As a relatively new bean, this month’s MCA Food Concept Study Tour was a brilliant opportunity for me to gain some great insight into growing food trends, try some delicious food and feed my findings back to the team.
With Josh, Will and Aleisha from MCA and a tour group including professionals from Essential Cuisine, Bidfood, and McDonalds, I spent the day sampling some of Victoria and Fitzrovia’s trendiest bites:
Beginning with coffee and rollcall at fancy Caravan Fitzrovia – a light a stylish concept offering upmarket all day dining and a dedicated food-to-go space – Josh, Will and Aleisha promptly kicked things off and we headed out to our first stop: Greggs.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, you would have heard about that little thing called veganism. Greggs are offering a pretty decent vegan sausage roll – so good, in fact, that we had to wait for Greggs to cook more of them for us before we could actually taste them. I can, however, now honestly say it has all the buttery satisfaction factor of a true sausage roll without the actual butter – or meat, or any other animal-derived ingredients. They’ve done a fantastic job and clearly communicated strong brand relevance in the current market.
Following Greggs, we stopped at Kaffeine, an Australasian (that’s Australia and New Zeeland) coffee house on Great Titchfield Street. An exciting independent with two current outlets in the UK, Kaffeine is bringing the enthusiastic, effortlessly cool Aussi and Kiwi coffee culture to London, delicious cakes included.
Detox Kitchen was just down the road. A typically beautiful deli-esque space offering healthy, nutrious fare, Detox Kitchen also has two current outlets and a tailored service offer. Josh explained that Detox Kitchen can prepare and provide a customisable daily package, ensuring customers eat decent, fresh food throughout the day – and it’s delivered. I can really see the appeal of this concept, especially for social, health-conscious young professionals looking to cut out the rubbish from their diets easily and consistently.
Next up: Protein Haus. Continuing in the health food vein, Protein Haus offers a wide range of salads and protein boxes to enjoy with their amazing shakes and juices. Everything is designed to provide a big hit of fresh protein and the brand caters to vegans too, producing several shakes with almond milk and non-animal ingredients. Protein Haus also offers customisable shakes, in which you choose a base, protein and extras, and a 5 day package plan in a similar way as Detox Kitchen.
A short walk then brought us to Maple & Fitz. Again offering healthy, delicious food, Maple & Co (Maple & Fitz refers to the Fitzrovia branch) is the brainchild of Canadian Adria, who used to work in finance until she left it all to follow her passion. Studying cordon bleu and moving to London, Adria opened Maple & Co to create fresh, vibrant food – and she loves it. We actually got to meet Adria personally, and it was super inspiring to hear her talk about taking the gamble and living day by day with the ups and downs of running a start-up. A successful entrepreneur, Adria embodies the optimism and drive young professionals thrive on – and the food too! Her chocolate brownies are to die for.
Offering a popular Hawaiian cuisine, Polo Poke began as a food truck inspired by the vibrant fish diet surfers enjoy at Venice Beach. While Poke is big in some US cities such as Seattle, it’s still relatively new in London and could follow in the wake of successful sushi outlets, being a similar food-to-go. We tried some of the spicy Tuna Salad, which was fresh and delicious, and it was brilliant to see Polo Poke ditching plastic cutlery as part of their brand message.
A quick trip past Fabrique Bakery (not listed on the tour itinery but well worth a visit itself – the breads and pastries in the window are gorgeous) and we were strolling up to the flamingo façade of Kalifornia Kitchen. Independent, with just one outlet currently in the UK and a plant-based, all vegan menu, Kalifornia Kitchen is an exciting concept. If it wasn’t enough to cater to a ton of vivacious vegans, Kalifornia Kitchen is also incredibly instagrammable, bejewelled and be-neoned with fun foliage, plant-based slogans and plush, upmarket furniture. We didn’t sample anything here, but the general consensus was that we expect this concept to do very well.
A quick glance through the window of Ahi Poke (another poke outlet) and we almost walked past one of my favourite places on the tour: Omotesando Koffee. Incredibly low-key on the outside and hailing from Japan – land of ancient crafts and innovative trends – this coffee house is cool. It’s so cool it doesn’t have a website (only an Instagram page) and, before it had multiple outlets, traditionally served only one customer at a time via a single working barista, offering the ultimate artisan experience. We all tried the coffee, and honestly, I think it was the best I’ve ever enjoyed. Incredibly smooth and silky with great flavour.
Buzzing from our Japanese coffee, we sidled and squished our way through the packed tables of Market Halls Victoria – a big, semi-industrial space converted into a buzzing food court – for lunch. Market Halls Victoria offers some quality stuff, including Gopal’s Corner, Koya Ko and Super Tacos. A few of us chose to try Bunshop, and although a little on the small side considering the price (not wholly unexpected) my curried lamb bun with salt lime yoghurt was a petite parcel packin’ huge flavour. We chased that up with a salt beef sandwich from Monty’s Deli, pickle and all.
We moved on, stopping briefly at Bleecker (offering simple, rare breed burgers) and made our way past Shake Shack and Nova Food – which offers a range of favourites like Crosstown doughnuts – to Greenwood. Greenwood is a sports lounge with sixteen screens and games upstairs, encouraging a themed, social experience.
This idea was echoed by the last stop on the tour, Flight Club. A fairground-themed, bright and social darts club serving cocktails, sharing platters and a ton of fun, Flight Club is a brilliant place to wrap the tour. People threw daggers (figuratively – it got a bit competitive) and darts (literally) and chatted about the great food and exciting trends we’d seen on the street.
So, well fed and well beyond my 10,000 steps, I completed the MCA Food Concept Tour – but what did it show me?
Well, here’s a breakdown of established and growing trends we spotted about town:
- Clean Eating – Detox Kitchen, Protein Haus, Maple & Co, Polu Poke, Kalifornia Kitchen
Healthy, fresh ingredients are here to stay, whether for eating in or grabbed to go. Bite size, protein-packed savouries, sweets and shakes are favourite, especially if they come in a vegan alternative. #plantpower
- Consciteious Eating (including Veganism) – Greggs, Kalifornia Kitchen, Bleecker
Like your favourite #monstera, veganism is sure to keep growing. Gen Z are keen to look after the planet and millennial are inspired, but veganism isn’t the only conscientious food trend. As seen with Bleecker, rare breed meats and responsible sourcing are both still relevant movements on London streets.
- International Coffee Culture – Kaffeine, Omotesando
It’s no longer about a quick caffeine fix – it’s love. Australasian coffee culture demands quality, personalisation (which of the eight types of ‘milk’ would you like?) and passion. And in Japan, artistry and craft is a way of life. Now, thanks to Caffeine and oMemrtdo, Londoners can enjoy some seriously good, artisan coffee from the exotic East.
- Customisation/Personalisation – Detox Kitchen, Protein Haus, Market Halls Victoria
From personalised packages to customisable shakes, outlets are offering food and drink specifically for YOU. This is a trend that that is likely to keep growing as younger generations continue to invest in individual identity, self-love and the personal brand.
- All-day and 24hr dining – Caravan, Market Halls Victoria, Greenwood
Young professionals lead busy lives; chasing those dreams 24/7 means that any outlet offering all-day and/or all-night dining is a highly appealing concept. I personally think we’ll see more and more outlets extending their service hours.
- Diversity – Market Halls Victoria, Nova Food
We have the whole world at our fingertips and we want our food from all corners too – preferably at the same table. Fantastic food halls are the place to be!
- Communal Eating – Market Halls Victoria, Greenwood, Flight Club
In my perusal opinion, all-day dining, diversity of offer and large, communal eating spaces are part of a bigger movement rolling variety, convenience and community into one. Places like Market Halls Victoria bring brilliant selections of exotic street food and social eating together, and allow for a personal, customised dining experience. Outlets offering food and experimental activities (such as sports) in a large, social space hit a similar vibe.
- Instagrammable Space – Caravan, Detox Kitchen, Kalifornia Kitchen, Greenwood, Flight Club
What do you get when you combine amazing food with sexy styling? Instagram gold. Kalifornia Kitchen is a brilliant example and, bonus: it’s vegan. Instagram is a huge hype tool for outlets, so creating a photogenic space is always a smart move.
- Food to go – Caravan, Greggs, Detox Kitchen, Protein Haus, Maple & Co, Polu Poke, Kalifornia Kitchen, Omotesando Koffee, Market Halls Victoria, Bleecker Burger, Nova Food
Nearly all of the outlets we visited offered food-to-go at some level, with Detox Kitchen and Protein Haus offering delivery packages and Caravan dedicating a specific area of the restaurant to it. Again, when we live such busy lives, food-to-go is an invaluable offer.
It will be exciting to see how these trends occupy foodservice and the hospitality market moving forward. One thing’s for sure: Jellybean will know about it!