From prosecco to cheese, Nick Levine looks back at the stuff that Londoners obsessed over and Instagrammed this year
Millennial pink was red hot
That painfully trendy shade, located somewhere between rose and salmon, was everywhere this year. You probably ate/drank/wore/decorated your house with it. Crosstown’s beetroot sourdough doughnuts? Millennial pink. That cute new office building in King’s Cross? Millennial pink. All Bar One’s Baileys Blush cocktail? Goddamn millennial pink. But the millennialest-pinkest place of all has to be Palm Vaults in Hackney where you’ll find pink coffee, cake, walls, chairs and smear on toast. And remember, if you’re ever in doubt about whether a cocktail/food item/wallpaper really is the hue du jour, the golden rule is this: if Paris Hilton would wear it, it’s probably not.
East Asian food halls were big
London’s love affair with East Asian cuisine escalated this year with the opening of three new food halls. Japan Centre was revamped and relocated to Panton Street near Leicester Square. Korean emporium Mee Market set up on Soho’s Archer Street. And way up north, we saw London’s biggest Asian food hall, Bang Bang Oriental, open with more than 20 kiosks dishing up a tasty array of East Asian flavours. Suddenly Colindale is one of the hottest dining destinations in town.
Prosecco was the drink of choice
It had been building for some time but the city was officially poppin’ in 2017. Londoners embraced prosecco as their one true booze – the streets bubbling over with fizz and flying corks. A prosecco van worked the summer circuit and Italian restaurant chain Ask dished up ‘prosecco gnocchi’ (an invention nobody asked for). The biggest corker of all was Prosecco Springs: a three-day fest of fizz at Oval Space where attendees supped eight glasses each. With the festival returning in April, and London welcoming its first dedicated bar, Prosecco House, the trend shows no sign of abating. No wonder a study found one in three Londoners now fears a prosecco drought.
Veganism got the green light
Vegan food used to have an image problem, any mention of it evoking stewed lentils served on a bed of worthiness. But this year, ditching meat and dairy became super-aspirational and delicious. There were queues around the block for vegan ‘fried chicken’ at Temple of Seitan. Camden Market gained flesh-free pie-and-mash shop Young Vegans. Boxpark Shoreditch became proud home to vegan kebab joint What the Pitta! and curry royalty Cook Daily. Then there were hip new markets like Vegan Nights on Brick Lane. Even Pret opened a second veggie branch. Some of London’s new vegans may be stricter than others, but if you slipped up and had McNuggets on the night bus last weekend, we’re sure no one saw.
Craft went feminist
In January, more than 100,000 protesters joined the Women’s March on London to oppose Donald Trump’s presidency. Soon after, this right-on spirit seemed to revitalise the capital’s craft scene. London Craft Club offered a class where stitching novices learned how to embroider pictures of inspiring women like Beyoncé and Malala. Feminist magazine Bust welcomed 100 designer-makers to Bethnal Green’s Oval Space for an all-day London Craftacular. And The London Loom offered a more intimate approach with late-night ‘embroider your member’ classes, even providing hand mirrors so punters could ‘check themselves out for some creative inspiration’. Probably not what your nan had in mind when she got you that cross-stitch kit for Christmas.
Food turned into unicorns, rainbows and mermaids
Forget eating your greens – 2017 in London has been all about multicoloured nosh. Pride season saw rainbow burgers and bao buns proliferate, while kaleidoscopic mermaid toast arrived at Stratford’s East Village Market in June. But all of that was out-sparkled by the unicorn trend that kitsched up all kinds of edibles including doughnuts and pizzas. Gloriously gaudiest of all was the huge Unicorn freakshake at Maxwell’s in Covent Garden: a pink shake topped with copious amounts of cream, blue candyfloss and a sugar-crash-inducing assortment of rainbow-coloured sweets.
Londoners went slutty for cheese
Londoners can be a contradictory lot. While some leaned to veganism, others fetishised cheddar, gouda, halloumi and anything else made from spoiled milk. Pimlico hotel Georgian House launched a cheese afternoon tea. Camden welcomed The Cheese Bar. And for two glorious autumn Sundays, Islington’s Chapel Market was a freakin’ ‘cheese street’! A food blogger and Tottenham-based Wildes Cheese made an Easter egg (or ‘cheester egg’) out of the stuff. And there was even a halloumi pop-up. Have we reached peak cheese? Not till someone comes up with a proper cheese cocktail: booze, mixer, cheese straw, the works. Anyone else feeling queasy?
We drank less and played more
This year, the capital cultivated its own version of après-ski: moderately strenuous fun followed by cocktails. Summer brought the world’s largest inflatable obstacle course to Ally Pally and a shuffleboard pop-up to Shoreditch. Roof East in Stratford offered crazy golf, batting cages, a rollerdisco and lawn bowls in the warmer months, and now has curling lanes. But the biggest kids of the city could be found diving into Ballie Ballerson: originally in Dalston (of course), the ballpit bar popped up at Boxpark Shoreditch then opened a flashier venue on Curtain Road. Seems the answer to ‘Anyone up for a quiet pint tonight?’ is now ‘Muuuum! Can I go on the playground?’
Hybrid edibles were even more incredible
So what if the Cronut is over and the duffin looks dowdy? It didn’t put a stop to London’s love for mushing two seemingly unrelated dishes together, like your mum trying to be your wingwoman at a wedding. The good folks at Yorkshire Burrito packed a whole roast dinner into a wrap made out of a yorkshire pudding to sell at Rupert Street Market. Coffee shop Melba, at The Savoy, filled an eclair with ice cream and called it an ‘iceclair’. And Soho chicken joint Ma’ Plucker topped three types of doughnut with fried chicken to ruin our arteries for ever. The hybrid is dead, long live the hybrid!
Igloos took over town
If you couldn’t afford a plane ticket to Greenland, London had you covered. After the roaring success of the first batch of faux igloos at Coppa Club by Tower Bridge in 2016, a lot more transparent pods (aka snow globes) sprang up across the city this winter. From Jimmy’s Bar at Fulham’s Winterland to The Sipping Room at West India Quay, they were everywhere, like an invasion of alien spacecraft, here to conquer Earth with fondue and hot toddies. And it seems our passion for them has intensified since last year: many were fully booked within days of launching, and that’s despite minimum spends of as much as £600. Proof that when it comes to festive spirit, there’s no place like dome.
Londoners got green-fingered
As seen on the Instagram accounts of your most domesticated friends, 2017 has been the year of the pot plant. Suddenly it was cool to know your asparagus fern from your ostrich,
your golden ball cactus from your claret cup, as trendy plant shops put down roots across the city. There was Prick, the cactus shop in Dalston, and Grace & Thorn’s branches in Hackney and Brick Lane. Plus it was suddenly de rigueur for every hip café to be full of lush foliage – just take a look at Palm Vaults and the Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings.
Art went all playful
Art isn’t all oil paintings in stuffy galleries, y’know. Proving that you can sometimes touch artworks without having an official pair of white gloves on, interactive installations popped up all over the city in 2017. As part of the London Design Festival, Yinka Ilori’s vibrant ‘Estate Playground’ brought playful vibes to Shoreditch with a colourful swing, slide and roundabout, while Camille Walala gave number-crunching City types some light relief with Villa Walala, a massive patterned bouncy castle behind Liverpool Street station. And let’s not forget Superflex’s ‘One, Two, Three, Swing!’ Turbine Hall commission at Tate Modern; this super-fun set of multiple swings meant Londoners could basically go to a playground while pretending to be all cultured.
Feeling nostalgic? Take a look back at the best art of 2017.