Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: from the death of the kebab to a French food guide snubbing Britain

The news, reviews and trends from December 2-3.

4 December 2017

Food News

Simply the best?

Convenience store Simply Fresh has announced that it is tripling its current number of stores. Positioning itself as an “upmarket grocery store concept focusing on local and best of British products anchored by an organic healthy range of food,” Simply Fresh currently has 25 locations, but is looking to expand its business in universities and hospitals, followed by offshoots in colleges. That’s in addition to the more traditional high street stores, according to the Times.


Putting the Jinn back in the bottle

In a chilling warning to would-be delivery companies of the risks, the Sunday Telegraph revealed that start-up Jinn left 1,800 bike couriers owed up to £700 following its collapse in October. The start-up had debts of around £6.8m when things fell apart, as it found itself squeezed out of a market dominated by UberEats and Deliveroo. 


Discount wars damage restaurant chains

A significant portion of consumers will not pay full price for a meal at high street restaurants, according to the Times. Heavy discounting from the likes of PizzaExpress and Café Rouge is meant to keep footfall up, but the result is slimmer margins – fine for the big companies, but a potential disaster for smaller brands that may already be stretched due to the combined effect of too rapid expansion, a weak pound, minimum wage hikes and raised business rates.


Giraffe raises its head

Things are looking (slightly) up at Giraffe. Under Ranjit Boparan – he of chicken fame (and 2 Sisters infamy) – the restaurant chain has cut its deficit from £8m to a £5.2m loss in the year to January. Turnover also fell, however, from £56m to £51m. Tesco sold Giraffe to Boparan last June.


Bacon-less brekkie

It wasn’t just Ronald’s make-up that left him red-faced this weekend, after McDonald’s branches up and down the country managed to run out of bacon. Cue irate social media posts. While it seems like an embarrassing oversight, apparently it’s not the beginning of a bacon shortage, as a spokesperson told the Sun Online: "We’re experiencing a short term issue with the supply of our bacon, meaning some breakfast items may be temporarily unavailable in some restaurants.”


Kebabs to be skewered by EU law

A crack down on phosphates in meat could mean an entire rethink of the doner kebab. EU lawmakers are looking to clamp down on the use of the additive due to links with cardiovascular disease, according to the Guardian, which quoted Kenan Koyuncu of the German association of doner kebab producers as saying that “If the European parliament gets its way, this would be the death sentence for the entire doner kebab industry in the European Union.” Phosphates are already prohibited when used to bolster flavour and water in meat, though exceptions exist – notably kebabs.


Cage fight

What’s the best way to raise healthy chickens? According to the government’s chief vet Nigel Gibbens, by keeping them in cages to avoid bird flu contamination. The decision by Tesco, Adsa and Morrisons to stop selling caged eggs by 2025 was dubbed “regrettable” by Gibbens, as he appeared to question the safety of free-range avian produce. His comments immediately prompted criticism from advocates of ethical farming. “Such a brazen endorsement by the UK’s foremost veterinary adviser is extremely disappointing,” wrote leading vets in an open letter to the Times. “Overcrowding and severe space restrictions are seriously detrimental to welfare . . . Avian influenza concerns can be managed without caging hens.”


French guide turns nose up at British cuisine

Only one UK restaurant has made it into the top 100 of La Liste’s best restaurants, prompting fury in the British culinary sphere, according to the Telegraph. The 1000-strong guide to the world’s finest dining establishments saw Britain claim fewer spots on the list than Spain, Germany, Italy, Japan and China. France, according to French-based La Liste, is the number-one gourmet destination, taking up more than a quarter of the spaces in the top 100. Conversely, only Restaurant Gordon Ramsay managed to scrape that honour for Britannia. That’s compared to other rankings guides like World’s 50 Best, which still gave the edge to France over the UK, but showed a much more balanced spread.


Food Trends

An emerald in the rough

The New York Times takes a look at Bronte pistachios, a specialty foodstuff the paper describes as on par with the “big, sweet onions of Vidalia, Georgia, the tiny dusky lentils from Le Puy in France and prosciutto from the area around Parma.” The nuts are used in such prestigious New York establishments as Nougatine by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Felidia, helmed by Executive Chef Fortunato Nicotra.


Food Interviews

Michel Roux, Godfather of Modern Restaurant Cuisine

Michel Roux talks about his reputation in an eloquent interview with the Independent, mapping his route to success and the secret to his Michelin stars. He also talks about his favourite kitchen gadget (the humble paring knife) and shares his views on people taking photos of food (“It is whether you want customers or surgeons dining in your restaurants. Today, people don’t just want to eat dishes, they want to dissect them and carry out post mortems on everything.”).


Food Reviews

Gul & Sepoy, London

The brothers behind popular restaurants Gunpowder and Madame D do not have another hit on their hands, according to Jay Rayner in the Guardian. The critic dubs Harneet and Devina Baweja’s new offering “a clever menu of dishes from the Indian subcontinent which isn’t quite as clever as it thinks it is.” Divided into dishes inspired by northern India royal palaces (Gul) and coastal soldier grub (Sepoy), Rayner finds both sides largely uninspired and incredibly overpriced. 

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