If you were reading this blog 12 months ago, you might have seen the Wish List I put together for 2011. Like most of our well intended resolutions, and like many of the Wish Lists I hash together at 11:57pm on the last day of each month, not all of those wishes (or sub-wishes) were followed through, fulfilled or achieved. But that’s ok. I didn’t do too badly. And anyway, alternative options come along and some ideas are better than others; it’s not a must do list.
So I thought I’d do it again.
Whilst racking my brains for ideas, I realised that 2012 is the most uncertain year that I’ve had for some time. But it could be big … so, this year I hope to enjoy some or all of:
1. Pop-ups and street food go permanent
2010 was the year when ‘Supper Clubs’ exploded. In 2011, as I thought they might, the world of Supper Clubs became increasingly professional and we found loads of top chefs doing one-off events and temporary stints. The Supper Club format (set menu, good value, sometimes sitting with strangers) continued, but it’d be wrong to call, for example, Young Turks and Cornish Grill events ‘Supper Clubs’; they were professional pop-ups.
Also in 2011, street food went mental. Amongst many, many others, Lucky Chip appeared as a genuine challenger to the Meatwagon as London’s best street burger, Big Apple Hotdogs grew and grew and grew, the Pitt Cue Co was awesome, the Eat Street collective got a permanent stretch at Kings Cross and, towards the end of the year, Nuno Mendes of Viajante fame started the Long Table in Dalston.
I suspect the trend of chefs guesting at one-off events and at their mate’s restaurants will continue this year and that the growth and improvement of street food will continue. But what I’m hoping, and what I hope to enjoy, are for some of those pop up events and the best street food vendors to get permanent roofs over their heads, or become permanent fixtures on our streets.
The Meatwagon became MeatLiquor at the end of 2011 and Pitt Cue Co are opening up in Soho a couple of weeks; their BBQ ribs are on my Wish List for January. I heard the Lucky Chip burger might be getting a site without wheels too.
Young Turks James Lowe and Isaac Mchale are likely to be opening their own places this year, maybe with the involvement of their mates Daniel and Johnny of the Clove Club and Ten Bells. I cannae wait to see what they’re like.
I bet there are plenty of others who’ve been doing pop up events and working out of vans who have grand plans too. Bring it on, I say.
2. Olympic food
Ahhh, yes. The Olympics. Isn’t it great that the biggest McDonalds in the world will be feeding all the supporters and tourists heading to the Olympic village?
I read somewhere that Ronald and his mates will likely provide 20% of the food on site. Which is a shame. But also means (if that stat is correct) that around 80% of the food must be from somewhere else. Who knows, some of it might be provided by independent British entrepreneurs. I actually reckon there may be a good thing going on over in East London (including the Long Table) and, though I’ve no tickets, I think I’ll take a couple of trips over to see what the devil’s going on.
There’s also no coincidence in the fact that we’re hosting the Olympics and the number of new restaurants that have appeared in the second half of 2011. No doubt many more will open in the first half of 2012. The big restaurateurs are well aware that Olympic bums need seats and, so long as the prices aren’t hiked too much, I intend to make the most of them. The focus on London of Corbin and King, Arkady Novikov and many of the New York restaurateurs wouldn’t happen without the biggest spectacle in the world / the biggest strain on our outdated public infrastructure coming to town. This might seem depressing opportunism. But their presence also increases competition and choice, which trickles down to all levels and should benefit us all.
3. Outside London
That said, I want to eat away from London too. Last year I thought I might take on some of the big names. Which didn’t really happen.
My thoughts this year are leaning more towards spending a bit of time and money at the well and lesser known restaurants of either New York or Copenhagen. So it’d be a big trip over an extended period, rather than a quick gastro-tourist visit to the names in the EasyJet magazine. Suggestions for either place (or even an alternative destination) welcome.
4. New places
Oh go on then. I’ve mentioned before that we need a bit of perspective when it comes to new openings and the way that we rush to them. But new places are kinda exciting.
As mentioned, I’m looking forward to Pitt Cue Co in a couple of weeks, James and Isaac whenever, and somewhere along the way: Mele and Pere; 10 Greek Street; Jeremy Lee moving to Quo Vadis; Ceviche; the Oriel; and also sipping a few overpriced cocktails at Century. Google them.
No doubt there’ll be loads of other restaurants to enjoy and Russell Norman and Richard Beatty will probably open another 5 places.
5. Upping the cooking
This one’s going to be easy to fulfil.
The reason why the next 12 months are a little uncertain for me is because I had a bit of a mid-life crisis moment half way through last year and bought a ridiculously expensive racing bike.
That didn’t completely satisfy me (Mark Cavendish, I am not). So I then resolved to leave my well paid City job. Idiot. My last pay cheque arrived at the end of November and the future’s suddenly become a bit daunting.
Who knows what the end goal is – a plan would be a stupid idea, right? But first up is a 6 month chef course at Westminster Kingsway college. I’m not going to diarise that time on this blog. But you’ll probably see an improvement both the ambition and quality of the food I’m cooking. Quite how I’m going to continue to eat out is another matter all together. Watch this space, I suppose.
Happy New Year, etc, etc.