Prawns, lobster fastest growing UK dishes

Prawns, lobsters and other crustaceans soared on the menus of United Kingdom restaurants in the first quarter of this year, while herring and cockle dishes plummeted.

Foodservice research firm Technomic found that, among the restaurants in its MenuMonitor database, the mentions of crustaceans on menus soared 128.6 percent in the first quarter; followed by yellowtail dishes, which rose 11 percent; eel dishes, up 9.4 percent; whitefish dishes, which rose 5 percent; and Yellowfin tuna dishes, which rose 4.8 percent.

“The big driver in this [crustacean trend] will be prawns, which are now pretty much omnipresent on menus of all types of restaurants,” Andy Gray, trade marketing manager for Seafish, told SeafoodSource. “Consumers are enjoying such species in everything from the reborn classic of prawn cocktail to prawn curries.”

In fact, Aagrah, which operates 13 restaurants throughout the U.K., recently added Jhinga Patanga, which features selected prawns cooked with onions, tomatoes, ginger, curry leaves, coconut and Bengali spices. The ingredients are wrapped in crispy pastry and then deep-fried. 

Lobster and langoustine dishes also remain popular across the country. “In addition to the traditional European lobster, the smaller and usually cheaper Canadian lobster has become increasingly readily available to diners/consumers over recent times here in the U.K.,” Gray said. “Many retailers run price promotions on Canadian lobster during festive holiday periods such as at Christmas time, exposing more consumers to eating lobster – which can then also influence eating out of home habits/behaviors.”

In addiiton, langoustines, a valuable catch of the U.K. fishing fleet, are mainly exported to Spain, France and other countries. Still, they are found on many U.K. restaurant menus, according to Gray.

Yellowtail dishes are growing as the popularity of sushi increases. For example, London-based sushi restaurant Gilgamesh offers yellowtail hamachi in nigiri, aburi or sashimi formats. Nobu also features several dishes, including Spicy Yellowtail Sushi Cup and Yellowtail Sashimi.

While eel is in short supply in the U.K., smoked eel is often seen on menus, particularly at Japanese-style restaurants, according to Gray.  Innovative dishes include Smoked Eel Mousse at Alimentum in Cambridge, as well as  Pumpkin Tortelli with smoked eel and burnt garlic broth Enoteca Turi in London.

The growth of yellowfin tuna dishes can be attributed to the growing popularity of Japanese restaurants, which use the tuna in many dishes, according to Gray. However, it is not only featured in sushi and other Japanese-style dishes.

For example, The Bell at Skenfrith offers a Nicoise Salad with Seared, Peppered Yellowfin Tuna, while Cote Brasserie restaurants carry a Tuna Carpaccio that highlights yellowfin tuna. Meanwhile, national chain Loch Fyne serves a Yellowfin Tuna Steak.

The fastest declining menu items in the first quarter, according to Technomic, were: cockle, down 85.7 percent; herring, down 66.7 percent; burgundy snail, which declined 50 percent; sturgeon, which fell 50 percent; and swordfish dishes, down 50 percent.

“Still often enjoyed by an older demographic of consumer, cockles may be found in some starter dishes in restaurants, or perhaps served as an additional menu ingredient in a main dish such as ‘Pan-Fried Hake with Cockle’,” Gray said.

Herring, once widely available and eaten by many consumers, has fallen out of favor in recent years, according to Gray. “Rich in omega 3s, it is often seen by consumers as a fiddly fish to eat, possessing many small bones.”


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