Opinions differ on seafood trends in U.K. restaurants
While research shows that less seafood is being featured on U.K. restaurant menus, sources tell SeafoodSource that the protein is being served more often — with more unique preparations.
Foodservice research and consulting firm Technomic found that entrées that include seafood have decreased 14.3 percent in the third quarter of 2014, compared to the third quarter of 2013. Starters that feature shellfish or fish also dropped 11 percent over the last year.
“The seafood decline could be due to the major barbecue trend in the U.K., which typically doesn’t feature seafood,” Rachel Royster, senior coordinator of editorial content for Technomic, told SeafoodSource.
In one bright spot, oyster mentions on menus jumped 13.1 percent over the last year — the only seafood item to show a considerable increase. “Oysters definitely have an upscale image in the United States, but in the U.K., oysters are more approachable and are often found in traditional British dishes,” Royster said. “And, with the Christmas season coming up, oysters are only going to grow on menus in gratins, on the half shell, in herbed dressings and in stews.”
Despite the statistics, restaurant industry sources tell SeafoodSource that they are seeing more seafood featured at restaurants across the country.
“There seems to be a greater interest and excitement from chefs. Even in good pubs, they are very interested in trying out new things,” said Laky Zervudachi, director of sustainability and epicurean for wholesaler and supplier Direct Seafoods in London. “Chefs are trying to be more inventive with more cures and new ways of doing things.”
Instead of sticking to better-known species such as salmon and tuna, restaurants are utilizing more lesser-used seafood and bycatch.
“People are going back to things that have gone a little bit out of fashion, like herring,” Zervudachi said.
Chefs’ expansion to new species can partly be attributed to consumers’ growing desire for sustainable seafood, Zervudachi believes.
“The issue around sustainability has really caught on. In the past, species that might have counted as bycatch, such as gurnard and flounders, didn’t attract much interest from chefs,” Zervudachi said. “Now, they are prepared to give it a go and are trying to get their customers educated on what is out there. Even Michelin-star restaurants might put gurnard on their menus.”
In addition, U.K. consumers’ growing interest in Cajun and Southern U.S. cuisine could increase seafood inclusion on menus in the future, according to Royster.
“The data could be on a turnaround due to the U.K.’s interest in Cajun cuisine and the deep U.S. South/Atlantic region in general, which features a lot of fish and shellfish.”