Stories of remarkable resilience have poured out of the hospitality industry over the last couple of years – we saw pivots to delivery, charity initiatives and hastily assembled boxes of produce that were far superior than anything you’d find in the supermarket. It all painted a picture of a passionate community that innovated in the face of adversity.
Now that picture is a more positive one. In the spirit of looking forward, we asked four of our favourite industry insiders about how the way we dine has shifted, the ingredients and techniques to get excited about, and the restaurants they always return to.
The chef opened Edinburgh’s The Little Chartroom in 2018. In September, it relocated to a larger space, with the old site home to new venture Eleanore
People want to enjoy fantastic food in an intimate setting with friendly, unfussy service, but they don’t necessarily want to get all dressed up and spend a fortune.
We’re seeing more chefs try to minimise waste and get use out of every last bit of produce. I certainly wasn’t using the stem of a leaf when I started out cooking, but through different preservations it can really change the whole dimension of a dish.
The produce we have available to us in Britain is world-class. We’ve seen the farm-to-table approach do so well and I think it makes consumers more conscious of what they are eating and its provenance.
I’ve been doing a lot of dehydrating and puffing of grains lately. It’s a great way to add texture to a dish and change the profile.
One of the most underrated ingredients is potatoes. You can do so much with them. I love serving stuffed potato dauphines on the side of dishes, and recently I’ve filled them with ham hock rarebit and also with salt cod brandade.
I’m inspired by Kirk Haworth of Plates. The way he’s championing plant-based cooking is so inspiring. His story and passion for his craft is incredible. I’ll be cooking with him later in the year and I’m so excited to get a real insight into the way he treats vegetables.
WHERE I EAT
■ Spry is a wine bar close to my house and work in Edinburgh, with a brilliant wine list and great food to match. It is a beautiful space to wind down after a busy week.
■ Bright in London Fields is one of my favourite restaurants ever. The food is delicious and the menu is really special – it’s accessible whilst retaining its own identity.
■ Ondine in Edinburgh has really great seafood and there is always such a great buzz in the room. The staff are all lovely too.
The award-winning mixologist has devised the drinks for new spot Christina’s Shoreditch and co-launched wild drinks company Idyll
A shift in how we value natural produce needs to happen. Mass produced, intensive agriculture has skewed our understanding of how much something costs to grow and we are then eating and drinking products with less nutritional benefits and flavour.
Wild ingredients can help us look at the landscape a little differently. Alongside produce from permaculture and regenerative farms, they highlight an alternative to industrial farming practices. Lots of really interesting ingredients can be found in marginalised areas, where nature has been allowed to take over freely.
I’m enjoying seeing people work with small, UK-based producers. People are interested in the story and the provenance behind products. A broader understanding of sustainability that is not just focused on waste is also emerging. By that, I mean looking at the ecological impact of the product and, from a human perspective, achieving a more sustainable work-life balance.
At the moment, I’m enjoying working with wild carrot seed when distilling gins. It has a definite carrot flavour but is also floral and has tonnes of citrus notes.
Drying seeds and herbs is hugely underrated. I have been gathering wild ingredients throughout the year and by drying the produce I gather, I can create a larder of ingredients that I use all year round.
I’m inspired by Barney Wilczak from Capreolus Distillery, who makes the most wonderful eaux de vies (spirits). There is a purity in his intent that you can really taste in the distillates – the quality of the fruit he uses is unbelievable.
WHERE I EAT
■ Brawn in Hackney is the quintessential neighbourhood restaurant and they exude nothing but elegance and excellence in everything they do. The food is always phenomenal and the wine list very well curated. The shop they ran during lockdown got me and my fiancée through the dark winter months.
■ Rules in Covent Garden for the classic British fair in the restaurant and the wonderful drinks by Brian Silva to be found in the upstairs bar.
■ The Sea, The Sea in Chelsea – what owner Leo does with seafood in this London restaurant blows my mind. I had the most amazing dry-aged turbot last time I ate there. They also have a fabulous wine list.
The chef launched seasonal supper club The Water House Project in 2015. In September, it moved to a permanent space in Bethnal Green
Increasingly, guests want a connection with who is cooking for them. It feels as though we’re moving towards a warmer style of hospitality. Open kitchens have become popular, which is good for guests and staff.
There’s been a move towards simple food done well. I’m a fan, but it does mean you have to get it absolutely right. Post-pandemic, there’s been a shift towards creating smaller restaurants that are more capable of quickly adapting to our ever-changing world.
One of the most undervalued ingredients are mussels. They’re versatile, easy to cook and come with plenty of natural seasoning and flavour. They filter the water, so they’re good for the environment, too.
I’m always inspired by Simon Rogan. His dishes are so balanced – he knows when to stop. What Merlin Labron-Johnson is creating at Osip in Bruton looks special, and I’m a big admirer of growing and cooking your own produce. It’s something I’d love to achieve.
WHERE I EAT
■ The Jolly Fisherman on the Northumberland coast, close to where I’m from. The land there is wild and it’s perfect for those sense-awakening walks, especially in winter. I’ll have either a crab sandwich or Craster kipper, followed by a local Wylam beer at the The Ship Inn at Low Newton.
■ L'enclume in the Lake District has been around for almost 20 years, cooking at such a high level and always remaining relevant and contemporary. I find their longevity incredibly inspiring.
■ Da Terra in Cambridge Heath is a local restaurant and its attention to detail is really impressive. Each dish is presented beautifully and Rafael [Cagali]’s influences shine through.
The founder of Be-oom, London’s first Korean tea house, promotes the meditative aspect of drinking tea through tastings and workshops
Korean cuisine is really taking off right now, in casual and fine dining. It’s a direct impact from the rise in popularity of K-pop and K-dramas. Another trend is the focus on independent brands. People are willing to spend extra for better quality products.
I’ve developed an obsession with perilla, and perilla seed oil in particular. My favourite way of eating it is burrata topped with perilla oil and sea salt. We serve this during our evening cocktail and wine service, as it makes a simple yet impactful dish.
Our biggest challenge will be climate change, and getting hold of ingredients that are consistent in their flavour. Heatwaves, floods and cold snaps affect harvests of ingredients – tea being one of them.
Of everywhere I’ve lived, Beijing probably had the most impact on my view on food, and tea. The tea culture is very much ingrained in people’s everyday life – and you cannot go a day without drinking a cup.
At the moment, I’m inspired by David Chang of Momofuku in the US – I’m currently reading his memoir, Eat a Peach. He talks about how the only way to learn is by going through failures and adapting to changes as they come to you (be-oom.com).
WHERE I EAT
■ Sollip in London Bridge is the UK’s first modern Korean dining experience, using European styles with Korean ingredients and techniques. It’s minimal in its aesthetics, which is very similar to Be-oom, and the flavours are beyond phenomenal.
■ Arôme Bakery in Covent Garden uses a concoction of traditional French baking techniques and Eastern ingredients. I love it because their offerings are unusual but really well executed – my favourite is the miso bacon escargot.
■ Prufrock Coffee has always been one of my favourite places to go and eat. Yes, it’s a coffee house, but its tea selection, from Postcard Teas, is also really great.