Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: Amazon grows Fresh and pre-watershed junk ads on the chopping board

The news, reviews and trends from March 2-3, including the ‘game-changing’ new restaurant review site and an interview with Noma’s head of fermentation.

4 March 2019
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Food news

Amazon grows Fresh

Amazon appears to be expanding its grocery delivery, according to The Sunday Telegraph. The paper's research suggests that the online giant has been hiring a larger team for Fresh, the business arm that allows customers to order same-day delivery on groceries – albeit only in London and the southeast so far. While it is currently small potatoes, this branch of Amazon has been growing rapidly: sales increased 71% over the last year compared to 54% the year before.


Is America’s produce worse for our health?

Woody Johnson, the US ambassador to Britain, criticised the UK perception that American goods are of inferior quality on Friday, stating: “Inflammatory and misleading terms like ‘chlorinated chicken’ and ‘hormone beef’ are deployed to cast American farming in the worst possible light.” Response to his comments flowed in over the weekend, with Guardian critic Jay Rayner tweeting: “Letting in chlorine-washed chicken as Woody demands would be literally harmful to the health of the nation. It makes me sick, in so many bloody ways.” The National Farmers’ Union and campaign group Global Justice Now also voiced concerns about allowing imported goods with lower animal welfare and food safety standards to undermine British produce.


Consultation goes out on junk food ad ban

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will announce consultations on a pre-watershed ban on junk food ads, according to The Telegraph, as well as inviting comments on the possibility of extending restrictions to radio and the internet. The news comes as childhood obesity in the UK continues to rise. While statistics show that children spend a significant proportion of time watching shows not aimed at them – implying a pre-9pm ban on unhealthy foods might be beneficial – Britain’s broadcast TV channels fear that millions of pounds of ad revenue will simply migrate away from them to laxly regulated online video portals.

image credit: Getty Images

A rehash of the Marks & Spencer-Ocado deal

The Telegraph rehashes the main points of the M&S-Ocado deal, giving a blow by blow for all those who want to know details about how the negotiations took place. To recap: Ocado boss Tim Steiner said he had been chasing M&S for 19 years and was unsurprisingly pleased with the £750m joint venture. M&S boss Steve Rowe, however, has found himself having to defend the deal amid a barrage of criticism that the price paid for taking the grocery business online is too high.


John Lewis heir in line for chairman position

The race is on to find the next chairman of John Lewis, with the great-grandson of its founder said to be in pole position. Patrick Lewis is currently the retailer’s finance director and the most likely candidate to take the reins, though in the running are ex-WH Smith CEO Kate Swann and Direct Line boss Paul Geddes. John Lewis will also announce the size of its annual staff bonuses this week, with The Guardian writing that a poor Christmas showing will most likely mean a 2% bonus.


Food trends

Cannabis oil highlights

If you’ve missed Food Spark’s coverage of the burgeoning CBD oil trend, The Sunday Times has spotlighted five products that have entered the British market. These include High Flyer Session IPA from Green Brewing, The Marshmallowist’s cannabis, grapefruit and pink peppercorn marshmallows, Mr Moxey’s CBD mints, soft drink Green Monkey CBD and raw CBD chocolate from Almighty Foods.


Food interviews

David Zilber, Noma’s head of fermentation

The man in charge of developing new fermented flavours for renowned restaurant Noma takes The Guardian through 10 rooms of experimentation, where plums, mushrooms and all sorts of other fruit and veg undergo lactic acid, kombucha, vinegar, koji, miso, shoyu and garum fermentation. Zilber’s role is partly just to play with his food, but also involves developing specific taste elements, as he explains: “The kitchen can start with a concept for a dish and then a chef comes and says, ‘Oh, I need 15% more sour umami flavour.’ Hmmm. Is that going to come from freeze-dried gooseberries or a kombucha reduction or a light vinegar?”

image credit: Getty Images

Chris Stang, founder of The Infatuation

Meet the man who has a “game-changing restaurant guide,” according to The Sunday Times. The Infatuation started as a side gig for people with over-inflated expense accounts, but has since landed a $30m investment to become a serious business proposition. Grouping reviews under standard headings but also under categories like “Where to eat in London when you just can’t” and “Where to eat with a third-tier friend,” the business just bought the long-established (but slowly mouldering) Zagat guide with hopes of turning it into a younger, cooler restaurant guide book – while also snapping up its social media followers.


Michael Caines, head chef at Lympstone Manor

In this quick Q&A with The Sunday Times, the esteemed chef picks out his most useless piece of kitchen equipment (“a blender that can heat and cook food”) as well as the three chefs that have most influence his cooking: Raymond Blanc, Bernard Loiseau and Joël Robuchon.


Food reviews

Yeni, London W1F 9SH

This import from Istanbul is “a major car crash,” according to Jay Rayner, who spends a good deal of time focusing on the high prices at this Turkish restaurant. “The nadir is the £21 charged for a huge slumping package of muddy-grey vine leaves filled with chickpeas, the sour, bile-ridden tang of labneh and more leaf mulch,” he writes, adding, “We try to eat it, really we do, but it’s less food than a traumatic experience designed to be character forming.”

The Drunken Butler, London EC1R 4SX

Focusing on this restaurant’s Sunday special, Marina O’Loughlin tucks into a set menu of traditional specialities from Persia, including several dishes she’s never tried before. Featured items are the coucou sabzi (“a kind of dense frittata, packed with more green herbs than you’d imagine possible, including quantities of dill”), ash-e-reshte (“a celebration soup traditionally served at New Year: springy noodles, floury beans, savoury broth ringing with turmeric and mint and thickened with more khask") and tahdig (“fragrant rice cooked in a heavy pan so it forms a dense, crunchy crust around itself”).


The Half Moon, West Sussex RH14 0LT

There’s “just a bit too much going on every plate” at this Jodie Kidd-owned endeavour, writes Kathryn Flett, who can’t help feeling that this gastropub hasn’t quite pinpointed its raison d’etre. Nevertheless, she’s quite happy tucking into beef cheek with pappardelle, parmesan and truffle as well as roast guinea fowl with crushed artichoke and tarragon butter sauce.

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