With her finger firmly on the culinary pulse, restaurant critic and food writer Louisa Walters is our go-to for what’s hot and what’s not on the food scene. Here are her gastro trends to look out for in the year ahead.
Social media continues to influence how, what and when we eat – and it’s all about going back to basics. TikTok has seen 10 billion views for the humble potato, and 70s and 80s-style TV shows have inspired a trend for retro desserts such as baked Alaska and rice pudding. Since a TikTok couple’s tinned fish-themed date nights went viral, we have also seen huge demand for tinned sardines, mackerel, anchovies, mussels, lobster, and even octopus.
Grab and go
There was a time when it was all about umami and chilli flakes to give punch to a dish, but flavour combos are having a moment with wacky sauces and condiments such as coffee sriracha or fruity chipotle. Meanwhile, eating on the go is about so much more than grabbing a sandwich – it seems that almost anything can be handheld, with croissants, waffles, cake, and even pasta appearing on sticks.
Natural wines are increasingly popular, with drinkers extolling both environmental benefits and more manageable hangovers. So, expect to see terms like organic, low-intervention, and biodynamic popping up on wine lists. Homegrown produce, which celebrates the very best of British while reducing its carbon footprint, ensures the continuing success of English wine, particularly the bubbly variety.
The tasting menu is fast gaining momentum as the 21st century reinvention of the set menu. In a world where there is so much choice, many diners like to minimize decision-making in a restaurant, and know what their meal will cost them at the outset. Tasting menus give restaurants much more control over food wastage and overheads, and there’s less chance of things going wrong as there are fewer options to juggle.
Deliveroo predicts that by 2040, we will all have an AI personal assistant that will recommend what foods we should be eating for our health, and augmented reality glasses to make them look more appealing than they actually are. Eating will involve ‘me-ganisms’ – hyper-personalized diet plans; ‘foodgasms’ – experiences that alter your mental state to make you feel stimulated; and ‘alt-ohol’ – drinks without the downsides.
It doesn’t get more basic than butter, but now it has been elevated to new heights with the introduction of butter boards, 2023’s alternative to a charcuterie board. Butter is generously spread on the board before being loaded with herbs, nuts, spices, and even edible flowers. Diners are then invited to dig in with bread or crackers for the ultimate in immersive dining.