UK menus peppered with spicy, international flavours, says Horizons
International influences as varied as super-hot chilli, "burnt ends" barbecue meats, French dip sandwiches, the Egyptian spice dukkah, and the Italian n'duja sausage are to become more popular on menus.
According to the latest Menu Trends survey (winter 2014) from foodservice consultancy Horizons, these elements will be joined by meat sauces such as baconnaise, and potato-style plates such as hash browns, over the coming months.
Lobster, crab, "superfood" vegetables and healthy choices such as muesli were also still widely seen, while more chefs than ever were seeking to use cheaper cuts of meat, and more seasonal veg.
The latest bi-annual survey tracked menu changes from October-November 2014, across high-street restaurants, pubs, quick service outlets and hotels.
Similarly, another new trend, American-style "French dip" sandwiches - which usually include thinly sliced roast beef on a baguette, and are the speciality at London restaurant Dip and Flip â' appeared on the menus at TGI Friday's and OK Diner.
Bacon jam and bacon mayonnaise ("baconnaise") was also seen regularly, having made their way from being a lesser-seen quirk at a few innovative sites, on to menus at large groups such as Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), and All Bar One.
Spice from abroad was also a key trend: dukkah spice from Egypt was noted in particular, as was the hot Italian spreadable sausage, n'duja, spicy noodle soup laksa, and hot sauce sriracha, the latter of which grew by 400% in popularity year-on-year.
Hash browns and similar items were also more popular for breakfast, including corned beef hash, and cheese and onion hash, which grew alongside the "healthier muesli" option, especially in cafes.
However, health has taken a slightly different turn, with operators focusing more on superfoods, omega 3, and low-fat dishes, rather than promoting plates as low in carbohydrate or salt.
Lobster and crab also jumped in popularity (up 28% and 14% respectively, compared with last year) and were featured on menus at Café Rouge, Ping Pong, and Jamie's Italian.
The burger - that old faithful of the past few years â' is still in evidence, however, with operators producing ever more unusual creations such as the double steak festive burger at Beefeater, and the wild boar and chorizo burger at Wildwood restaurant.
Nicola Knight, Horizons' director of services, commented: "Tastes are becoming ever-more cosmopolitanâ¦ consumers always like to try something new, but at the same time like the familiarity of something they know, hence the enduring popularity of burgers. Several of the more innovative dishes have come from smaller, independent outlets including food trucks and one-off operators. Once these dishes are picked up by high street brands, a trend becomes established."
Italian, American and ‘healthy' are top 3 trends in casual dining >>
Burger trend peaks; Asian and US influences still strong, says menu report >>