From using locally sourced ingredients to listing unusual wines and dealing with the uncertainties of Brexit, these are the restaurant trends that will characterise 2019
Restaurant Trends by Francesco Gabriele, Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa, Hampshire
For a good couple of decades popular cuisines such as French, Italian, Spanish and more recently Japanese have been informing Britain’s approach to fine dining. The landscape has changed and the range of cuisines available to restaurant diners is endless. With cooking styles such as exotic, fusion, monothematic, gastro, fast and slow, Britain’s kitchens have never been so diverse.
Unexpectedly, what we are seeing now is a different approach that’s all about a zealous attention to ingredients, often linking back to questions around provenance, traceability and sustainability.
Whether we’re in Hampshire, Berkshire, The Cotswolds or Chelsea, the most common questions coming from guests now are: ‘Where is it from?’ ‘Is it sustainable?’ ‘Farmed or from a factory?’ ‘Family run or large business?’ It’s not about Italian or French cuisine, it’s a lot more specific. Customers are asking: ‘Are the tomatoes from Sicily’ or ‘Is the cheese from the Loire?’
To some degree, wine mirrors this trend. Local or small, artisan winegrowers are having the time of their lives, which is fuelling the fantastic quality and volume of sales of English wine. Organically farmed or biodynamically produced as well as vegetarian or vegan wines are the protagonists of wine lists. When it comes to sustainability though, organic and biodynamic winemaking alone is not enough. Recycling bottles, corks and even the paper from the labels will be the next step. Dining is no longer a mere gastronomic experience, but a way to look at a better world for the future.
Economic instability has had a great impact on the wine business. Customers are becoming more cautious about ordering expensive wines from classic regions. The new tendency is to discover small, family-run vineyards in eastern Europe or from the unfairly underrated South Africa. New Zealand continues to deliver quality and consistency and so is a ‘go to’ for many. South America is still considered a cheap option – despite some really high-quality wines – and the US is fighting its own battle with China, whose wine industry is rapidly growing and recently introduced its own wine scoring system.
The Wines by James Payne, Fonab Castle Hotel, Scotland
While attending Vinitaly back in April, I managed to track down Marjan Simčič and taste his range of fine Slovenian wines. Since then, it has been very noticeable that other much less well-known wine producing countries have truly excellent quality products, finally widely available to the UK on-trade.
I’m thinking of wines such as Dobogó Dry Furmint from Tokaji, Hungary, but also properly good Pinot Noir from Pfalz, Germany – Weingut Pflüger in Dürkheim comes to mind. I feel I have a duty to list these products. I push them alongside our tasting menu because they are true food wines. They are largely unknown to the wider wine-drinking public and often represent great value for money, which is always beneficial in the restaurant business.
Listing and selling little-known wines will become more practical in 2019 as more become available from suppliers, and at more competitive prices. This will satisfy the demand for new grapes from ‘new’ producing countries, that show a quality ethos and ever-increasing smart packaging.
Independent wine merchants that add new listings from such lesser-known sources should be admired and thanked for taking the time to present them beyond London and north of the border up here in Scotland. Names like Liberty Wines, WoodWinters, and De Burgh come to mind.
As a sommelier, I work with a wide drinks offering that includes spirits. My experience tells me that competition from the gin category and the popularity of cocktails will only continue strongly into 2019. With this in mind, the wines we list must represent excellent quality and value, with the added benefit of being on trend through their quirky grape varietals or production methods such as skin-contact ‘orange’ or biodynamic. I do not list so-called ‘natural’ wines however, as I often find them too unstable.
The Business Numbers by Nelio Pinto, Candlesticks Hotel & Restaurant, Lincolnshire
After 43 years of my family business operating, I am not too fearful of the future. I think that what happens post Brexit will be more noticeable in London than out of London, where I think the lack of competent staff is ever more prevalent, perhaps because people in hospitality are constantly moving around.
In my region there aren’t as many people as in London, but there are lots of locals to fill the jobs. I am seeing a big change from four or five years ago, when virtually every day there was someone from Europe handing me a CV, looking for any work available, including people with a degree and former entrepreneurs prepared to earn minimum wage. Now we get very few foreigners coming in.
[After Brexit] a big issue will arise when large organisations and groups will have to fill the void left by those leaving the UK and going home, or by those that have been put off coming to this country. Due to staff shortages, I’m worried that chains will have to close branches. Add to this the rise in minimum wages and prices of goods going up, and things become tougher for restaurateurs. The UK will suffer a blip, but once back on its feet the country will move forward. After all, the FTSE has been at record levels recently, and unemployment is low.
There are other challenges that threaten hospitality though. People will be eating more at home and going out less, a trend fuelled by ‘cook-for-yourself’ box deliveries and supermarkets, such as Marks & Spencer, offering restaurant-style food. Additionally, wine prices are bound to increase after Brexit, if the pound drops.
The vegan food train shows no sign of abating. Perhaps much of this is to do with people being more informed and thoughtful as to where their food is sourced and how it is produced. Also, the whole plastic issue has forced many to be more conscious about how they eat, with people not eating fish because of the oceans being full of plastic.
I see the public as being almost polarised, with two extremes. There are those eating crap food and those eating only greens and so-called ‘superfoods’, who seem to be intolerant to everything! Not many sit in between, and I have never seen the state of things as they are today. This ‘healthy ethos’ will affect wine choices too. I am expecting that guests will continue to seek out lighter style of wines, both in terms of alcohol and body.
That said, I have survived 50 years being the archetypal Latino and I’ve never followed fashions nor trends. Whatever happens this year I will continue to eat red meat and drink Amarone, its therapeutic.