Tina Nielsen looks at what we can expect from restaurants in 2008
Diners in the UK are, it seems, heading for simpler and greener times. Indeed, many restaurants are already moving in this direction with organic, locally sourced food becoming easier to find. If the experts are to be believed, this is set to be a major trend for 2008.
“People are willing to pay more for better produce and they are more concerned about the environment and wellbeing,” says Theo Randall, head chef at the InterContinental in London. According to the Zagat London Restaurants guide, which is based on reviews by diners, he is absolutely right. In the 2008 edition, 59 per cent of those surveyed said they were willing to pay more for sustainable food, while 54 per cent said they’d pay extra for organic produce.
“That is a huge statement,” says co-founder Nina Zagat. “In 2008 there will be much more emphasis on going green, more importance placed on sustainably raised food and we’ll pay more attention to the ingredients we use.” She is impressed with the diversity in English restaurants. “There has been a dramatic change in English food,” she says. “The cuisine here was a joke 20 years ago, but it has steadily improved and has been revolutionised in terms of the quality of the food and ingredients.”
Shane Osborn, chef and co-owner of the two-Michelin-star restaurant Pied à Terre, agrees. “We have great produce in this country and we need to get people cooking with it,” he says. “Unfortunately there is not a lot of glamour in cooking simple food—most people aspire to be the next Gordon Ramsay and he didn’t get where he is by cooking steak and chips.” Osborn also thinks a much-needed upgrade in mid-market restaurants is on the cards. “The high end is really saturated in the UK,” he says, “but there is room for improvement in the mid-market, which is very hit-and-miss at the moment.”
Randall also predicts more basic food in the future and less of the so-called “molecular” cooking à la Heston Blumenthal. “A few chefs have done this really well, but a lot more haven’t,” he says. “Heston is the undisputed master of this, but it is very technical and if you don’t have the talent, it won’t work. I think people want to go back to basics now.”
Without doubt, the smoking ban has been one of the most dramatic changes in the UK restaurant and pub scene this year and we will see even more of an effect next year. “When smoking was banned in New York in 2003, all the restaurants were up in arms,” says Zagat, “but it turned out fine for them and New York is a much more pleasant place to eat out now.” According to Osborn, the ban will bring out more quality. “The great thing is that it has made publicans look closely at their operations,” he says. “I think the pubs will focus more on the quality of food and wine as they try and attract different people.”