Last week I was having a lunch meeting at Italian chain Prezzo, and whilst sampling the delights of the delicious flatbreads on the new appetiser bread board, it struck me just how much our attitudes toward table bread in the restaurant industry have changed.
No longer is it part of the throw away commodity that is the complimentary bead basket, consisting of simple white or brown rolls or baguettes (as I remember it was when I first moved to London). Restaurateurs are now wise to how powerful and profitable a quality and diverse bread offering can be. Sometimes even a menu differentiator, ultimately using artisan bread to aim for a more memorable customer experience at a margin making price. Bread offerings are now more about specialist bread, such as rye rolls with caraway seeds, multigrain with dried fruit, fresh pumpernickel and sourdough.
For anyone looking for bread inspiration, here’s a look at some varieties that make my eyes light up when spotted on a menu (I’ve tried to go outside of my Italian favourites!):
Flatbread – dense, irregular and leavened, flatbread is perfect for carrying ingredients such as chillies and olives, check out Strada’s menu.
Fougasse à l’ail – a traditional garlic and sea salt sharing bread from Provence, found in the likes of Café Rouge.
Ciabatta – the Italian word for “slipper” due to it’s a long, wide loaf – a traditional Italian classic. Check out Benugo, which serves a simple but beautiful toasted ciabatta as a side.
Foccaia – Pizzaluxe makes great use of this doughy bread on its appetiser menu, and even features a sweet offering, another great way for carrying ingredients.
Gluten free – ever-changing dietary trends are another cause for variety baskets. People are shunning white bread in favour of multigrain. The Caravan in Kings Cross has a great Jalapeno corn bread with chipotle butter on its menu.
Lavash – Unleavened, rustic bread is becoming big with consumers looking for provenance. Already on a lot of Persian restaurant menus and is set to expand.