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Wait staff prepare to run dishes to guests indoors at Nandine in Camberwell
Wait staff prepare to run dishes to guests indoors at Nandine in Camberwell.
Ejatu Shaw

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The Biggest Hopes for London Restaurants in 2022

Survival, a reframing of what’s important, and greater focus on labour

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 2021, the group were asked 13 questions, covering the best meals and the worst tweets alongside 2022 predictions and dining standbys. Their answers will appear throughout this week, with responses relayed in no particular order; cut and pasted below.

So far, Year in Eater has covered best newcomers, restaurant standbys, best meals, restaurant openings to watch in 2022, best and worst food moments of 2021, the best and worst food tweets of the year, the biggest restaurant surprises, and the saddest closures of the year. Now it’s time for some optimism: the biggest hopes for restaurants in 2022.

Adam Coghlan, Editor, Eater London: More breakfasts! And let’s see a greater energy and focus on “tasty morsels,” since there are now plenty of places to have great full meals.

James Hansen, Associate Editor, Eater London: Last year I asked for “a mode of restaurant criticism that can actually match their place in the city’s cultural fabric,” and thus I must ask for that again. A start, seeing as it will take some time, would be seeing critics’s and writers’s infatuation with originality to cede ground to a more consistent code of citing influence and antecedents. Whether big hospitality players or caffs churning out hot dinners, this impulse would add a connectedness to criticism that often comes second to the vacuum of firstness.

To go with it and be a part of it: A continued focus on the realities of labour along the restaurant supply chain, and the attendant importance of unionisation, and a recognition that some of the creativity, intelligence, and laser-focus necessitated by the conditions of COVID-19 would actually do London very well as its impact recedes.

Anna Sulan Masing, food writer and Eater London contributor: The idea of hospitality and the food world being seen externally, e.g. governmental — spaces as careers of value and skill. This means valuing those that work in hospitality, now, and every aspect of the industry. With a sense of value, comes the work towards equality. And, as earnest as this sounds, it creates a wider sense of equality within society and how we begin to value labour. I think people realised that those in food industries were front line, from delivery, to creating spaces for social interaction which is important to emotional and mental health, and I hope that this appreciation becomes more embedded and respected.

Jonathan Nunn, food writer and Eater London contributor: That the tentative steps taken by people entering the food market with single-dish ideas in 2020 and 2021 turns into a competitive ecosystem. You can already see the kokoreç scene in Edmonton hotting up, while some of the old school restaurants, like Vrisaki, are now more comfortable doing casual but well-made sandwiches. I would like to see more of this, and in general, just more of the London restaurant scene catering specifically to me and my tastes.

Chris Cotonou, writer and Eater London contributor: More dark kitchens producing high quality takeaway meals, especially as the future remains uncertain. If restaurants can implement, or be government-funded, to operate dark-kitchens it would mean more job security and better quality takeaway.

Sejal Sukhadwala, food writer and Eater London contributor: That truffle oil gets banned.

Emma Hughes, writer and Eater London contributor: That it continues to be able to withstand the assaults levelled at it by our incompetent and spiteful government, obviously. And that ‘bread for the table’ will consist of more than one slice per diner.

George Reynolds, writer and Eater London contributor: A moment’s respite.

Lucas Oakley, food writer and Eater London contributor: That it can thrive and continue to provide jobs to the many talented people who work in the industry.

Feroz Gajia, restaurateur and Eater London contributor: I hope the most worthy survive to thrive in the years to come. Oh and for non-Italian pasta dishes to finally start featuring on menus.

Daisy Meager, food writer and Eater London contributor: That it survives and thrives, acknowledging long-standing and systemic issues and rebuilding to overcome them. And to repeat myself from last year, that “the discourse” still doesn’t feel stuck in (and pre) 2010.

Ed Cumming, food writer and restaurant critic: That customers continue to get it into their thick skulls that this stuff is expensive and they should be prepared to pay for it.

Angela Hui, food writer and Eater London contributor: Hoping that the hospitality industry doesn’t get shafted time and time again. I’d like to see the government provide proper guidance and support to the sector to enable them to rebuild and work safely, but that’s probably a pipe dream and not going to happen. Restaurants have been the most regulated businesses when it comes to health and safety. Whether it’s pivoting to delivery and takeout, implementing table service and mask mandates or investing in merch, technology and webshops in a bid to survive and adjust, give restaurant workers a bloody medal, or better yet, a raise with better rights. Also, I hope people learn better manners for the new year. Treat others with respect, people working in restaurants are not your servers and cancel bookings if you can’t make it!

David Jay Paw, food writer and Eater London contributor: That a cultural shift enables guest perspectives on the value of food and labour to change for the better, allowing businesses to offer existing and prospective staff attractive wages, development, and benefits. Also, that Ombra will start doing delivery again.

Sean Wyer, writer, researcher and Eater London contributor: I would love for the topic of working in and around restaurants, which includes suppliers and delivery drivers, to become more central to the way we think and talk about hospitality. In focussing on the customer’s experience, and occasionally, on the restaurateur’s experience, there is a risk of losing sight of the thing that makes it all happen: labour.

In 2021, organisations like Countertalk, as well as trade unions, and groups like South London Bartenders Network, have started some very important discussions about things like workplace culture, tip distribution, hours, and pay, and I hope these will continue in 2022.

Hester van Hensbergen, food writer and Eater London contributor: Simply that the restaurants that are doing the right, and sometimes very difficult, things — closing early for Christmas if necessary, encouraging sick staff to stay home to protect their teams, and paying staff adequately — are vindicated (and ideally compensated) for their choices.

Shekha Vyas, food writer and Eater London contributor: That those who have had their businesses affected by the events of the past two years get some respite and clarity in order to move forward.