in transparency of food production and restaurants wanting to use more up in the kitchen to avoid waste. We will see more restaurants making their own in-house butter, vinegars, fermenting and pickling food, creating fermented drinks, and making homemade pasta.
We’ve seen the number of restaurants that are offering a tasting menu of five courses at a set price has risen in the past year – small plates were also a trend from 2017 – and now we will see menus across the board with far less options than previously seen. The time of the ‘please-all’ menu is coming to an end. Thankfully. Chefs are taking stock of what they use in kitchens, what is truly seasonal, how they can waste less and cut working hours, part of this is prepping less dishes. It is not a negative, but rather the opposite; from a staff sustainability and food waste perspective, but also it will bring variety and life to restaurant menus across the country without constantly churning out the same repetitive dishes.
The rise in plant-based diets, vegetarian and veganism, is definitely going to hit menus everywhere this year. So far, the extent of meat substitutes has been slower than other countries, we still don’t have any vegan butcher shops while the number of vegan dining options has increased, including a vegan chipper on Camden Street, and while the U.S. is harking ‘heme’ to be the next big thing, we haven’t even seen ‘seitan’ available to buy widely yet (Sova Food in Dublin 8 are really flying the flag there), so it’s safe to say we’re a while away from this trend yet. However, plant-based dishes and root-to-stem eating are certainly seen more widely on menus, there is naturally good health benefits of eating more vegetables, and with increasing interest from chefs on growing their own and looking for local farms and gardens to collaborate with, it is something we can expect to see across the island soon.
Ethnic restaurants in Ireland still have a long way to come. We have some truly amazing restaurants and chefs highlighting the best of their cultures’ cuisines, while the rest are not comparable to anything like the real deal. While the world braces itself for a wave of Latin-American food trends this year, Ireland will hopefully get a better taste of authenticity as the demand rises among consumers for genuine flavours. Mexican and Japanese in particular will be among the international cuisines taking the lead here, and we’ve already seen the introduction of Portuguese dishes on menus in Dublin and this is definitely going to rise.
Last year heralded water that was better than water, with added vitamins and minerals to soothe our bodies to wellness and while there is no doubt ‘wellness tonics’ are definitely on the up, think more like kombucha, kefir and sparkling drinks of a fermented variety. Harping to the same tune as fermented foods and its relationship to gut health. With the sugar tax on drinks coming into effect in April, there will be added pressure on drinks companies to produce something with 5g or less of sugar so as not to be taxed. The tax will apply at a rate of €0.30 cent per litre if drinks have over 8g of sugar per 100ml. A €0.20 cent per litre tax will apply if drinks have between 5g and 8g of sugar per 100ml. Tonics, bitters and syrups, with natural ingredients – like those from the American Village Apothecary – and flavoured with florals like elderflower and rose, will be taking centre page in drinks menus. Irish company Poacher’s Well have already made their mark here with their tonic water, but now with the introduction of alcohol-free spirits, it will devise a whole new mix.
One of the negative trends of 2017 in the restaurant industry was the increase in the number of ‘no shows’ and last minute cancellations. Empty tables, especially during a busy period, are such a waste of money, food and resources. Many restaurants in cities across the country have started to take deposits or credit card details for bookings, in particular large group bookings, and this is going to increase in 2018 and no doubt become the norm, as it is for hotel bookings.
Get started with OpenTable for Restaurants
We love talking with customers about their unique businesses. Simply fill out the below form and we will call you right back.