Head Chef of Piccolo Mondo restaurant situated in Nelson Mandela Square, Rob Creaser, predicted a number of trends that can be expected by fine diners this season.
“A big trend at the moment is introducing comfort elements into fine dining restaurants while maintaining the high standard and presentation of the dish.”
“Diners have their own choices of old favourites – comfort foods that reflect a deeper nostalgic familiarity. Comfort foods, however, are not usually found on the menus of fine dining restaurants. The desire for satisfying, rich fair has inspired the introduction of comfort elements into otherwise gourmet dishes,” Creaser said.
“Taking lamb shanks and putting them into a dainty little pie, or perhaps bringing back dishes like oxtail but presenting them as a pasta. Bring that wholesomeness into the dishes to give diners that element of warmth.”
“On our menu we’ve including items like Osso Buco with Spanish risotto – a little more rustic but still made with saffron and gourmet ingredients. It’s a dish I predict will fly out of our restaurant on a chilly night.”
Creaser says there’s a growing trend towards unusual food pairings and flavour combinations.
“It’s about how your brain reacts to flavour so the secret is to try and use unusual pairings and flavour combinations that will work and attract your senses. One of our dishes, a blue Cheese Brûlée, was created with an aroma of pistachio cigar smoke.”
Unusual, yes, but it pairs perfectly with the dish. It’s important to keep ahead of food pairing trends. I tend to read reviews of other restaurants and follow food blogs. Some pairing trends do well among South Africans, others don’t.
Jalapeno and strawberries, bacon and pistachios, avocado and coffee, mushrooms and apricots are the entire craze while local diners have yet to embrace one of the most fascinating food pairings I’ve heard of – lacto-fermented cauliflower and vanilla ice-cream!
Some chefs are even trending towards using ash to coat dishes. Pushing boundaries when it comes to food is always in fashion but not every food pairing or flavour combination becomes a trend.
Chefs are continually aspiring to find ingredients used in dishes that you won’t find in your local supermarket. Piccolo Mondo, for example, make their own lamb belly bacon and fresh black truffle.
Another trend is using locally produced ingredients. Sourcing fresh, local seafood is a challenge many fine dining restaurants face. Staying ahead of trends, Piccolo Mondo recently found a local supplier for bi-organic saltwater prawns, which will be on their menu shortly.
An incredibly popular worldwide winter trend is incorporating truffle species into menus. With a retail price of between R40 000 and R50 000 a kilogram, various farmers are trying their hand at harvesting truffles locally. Creaser was fortunate to be involved with a farmer in Dullstroom who successfully grew two top range truffles on local soil last season.
South Africans are always on a culinary quest for the next interesting taste, and this season will be no exception. Expect to see the unexpected with fine dining restaurants going above and beyond in creating and recreating novel new taste trends to heighten your dining experience.