Bar snacks can conjure up images of a stale packet of nuts, a sad looking plate of hot chips or even an overcooked Scotch egg.
It’s one of the last sectors to improve on food offerings, according to the owner of Sea Chips, Dan Pawson, who produces salmon skin crisps.
But there’s been some innovation slowly creeping into the sector, with new openings bringing in a much needed boost for bar food.
Here we highlight how the change is coming in…
Richard Corrigan, chef of Corrigan’s Mayfair, also has Dickie’s, with the bar menu showcasing twists on classics is the name of the game in this bar.
Bar bites include smoked ham hock and black pudding croquet, Cornish crab on brioche and an oyster croque monsieur.
Even the nibbles have a touch of class with goat’s cheese popcorn and roots down vegetable crisps.
The Blue Posts
This is an 18th Century pub which was refurbished and reopened, with a restaurant in the basement. But what’s happening in the bar?
It’s from the team behind The Palomar and The Barbary and classic bar food has been taken up a notch.
On the menu includes pork crackling with taramasalata and paprika, freshly cut Spanish Salchichon sausage, a toastie with ogleshield (a washed rind made with cow’s milk) cheese, onion and mustard, as well as mushroom pate and smoked almonds.
Taking a kids classic into the adult world, there is also anchovy soldiers, which are fingers of toast topped with anchovies.
Initially launched as a food truck and now a restaurant, this barbecue joint also has a big bar where people can snack on changing offers.
Most recently, there was grilled sourdough and bone marrow, cod’s roe and turnip, as well as lamb heart.
It could have been easy to put some simple meats on as snacking, but Pitt Cue has taken their snacks menu further.
This Portuguese powerhouse opened with a bang last year and its bar menu is certainly very different from what you’d expect to find in your standard boozer, with its 30-seater bar.
There are vegetarian options like whey chips with smoked pimentao (a famous red pepper paste), and a baby gem with almonds and garlic emulsion.
For seafood, there is braised crispy kombu (or seaweed as it is commonly known) with shrimps and caramelised crab tarts with yoghurt and mushrooms.
Moving on to meat, people can get their hands on grilled quail with toffee mayo and Portuguese sweet bread with lemon and iberico ham. These bar snacks are next level!
Tapas dominate the bar menu of this new restaurant. Ex Barrafina chef Nieves Barragan is in charge of Sabor, which opened this month.
On the list are queso fresco (fresh cheese) on toast with black truffle, lardo with anchovies and olive oil and even the Spanish version of devilled egg, called huevo relleno.
There’s ox tongue carpaccio and tinned herpac sardines with fennel salad to wrap your lips around too. Snacking never seemed so fancy.
This Shoreditch restaurant is branching out from it’s evening set menu into bar food.
It launched a new bar menu this week, with around ten to twelve smaller dishes that feature some lunch time favourites, such as the grilled mussels with cider butter and the smoked eel with seaweed and January King cabbage.
The restaurant is also serving snacks from the evening’s set menu such as the calçot (green onion), Stichelton cheese and wild leek flatbreads from the wood fired oven and deep fried artichokes with Cedrat lemon.
The menu is not only for snacking, but for those wanting to curate a full dinner at the bar from the dishes off the list, according to the restaurant.
Head Chef James Lowe added: “We’ve been serving snacks and small plates to friends at the bar for a while now, and it brings a really nice dynamic to the restaurant. We felt it was the right time to open it up to everyone.”
Even The Smoking Goat beat the pubs at their own game in the recent Scotch Egg Challenge. It won the competition with a Scotch egg comprised of southern Thai-spiced Tamworth pork with fermented crab, chilli and kaffir lime.
The judges commented that the entry showed that the Scotch egg doesn’t need to be traditional. So spicing up standard fare seems to be emerging even more.
So what is inspiring Sparkie when he’s at the bar?
Bar food does certainly lack innovation. There has been a resurgence in pork scratchings of all kinds and flavours, but the majority of them aren't very good.
There is a draw to small, high quality informal food right now which would serve this particular area quite well if someone does it right.
Alongside notable trends for authenticity and upgrading traditional foods - the humble Scotch eggs, sausage rolls and crisps could be seen going through changes soon.
I think the issue with previous attempts is that they got pulled too far away from the traditional recipe - all it would need for a makeover is simple, high quality ingredients with an innovative spin.