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 community responses, and coronavirus pivots. 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, the saddest closures of the year, the biggest hopes for restaurants in 2022, and a look at where the restaurant world could go next. But to round things off, here’s a trickier question: What will happen to London restaurants in 2022?
See you next year to find out. — Adam Coghlan and James Hansen
Adam Coghlan, Editor, Eater London: The combined pressures of Brexit (on staff, mainly) and the legacy of the pandemic (the harsh reality of debt repayments and the expiration of tax breaks) will place immense strain on lots of restaurants. I fear many of the closures predicted in 2021 could have been delayed and may just arrive a year later. In their place? Cynical international expansion giants (like Popeyes) and cynical domestic-international expansion monsters (like Gordon Ramsay.)
Oh, and Boris Johnson will indeed pick up his p45 sooner or later. He will leave politics for an ambassadorial role at Din Tai Fung.
James Hansen, Associate Editor, Eater London: The success of merch, pop-ups, and “collabs” will hasten the acceleration of restaurant-as-brand. Gordon Ramsay will continue his one-man mission to provide a casual dining crunch for 2025. Hotels new and old attempt to stoke the dying embers of gastrotourism with increasingly implausible chef partnerships.
Anna Sulan Masing, food writer and Eater London contributor: “Gordon Ramsay’s street pizza restaurants close, cos no one is going to them. What a terrible idea that was. Who even is Gordon Ramsay?”
George Reynolds, food writer and Eater London contributor: Flippant: gildas, man. Gildas everywhere. The Rita’s jalapeño popper version is just the beginning.Slightly less flippant: the gradual disappearance of what I am going to tentatively label Provisions Stores, as the population realises that there are only so many tins of Ortiz anchovies, bags of Torres crisps, and bars of Pump Street chocolate they can buy without turning their homes into just another Provisions Store (perhaps that’s how they spread in the first place, actually).Not flippant, just depressed: a pitiless mopping-up up of abandoned sites by big players with enough cash left in the bank and / or raised from Private Equity to finance a raiding spree.
Jonathan Nunn, food writer and Eater London contributor: Vittles tries to do a Fulgarances and opens a restaurant. It shuts after 10 days due to unusually vitriolic reviews. JKS invests in Bake Street and rolls them out across London, culminating in Bake Street Mayfair being slammed by the anonymous @newmiyamoto Instagram account. Salt Bae opens a Nusr-et in Padstow, initiating a war between him and Rick Stein. A gold leaf wrapped cull yaw shoulder sells for £1000. Singburi never opens. A three-starred Michelin restaurant opens in a country with a travel ban; Andy Hayler is found hiding in a hollowed out pair of speakers in an airplane’s luggage hold and is immediately deported.
Chris Cotonou, writer and Eater London contributor: The astounding success of Lisboeta by Nuno Mendes — after half the nation descended upon Portugal earlier this year, and hopefully returned with a better appreciation for Portuguese cuisine — or Jason Atherton’s H.O.M.E., a supposedly more intimate affair. I wonder if the new Rapid Delivery services, like Getir, who could be replacing supermarkets, will start offering hot-cooked food as an option too...
Sejal Sukhadwala, food writer and Eater London contributor: Not really a headline prediction, but I’m intrigued by more and more Indian chefs heading up non-Indian kitchens and cooking entire menus of, say, Japanese, French and British dishes. I know it’s been happening for some time now, but this year it’s been on my radar more than ever. To give a local example, the head chef of a kosher cafe in Golders Green is a Gujarati guy from Ahmedabad who learnt Israeli cooking only after he moved to London a couple of years ago. I’m fascinated by these kind of stories and watching this development with interest.
Sean Wyer, writer, researcher and Eater London contributor: Tech bros will continue pretending that the gig economy can solve deep, structural problems in the labour market. A dozen or more hackneyed Italian restaurants will open; their food will be fine but their PR will be second-to-none. Giles Coren will remain insufficiently cancelled.
Feroz Gajia, restaurateur and Eater London contributor: Year of shrinking margins and crushing business conditions but still the industry will bury its head in the sand and steamroll ahead with opening after opening.
Lucas Oakley, food writer and Eater London contributor: More pop-ups. I know it seems like that would even be possible considering how many pop-ups there are in London right now but there’s going to be more of them. Mark my words.
Daisy Meager, food writer and Eater London contributor: My crystal ball gets murkier every year… Which is to say, I don’t know! Sadly I think instability and uncertainty as a result of COVID and Brexit will continue to be a constant challenge.
Ed Cumming, writer and food critic: More of the same, sadly — more choppiness, more uncertainty, more generally realising that the great London restaurant moment has passed. Plus side, more interesting stuff opening outside of London.
Angela Hui, food writer and Eater London contributor: Everything feels very March 2020 again. Anxieties are high and uncertainty still lingers due to the global pandemic. Probably more inevitable variants will loom in the future and we’ll try to navigate blindly through the dark as usual. I predicted racist shitshows happening last year and lo and behold, of course, they happened. *cough* Ivy Asia and Breakfast Cure *cough* When will people learn?
David Jay Paw, food writer and Eater London contributor: A few restaurants will brave integrating service into their prices; Substack will go from strength to strength as the go-to place for original thought and industry hot takes; influencers will panic as Instagram engagement falls and TikTok continues to swipe its lunch money.
Hester van Hensbergen, food writer and Eater London contributor: More pies (from the likes of Willy’s Pies and Cuties Pies). More nostalgic puds: roly poly, swiss rolls, iced buns, trifle, and marble cake. More boisterous and sexy pub food in the vein of The Plimsoll and Hot4U. More actually good gallery food (to join Pizarro and Spring, RIP Rochelle ICA). Some actually good library and bookshop food. Food art installations or foodscapes as coveted catering, taking cues from Laila Gohar in New York, Ananas Ananas in LA, and Lei Saito in Paris. Gail’s supremacy. Death of the fiddly restaurant meal kit.
Shekha Vyas, food writer and Eater London contributor: To be honest, I think it’s impossible to tell what will actually happen or materialise in 2022 so I am hoping to be pleasantly surprised by the unknown.