Poke House last week opened four new restaurant sites in London. It is just the start of a fishy influx with the Californian-inspired poke bowl chain planning to open 15 London sites and 65 UK sites over the next year.
It is little surprise; where West Coast America goes London soon follows. But the huge popularity of poke bowls has been entrenched for several years. In 2015 the LAist publication was already writing that ‘The Poke Bowl Craze Is Getting Out Of Hand’. Six years on, poke’s staying power seems beyond doubt.
Poke, for the uninitiated, means ‘to slice or cut’ in Hawaiian and consists of pieces of raw, marinated fish – usually tuna – that is tossed over rice and topped with vegetables and various vaguely-Asian sauces. It is served in a bowl, which is an essential part of its appeal. You see, today’s consumers seem to take particular pleasure in eating out of bowls rather than plates. ‘Bowl food’ extends not just to poke bowls, but also acai bowls, smoothie bowls, Buddha bowls, burrito bowls and more. Harry and Meghan made headlines at their nuptials for eschewing the traditional seated wedding breakfast and instead serving fashionable bowl food to standing guests. There has been a profusion of cookbooks and celebrity endorsements of the concept. In the eyes of its admirers, bowl eating not only signifies a more modern, informal approach to dining, but is well suited to the ‘fast-casual’ demand for things that can be eaten on the go.
Poke’s popularity above all though appears to stem from its healthy credentials. Bread and red meat are out, rice and fish is in (poke seems so far to have weathered the Seaspiracy storm, although questions have been asked about the sustainability of aki, the star of most poke bowls, which refers to yellowfin or bigeye tuna).