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June 13, 2024

The top 13 culinary trends of 2024, ranging from global whiskey to fig leaves

8 min read

Numerous problems that plagued the UK dining scene in 2022 persisted in 2023, especially the exorbitant cost of food, which continues to have a significant influence on what and how we eat. This is especially felt in the capital, where food prices are exacerbated by exorbitant and growing rents, which adds to the perception that, at least in the city center, eateries are playing it safe, as noted by several food writers. In her year-end assessment, Grace Dent, the food critic for The Guardian, said that 2023 seemed to be the year when London’s restaurant sector lost its competitiveness. I was eating much better outside of the M25. Numerous trends that are often mentioned for 2024 reflect this caution, such as the resurgence of traditional recipes and unassuming components. Maybe that’s why trendy restaurants are serving more beans on their menus and the martini is making a comeback, although with new twists and interpretations. Despite this, there are still a lot of fascinating trends to be discovered, such the emergence of musically themed dining establishments and novel ingredients like fig leaves. Here are some predictions for 2024.

1. The leaf of Fig.

The modest fig leaf has become an unexpected culinary staple, appearing in everything from curries to ice cream. Although the leaf cannot be consumed raw, its flavor may be added to dairy products, oils, syrups, and even cocktails. It has a sweet, creamy, and herbaceous taste. Aulis by Simon Rogan provides fig leaf parfait with white chocolate and mint; Papi, a trendy new restaurant in east London, serves oysters wrapped in fig leaf mignonette; Nipperkin, a new bar in Mayfair, serves fig leaf and butter cocktails; and Parafante sells bottled fig leaf negronis for takeout. We should expect to witness an increase in fig leaf availability and variety (easy foraging) in 2024.

2. The hot sauce becomes warmer.

The demand for hot sauce has been rising for years, but merchants are reporting a significant increase in sales. Waitrose reported a 55% increase in sales, while small specialty store Hop Burns & Black has a staggering 94% increase. What caused the unexpected spike? While Hop Burns & Black believes that “demand has been driven by the growing interest in world cuisine and the desire to explore flavors from around the world,” Waitrose noted the trend of employing hot sauces in home cooking for a rapid flavor burst. However, both retailers believe that a major factor in the craze is the popularity of the YouTube series Hot Ones, in which celebrities are interviewed while eating chicken wings dipped in a series of increasingly hot sauces. Fans are even purchasing the special Hot Ones sauces to play the challenge at home.

3. Listening to crossovers at restaurants and bars

The sound of music fills the restaurants in London, and guests aren’t merely amused by the chef’s selection of songs from the 1980s. High-end sound systems and music are becoming more and more vital to the eating experience. Vintage Tannoy speakers, an enormous wall of records on display, and a music program organized by Charlie Dark MBE are all features of the recently opened Bambi in London Fields. Live DJs spin records to go with informal small meals crafted by chef Henry Freestone. Another recent addition to Dalston is Mu, which serves izakaya cuisine with Japanese influences and has live jazz and Cuban bands. In Newington Green, Stella’s is a butcher store that transforms into a listening room with wine and charcuterie on weekends. From Cornerstore in Amsterdam to Bambino in Paris, this tendency is also evident across Europe.

4. Global whiskey

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to broaden your whiskey horizons beyond the major four countries of Scotland, Ireland, America, and Japan and sample trailblazing drams from unexpected, less “traditional” locations. Currently, France, Italy, the Nordic countries, and New Zealand are home to the Young Turks of the Whisky World. There, distillers are revitalizing the “classic” category by using centuries of distillation experience. Nearer to home, however, the English whiskey sector has been subtly developing into one of the most inventive and varied worldwide. In the Spring 2024 edition of Food by National Geographic Traveller (UK), The Thinking Drinkers wrote: “Not hamstrung by history nor tethered so tightly to tradition, English distillers are able to innovate with measured abandon. They’re also embracing pioneering aging techniques, modern distilling processes, and, crucially, celebrating provenance.”

5. Retail to restaurant

Sauces and condiments bearing restaurant brands are becoming more and more common as eateries search new sources of income other than just providing supper. René Redzepi’s new Noma Projects division has been creating very creative items from its test kitchen, such as corn yuzu hot sauce and smoked mushroom garum, as he prepares to close Noma permanently at the end of this year. Bao sells bottles of burned chilli sauce and plum pickle ketchup in the UK; Poon’s sells XO sauce and chilli vinegar dressing; and Gymkhana just debuted its Michelin-starred curry sauces at Whole Foods Market. Another fantastic approach to utilize up products is to bottle sauces. Fallow, for example, makes their own very sustainable sriracha from leftover English chillies, and in 2024, Rocks Oysters, in collaboration with chef Ana da Costa, will introduce an oyster XO sauce produced from extra oysters that would have otherwise gone to waste.

6. Chilled beans

In recent months, beans and pulses have transformed from being basic and boring foodstuffs to star performers. Waitrose’s cans of chickpeas and butter beans are disappearing off the shelves, and the new, luxurious Bold Bean Co. jars have gained massive social media followings and a 650% rise in sales over the previous year. However, why now? In the present economic context, beans and pulses make an excellent component since they are affordable, adaptable, and nutrient-dense—they are rich in protein and low in fat. Their appeal is also linked to a broader movement of mashed veggies and pulses as eateries and customers look for toast toppings other than the ecologically harmful avocado. Chefs have shown, however, that eating beans doesn’t have to mean being dull; decadent bean-based meals are now the main attraction. White beans with cockles, lemon, and olive oil are served at hot newcomer Leo’s, while cooked butterbeans with kale and goat’s curd are served at Bambi.

7. Nat Pet

Traditionally produced as a semi-sparkling wine, pettisant naturel (or pet nat, to use its adorable nickname) is bottled while it is still fermenting. It’s also becoming more well-known at chic wine bars in the UK, while not being a household brand by any means. “Hazy, fruity, and generally low in alcohol, pet nats bring a year-round taste of summer to your table, and the colorful funky labels take the snobbery out of drinking,” says Fiona Beckett, wine writer for Food by National Geographic Traveller UK. Additionally, English winemakers are producing them. If you’re unfamiliar to the style, Beckett suggests Frolic pét nat by Lost in a Field. 

8. Large communal plates

If the last ten years or so have been characterized by little plates while eating out, then the era of eye-catching giant shared meals, which are gaining popularity, may be upon us. Lomo saltado, a massive plate of Peruvian beef stew topped with fries and served with scallion pancakes, is the signature dish at Tomos Parry’s new restaurant Mountain. Whole roast chicken has stolen the show at new openings like Dovetale, Story Cellar, and Bébé Bob, which specialize in the dish. It’s understandable why these centerpiece dishes are becoming popular—they provide value for the diner, streamline service for the kitchen, and, let’s be honest, a visually arresting image for social media.

Restaurant table with food

9. Retro gins and contemporary martinis

The Diageo 2024 trends research asserts that while the martini is a timeless drink, it is now trending once again due to its popularity on social media. It seems that inventive martini dishes are all the rage at the moment. Temple Bar in New York offers a dozen different versions, one of which is the Bilbao martini, which has anchovies oil added. ElNico sells a tomato martini that combines basil oil and sun-dried tomato-infused vermouth. Two subtrends have gained traction in London: martinis served in shot glasses at Tayr + Elementary and the recently opened Peruvian eatery Llama Inn, and martinis served at subzero temperatures direct from the freezer at Ever After and Hawksmoor. Mimi Kakushi in Dubai is taking things a step further by having a pre-bottled martini inside of a -20C block of ice that waits to be chipped out for each order by bartenders. The Thinking Drinkers, the drink columnists for Food by National Geographic Traveller UK, are projecting a similar comeback for traditional gin companies. “As with martinis, anticipate classic gins to benefit from a fondness for the past,” they say. “Now that a wave of delicious and bizarre gins has passed, it’s time for gin’s legendary juniper-driven founding fathers, like Beefeater, Tanqueray, and Plymouth, to take center stage.”

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Pointy hash browns

Hash browns are showing up more often on restaurant menus as part of the broader trend for comfort cuisine that harkens back to simpler times. However, don’t anticipate seeing crunchy, golden brown rectangles on your dish—chefs are really upgrading them. At his recently opened Selfridges restaurant, Jackson Boxer provides an oblong hash brown topped with whipped cod’s roe and kosho; at The Dover, a recently opened establishment, a hash brown snack is served with caviar; while Dorian in Notting Hill adorns crisp fried potatoes with crab. In the meanwhile, Hash Hut debuted at KERB Seven Dials Market in November of last year. It offered three distinct hash brown forms to choose from along with an extensive assortment of toppings, ranging from crispy onions and nori flakes to Sriracha mayo and parmesan.

11. Meat made with mushrooms 

King oyster mushrooms are back on the menu as natural alternatives to ultra-processed meals, which are becoming more and more popular, seem to be taking a backseat to faux meats. Chefs are drawn to this specific fungus because of its meaty texture and robust stem. They use it to make a variety of dishes, such as panko-crusted “calamari” rings at Willow in New York and mushroom “scallops” at Glas in Dublin. Anticipate even more when the itinerant supper club Holy Carrot opens its first permanent location in Notting Hill the following year. The menu will include crispy, spicy, gluten-free king oyster mushroom “wings” accompanied with miso butter.

12. Wines with lower alcohol content 

The continued popularity of lower-alcohol beverages continues to rise, with gins and no-lo beers in particular reaching all-time highs. In the meanwhile, producing wines with a lower ABV has become more alluring due to the recent shift in UK duties. According to Fiona Beckett, “a wine of 8% only incurs £1.49 duty compared to £2.67 on a wine of 11.5% or over.” Lower alcohol wines do tend to lose some of their structure and intensity, which works well for select styles—like Mosel riesling and New Zealand sauvignon blanc, to be sure—but not for most red wines. Moreover, wines with lower alcohol content are often sweeter.

13. Delectable French toast 

A savory variant of the traditional French toast dipped in maple syrup is just as likely to be served at your weekend brunch in 2024 as it is to be a brunch mainstay. Ever the trend-setter, Nigella offers a delicious recipe for parmesan French toast with Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard that she says goes well with supper as well as breakfast. No33 in Norwich serves the best French toast with crispy onions, parmesan, and balsamic topped with mushrooms and spinach in a creamy brie sauce. And in a nod to a trend we covered in 2023, Eggbreak in Notting Hill now serves savory French toast with za’atar, cherry tomatoes, garlic, thyme, poached eggs, labneh, and pickled onion, all drizzled with hot honey.

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