While 2022 might be remembered as the year in which the London restaurant industry began to find its feet and reevaluate its purpose after two-and-a-half years of crisis and uncertainty — spanning COVID-19, Brexit, inflation, energy, and cost-of-living — it’s likely that the broader takeaways from the year will be of change, scandal, and farce.
The British political system is broken and the chief architects of its destruction — our “leaders” — were fittingly reduced to pork pies and lettuce in 2022. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson was found to have either ignored, or not known about, a series of wine and cheese parties in his home at the heart to government during lockdown in 2020, in what became the “party-gate” scandal. Efforts to oust him were dubbed the “pork pie plot,” and his short-lived successor, Liz Truss, was so abject in her post that she would eventually be outlasted, with days to spare, by a supermarket iceberg lettuce. Then there was the home secretary who had the temerity to call you and me “tofu-eating wokerati.”
There were scandals of frogs, toads, and taquerias, in the year some may remember unfondly as one of cease, desist, and power plays by corporate Goliaths over independent Davids. Small comfort can be taken from sense and humanity prevailing. In the Tate Britain meanwhile, gratefully, there is no longer a restaurant literally wrapped, wall-to-wall, with an enormous racist mural.
In the world of pop culture there was a little a little levity, as messy replaced manicured. The world’s coolest celebs moonlighted ever more regularly as food bloggers and natural wine lovers, while Great British Bake Off continued to try its hardest to infuriate an audience which wants to carry on loving it.
And finally, RIP to a London restaurant legend. See you in 2023. — Adam Coghlan
15. Hellmann’s Chooses Violence and Puts Gravy Mayo on Supermarket Shelves
Kicking off with one of the seven basic plots of food news: A brand doing something wild. A trio of condiments from Hellmann’s included a 2000s throwback sweet chilli mayo, and the colonial emulsion / foreshadowing of the Queen’s death that is coronation mayo, but it was gravy mayo that tipped the scales.
14. Top Chef Is Packing Its Knives and Going to London
As Masterchef struggles to see itself in the shiny reflection of Gregg Wallace’s head, news that an American culinary juggernaut would cross the pond proved welcome. Top Chef’s London debut will air in 2023.
13. The Tabloids Have Challenged PM Liz Truss to Outlast a Lettuce
There are so many singular details in this story — which represents British politics and its relationship with food just too perfectly — that it’s hard to focus on one for a short blurb. But if pressed, it would have to be this.
The above photo was not a one-off staged shot, but in fact part of a livestream that ran 24 hours a day until Truss finally left her post, and the lettuce won.
12. How Salt Bae Finessed London Steak Eaters for £7 Million in Three Months
The most famous butcher in the world featured in last year’s round-up, for his predilection for gold leaf, things of that nature. This year, it was his accounts that stole the show.
11. Dua Lipa Drops Her Favourite London Restaurants in New Newsletter
Natural wine fan and part-time food blogger Dua Lipa put long time member of the Eater London 38 Westerns Laundry top of her list, in the year that the carefully curated food post gave way to a compulsion to, instead, bless this mess.
10. Great British Bake Off F---ed Around. The 2022 Final Found It Out.
Great British Bake Off’s long decline had, up to this season, largely been a lurching, staggering fall, the kind a haggard drunk would take out of a pub. But for 2022 — with the exception of upcoming entry on this list, Mexican Week — it curved down with a sad kind of grace. Come the final, there was no explosive fallout; instead, a series’ worth of crows came home to roost.
9. London Chef Elizabeth Haigh’s Cookbook Withdrawn After Plagiarism Allegations
Published in 2021, this tale of cookbook plagiarism, the pressures of representation, and the limits of prizing whatever “authenticity” is when it comes to lauding chefs and food writers endured for another year.
8. The Tate Britain Restaurant With an Enormous Racist Mural Has Permanently Closed
Another longstanding mess reaching its end. Two years after the mural at the Rex Whistler restaurant faced backlash for its numerous racist images, the gallery finally confirmed it was out.
7. Great British Bake Off Mexican Week Was the Nadir of the Show’s Fall From Grace
Or, how GBBO’s attempt to hold on to its status as a cultural touchstone without acknowledging any of the responsibility that comes with that status finally exploded.
6. London Restaurant Threatens Outstanding Taqueria Sonora With Legal Action Over Use of the Word ‘Taqueria’
It was a bit of a year for trademark challenges and restaurants. This one, however, struck a nerve, not just for being particularly egregious in its attempt to own a common word, but for the power dynamics at play.
5. Hundreds of London Restaurants Found Dead as Cafe Deco Drops Killer April Fool’s Menu
Just, look at that.
4. Brewdog Scores Another Own Goal With ‘Anti-Sponsorship’ Ads for Qatar World Cup
The combination of an allegedly “punk” yet self-evidently corporate brewery and the once-every-four-years event that is the football World Cup? It proved an easy read.
3. The 99p McDonald’s Cheeseburger Is No More
2. Kellogg’s Is Taking the Government to Court Over Putting Milk in Cereal
Beware, for this is about to get meta. Sometimes stories just go wild out of nowhere, and editors and writers aren’t really sure why. This one has some obvious ingredients, sure: a big brand, the government, the big brand doing something silly, the drama of a lawsuit set against the quotidian mundanity of putting milk in cereal. But nevertheless, the heights it reached surprised even Eater London. Let’s hope for more silliness next year.
1. One of the Most Influential Chefs in Britain, Alastair Little, Has Died
The “most important x you’ve never heard of” construction is clapped, but for a great many people who love restaurants and eating European food, it might actually suit Alastair Little, who died this year. Both a titan of yesteryear, and a comparatively unknown influence on the trajectory of London dining.
14 Stories from 2022 You May Have Missed
Where the Kubba Meets the Road
— Zahra Al Asaadi, with photography by Michaël Protin and illustration by Lille Allen
London Restaurants as Star Signs
— Anna Sulan Masing and Emma Hughes
What the ‘Wokerati’ Are Really Eating in 2022
Morning, Noon, and Night With Chef Joké Bakare at Chishuru
— Adam Coghlan, with photography by Michaël Protin
Boiling Point Is a Kitchen Sink Drama — And Little Else Besides
— James Hansen
The Ultimate Guide to Natural Wine in London
— Nathalie Nelles
Frog Chef Adam Handling Sends Cease and Desist to Hit New Camberwell Bakery
— Adam Coghlan
How a £3.8 Billion Merger Will Redefine Central London Restaurants
— James Hansen
How the Most Famous Butter Chicken in the World Started With No Chicken at All
— Ashanti Omkar
The Food Post Is Dead. Long Live the Food Post.
— Lauren Cochrane, with collage by Lille Allen
Step Inside London’s Historical Italian Caffs
— Isaac Rangaswami
A ‘Pork Pie Plot’ Would Be a Fitting End for a Prime Minister Famous for Telling Porkies
— Adam Coghlan
A Charcutier, a Chef, and Two Wine Importers Walk Into a Bar
— James Hansen, with photography by Michaël Protin
The Irresistible Rise of Panettone in Britain
— Sean Wyer, with illustration by Israel Kujore