Which pandemic food trends are here to stay and what’s fresh on the culinary scene? British restaurant journalist Ben McCormack shares a taste of what to expect in 2022.
The food world is not the same place it was before anyone had heard of Covid-19. From the new way to eat eco to the latest developments in restaurant design, here are five food trends that will be on everyone’s lips in 2022.
- Is it all over for veganism?
Veganism has felt like an unstoppable force in global dining over the past few years, and the announcement in April that Daniel Humm would be turning his three-Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park restaurant (once voted the best in the world) plant-based felt like the long-awaited confirmation that a vegan diet was not incompatible with haute cuisine.
And yet the juggernaut of gourmet veganism may already have come to a juddering halt. By Chloe, the US-based vegan fast-casual chain that seemed on the cusp of conquering the pre-Covid world, filed for bankruptcy in the US last spring and closed its four-strong UK estate.
Most tellingly, Claridge’s has announced the end-of-year closure of Davies and Brook, which has been open for a mere two years with Humm at the helm. The announcement came after the chef proposed turning the restaurant vegan. “This is not the path we wish to follow here at Claridge’s,” a statement on the hotel’s website reads.
If the most iconic of London hotels feels that it cannot make a success out of a Michelin-starred, plant-based dining room headed by the world’s most famous vegan chef, don’t bet on anyone else giving it a go.
- Eat your way to climate change
In another blow for veganism, the jury is out about whether adopting a vegan diet is the best way to save the planet. The dairy industry, for instance, is already creating electricity by burning methane, while anti-flatulence feed additives made from seaweed are in development that are anticipated to reduce emissions by 82 per cent.
Hospitality companies, of course, are doing their bit to reduce emissions. “Consumers today are looking for products that can help them live a more sustainable and socially responsible life,” says Emma Banks, vice president of F&B strategy and development for Hilton Europe, Middle East and Africa. “Hilton has committed to halving its environmental footprint by 2030 and we have been looking at how we can support our commitment through all parts of our menus.”
Still, until that happens, climatarianism is the new buzzword in foodie circles. The idea is to pay more attention to where our food has come from than worry about the food itself, which means that a chicken farmed 10 miles away is better for the planet than vegetables flown from the other side of the world. It has been claimed that following a climatarian diet can reduce an individual’s CO2 emissions by 1.5 tonnes annually.
Essentially, climatarianism is the same-old seasonal, local and no-waste mantra that many chefs have been preaching for years. And if that gets us all eating better-quality ingredients that support our local economies while saving the planet, who are we to argue with a silly name?
- Natural design
Perspex screens, staff wearing masks – some of the pandemic’s most visible design features have been happily consigned to the dustbin marked 2020. And yet Covid has brought some welcome changes to eating out: more space between tables, servers who are happy to see customers walk through the door, and no one batting an eyelid if you suggest dining at 6pm.
Fewer tables seem here to stay for the foreseeable future, as does a creative approach to outdoor dining. The Dorchester’s repurposing of its roof not only into London’s most covetable terrace but also a pop-up showcase for some of the capital’s hottest chefs made it the sensation of the summer.
Indoor-outdoor spaces seem the most intelligent solution of all. The Corinthia London’s Garden, for instance, allows diners both the reassurance of sitting outdoors and the comfort of being under a retractable canopy to guard against bad weather.
“The influence of nature is set to continue and strengthen in interiors,” says designer Jo Littlefair, director and co-founder of Goddard Littlefair, whose portfolio includes the new Mandarin Oriental in Vienna and the Sheraton Grand Warsaw. “Planning restaurants and bars with external spaces is key and hotels are all seeking to maximise any available spaces that can offer access to fresh air. Sustainable elements and materiality will underpin schemes to underline the importance of supporting environmental issues, but these elements won’t be rustic and crude, they will be crafted with longevity, sophistication and luxury in mind.”
- All that glitters
After two years of on-off lockdowns, diners are ready to loosen the purse strings now that they can get back to spending money in restaurants. London’s flashiest launch of 2021 was Nusr-Et, the Knightsbridge outpost of Turkish restaurateur Salt Bae’s empire. It proved there was no shortage of takers for the celebrity chef’s signature dish of Golden Tomahawk – a wagyu rib-eye covered in gold leaf, with a £700 price tag. Salt Bae himself has since moved on from London to Jeddah, where he is sprinkling his mixture of salt, stardust and gold leaf at his new, second Saudi Arabian restaurant.
“After the last two years, it feels like people want to treat themselves and are all about the experience, rather than the price,” says chef Jason Atherton, whose restaurant group, The Social Company, has 17 sites around the world, from Dubai to Shanghai, St Moritz to Cebu. “I think this will be even more the case next year. At Pollen Street Social, in London, we now offer a luxurious Chef’s Counter Experience tasting menu, which is a little more expensive than dining from the à la carte. So far, it has been one of our top sellers, which shows our guests are currently looking for something extra-special.”
- The future is the past
When the future looks potentially so scary, it’s no wonder many diners are retreating to the past. The biggest London restaurant launch of the autumn was Langan’s Brasserie, a restaurant that was last fashionable around the time that its former co-owner Sir Michael Caine was being nominated for Best Actor Oscars.
At the recently relaunched Colony Grill at The Beaumont hotel, meanwhile, retro favourites including shrimp cocktail, monkfish Wellington and ice-cream sundaes are among the attractions of the wood-panelled Mayfair dining room.
In New York, The Carlyle has gone even further back for inspiration. The legendary Upper East Side hotel was founded in 1930 and has taken the Jazz Age as the cue in its new restaurant, Dowling’s. Tableside theatre is brought to filleting Dover sole, flambéeing steak Diane and setting sundaes alight with Grand Marnier. It seems that to stay on top of the Manhattan hotel tree for 91 years (Prince Harry and Meghan visited recently), the past is the path to safeguarding the future.
Ben McCormack is a British restaurant journalist, former editor of SquareMeal and restaurant expert for Telegraph Luxury