Restaurant writer, Douglas Blyde asked London’s leading food-focussed personalities what 2012 might hold for diners…

 Richard Harden, Harden’s Guides:

‘Our own figures suggest the actual volume of openings is modest. Yet some of the restaurants that are opening are mega-budget productions. Can this possibly continue, in the face of all the doom and gloom? The situation is so odd I’d prefer to keep out of the prediction business.’

Pip McCormac, Commissioning Editor, Sunday Times Style:

‘More and more people want the informality of a bar and the quality of a restaurant.’

Richard Johnson, founder of the British Street Food Awards and author of Street Food Revolution.

Street food will go crazy in 2012. But on private land — not public. Councils are too worried about the cost of litter clearance to really support the street food revolution in Britain. Street food will also come indoors as big business tries to capture that ‘on-the-run sensibility’ to give their food courts a casual, shareable vibe. Expect food everywhere to be portable and flirty with a low level of commitment.

Catherine Hanly, Hot Dinners:

‘You’ll need a head for heights as a crop of London skyscrapers (Heron Tower and The Shard) open up restaurants with amazing views over the City.’

Chris Pople, Restaurant Blogger, Cheese and Biscuits:

‘Street food will expand and diversify and reflect London’s confidence in experimentation, so it’s likely we’ll be introduced to more obscure cuisines from around the world (recently I’ve tried Mauritian vegan rolls, Indian rib burgers and a pizza from the Isle of Man). I’d like to think we’re going to see more top-quality American food (ribs, brisket, proper burgers) in the capital. But perhaps that’s just wishful thinking.’

 Will Gau, Cellar Society Gastronomic Events:

‘Street food will continue to become a chain business, as seen with Pho and Wahaca. With this comes an inevitable Anglicisation, which takes the heart out of the original.’

Martin Brudnizki, Martin Brudnizki Design Studio:

‘Steak houses are the big thing at the moment and will probably gain momentum. And afternoon tea is gaining in popularity. However, the big trend is the philosophy of food; keep it simple – no towers or emulsions.’

Magnus Hultberg, Livebookings:

‘An ever more increased focus on sourcing food locally (avoid transport, support local artisans/producers), less meat and fish (the world simply can’t cope) in favour of more vegetarian/vegan options, but at the same time also possibly an upsurge of low-carb/paleo-like restaurants where high quality meat will be an important part.’

Henry Dimbleby, MD, Leon Restaurants and Founder, Sustainable Restaurant Association:

‘Carbs – and particularly wheat – will continue to slide into their position as public enemy number one among the health crowd. Menus are more likely to show card/wheat free options than calories too.’

Sheila Dillon, The Food Programme, BBC Radio 4:

‘Apart from amongst the ranks of oligarchs and bankers, I think there’s a great tiredness of ostentation. I talked to Richard Corrigan the other day about how he’s enlarging his bar in Mayfair so that more people can eat one-dish meals (pheasant and chips right now) in an informal setting. I had one of the worst meals for a long time last week at Hibiscus. If I had been paying I would have been tempted to bang my way into the kitchen and denounce them. It was all show: painting on plates and little glasses full of stuff between courses. Formally polite staff with no warmth.’

William Drew, Editor, Restaurant Magazine:

‘The eventual emergence of Peruvian cuisine. Otherwise, it’s the continuation of the end of the conventional three-course-meal as we know it, under fire from small plates, sharing plates, tasting menus, all-day dining, snacks, time-pressured eating and so on. Conversely, restaurants doing their own smoking, pickling, curing, kitchen-gardening and farming etc will become more prevalent. Finally, proper hot dogs.’

Jon Massey, Deputy Editor, The Wharf:

‘While Canary Wharf’s glut of chains will probably ride out the storm, those keen to break into the citadel will continue to face the problem of finding a location to establish themselves and then paying the rents in the new East End. We will see a great many more pop-up ventures. Street foods with punchy flavours beyond the Mexican boom will excite. Inspiration will draw on dishes from Columbia, Vietnam and Brazil.’

Maureen Mills, Network London PR:

‘Breakfast becomes the new lunch? It’s a convenient option, with early in-out efficiency and no booze requirement. It also feels more business-like for these reasons. It can be a hearty or a healthy menu (full English or muesli with yoghurt), and you can be back in the office by 10am. It’s a low-cost, high gross profit option, and my favourite meal of the day.’

Alex Larman, Quintessentially:

‘The all-day menu is going to become more respectable as an idea, and I think there will be the first Michelin-starred Spanish restaurant within the next two years. Top end restaurants are going to get more, rather than less, expensive, but the “must-visit” ones will be in a position that they can charge essentially what they like.’

Ronan Sayburn, Director of Wine and Spirits, Hotel du Vin:

‘Although I don’t like the phrase natural wines – clean minimum chemicals sustainable and organic are better terms –  I think there will be an increase overall of cleaner winemaking and less adjustments.’

 Tom Harrow, ‘Wine Chap’:

‘Thanks to the middle class denizens of Thames Ditton having denuded the river of eel (to put in their salads with lardons and frisé), pike will appear on the menu and crayfish instead. Homely, comforting British classics but with decent ingredients – the sort of food the Ivy has been doing for years but less expensive, will chase away anything made by a Kiwi. Dining will become parochial and “fine dining” – dirty words. The gap between the quality of produce in the provinces and their dearth of decent restaurants and the reverse in London will shrink.

One Response to “Plates of Potential and Potential Plates”

  1. TheCriticalCouple

    Rising food costs will continue in 2013 for a variety of reasons, not least 2012 being the wettest year in the past century impacting current crop yields. With food costs going up and austerity continuing, household budgets to eat out will continue to be squeezed.

    Accordingly, restaurants will need to offer outstanding quality (like The Ledbury) or outstanding value (like Brasserie Zedel) if they want to thrive. Those caught in the middle, average food at average prices, could struggle.

    Throw in to the mix the new capacity that came on stream in 2012, Zedel, MASH, Hawksmoor Air Street are mega restaurants, while Burger & Lobster’s expansion is relentless, to name just a few, and we think that some restaurants will struggle to survive.

    Expect too then lots of deals from restaurants who will take the margin hit in exchange for ‘bums on seats’. Another tough year.


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