Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 613

18 AUGUST 202 2 2 NEWS&VIEWS Cod and haddock have been elbowed aside in favour of locally caught whiting, dab, pouting and unfashionable weaver fish, whilemenus have been pared back and – to slash food waste – customers are for the first time being charged for side dishes. They are among a battery of culinary ‘swaps’ andmeasures introduced by Jack Stein, chef-director of the Stein Group at the six restaurants his family runs in Cornwall, to try tomaintain an even keel amid the cost of living crisis. “Coming out of Covid, everyone had smaller menus as that simplifies things as well as reducing costs,” reflects Jack. “But we have since been battling with soaring expenses and trying not to pass those on to customers. “A big thing has been putting more unusual – and cheaper – locally-caught fish species onto our menus. Weaver fish (which lurk in the sand and are best known for their sting) is one that we have always turned our noses up at but it’s a delicious and a ordable alternative to sole, which we serve with a tasty lime butter emulsion.” It costs £20 for Restaurants adapt to offer diners more affordable options With the cost of living continuing to rise, and beset by shortages of produce and sta , inventive ways are being devised to keep customers happy and bills down, writes Rebecca Smithers amain, compared with an eye-watering £45 for Dover and £30 for lemon sole. Restaurants and pubs in the UK, which were just starting to bounce back from the pandemic and Brexit, are being hit by rocketing prices and inflation – which is at a 40 year high – alongside the harsh reality of changes in the way consumers go out to eat and drink. Amid steep rises in the costs of ingredients, they are seeking more creative ways to avoid increasing prices for diners. As well as substituting cheaper foods, restaurants have been overhauling and simplifying menus in favour of set price and tasting options. To tackle sta shortages they have been closing on some days, reducing the number of covers and introducing flexi hours for sta – longer days withmore time o . At The Unruly Pig in Su olk, a gastropub with a slew of awards, chef-patron DaveWall says it has managed to stay open seven days a week. “We have taken a di erent approach and capped numbers – instead of 70 covers each service, we limit it to 46.” Chefs who have sustainability at the heart of their businesses say they have been well placed to adapt menus to accommodate gluts or shortages of ingredients. At Hypha in Chester, dishes can change fromday to day, showcasing ingredients from local suppliers, growers and foragers, while it is upfront with customers about chargingmore if prices rise. The restaurant, which serves a plant-based menu withminimal foodmiles and boasts a ‘fermentation lab’, has retained itsMichelin ‘green star’ in recognition of its sustainable policies. Managing director Nicholas Friar says Hypha has morphed from serving only small plates to a 12-course tastingmenu – currently priced at £120 including the wine flight. “We serve this at one sitting at one table to reduce the number of interactions and ease pressure on sta ,” he explains. “The turbulence caused by sky-rocketing prices and the scarcity of chefs presents a taste of what we can expect as the impact of climate change a ects food production,” adds Juliane Caillouette-Noble of the Sustainable Restaurant Association. “It’s also giving chefs an opportunity to showcase their creativity and innovation, using all of every ingredient available and focusing on the finest produce.” The restaurant – which o ered dedicated, multi-choice vegetarian, vegan and dairyfreemenus – has incorporated these into a shorter standard à la cartemenu and has taken o its brill main course for which it would have had to charge £40. In London, Roberto Costa of Macellaio – with six Italian restaurants across the capital – says he imports 70%of his ingredients from Italy, where the prices of transport and electricity have soared by up to 35%. The self-styled ‘Butcher’s Theatre’ still has numerous steak options on themenu, but it has trimmed the number of courses, with a £35 pre-theatre and £20 set lunchmenu both popular. To help ease the sta shortage, in September his company is openingMatooro Academy to train young apprentices. CHANGING WAYS Jack Stein (main); Roberto Costa (top left); Dave Wall (above left); The Unruly Pig ( left); pumpkin tartlet from Hypha ( far left) ‘Chefs have an opportunity to showcase their creativity and innovation, using all of every ingredient available’ Cover photography: Photography: Con Poulos, Food stylist: Sian Davies, Prop stylist: Wei Tang, Photography: Maja Smend, Food stylist: Sian Davies, Prop stylist: Wei Tang, Alistair Linford/Shutterstock, Photography: Clare Winäeld, Food stylist: Liberty Fennell, Prop stylist: Rosie Jenkins, Stewart Girvan