Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: Tesco’s secret plot and Germany bids bye-bye to bratwurst

All the news, reviews and trends from February 10-11.

12 February 2018
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Food news

Tesco is plotting against the Germans

Tesco’s “secret plot” has been unmasked by the Sunday Times – and it’s all to do with creating a new discount retailer to take on Aldi and Lidl. Senior industry insiders allegedly told the paper than the plan is to directly compete with the German companies on price, while offering a reduced range. The move comes after Kantar Worldpanel revealed that Tesco’s sales growth in the 12 weeks to the end of January was 2.6%, the best of the big four supermarkets but far behind Aldi’s 16.2% and Lidl’s 16.3%. According to the article, “Tesco is understood to be working with advisers from Boston Consulting Group on the new discount chain. It is believed to have asked key own-label suppliers to sign non-disclosure agreements before contributing to the project.” 

 

The berry blues

Haygrove’s farm in Ledbury has urged Theresa May to “learn from the Chinese,” as it prepares to relocate some of its raspberry and blueberry growing to Yunnan province, according to the Guardian. The grower is reducing its workforce by around 200 people (20%), amid concerns that there will be a lack of field labour post-Brexit. A large proportion of fruit picking in the UK is done by Eastern European workers.

image credit: Purestock/Thinkstock

Laws to prevent labour loss

In related news, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), the Food and Drink Federation and the British Poultry Council have written an open letter to the government calling for “free and frictionless” trade with the EU. Published in the Sunday Times, the three groups want assurances that there will be “an adequate supply of seasonal and permanent labour for the food industry.”

 

Clash of the Titans

“I think it has now become a quest to see who can disrupt fastest,” says Simeon Siegel, senior retail analyst with Nomura Instinet, in the Telegraph's article about the battle between retail behemoths Walmart and Amazon. As the paper notes: “Walmart has shut down stores and cranked up its online presence. The past few months have seen a blizzard of initiatives as it tries to move its tanks on to Amazon’s lawn.” 

 

Germans bid bye-bye to bratwurst

It appears Europeans are showing solidarity with Britain in at least one area: abandoning meat. According to the German Vegetarian Union, more than 10% of Germans are going meatless, compared to 1% a decade ago, reports the Times. While pork and sausages are still the most popular meat eaten, sales have fallen by more than 10%, while plant-based options have grown by 25%. The French have apparently also “cut their consumption of meat significantly,” says the paper.

image credit: GeorgeDolgikh/iStock/Thinkstock

TGI tips cause anger

TGI Fridays is getting a grilling after the chain announced plans to redistribute waiters’ tips to kitchen staff. The proposal would apply to 40% of tips paid by card and would allow the restaurant group to effectively increase wages for kitchen staff while avoiding paying more National Insurance, according to the Guardian. The move is currently set to take effect on February 19th.

 

Lobster lives matter

The debate on lobster welfare is being kept alive by the Guardian, following the criticism last week of Amazon’s live lobster sales. In a line that displays an embarrassing  Anglocentrism for our international modern age, the writer notes that “it is unthinkable that we would be sold a live chicken or lamb to kill at home” – except of course that it’s hardly uncommon to be sold live fowl in many parts of Asia or Africa. Despite the cultural insensitivity for England’s immigrant population, the article provides an interesting scientific examination of whether lobsters can feel pain – probably yes – and whether they should be included in a new Animal Welfare Act, alongside, say, oysters and clams.

 

Deliveroo ponders how to actually make money

Deliveroo is considering plans to float on the stock market, according to the Sunday Times, as one of several options being mooted by PwC, which has been brought in as a consultant. Despite its high visibility and a turnover of £128.6m in 2016, “the company has not come close to making a pre-tax profit,” says the paper, which adds that a source has estimated a value of “well in excess of $2bn (£1.5bn).”

 

The good, the bad and the ugly of Jamie Oliver

The poor old ‘Naked Chef’ gets a thorough going-over in the Times, as it muses on the closure of a third of his restaurants – and the related loss of 450 jobs. While the paper notes that the Jamie’s Italian issues “are symptomatic of issues affecting the wider restaurant market,” it quotes Martin Williams, founder of M restaurants, as saying that the “mediocre offering” and “soulless environment” were also to blame. The Times goes on to note that while Oliver has done well with his cookbooks, TV appearances and merchandise, that hasn’t extended into brick-and-mortar success: alongside Jamie’s Italian, the celebrity chef’s Union Jacks chain, cookery-school-meets-café Recipease and JME artisan food brand all imploded.

 

Food reviews

Henry’s, Bath BA1 2QP

Jay Rayner is overjoyed to find this Bath restaurant a haven from technology and the move towards personalisation – as well as any decorative frills: “The floor is bare boards from back wall to door. The tables are clothless. The paintwork is a subtle blue-grey. The sign outside is the signature of the man who cooks here.” The Guardian critic praises the glazed sweetbreads atop a bed of sauerkraut and the crisp-skinned brill with langoustine reduction, but finds the roasted salsify with chickpeas merely “interesting.” Finishing up with the Jerusalem artichoke crème brulee, he notes that “just because it can be done doesn’t mean it should. All it made me think is, I wish he would take the vegetables out of this otherwise lovely crème brûlée.”

image credit: Henry's

Supawan, London N1 9DT

The quirky décor (“Skittles colours, exuberant plants and walls decorated with rows of old-lady lampshades and flat bamboo trays”) is what first attracts Marina O’Loughlin to Supawan, but she’ll be back for the peek gai yud sai (“stuffed chicken wings, crumbed, deboned and fried. Typically stuffed with pork, here the greaseless delights are fat with minced chicken and prawns, glass noodles and lemon grass, the kind of mousseline that would do justice to any upscale French restaurant”) and the mushroom and chicken-stuffed squid (“slow-braised so that its complex, gingery liquor penetrates every fibre of its being, the flesh yielding, the whole thing miraculously the very essence of seafood”).

 

The Coach, London EC1R 3DJ

Walking into what is “unquestionably a boozer,” Giles Coren is surprised to find cocktail know-how – including the “sweet rocket fuel” of a white Armagnac martini – as well as casual French bistro cooking, such as the calf’s brain “fried nicely crisp in black butter with capers.” 

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