With a tendency to flock to any restaurant sporting a long line, flaunting a novel concept or really just doing anything related to matcha, Hong Kongers have proven time and again that if we want something, we will get it by any means. Whether that means queuing for hours under fiery weather for ramen or dropping hundreds of dollars on photogenic burgers and ice cream, the tenacity displayed is nothing short of astonishing.
But what that translates to in the F&B industry in a meaningful, insight-driven way is what interests us most. With new concepts (sometimes rather bewildering ones) constantly emerging, we cannot help but wonder which trends will continue their strongholds into the new year and which will dwindle into oblivion as the fad passes.
Harnessing the collective intelligence of everyone here at Foodie, here are the trends that we believe will win out in 2017:
Delivery services will continue to thrive
With the expansion of Deliveroo to cover the whole of Hong Kong and the entrance of UberEats, everyone is hungry for a slice of Hong Kong's food-delivery pie. And it's not just the big dogs either; smaller companies, specifically healthy/diet meal-delivery services like NOSH, Eatology, Eat Right and Mealthy are continually gaining traction in an increasingly health-conscious society. New players include Cadobox, Foodieetcetera, Paleo Taste, My Super Pal and the Eat Right Food Programme. The juices shouldn't be left out of the limelight either, with juice-cleanse delivery services like Bless, Punch, The Hong Kong Juice Co and Genie Juicery proliferating.
Photo credit: Vietnamese grilled pork vermicelli from Cadobox
Gourmet street food is on the rise
Street food has been trending towards the upscale. Not only does the Hong Kong Michelin Guide now include a dedicated street food section, more and more restaurants are serving premium versions of street food – and doing so incredibly well. Kudos to Bib n Hops, Samsen, Bindaas, Cơm Bánh Mì and more. Long gone are the days when street food has to be eaten on the street!
Photo credit: chingri malai curry from Bindaas
Imaginary backstories are making restaurants sexier
You have to admit – there's a certain appeal in revelling in food with a narrative element. Ophelia tells of a veteran bird keeper and his encounter with a Javanese peacock. Foxglove represents a tragic love story about a gentleman unable to win the heart of his beloved. Mr and Mrs Fox is the embodiment of the finest cuisines a furry couple sampled whilst travelling the world. Bibo and Mrs Pound both have their respective whimsical tales, and we cannot wait to be intrigued by the fantastical narrative behind the recently opened Dim Sum Library and other restaurants with an imaginary backstory to come.
Photo credit: Foxglove
Private kitchens are making a comeback
Private kitchens made huge waves in the F&B industry from the early to mid-2000s. The idea that any skilled cook with a sizeable space could make a lucrative business out of his/her craft was welcomed with open arms. The private kitchen scene floundered for close to a decade after that, but fortunately, we're seeing signs that it's picking up pace again.
With the traditionally 'far-out' places like Kwun Tong and, recently, Wong Chuk Hang becoming more accessible but staying relatively affordable, we're expecting more private kitchens to set up shop. The successful establishments of Dreamix and Kushikatsu in Kwun Tong and Pomegranate Kitchen and Dine Art in Wong Chuk Hang raise a momentum we cannot ignore, while the surge of new platforms like PlateCulture – in-home dining – represents boundless potential for aspiring chefs.
Photo credit: chilli garlic jumbo prawns from Pomegranate Kitchen
Sustainable dining is getting stronger
It's an unstoppable wave. With the age of information comes the awareness that our every action has a collective effect on the sustainability of our planet, and so comes the rise of sustainable dining. Green Common has recently launched its fully fledged cafés serving cooked food all day, while HOME – Eat to Live and MANA! continue to gain humongous traction. This is not only limited to vegetarian food as we have also begun to see the establishment of eco-conscious butchers like Bones & Blades and Feather & Bone emphasising sustainable, ethical farming. We think sustainable dining will continue to be the hottest thing in the restaurant industry in 2017, with many restaurants beginning to take part in sustainable sourcing and upgrading their food-waste and reduction-management systems.
Photo credit: Polar Bear combo from HOME – Eat to Live
More vegetarian comfort food options
It's not all about cold, dull salads anymore nor is it about oil-laden, deep-fried mock meat. We're seeing more and more vegetarian food that's inventive, fun and, most importantly, comforting. Seventeen restaurants in LKF recently jumped aboard the Green Monday bandwagon, and other quality restaurants around town are slowly introducing more refined and substantial plant-based options. The cauliflower baked in za'atar served at Maison Libanaise and the butternut squash ravioli with Swiss chard, sage and almond butter and toasted pumpkin seeds debuted in Arcane's brand-new 2017 vegetarian menu are good examples, as is pretty much everything offered at Vanimal. The plant-based diet is a force to be reckoned with, and nobody likes bland, unsatisfying 'rabbit food' – as our CTO likes to call it.
Photo credit: harissa-roasted cauliflower on a bed of zhoug labneh from Maison Libanaise
ePayments will become more prevalent
As different ePayment platforms joust for market leadership position around the world, the dining sector is becoming one of the most intense battlegrounds between big players like Alipay, Apply Pay and the local giant, Octopus card. Octopus card launched O! ePay in November last year, its first mobile app supporting peer-to-peer payment. Thirteen companies have been granted stored-value service-provider licences since August last year, and we expect more to come as international players vie for the incredibly robust dining and shopping sectors in Hong Kong. This will undoubtedly lead to more people taking up these new platforms as more dining outlets become compatible with them.
Photo credit: O! ePay
The poké craze is here to stay
If you haven't caught wind of the poké craze, you're losing out tremendously. This Hawaiian favourite checks every criterion that's needed to succeed in Hong Kong: it's healthy, delicious and totally unique. Pololi hit the HK scene with a bang in 2014, but it wasn't until last year when the competitive heat was turned up with the opening of The Poké Co, Aloha and Pokéworld, with The Elephas doing a version on their menu. We at Foodie don't see ourselves getting over this filling, tasty and healthy dish in 2017 because, honestly, what's not to love?
Photo credit: Pokéworld
Matcha fever persists
Like it or not, matcha will continue to be all the rage. While this cult green tea craze most likely peaked two years ago when we had to brave a two-hour line when visiting Nakamura Tokichi on a weekday during an amber rainstorm, prestigious teahouses and dessert places hailing from Japan continue to open shop in Hong Kong. Brook’s Café’s range of matcha drinks and parfaits took the hearts of many Hong Kongers, and we’ve been hearing more and more about Shimizu Ippoen Kyoto’s delightfully chewy matcha warabi mochi. We also adored the Tsuijiri roll cake and matcha waffle sundae from Tsuijiri when it opened in November last year and cannot wait to see which new players will join the green (tea) party in 2017.
Photo credit: matcha Swiss roll from Tsuijiri