A change is happening in the food world. After the intricate and inventive nouvelle cuisine of the nineties and the sheer wackiness of Heston Blumenthal’s snail porridge and bacon-and-egg ice cream during the noughties, top chefs are rediscovering the simple, hearty pleasures of good cuts of meat, reliable old-school recipes and generous helpings of carbohydrate. In short, comfort food has come of age.
First there was the burger revolution. Long a staple of pub grub and fast-food joints, the humble beef burger has gained a bandwagon all of its own, with more and more foodies jumping aboard. You can now eat your 35-day aged beef between delicately baked brioche buns with rich Comté cheese, if you buy it from Elliot’s in Borough Market, and with a layer of finest Clonakilty black pudding if you head to award-winning Bleecker St Burger. Even renowned chef and restauranteur Mark Hix is getting in on the act.
Then there’s Hawksmoor – often lauded as the best restaurant in London – whose reputation rests squarely on its simple but superlative steaks, cooked to perfection. Head chef Richard Turner has also put together a sumptuous take on the traditional English breakfast, replete with plum pudding bacon and trotter baked beans – a far cry from the greasy spoons of yore.
Newcomer Pitt Cue is taking things even further, introducing hungry Londoners to lesser-known delicacies such as pig’s head sausage, pulled pork and bone marrow mash. Don’t look for a vegetarian option here – even the burger buns are baked with beef dripping.
Restaurant critic Jay Rayner notes that Pitt Cue rapidly moved from a food truck to a permanent premises off Carnaby Street thanks to the economic recession, which created an unexpectedly fertile environment for small, ambitious businesses to thrive. Could it be that the chilly economic climate is making us all crave comfort food like never before – that, in fact, comfort is the ultimate luxury?