Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: Oxo releasing vegan beef cube and school meals not meeting safety standards

All the news, reviews and trends from January 18-19, including questions over the pricing of meat alternatives and the top 20 restaurants according to top chefs.

19 January 2020
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Food news

Oxo beef stock cubes going vegan

Premier Foods has announced that it will be releasing vegan-friendly beef-flavoured Oxo cubes, made with extra yeast and a different mix of herbs and spices from the normal version. A release date has yet to be announced, but Premier Foods has said the pricing will be in line with the existing range.

 

The vegan tax

While vegan Oxo cubes might come in at the same price as the normal variety, the cost of meat alternatives can make taking part in Veganuary is an expensive affair. “There is an aspiration from retailers to extract as much value from the vegan and ‘free-from’ trend as possible. It does seem like the fewer calories you eat, the more expensive they are,” said Clive Black, a retail analyst at Shore Capital brokers, adding that part of the reason plant-based burgers and sausages often cost more is because the market is still quite new.

 

Pret raises coffee prices to pay for plant-based milks

Pret a Manger is subsidising the cost of milk alternatives (which cost more than cow’s milk) through increasing the price of its regular coffees by 5-20p. Previously, it charged extra for alt-milks, but is offering them for free following criticisms that this practice penalises those concerned about climate change.

image credit: GettyImages

School meals not meeting safety standards

The Food Standards Agency has revealed that 207 schools and nurseries are failing to comply with minimum safety regulations, putting 60,000 children across the UK at risk. Mouse droppings, dirty plates and unsanitary staff practices were among the reasons for the ratings, with several catering companies criticised for the failings.

 

Quaker Oats accused of using forced labour

A Sunday Times exposé has found that Quaker Oats is among the companies using Chinese prison labour to package goods. The brand’s owner, PepsiCo, says it is shocked by the claims and is investigating, though observers have said that it is impossible to guarantee any product made in China does not employ forced labour.

 

Sausage skin maker squeezed out

Sliding sales of edible collagen cases mean sausage skin maker Devro will miss its annual profit targets.

 

Top chef calls veganism ‘rip-off’

Michelin-starred Sat Bains has called vegan food “the biggest rip-off,” while saying he would never serve a vegan menu at his restaurant because he is not a plant-based specialist.

 

Legendary chef’s restaurant loses Michelin star

Speaking of Michelin, the guide has downgraded the late Paul Bocuse’s restaurant to two stars, prompting an outcry in some quarters, though others claim the eatery has only kept its third star this long due to warm feeling for its namesake chef.

 

Food trends

Top 20 restaurants

Twenty of the top chefs in the UK choose their favourite restaurants. Choices include London spots like Xinjiang eatery Silk Road, ‘neo-bistro’ Black Radish, Malaysian spot Sambal Shiok and Italian favourite Lina Stores;  Inver and L’Escargot Bleu in Scotland; modern Welsh eateries The Dining Room and Kitchen at the Chapel; and Yorkshire's The Dawnay Arms, Cornwall's St Kew Cafe and Manchester's The Walled Gardens.

image credit: Getty Images

Fermented food ranked

Chef and food writer Olia Hercules rates the fermented foods in supermarkets, giving five stars to kimchi from Culture Collective and Eaten Alive as well as The Collective and Nourish's kefir. Four stars go to Hengstenberg and Daylesford’s sauerkraut, but no sourdough scores higher than one star.

 

Food reviews

Merienda, Edinburgh EH3 6TP

A meal of “big hitters, solid fillers and ‘What the hell were they thinking?’” is what greets Jay Rayner at this modern eatery. The critic enjoys dishes like the duck breast (“served pink, with a pile of fresh fava beans and loads of crisped chorizo, all bound together by a glossy jus)” as well as the filo of crabmeat (“topped in turn with a full Ker-Plunk of green apple batons, in a puddle of brisk acidic dressing”). Less enjoyable are the tuna carpaccio, radish, lobster vinaigrette and blue spirulina (“a plate of wrongness that also tastes of nothingness”) or the bean purée with parsley pesto and powdered porcini mushroom (“nice words are not the same as nice things to eat. It is just a bit gritty and salty”).

image credit: Merienda

Paradise, London W1D 7PW

This could be the best Sri Lankan restaurant in town, according to Marina O’Loughlin, who raves about the mutton rolls (“the spicing multilayered and resonant, the shoulder meat-stuffed rolls substantial but a million miles away from some of the oafish bruisers sold in the name of Sri Lanka’s favourite log-shaped snacks”) and the fish curries (“soothed with quantities of coconut milk and stained dark yellow with what might be the tangy sourness of goraka”). Roast chicken curry is “as moody and smouldering as early, pre-cancelled Johnny Depp,” while the kothu roti is a “gooey, stodgy guddle of chopped flatbread, cheddar and chicken curry.”

 

Volta do Mar, London WC2E 7PS

Kathryn Flett tucks into a delicious selection of Portuguese classics, praising everything from fried cornmeal masala and sardine pate with sourdough, to Brazilian moqueca (spicy fish stew with coconut) and “curry-soused chicken thigh and drumstick with a fragrant rice, rounded off with fluffy farófias in a Mediterranean creme anglaise.”

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