The best, worst, and weirdest culinary happenings of 2014: A year when 'metropolitan affectation' had a sweet ending

"Artisan toast" popped up, Skye Gyngell returned with London's most beautiful dining room and Iron Bru became a worrying trend in cocktails...

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Indy Lifestyle Online

It has once again been a good year for those with eyes bigger than their bellies. The past 12 months have been ones of excess, spread thickly. Restaurants continue to pop up with roughly the frequency of moles in a Gloucestershire farmer's field (in the capital, in November alone, there were 30 major new openings), cocktails became yet more fiddly and complex (if the ingredient list goes off the page, that is probably enough, guys) kitchen machines previously the preserves of chefs made further inroads into the home kitchen, and three or four years in, the burger trend seems finally to be weakening its strangle hold on our collective culinary conscious. But those weren't the only things going on: here is my round-up of the best, worst, and weirdest culinary happenings of the year.

The oddest trend of the year was also the worthiest. Most of us laughed when we first heard about the "burgeoning" trend for "artisan toast". Who in their right mind would pay £3 for a slice of toast, even if it was sour dough rye and came with butter seasoned with Himalayan salt, we thought? More still harrumphed about "metropolitan affectation". But it turned out that the trend, such as it was, could be traced to The Trouble Coffee & Coconut Club, where the menu was created by Giulietta Carrelli, to help her deal with schizoaffective disorder. Actually a sweet tale of recovery through food then, rather than pretension run wild.

My personal prize for the most beautiful dining room this year goes to Spring (pictured above) the establishment opened by Skye Gyngell, ex-Independent on Sunday recipe columnist. It may be practically impossible to find it when you first go, but when you do eventually track down its particular corner of Somerset House, London, you find a room of peerless beauty, all large windows, high ceiling and more off-white tones than you thought existed. A place to wallow in.

The grumbler award goes to Channel 4 News this year, for doorstepping the hirsute owners of the new "cereal café" in east London, asking them if they didn't feel a sense of shame to be selling bowls of imported American cereal at £3.50 a go, when there was such poverty in the borough that they had chosen to open in – thus overlooking the fact that £3.50 may not be nothing, but it is not really that much to pay for a sugary treat.

From Brighton to Bognor, "mac 'n' cheese" continued to make its way onto menus. The curious thing about this increasingly upscale bit of comfort food – which I have seen served just about every which way, including with truffles and about half a dozen different cheeses – is that it always comes as a side. Since when has loads of pasta and cheese been considered a snackette? In my house, I call that dinner.

Twice this year, once in Manchester and once in London, I encountered the most worrying trend in cocktails: the inclusion of Irn Bru. Both times I have thought, "Well, may as well give it a go" and twice have I been confirmed in my thinking that the fizz in the stuff may be an aid in drain cleaning, but it has no business coming anywhere near a martini glass.

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