Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: touch-free meat packaging and the pesto reformulation

The news, reviews and trends from April 14-15.

16 April 2018
restaurant openingpackagingplasticplant-based

Food news

‘Snowflakes’ will melt for touch-free packaging

The ‘snowflake’ generation come in for some sneering remarks in the Telegraph, which reports that Sainsbury’s is set to launch straight-to-pan plastic pouches “to help squeamish millennials who are afraid to touch raw meat before cooking it.” According to Mintel, almost 40% of young cooks try to avoid handling raw meat, compared with almost 25% of the general population. The Telegraph quotes Ruth Mason of the National Farmers’ Union as saying that the Sainsbury’s decision is backed by evidence: chicken that can be bought and roasted in a bag has seen sales spike. “We know one of the reasons is because consumers do not have to touch a raw bird,” said Mason, who also added that it was “disconcerting that shoppers are so removed from their food,” as the meat industry is coming under increasing pressure from the rise of flexitarianism, vegetarianism and veganism.


Hey pesto

Consumers are being misled about the contents of retailers’ own-brand pesto, implies an article in the Guardian. An investigation conducted by Which? has found that traditional ingredients used to make the sauce are being substituted for cheaper alternatives, including cashew nuts for pine nuts, sunflower oil for olive oil and grana padano for parmesan. Which? noted that Asda, Co-op, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose were all engaged in the practice, with all standard supermarket pestos (excluding Waitrose) using thickeners such as potato flakes, bamboo fibres and nut flour. The most authentic, according to the report, are Asda’s Extra Special Genovese Basil Pesto (£1.39) and Waitrose’s 1 Pesto alla Genovese (£2.70).


Fast city centre to go slow

The Sunday Times takes special note of two upcoming openings from the family behind Petersham Nurseries Café. The original has been running in the vicinity of Richmond for 14 years and owes its appeal to “its discreet, leafy location, its rustic yet elegant setting inside glasshouses and the beautiful, deceptively simple Italian-inspired food.” The pair of new spaces are scheduled to open on April 23, bringing a rustic, slow-food attitude from the ‘burbs to the city centre.


Clipper takes a hint from PG Tips on teabags

The UK’s longest-established Fairtrade tea brand has announced it will unveil fully biodegradable teabags by summer, writes the Guardian, after PG Tips made the change to its pyramid teabags in early March (he company’s other teabags are to follow suit by the end of the year). Clipper’s move comes as consumers turn the screws on tea makers – a new national petition called 38 Degrees demands major companies like Tetley and Twinings ditch all plastic from teabags and has already attracted more than 125,000 signatures. Both these businesses have already announced they are developing and trialling solutions to do just that.


Costa conundrum

As much as £3bn of value could be created if Whitbread spun off Costa Coffee from its Premier Inn brand, according to the Sunday Times. That, at least, is the belief of American hedge fund Elliot Advisors, which is pushing for the demerger after it announced that it now owns more than 6% in Whitbread, worth £430m, making it the largest shareholder.


Food trends

Battle of the burgers

American burger chain White Castle decided to start selling sliders made from imitation meat last week, prompting the Sunday Times to take a look at the two companies battling it out for meat-free burger supremacy. Both Impossible and Beyond Meat have Bill Gates as an investor, while Impossible has been praised by model Chrissy Teigen and Beyond has actor Leonardo DiCaprio as a fan. Food Spark previously reported on the two businesses last year, but since then both businesses have been expanding aggressively into retail and foodservice.


Food interviews

Roger Wade, founder of Boxpark

Shipping container shopping centre Boxpark is about to open a third location in Wembley, and the Telegraph wants to know the secret to founder Roger Wade’s success. Some of the most successful outlets in the original Shoreditch Boxpark are a vegan restaurant and a chicken burger joint, which prompted Wade to focus solely on food and drink in the second spot in Croydon. “I think there’s a backlash away from taking on huge spaces with long leases – the customer doesn’t want that and nor do the businesses,” he says. “I see things moving towards a much more kitchen concept, which lets the independent trader focus on what they’re good at doing, which is the food. What you get as a benefit is we’re responsible for cleaning, security, the footfall.”


Food reviews

Orrery, London W1U 5RB

The Orrery has had a revamp for its 21st birthday – not that you’d notice, according to Marina O’Loughlin, who writes that “it looks almost exactly the same, only glossier, more glittery.” “I just wish they’d left it the hell alone” is the sentiment that best sums up the critic’s view of the food, whether referring to the deconstructed tournedos Rossini (“foie (perfect) sits on caramelised endive; crouton reinvented as a kind of savoury biscuit plonked by the beef like a conquering flag; the fillet has a slightly disturbing tenderness that suggests a dunking in a water bath) or desserts such as the confections of rhubarb and lemon posset (both so overdressed they could be auditioning for RuPaul”).


Forest Side, Cumbria LA22 9RN

“There’s a lot of salt-baking going on here,” writes Jay Rayner, noting that it brings out the intensity in both the celeriac, served with mussels and fillets of lemon sole, and the kohlrabi with flakes of salt cod, pickled nasturtium flowers and a lovage emulsion. He’s equally happy with the mains: pork loin with “a pleasing ribbon of crisped fat,” Jerusalem artichokes and “limpid pork jus dotted with puddles of herb oil”; aged beef rib with a smoked butter emulsion. “But the intellectual, precise approach obvious in the savoury courses doesn’t fully transfer to the sweet end of the meal, where you need lusciousness and indulgence,” he notes, while still describing the overall experience as “seriously good.”


The Coal Rooms, London SE15 4RX

“If the thought of eating food at which industrial revolutionists would upturn their noses – charred stuff, mostly – excites you, then the charmingly reimagined ticket office at Peckham Rye… will make you smile even before you order your first beer,” writes Kathryn Flett, who seems surprised to find that people go to Peckham to eat. Then again she does admit that she’s not really down with the millennials, finding herself half-amused, half-annoyed by “Googleable hipster treats” like smacked cucumbers and burnt hispi. She’s all for the corn tacos with pumpkin mole, chimichurri and London fettle (ewe’s cheese) though, dubbing them “marvellous.” Neither the smoked ox cheek nor the smoked lamb neck live up to this fine start, with Flett noting that “the problem with smoking everything in sight is, of course, that it potentially obliterates all subtlety and turns everything into a generically smoked meat-flavoured texture.”

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