It’s that time of year to get the crystal ball out and polish it off to see what might lie in store for South African restaurants and diners during 2012.
These are turbulent times, with increasing uncertainty at every level, nationally and internationally. Recession, the credit squeeze and anti drink-driving campaigns are affecting dining out in many fundamental ways.
But let’s try to look through the fog, and examine some of the underlying consumer focussed trends that will have a bearing on what diners can expect over the coming twelve months.
1.Fine dining will continue to wither away. This trend is being witnessed nationally and internationally. The trend is bistro, brassiere, cafe-style food, casual, fun eating out, delivering simple, tasty food.
2.Chefs will continue to innovate towards more casual, fun ways to eat – just look at Luke Dale-Roberts Pot Luck Club
and Franck Dangereux’s new tapas menu in his Foodbarn Deli in Noordhoek. Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame has closed up his restaurant on the Costa Blanca in Spain and opened a tapas bar in Barcelona called The Ticket.
3.There is already momentum behind supporting local producers.This is set to become a tidal wave. Even more basic is foraging, which was highlighted by those Nordic trail blazers Noma, and no surprise that it’s Chef Eric Bulpitt, (who spent time there) who scours the slopes around The Roundhouse restaurant for wild growing foods, edible shoots, roots, flowers and bulbs.
4.Traditional cuisine (with which South Africa is blessed), from Boerekos to Cape Malay to ethnic African cooking will begin to undergo a reinvention. Diners will expect to be offered less Eurocentric cuisine. Think of the success of Suzi Holtzhausen in her fisherman’s cottage, Gaaitjie, in Paternoster, to understand how this might work. And Chris Erasmus is blazing a trail in Pierneef a La Motte in Franschhoek.
5.Pop-up restaurants will arrive in South Africa. Expect some surprises as well known chefs literally pop up in some unusual places for short stints. Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and Per Se in the US “popped up” for a highly successful 10 day run in London during 2011.
6.Consumer awareness is the new mantra. Diners will increasingly want to know the origin and source of food, and that it has been ethically sourced in a sustainable way. No longer, hopefully, will the answer to the question “Where’s the fish from?” be “The sea”.
7.Chefs will increasingly grow their own herbs and vegetables, or obtain them from freshly picked sources. And they’ll look for non standard heirloom, unusual varieties. Nancy Kinchela in The Saxon in Johannesburg is growing at least 10 different varieties of tomatoes as I write.
8.The rise and rise of South African artisanal cheeses, with excellent cheeses increasingly being on offer. George Jardine’s offering at the Jordan Estate leads the field in the cheeseboard stakes.
9.Real stories around real producers will be sought after and highlighted by the media and eagerly consumed by diners and chefs alike. Think about Jenny Cottrell’s clotted cream from Robertson, or Wayne Rademeyer’s buffalo mozzarella from Wellington, or Steve, the Magic Herb guy from Porterville. All local food hero’s, and all in demand.
10.Sales of local craft beer will continue to froth over. Don’t be surprised to see them on menus with food pairings as more and more diners’ palates develop a taste for the different styles of beer on offer.
11.Supermarkets will be visibly forced to support local producers in a more and more open and obvious way. Empty marketing rhetoric will give way to more meaningful and honest relationships.
12.The bread revolution will rise up as the realisation dawns on people that there is a gulf between mass produced bread and bread which is created by serious artisanal bread makers. People will demand less fresh air and GM soya and more flour, water and yeast.