This article appeared in today's edition of The Australian. POD presented at the Property Council of Australia conference in WA a couple of months ago on Food & Design trends. This article supports the comments I made then on the trend to 'convergence in the middle' ... it's good to know these highly respected food journos are of the same opinion!
HOT 50 RESTAURANTS OF 2014: EMERGING TRENDS by John Lethlean and Necia Wilden
Author Michael Symons called it “one continuous picnic”, and we reckon that’s a nice summation of the state of dining out in Australia today. It’s increasingly informal. It’s very democratic. It’s all about sharing. It can happen any time of day. It can be fast and furious, or languid (and liquid). The restaurant experience in Oz has never been closer to the posh picnic.
It’s almost a metaphor for Australian society: there has been a convergence somewhere around the middle. Price-wise, lower-end places have moved up by a sometimes surprising degree, usually by stealth. And higher-end dining rooms have scrambled to make themselves look and feel more accessible and affordable. The fact is, dinner out at anywhere half-decent is going to cost you $100 a head, at least, no matter how hard your chosen restaurant may pitch the Gen Y message.
And increasingly, it’s all about your thirst. The need for restaurateurs to profit from beverage sales, particularly wines and cocktails, has never been clearer, yet it seems that if they get the spirit – and the space – right, we are all too willing to pay. There are queues, and waiting lists, to prove it.
There’s another kind of convergence we’ve noticed, too. At the elite end of the dining spectrum our most expensive restaurants are, by international standards, good value for money, like this year’s Hottest Restaurant (and Hottest in NSW), Rockpool. In the middle, however, the consensus from visitors is that Australia is a pricey place for a casual bite.
Top restaurant trends
We can’t help but be enthused about the dining scene in Adelaide. A new spirit is creeping through the city, with small bars, wine bars and food bars popping up. Compared with the rest of Australia, they offer excellent value for money. It’s no mistake that our winner of this year’s Hottest Value gong is North Adelaide’s nose-to-tail mecca The Daniel O’Connell. It’s exceptional, but let’s not forget this is a city with a history of gastronomic trailblazing and we’d love to think the glory days of the ’80s are coming back.
It’s tempting to say the biggest trend in restaurants this year is wine bars. Everywhere you look, some of the smartest sommeliers and wine geeks are plying their trade in cosy, comfy, good food-oriented bars. It’s driven by the wine price model in restaurants, our love of small-plate nibbles and our appetite for what’s new and provocative in wine.
Wine mark-ups. Doing the retail comparison will only give you heartburn. At a certain type of city restaurant, it seems that anything drinkable needs a $50 mark-up over bottle shop prices to earn a place on the wine list. The era of the $45 starting point for the simplest of wines is here, whether we like it or not.
America, hell yeah. Whatever did we do before discovering the USA last year? Sliders, brisket, ribs, burgers, dogs, po’boys… and not just at the shake-and-bake price point either. The US thing – and its kissing cousin, street food – has permeated the kitchens of some of our most serious chefs. It’s part of the picnic theory: this is a very convivial, egalitarian way to eat and, done well, it’s a joy.
Korea, where have you been? Once, each city had a smattering of trad Korean dining rooms where expats and the curious would venture. Now, alongside them is a new wave of diner that references Seoul. We’re all so familiar with the hot/sour/salty/sweet flavour palette of Southeast Asia: it was time for a whole new layer from the funk and mystery of fermentation. Hello, kimchi; welcome gochujang.
Smoking, coal and wood burning, pickling, foraging, fermenting, producing honey, curing fish: all gathering momentum.
House-made… bread (has never been better); butter (ditto); and fresh curds, including tofu. Mind you, some restaurants aren’t providing bread at all, unless you pay. They shoot themselves in the foot.
Dashi, coastal succulents and native ingredients have invaded our plates, mostly for the better.
Ingredients you cannot avoid these days: yuzu, buttermilk, kale, smoked eel, quinoa, sea urchin, miso.
Dining has gone digital. Whether it’s booking systems, payment methods or the ever-deepening penetration of social media at the table, that smartphone in your pocket is an essential dining companion.
Yes, Australian restaurants have issues. But after sampling international restaurants and with the anecdotal feedback of visitors, we can say dining in Oz – led invariably by broad-minded, well-travelled chefs – is in exciting shape. In the words of too many waiters: please enjoy.
Story via www.theaustralian.com.au/executive-living/food-drink
#podfinds #foodtrends #dining #australia #2014