It is the tradition at Eater to end the year with a survey of friends, contributors, rovers of the industry, critics, and professional eaters. This year, the group were asked eight questions, spanning meal of the year to biggest dining grievance. Their answers will appear throughout this week. Responses are related in no particular order; cut and pasted below. Restaurant standbys and best newcomers; 2019 in a word and a city in neighbourhoods; restaurant surprises and dining grievances; the best meals and dishes: they’ve all been covered. Now, it’s time to look to the future: what will define London’s restaurant landscape in 2020?
Adam Coghlan, Editor, Eater London: One really really good restaurant will open in town. An exciting international operator will bring something new and worthy of proper attention. But most of all, restaurant-obsessed Londoners will continue to realise that they can have as much fun and eat extremely well outside of the city centre.
James Hansen, Assistant Editor, Eater London: Ill-defined food “sustainability” will continue its toxic double valency as a genuine global concern and a cynical marketing tool; more and more diners will look to their neighbourhoods more than the centre of town; bakeries will get on the big-international-operators-tapping-London trend (bets on Richard Hart); some more cuisines that are incredibly well-represented outside zone one will be discovered in the newspapers; influencers will have to pivot away from the current influencer aesthetic and MO to stay relevant, leading to some interesting hashtagcontent; London’s vegan restaurant culture will finally get the Superiority Burger-like place it so desperately needs and mature as a result; pasta will lose its grip on fast-casual-trendy as genuinely cool, accomplished places like Mei Mei shunt them to the side (I hope), but more and more sequels and expansions will lead to even more mediocrity too. A big food hall will close.
Jonathan Nunn, food writer and Eater London contributor: None of my serious predictions came true last year so I won’t make many this time. Quality Wines will be shut down for breaking the limit on how many people are legally allowed in. We will see a move away from straitjacket authenticity and a shift towards chefs of colour having the freedom to play around to reflect their own identity through food. Nigella Lawson will be the latest food world luminary to be spotted at Singburi. Tayēr + Elementary will get a Michelin star. Fifty more bubble tea places will open in Chinatown. We’ll see the first ever national review of a west African restaurant. The review will claim that west African food is having “a moment” in London. Vaughn Tan will achieve bilocation and be seen drinking simultaneously in Quality Wines and 40 Maltby St. All the chefs responsible for some of the worst meals I’ve had all year will inexplicably continue to be lauded. Omar Shah will continue to open restaurants until there is nowhere on Kentish Town Road left. I’ll reveal where that Chinese restaurant I keep posting about in my Insta stories is. People working on Oxford Street will spend 90 percent of their lunch breaks walking around Market Halls West End looking for somewhere to eat before settling on Gopal’s Corner, again. People in the industry pretending they don’t read Eater London will officially become “a thing.”
Nigel Slater, award-winning food writer: 2020? A more relaxed menu structure. Early evening, late afternoon eating. More savoury offerings on dessert menus. And (even more) interesting wines available by the glass.
Sejal Sukhadwala, food writer and Eater London contributor: It’s hard to say because of Brexit — a shortage of ingredients will affect menus, and sadly restaurant closures will continue. I wish I could say something more positive, but the world is a hot mess right now isn’t it.
Emma Hughes, freelance food writer and Eater London contributor: On a personal note, I’ll still be crossing London at least once a week to park myself on a stool in Sambal Shiok.
George Reynolds, food writer and Eater London contributor: A continued tension between looking outward — beyond zone one, beyond big ticket openings, beyond the PR-Instagram industrial complex — and looking inward, as Brexit threatens affordable access to ingredients and talent bases outside our borders. This isn’t necessarily 100 percent negative — there’s a lot of superb British produce, and it would be nice to see more of it in the limelight — but it’s hard to see it as good news, either. I also wonder if it will have a knock-on effect on the other ongoing paradigm shift from rampant carnivore towards something more sustainably flexitarian: a plant-based menu is a lot less appealing when stripped of its tahini, avocado and citrus. All in all, probably a good time to dig out your grandparents’ rationing-era cookbooks.
Shekha Vyas, food writer and Eater London contributor: Yet more international operators from Asia and the US, more food hall action and inevitably, more closures of longstanding spots failing to navigate the challenges of hospitality in this climate.
Hillary Armstrong, food writer and Eater London contributor: It’s tough out there. Operators have to be scrappy and adaptive. The best chefs are bringing their A game to their Plan B. 2019 was a big year for buns and baking there’s more to come from Selin Kiazim at Oklava Bakery and Claire Ptak at Violet mark two. And, after Singapulah and Mei Mei, more from Singapore.
Sudi Pigott, food writer and Eater London contributor: No-waste issues will become ever more key, and there will be more regenerative, climate-positive agriculture with more emphasis on forgotten grains, beans, pulses.
Apoorva Sripathi, writer and Eater London contributor: I don’t quite know what to predict for the new year, especially in a city I’m new to, but maybe the veggie/vegan scene will only explode more and get more innovative? Maybe restaurants will look beyond putting jackfruit on their pizzas? One can hope. And that central London will not be the be all and end all of eating out.
Feroz Gajia, restaurateur and Eater London contributor: The dining divide will stretch further as ultra-luxe fine dining becomes more common and the mid to lower end continue to be squeezed forever more with more cynical concepts and rehashes being foisted on the restaurant scene as a wave of even more brutal austerity takes hold. Someone will make a street food stall using a terrible Trump/chlorinated chicken/Boris/Modi based pun, which sadly will not be the lowest low of the London street food scene in 2020. Oh, and a racist restaurateur will come forward and not apologise for the stance they take on a news item (perhaps involving them).
Ed Smith, food writer and Eater London contributor: More new restaurants, more closed restaurants, more vegetables, more food halls — and I will finally make it to Singburi.
Josh Barrie, food writer and Eater London contributor: More pork, more pasta, more sandwiches.
Vaughn Tan, academic and restaurant consultant: “Honest homestyle cooking makes a comeback in London” (if only); “Brexit aftermath causes London restaurant shakeout.”
Daisy Meager, food writer and Eater London contributor: More outstanding pop-ups and residencies, more celebs opening odd restaurants and an increased focus on sustainability.
Angela Hui, food writer and Eater London contributor: How do you like your Breggsit in the New Year? Hard, soft, on hold, no deal? Whatever the outcome, better get stocking up on the bread and milk lads. More racist shitshows and more shit apologies.
Leila Latif, Eater London contributor: Brexit leads to mass restaurant closures.
Jonathan Hatchman, food writer and Eater London contributor: More double-fried chicken sandwiches, please?