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Brawn, on Columbia Road, Hackney, one of London’s best restaurants

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The Biggest Hopes for London Restaurants in 2021

Genuine government support, a reframing of what’s important, and for some, the end of meal kits

It is the tradition at Eater to end the year with a survey of friends, contributors, rovers of the industry, and professional eaters. Even a year like this one. For 2020, the group were asked 13 questions, covering the best meals and the worst tweets alongside community responses, and coronavirus pivots. Their answers will appear throughout this week, with responses related in no particular order; cut and pasted below.

Having surveyed the best meals, the best delivery, the most memorable moments, the proudest pivots, the saddest closures, the most exciting returns to look forward to, the most promising newcomers, the community stars, and the tweets, it’s time to see what Eater editors and contributors hope to see in London restaurants in 2021.

Adam Coghlan, Editor, Eater London: With the realities of Brexit realised in 2021, my hope is that the restaurant industry understands that the pandemic has spotlighted longstanding systemic problems — a dysfunctional property market, an inadequate labour market, and inequality along lines of race, class, and gender — as well as created new ones. A proper and successful “recovery” must acknowledge the need to overcome both.

James Hansen, Associate Editor, Eater London: The deglamourising of long, strenuous hours for insufficient wages, and a mode of restaurant criticism that can actually match their place in the city’s cultural fabric.

Anna Sulan Masing, food writer and Eater London contributor: The same every year… a true understanding of equality. A lot of ‘leaders’ of the industry have let down so many people, I think they have not understood the bigger picture, and who is vulnerable. I have looked constantly to the words of Asma Khan and Mandy Yin, and wish they got more space and time to speak – they have been real leaders.

Jonathan Nunn, food writer and Eater London contributor: I hope that the restaurant industry will realise that problems that have led to slim margins, low pay and long hours cannot be solved with even slimmer margins, lower pay and longer hours. I would like to see a restaurant industry that puts the mental health of its workers first and proceeds to work out the economics from there, rather than the other way around.

Chris Cotonou, writer and Eater London contributor: That passionate entrepreneurs are able to find a space to thrive in our markets, particularly as we spend more time eating outside. And that more is done by London’s tourism to promote our city’s traditional cuisines, like pie and mash, which are as integral to London’s culinary heritage as a pastrami sandwich from Katz is to New York. Why isn’t this advertised by our mayor?

Sejal Sukhadwala, food writer and Eater London contributor: That it survives and thrives, and idiots don’t keep cancelling their bookings or not turning up — a huge problem even before the pandemic.

Emma Hughes, freelance food writer and Eater London contributor: That the government provides targeted and properly meaningful support to the sector and those who work in it, enabling them to stay safe and in a position to rebuild their businesses when the time is right. That would be wonderful. But I’m not optimistic, sadly.

Shekha Vyas, food writer and Eater London contributor: Some stability to allow the industry to rebuild, more consideration from the government about systems that work and better dialogue between landlords and tenant — as always.

Feroz Gajia, restaurateur and Eater London contributor: To be taken seriously by the wider public and as such be truly valued. I’d also like to hope 2021 has no fads or flash in the pans but that’ll never happen.

Gemma Croffie, writer and Eater London contributor: That it reassesses what returning to normalcy entails, normal didn’t work for the majority.

Vaughn Tan, author, pizza fan, and grouch: Gastrotourism, trophy dining, and food that only looks good on Instagram all die unlamented.

Daisy Meager, food writer and Eater London contributor: That as many places as possible are able to survive the pandemic; that the government steps up in terms of support for the industry; that “the discourse” still doesn’t feel stuck in (and pre) 2010.

Ed Cumming, food writer and restaurant critic: Death to the “cook/finish at home” movement. Reduced rents provide opportunities to independents who were priced out before.

Angela Hui, food writer and Eater London contributor: Please, no more meal kits. I know they were a lifeline for many to keep afloat and to keep serving hungry customers who couldn’t get to restaurants. However, I want someone else to cook for me because I just cannot be arsed, my brain is a constant pile of mush and even with pre-measured ingredients and instructions I still manage to somehow fuck it up.

David J Paw, food writer and Eater London contributor: That conversations around what essentially comes down to basic respect — with regards to heritage cuisines of Asian and African diaspora communities — don’t inevitably end up devolving into exhausting discussions around whether it’s OK to serve pasta at pubs.