Food & Culture

The food trends which shaped 2019

From fish bits, collagen powder found sprinkled in unexpected places, to the fashionable rise of the social non-drinker, this is the year that was.

By Fiona Donnelly & Michael Harden
Collagen snacks by Chief Bars.
PLAYING IT SAFE
Perhaps it's a sign of the economic times – tightened purse strings, higher ingredient prices, ever slimmer profit margins – but restaurant openings, particularly in the cutthroat markets of Sydney and Melbourne, have leaned towards safe options this past year. Mid-priced Italian and French bistros have been popping up all over (Frederic, Bar Margaux, Agostino, Lagotto, Peppe's, Alberto's Lounge, Leonardo's Pizza Palace, Capitano, Ciccia Bella) with more on the way, including Chris Lucas's new Melbourne CBD French joint, Batard.
COLLAGEN FIX
Would you like a shot of collagen with your next latte? Or a spoonful sprinkled over your breakfast? Perhaps you'd prefer to ingest the protein – which occurs naturally in the body and stops our skin sagging over time – pre-mixed as part of a hazelnut-brownie snack bar from Sydney-based company Chief. Yes, the ingredient famous for causing trout pouts is turning up in unexpected places. At Noosa's Jungle & Co, a gut-health bar on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, you can order a collagen-boosted hot chocolate or coffee. And at Brisbane's Wilde Kitchen, a Newstead paleo grocery and café, you can sip on a banana-crunch collagen smoothie or dip your spoon into a collagen coconut and lemon panna cotta.
Collagen snacks by Chief Bars. Photo: Jason Babet
EXTREME RESTAURANTING
The delight is in the detail like never before at our top-flight restaurants. Chefs are not only busily hand-making one-off ceramics and even pieces of furniture, but some (Dan Hunter at Brae) are also growing and milling their own grain. Brae's ceramics, meanwhile, are made from dam clay and ash gathered from its farm. At Attica, the entire kitchen team dropped tools in March to fashion little ceramic dishes from clay, Instagramming the results. Earlier this year, while Ben Devlin was tiling, plastering and making tables for his new restaurant Pipit, he found time to mill tuna spines to create ash for a glaze for the restaurant's bowls. Now that's commitment to the cause.
Making ceramics from dam clay at Brae.
GOODBYE TO BOTTLES
With "sustainable" becoming as important a credential to restaurants as "seasonal", it's no surprise we've seen imported bottled mineral water get the flick, and filtration and carbonation systems get the tick. Refillable still and sparkling bottles are being poured by waiters and it's a win-win situation: less packaging and a smaller carbon footprint means a healthier planet, and reduced storage or refrigeration equals savings for restaurants. But water is not the only beverage being offered sans bottle – we've started seeing wine and kombucha poured straight out of the tap, too.
THE SOBER TAKEOVER
Some might see it as the end of (civilised) days but there's no denying the zero-alcohol trend has gone from niche to mainstream. The best thing? A whole range of options has opened up beyond tea and juice matching, with restaurants such as Momofuku Seiobo, Lûmé, Vue de Monde and Bentley proving there's plenty of life there yet. Also driving the booze-free movement are new labels like Non (zero-alcohol wine), Brunswick Aces (zero-alcohol gin) and Sobah (ditto beer). And with mocktails and house-made sodas increasingly taking up real estate on drinks lists, it seems there's never been a better time to stay clean and serene.
There are now even more good reasons to stay sober.
FISH AND BITS
Snacks made from fish swim bladders. Crackers crafted from eyeballs. 2019 may not go down as the year diners said farewell to the fish fillet, but chefs certainly embraced a fin-to-scale ethos. Setting the standard is seafood pioneer Josh Niland of Saint Peter in Sydney's Paddington, who has been delighting diners with everything from silken coral trout throats to kingfish intestines cut as macaroni. Further north, at Pipit in Pottsville, Ben Devlin used albacore hearts in a katsuobushi-style seasoning for squid ragù, turning the tuna-head meat and blood into a purple-wombok roll canapé, while Alanna Sapwell from Arc in Brisbane served barbecued squid garnished with wafers made out of squid guts.
Josh Niland. Photo: Nikki To
SAVOURY SWEETS
Boundaries were further pushed in 2019, with everything from fats gleaned from fish and lamb, to funky ferments and upcycled waste products deployed in desserts. The carrot flatbread ice-cream at Gerard's Bistro, Arc's pig's-blood laced Oreos, and the shiitake soft-serve à la Amaru are just a few brave examples.
FAUX-REAL
There's nothing new about chefs playing with diners' minds. But did you notice anything fishy about your noodles this year? Seafood surrogates were on high rotation – why use flour and water when you can boost flavour and texture by calling on the ocean instead? At Brisbane's Gauge, ribbons of cuttlefish were dressed in a yuzu-spiked mussel cream, while at Joy, linguine-style confit squid sat atop a vivid zucchini purée. At Arc, squid stood in for short noodles alongside a pool of sage-coloured saltbush sauce and ink. And at Melbourne's Lesa, braised arrow squid in clam sauce arrived looking like snowy rice-noodle sheets.
HOT BRANDY
Until recent times, brandy has been somewhat of a wallflower, languishing with a nanna-ish, medicinal reputation and a cocktail repertoire (Brandy Alexander, Brandy Crusta) that's like the punchline to a bad joke. But thanks to old- and new-school Australian distillers, brandy has a new and improved name – and taste. For quality homegrown brandy keep an eye out for Sullivans Cove, Bass & Flinders Distillery, Twenty Third Street Distillery and the new XO range from St Agnes.
The shiitake soft-serve à la Amaru. Photo: John Orourke
SHAREPIN
  • undefined: Fiona Donnelly & Michael Harden