Five innovations in the evolving delivery market

With delivery/takeaway-only models the only route for beleaguered restaurant operators, Food Spark analyses five emerging dishes/concepts born from the coronavirus crisis

26 March 2020
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image credit: Getty Images

1. Braaibroodjie from Hammer & Tongs

What?

A South African cheese and tomato toastie, cooked on the braai, the braaibroodjie (barbeque sandwich in Afrikaans) is traditionally eaten at the end of a South African barbeque, with Hammer & Tongs’ version featuring sliced tomatoes and onions, blatjang chutney (a South African-style apricot/dried fruit rendition) and melted cheddar cheese.

Where?

Farringdon BBQ mecca Hammer & Tongs, where everything revolves around their traditional 3m-long braai grill filled with smoking Namibian Sickle Bush hardwood. Following the hospitality crisis in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the restaurant has launched a stripped-back takeaway menu (for delivery or collection).

Broken up into four categories, the menu features small bites such as crispy sheep chops, biltong and sicklewood-smoked skin on chips with lemon and garlic salt. Five different burgers/rolls, including a boerewors burger with blatjang and spicy tomato sauce are also available, with two braai barbecued curries (including a Cape Malay vegetable curry) and two braai grilled options (including honey mustard pork ribs), with eight addable braai salts and rubs, rounding things off.

Why?

We’ve discussed opportunities with both East and West African over the past month, but the south – with their BBQ-focused traditions – should not be overlooked as we enter warmer weather.

The beauty of the braaibroodjie is that it falls nicely under the comfort food category, being so very familiar a concept, but it is also exotic enough to appeal to the growing number of experimental UK diners clamouring for new flavours and textures from across the globe.

Considering the seasonal appeal of barbecue foods, despite the country’s isolation, this braai essential could start to make waves as we creep towards summer.

 

2. London Restaurant Co-Operative

What?

Rising from the (hopefully temporary) ashes of Le Bab – the group of modern kebab London restaurants – London Restaurant Co-Operative is a particularly innovative concept.

A not-for-profit social kitchen set up purely for chef-cooked meal delivery, London Restaurant Co- Operative is snapping up recently unemployed chefs from across the industry to prepare two daily-changing dishes (one veggie, one not) priced at £6.50 each, with unemployed wait staff delivering them on bikes. 

Le Bab owner Stephen Tizer is covering the set-up costs to allow the kitchen and waiting staff involved to keep 100% of the profits.

Where?

Anywhere within cycling distance of their HQ in Carnaby Street in the West End.

“We’re a cooperative of chefs & waiters who want to keep working and serving during these uncertain times,” reads their website. “We’re battling a financial crisis and a potential mental health crisis.”

Recent dishes include beef shin and lamb shoulder lasagne with parmesan bechamel; chickpea, spinach and potato curry with basmati rice; and lamb keema curry.

NHS staff will be able to purchase meals for £4.

Why?

With the hospitality industry in unprecedented times, and with change afoot for businesses big and small, Le Bab’s move is not only heart-warming but inspirational too.

This is, essentially, a new way of running a restaurant. A collaborative call to arms for chefs across the industry, while the London Restaurant Co-Operative is non-profit (with the operation paid for by the founder Tizer) considering the current circumstances, a daily dish concept model, fuelled by affordability and a sense of community, may potentially have legs beyond the crisis.

 

3. Chi shang rice boxes from Rice Error

What?

Another ‘from the ashes’ concept here, this time from popular London haunt Bao, with Rice Error a mad delivery service peddling a plethora of different rice boxes made with authentic Taiwanese chi shang rice.

Short grain and plump, this rice chi shang rice is considered a superior variety, holding a solid texture and with a slightly sweet aftertaste.

Rice Error, which is set to launch within days, have five rice box variants including with the roasted yellow chicken leg and the 40-day aged Denver beef and black pepper sauce, both of which come with pickles, soy-boiled egg and fried tofu.

The boxes themselves are made from bamboo, biodegradable and inspired by the popular bian dan boxes served in Taiwan.

Where?

Soho, Fitzrovia, Southwark and Hackney, with Taiwanese fried chicken with hot sauce, sweet potato fries with plum sauce and a house salad with tiger century egg also on the launch menu.

Why?

Bao is a big deal in London, with their move to laden Taiwanese rice boxes clever both in terms of appeal and in tackling the issue of what travels well.

We’re seeing menus altered across the board to adapt to takeaway/delivery, but not everything lasts in transit. Rice options have short-term longevity, with the championing of the chi shang rice allowing for a lesser known and somewhat exotic ingredient to lead Bao’s new charge.

A swift and innovative move.

 

4. Rhubarb jin doi with ginger custard from My Neighbours the Dumplings

What?

A fried, hollow Chinese pastry made with glutinous rice flour, jin doi is a versatile sweet street food, with the family-run dumpling and sake house, My Neighbours the Dumplings, launching their new version this week as part of their new delivery menu.

Where?

Shooting out from either their Lower Clapton or Victoria Park outposts, their rhubarb jin doi comes with ginger custard to dip. Specialists in handmade dumplings, rolled fresh every morning, Neighbours have had to adapt for their delivery/takeaway operation, with only those options that travel well making the cut (see above).

These include courgette and wood ear mushroom potstickers (steam-fried dumplings also known as guotie), prawn won ton soup with pak choi in a light fish broth and siu gok (potato and truffle crispy dumplings).

Why?

Desserts certainly have their place in this brave, new, delivery-focused world, with jin doi Neighbours’ chosen sweet route at the base of their takeaway menu.

Originating in Chang'an in China, jin doi can take many forms depending on where you find them, with regionality a big pull for UK diners these days (with the capital particularly awash with regional Chinese examples).

We’ve recently discussed the possibility of mochi, the Japanese sweet staple, finally making its mark on the UK. Could, then, a similarly rice flour-made Chinese dessert make its mark as a delivery-only treat?

 

5. Feast from Top Cuvée

What?

Designed to feed between three and four hungry diners, the Feast from Top Cuvée (which recently rebranded as Shop Cuvée) is a premium six-course DIY/ready-meal delivery option.

Executive chef Rob-Roy Cameron has created how-to videos and live cooking sessions to aid the adventurous scratch cook in producing the Feast (which comes in at £50-a-pop), which currently includes pork broth with fresh greens and crispy pork skin; beef agnolotti; fresh tagliatelle with a mushroom ragu and wild garlic; grilled leeks with blue cheese and a walnut dressing; boudin blanc with new potatoes and tarragon cream sauce; and a sticky toffee pudding to finish.

Where?

In Finsbury Park in North London (well, from), with Feast the largest of three dine-at-home options from Cameron, with Meaty Bois and Vego’s customised versions of the above, with both able to feed two.

Shop Cuvèe, like several other independent names, have also gone down the grocery route, selling larder essentials including pastas, grains, spices, jams and chutneys.

They also sell a ‘Survival Pack’ – a mixed box of wine, delivered via bike.

Why?

Cameron is quite a well-known name in the hospitality sector, having been mentored by the mighty Albert Adria during his time at the former best restaurant in the world, El Buli in Spain’s Catalonia. During his six-year association with Adria, he also helped open the critically acclaimed restaurant duo Tickets and 41 Degrees in Barcelona.

Now, with Shop Cuvee, diners (well, customers) are able to cook his food at home. The meals are pre-made, but a microwave is surely not the only piece of kit needed for the Feast, with how-to videos and live cooking sessions very on-trend on social media as chefs look to educate and enthuse restaurant-deprived isolators up and down the country.

It’s a bold new frontier for the ready meal market, with premiumisation very much being taken to the next level.

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