With fewer punters sitting down to dine at pubs and clubs, and a move to more casual eating at a lower price point, patrons are looking to cheaper eats and share plates. And with more of us eating out more often, but spending less, kitchens need to offer bang for our buck in addition to a flavour-packed punch in a mini-morsel.
“You have to wow somebody in just two bites. It’s not like there’s always a sauce or something else to mop up,” W. Short Hotel Group Executive Chef James Privett says. “Polenta chips are just polenta chips but it’s the kick-arse bacon jam that makes the dish.”
In the current dining climate, people want to try as many dishes as they can, he adds, resulting in the push for share plates or small bites.
“It’s not something they are going to get at home either.”
Smaller portions and one-handed hits also must be quick to serve, easy to handle and need to hold together at first bite.
“A lot of people are now looking at a bar menu for lunch,” says bar consultant and Hospo Intel director Mikee Collins, who has looked over the food and drinks menu of several hot Sydney’s venues, including NOLA at Barangaroo.
“A great bar or snack menu needs to be flavour forward, offer a good use of produce, including seafood, plus the occasional offering of fried goodness,” he says.
One group always keeping an eye on is the Porteno crew, who recently took over the 121BC wine bar space in Surry Hills, Sydney, and turned it into WyNo. The pocket bar offers a small choice of snacks, with one literally being peanuts and pork: dry-roasted peanuts, skin on, served up with batons of fried lardons. Other choices include a pot of Continental sardines in butter with a handful of fries or steak tartare with crispy onion served in a radicchio cup.
Likewise, at Cutler & Co. in Melbourne an abalone katsu sandwich is not out of the question, or at Neptune in Windsor try a spicy Nduja jaffle, a toastie filled with the Italian spreadable salami, melted cheese and dripping with spicy red oil.
Or if you decide on doing one thing, do it really well. In the case of The Bedford Soda and Liquor bar in Ponsonby, Auckland, it’s meatballs, be they pork, chicken or beef with a choice of tomato or cheese sauce or roast chicken gravy.