Food Trends in the UK

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Diccon Wright is a restaurateur and property specialist based in the UK and Spain. He runs his own portfolio of restaurants, and is the consultant brains behind many others. Here he gives his round-up of current and future trends in the UK food scene.

The UK is a very exciting place to be right now when it comes to food. The variety of cuisines, the creativity in the kitchen, and the quality of what’s being served, is all quite astounding. How it’s being served is also of a very high standard – everything from the service to the interior design. I believe the food scene here is only going to get more vibrant, propelled by some key dining trends.

Provenance of ingredients
People want to know where the food you are serving them has come from. They want to know how it was was farmed, whether vegetables were sprayed with pesticides, and if animals led a good life before ending up on their dinner plate.

roast beef from the joint at the carvery

Today’s diner feels responsible for the increasingly dire state of the world’s environment and wants to make a difference by making good food choices. Patrons at my restaurants check before ordering that the fish is sustainably harvested, that the meat we serve is ethically farmed and locally sourced, and that the vegetables and grains are organic. Natural wines, too, are a becoming much more sought-after.

Woe to the restaurant that neglects this shift in thinking as it is only going to get more pervasive.

Local produce
Restaurateurs are focusing more and more on sourcing ingredients from local producers. Staying local supports the community, reduces the carbon footprint of transporting ingredients from afar, and gives chefs better control of what comes into their kitchens as they can visit the farms and work closely with the farmers. Many restaurants are now growing their own produce.

Looking further into the future, as climate change creates unstable weather patterns, and farming technology develops, it’s likely that farms will be even more local and small-scale. Fruit and vegetables will be grown in hydroponic tunnels, protected from the elements. This might mean we lose our sense of seasonality.

Healthy eating
Along with being aware of how our food impacts the planet, diners are increasingly knowledgeable about how what they eat affects their bodies. How meat is reared (use of antibiotics and other chemical supplements) and crops are grown (pesticides on the food) are two obvious concerns, but eating for health is surely going to go much further.

Combining the present trend of “free of” eating – lactose, gluten, sugar, and so on – with advances in genetic technology, the future will likely see more people eating for personal health.

Vegetables and grain become star ingredients
The shift to a more ethical way of eating will make vegetables and grains playing a starring role in the kitchen. We’ve already seen this shift, in which the obligatory one or two, rather dull, vegetarian options on a menu have become a few really inspired and exciting dishes. I see vegetarian and vegan dishes becoming much more popular and prevalent.

Regional food
In London we have restaurants serving food from almost everywhere in the world. This interest in regional foods is only going to expand, both into lesser-known cuisines, such as Filipino and Iranian, as well as into a deeper knowledge of more well-known food, such as Indian. No longer will a restaurant serve ‘an Indian curry’ –now you’ll a Goan vindaloo or a Bombay Parsi sali boti.

More fusion
Globalisation and the deeper knowledge of regional foods will also lead to more experimentation with ingredients from afar in the kitchen. The current playful fusing of Brazilian and Japanese cuisine, and Korean and Italian cooking styles, for example, will continue, with new cuisine combinations. Spices, herbs and other ingredients will make their way into cuisines that have never used them before.

Back to British
Concurrent to the focus on international cuisines, there will be a return to British cuisine. Interest in our own regional food traditions combined with a nostalgia for the tastes of childhood will see diners flocking for high quality renditions of British classics. The Sunday roast with Yorkshire puddings and gravy, hearty pies and summer puddings (all with organic, sustainably sourced ingredients, of course) will give us a sense of our own place in this very globalised world.

strawberry pavlova at the carvery

UK diners today have dining choices that span the globe as well as our own very verdant and creative backyard. How these major trends all develop, overlap and intersect will make the dining scene here ever more interesting.

Local Produce

Diccon Wright is a restaurateur and property specialist based in the UK and Spain. He runs his own portfolio of restaurants, and is the consultant brains behind many others. He believes a restaurant that neglects using locally sourced produce is missing an opportunity. He explains why.

pork-terrine-with-piccalilli-starter

With the huge interest in cookery books, TV programmes and the shift from the pub to the restaurant over the past generation, today’s diner is more knowledgeable about their food than in the history of the restaurant business. People care about what they are eating – how it affects their wellness and the wellness of the world around them.

Small and local producers have also hugely upped their game in the last decade with a plethora of innovative and marketing-savvy producers revisiting or importing production methods and recipes. The quality of locally produced food by smaller businesses is now very high.

Any restaurateurs not already convinced of the benefits of a local food philosophy should read on.

Savvy diners
In my 20+ years as a restaurateur, never before have patrons so routinely asked front of house staff for information on where an ingredient comes from and how it is caught or farmed. Today’s diner is smart – they read, they ask questions, and they watch what’s happening in a restaurant.

Many of the regulars at my restaurants are reluctant to eat meat if it is unethically farmed or brought in unnecessarily from the other side of the world. Others will always check before ordering fish to see if it is sustainably sourced.

The venison on our menu at The Swan Bar & Brasserie in West Malling, UK, comes from Chart Farm, which leaves the deer free to wander in a semi-wild environment, while our pork comes from Romshed Farm. The pigs roam free and the whole farm is managed to maximise the historic, conservation and wildlife value of the land. Our customers appreciate both the quality of product and the higher welfare of the animals.

Your values define your attitude
The story behind you dishes, and how your staff talk about the provenance of the ingredients – are key parts of the customer experience and helping to build your customer’s understanding of your brand. If customers feel that you can offer a bigger experience than simply a nice dinner, they’re going to come back for more.

Giving back and minimising impact
It’s always been important to me to support local farmers and producers. Our menus feature as much local produce as possible. This is a way of giving back to our own community.

roast-beef-from-the-joint

At Swan at the Globe we use a range of London-based and smaller UK producers, including the London Honey Company, Gosnell’s Mead based in Peckham and Cobble Lane Cured charcuterie. We also work with a number of suppliers based at the wonderful Borough Market, which is situated around the corner from the restaurant including Ted’s Veg and Bread Ahead.

You’re in control of what you serve
It’s obviously much easier to get build relationships with local suppliers than those on another continent. With local producers, you can visit the farms, take a look in their processing units. We often take our kitchen and waiting staff with us so they know exactly what we’re bringing into the kitchen, and what we’ll be serving to our customers.

Teston Bakery is one of our suppliers for The Swan, West Malling. Per Nevrin from Sweden started this small artisanal bakery so that he could make additive-free, real bread that is made using wild yeast and long, cold fermentation times. We’ve visited his bakery and understand his methods so we can speak authentically to diners about what they are eating.

Local produce is often better quality
No one feels great after a long haul flight or endless car journey and it is just the same for fresh produce. Sourcing local produce means the time from field to plate is much shorter. This can have a big impact on the quality and taste of the final dish.

Think beyond the restaurant
Many diners today are interested in taking part in food-related activities outside the restaurant. Having close relationships with suppliers is an opportunity for creating interesting activities that give your patrons an authentic sense of place.

One of our local suppliers, the privately run Kentfield Country Estate, supplies us seasonally with pheasant, wild mallard, boar, rabbit and trout. We arrange clay pigeon shooting on the estate, and offer fly fishing or game shooting for families, friends or company events before lunch or dinner at The Swan. Our clay pigeon shooting is especially popular. Everyone benefits – the guests have an enjoyable experience, we attract customers or give our regulars something exceptional to do, and the estate gains more exposure and customers.

In today’s highly competitive world of hospitality, I advise all restaurateurs to think and act local.

Opening Your First Restaurant – What You Need for Success

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Diccon Wright is a restaurateur and property specialist based in the UK and Spain. As a consultant and advisor he has guided many successful restaurant and property ventures. Here Diccon offers insider’s advice for those looking to start up their first restaurant venture.

A whopping 59% of hospitality facilities fail in their first three years. Over a quarter of these fold in their first year. With dismal success rates such as these, it’s a wonder that anyone would choose to open a new independent restaurant.

Launching any new venture involves a degree of risk. There are ways, though, to make this risk more calculated. I highlight below some key areas you’ll need to think about when planning your restaurant. These should help you to develop a clear strategy.

But all the plans in the world are unlikely to bring success without passion. Absolute commitment to making your restaurant as close to perfect as it can be is the first trait that any hardy – some would say foolhardy – restaurateur-in-the-making needs. If you have enough passion to keep both yourself and each and every member of your team inspired to be their best, every single day, keep reading.

SM - the carvery restaurant

Here are my four building blocks to creating a successful restaurant.

1. Define Your Philosophy

No matter the style of food you serve, or whether you run a street stall, a family-friendly diner or a palace of fine-dining sophistication, be sure about what you do and what you hope to achieve.

When you have this clear in your mind, aim for perfection. From the cooking to the serving, and the interior design to the budgeting, every detail should work towards the same goal: being the best you can be.

Your customers may be coming to you for an ice cream sundae, a vegan burger, your Singaporean laksa, or your world-famous chef’s 10-course extravaganza, but they all want to feel important and looked after.

And how do you make your patrons feel cared for? Through your staff.

2. Know Who You Need

Some of your biggest decisions will be choosing the right staff. Opt for people who love their job, who care about their colleagues as well as the customers. Having a team that takes pride in making patrons feel cherished is just as important as having technically talented staff.

In the highly competitive world of hospitality, this can be the difference between make or break.

Choosing the right chef is key to the smooth operation of your kitchen and the happiness of your entire staff. How your staff work together and treat each other inside the high-stress environment of the kitchen can affect the attitude of the cooks, which can damage the quality of the dishes being produced. The atmosphere in the kitchen can also have a knock-on effect on all other staff. So interview carefully and keep all applications until you’ve made your decision. If the chef isn’t a good fit for your restaurant, no one will be happy – including your customers.

Of course the front of house team make an immense impact on a restaurant’s success. It is a joy to watch wait staff in a great restaurant go about their job. They might silently go about their business, or be the life and soul of the restaurant – this depends on each venue, its atmosphere and patrons. But as long as the goal remains to make diners feel treasured, let your staff show their personalities.

Customers will notice if your staff works well as a team, and whether they like and support each other. This can have a big impact on the atmosphere of a restaurant and keep diners coming back to a place that feels positive, caring and successful.

3. Know What You’ve Got to Do

Running a restaurant, especially at the beginning, means being there every day. Be prepared to be this committed.

Management covers a host of different aspects of running a restaurant, from hiring and managing staff, to menu creation, to handling finances and accounting, and even doing the marketing. Whether you will be heading the restaurant yourself or will be hiring someone to handle the day-to-day running of the establishment, be aware of how much impact a manager can have on a restaurant’s success.

How management staff feel about their job is just as important as their qualifications. How they treat staff is critical. Managers should be supportive, approachable, enthusiastic and entirely professional. If staff members are constantly unhappy and you have a high turnover, then it is worth taking a good hard look at yourself and your business to see if there is room for improvement. A critical eye to your own strengths and weaknesses is important.

If you’re planning on running the restaurant yourself, make sure you have an excellent grasp on the finances. Plenty of great restaurants fail, not because of the food, or lack of customers, but simply through mismanagement of the general day-to-day running costs. If you’re located in an expensive neighbourhood and you have to pay a hefty ground rent, then you’d better be sure that your food standards, price and expenses are well in sync. Not having a firm grounding in this area and not knowing the profit margin per plate and per cover, with all the expenses including rent, bills, staff wages, produce costs and so on, is a sure-fire way to run your business into the ground.

4. Understand your location

Where your restaurant is located can have a huge impact on its success. So do your homework: how many people live in the area? Local residents will likely become your most loyal customers unless you’re a ‘destination’ restaurant. What type of person lives in the area? Are there many professionals? Families? Pensioners? Office workers needing lunch? Find out and design some offers that will appeal to these demographics.

Is parking available? In a capital city such as London, which has great transport connections, this isn’t a problem, but in a country location then invariably your customer base will either be very local, or they will need to drive to you. Unless you’re a well-known ‘destination’ restaurant, being located somewhere that can benefit from walk-in foot traffic can help fill tables in quieter moments. Understanding the customer demographic that you are targeting is hugely important.

Choosing a location in an emerging area can mean that rents are more affordable, but this means committing to the location for the long-haul, banking on the area becoming more popular over time. You also need to consider the layout and size of the space. You’ll need to ensure that you will have enough customers to cover your rent and other business expenses.

Final words

A restaurant’s success is as much to do with attitude, hard work and commitment to a common goal as it is the food that is served, and the environment in which it is served. Of all the guidance I can give budding restaurateurs, my biggest advice is: no matter what you do, do it brilliantly.

The Carvery Restaurant

The Carvery
Torremolinos, Costa del Sol, Spain

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Diccon Wright, in partnership with local restauranteur Mark Cornwell, has re-opened The Carvery, a sunny and intimate place to enjoy British cuisine on the Costa del Sol. Among 2016’s best bets among new restaurant openings, The Carvery located in Montemar, Torremolinos between Malaga and Marbella opened its doors in April 2016 and aims to please the palates of the most discerning foodies.

SM the bar of the carvery

These experienced restauranteurs give a respectful nod to traditional tastes and ensure that everything is prepared with the finest local ingredients- including fish caught fresh from the sea.

SM smoked salmon starter at the carvery

Here, you’ll enjoy the classics, including locally bred Angus steak and a quality carvery with a fine selection of roasted meats, local vegetables, homemade stuffing, gravy, and Yorkshire puddings.

SM yorkies straight from the oven at the carvery

Their traditional British Sunday roast is consistently rated “superb” by travelers who count dinner at The Carvery a must when vacationing on this sunny coast. Whether it’s a traditional roast, or a light salad to complement the local climate The Carvery accommodates.

SM beetroot and goats cheese salad starter at the carvery

The Carvery features modern seating for 120 guests inside and may comfortably accommodate 60 on the outdoor terrace.

SM - the carvery restaurant

A lush vertical garden and contemporary art, quarried marble and locally crafted tiles complete the Andalusian ambience.

SM terrace area of the carvery

The project has involved a 1.5 million euro investment into the new restaurant. Throughout the construction process Diccon and Mark have employed skilled local craftsmen and sourced materials from the region, including marble from the nearby quarry and locally-made tiles.

SM - boris the bison at the carvery

The feedback from customers of The Carvery since the re-launch has been extremely positive with the restaurant scoring 4.5 out of 5 on Trip Advisor and earning a Certificate of Excellence from the site. Comments from customers include ‘amazing’, ‘new premises and even better than before (if that is possible)’, and ‘wow wow wow’.

SM argentinian angus steak and chips at the carvery

Diccon Wright said: ‘I am thrilled to be a part of The Carvery restaurant with Mark. We’ve worked hard to re-launch the restaurant and to build on the existing success, with a goal to make it a premier destination for great food and a welcoming atmosphere in Torremolinos. The feedback we’ve received from our repeat and new customers is simply fantastic. When we hear that people enjoy what we are doing at The Carvery and take the time and trouble to tell us, it really drives us on to maintain the high standards that we’ve set ourselves from the outset.’

Contact Details:

The Carvery
Calle Saltillo 2
Montemar
29620
Torremolinos
Malaga – Spain
+34 952 373 722

Diccon Wright Announces Opening of The Carvery

Diccon Wright is delighted to announce the opening of the Carvery between Malaga and Marbella in April 2016 in partnership with local restauranteur Mark Cornwell.

the bar of the carvery

The project has involved a 1.5 million euro investment into the new restaurant with seating for 120 guests inside and a further 60 on an outside terrace. The venue is styled with vertical garden, fresh, modern furnishings and contemporary art. Throughout the construction process Diccon and Mark have employed skilled local craftsmen and sourced materials from the region, including marble from the nearby quarry and locally-made tiles.

yorkies straight from the oven at the carvery

The wide menu includes classic British dishes, locally bred Angus steak, fresh local caught fish and a high quality carvery with a selection of freshly roasted meats, fresh vegetables, homemade stuffing, Yorkshire puddings and gravy.

Coming Soon – Amano, Bar and café, in West Malling, Kent.

Diccon Wright recently announced the opening in October 2016 of Amano, a bar and café, in West Malling, Kent.

In the location formerly known as the Lobster Pot at 47 Swan St, West Malling, Kent County ME19 6JU, the space is being renovated into a modern, bright day-time venue, which will welcome families for accessible, high quality dishes. The menu will have a strong modern Italian influence and include home-cured meats, freshly-made pasta and sourdough pizzas from an authentic wood burning oven.

The project is an expansion of Diccon’s existing partnership with Daryl Healy and Nick Levantis, which began with the Swan, also in West Malling. More updates will be available on this site when Amano is closer to opening this Autumn.

View the full press release at http://www.prnewswire.co.uk/news-releases/diccon-wright-and-partners-open-amano-in-west-malling-kent-577080521.html

Our New Look Restaurant

Swan Restaurant-71b

This spring, following an extensive refurbishment, Diccon Wright’s Swan Restaurant at Shakespeare’s Globe reopened its doors with a fresh, vibrant new look. Bringing a new menu, focusing on provenance, seasonality and simplicity, it showcases the best of classic British dishes, with a contemporary twist.

Plush furnishings, including bespoke seating by The French House, and additional statement lighting, by Rothschild and Bickers, create a relaxed and refined environment; with 180 degree views of the London river skyline. The dining room to the right, the River Room, now houses a unique selection of sheep and goat head sculptures that run along the back wall and are designed by the renowned Dido Crosby.

The restaurant bar features a seamless length of pewter and brass, with a Carrera marble bar back and Christopher Howe bar stools offering the opportunity to dine at the counter. Diccon also oversaw the installation of a new purpose-built wine room, which displays the restaurant’s great range of vintages.

Signature dishes from the main menu include starters such as; cider battered oysters, salt baked heritage beetroot, smoked ricotta, pickled walnuts and London honey and Jerusalem artichoke soup, with hazelnut and spinach pesto, and mains including; Cornish fish stew with Norfolk saffron potatoes and garlic mayonnaise, beef Wellington with Savoy cabbage, carrots and a Madeira and truffle jus and cod, with a hazelnut crust, sea beets, fish and parsley broth.

Desserts on offer feature Vanilla yoghurt pannacotta with Yorkshire rhubarb and juniper meringue, Orange and cardamom polenta cake with blood orange and crème fraiche and a Dark chocolate delice with salted hazelnut ganache and chocolate ice cream.

Diccon Wright said “The refurbishment of Swan Restaurant has allowed us to create a beautiful space beautifully that frames one of the best views in London. The investment into this area of the Swan building enables chefs to work in the dining room, adding a sense of theatre and activity. The sit-at bar also allows us to offer relaxed informal drinks and causal dinning. After seven of successful operation it is a pleasure to see the opening up of the room to its full potential.”

View photos and the new restaurant menus

Hiring the Right Chef for your restaurant

Unless you are the chef for your new restaurant, hiring the right chef may be your most formidable task. Cooking is not only a demanding profession, but also a science, as anyone who has learned to cook anything may attest. As in any profession, levels of skill and talent vary, so you should have a good idea of what you expect. The professional chef has many responsibilities, including food preparation, menu management and pricing, inventory control, purchasing, and staff hiring and scheduling. Poor management of any of these may mean failure for your restaurant.

Word-of-mouth is probably the best way to begin your search for a chef. The restaurant world is not as large as one might think and an opportunity to work in the very restaurant you’re planning may be exactly what some chef is seeking. This is where your own research, planning, and vision may help connect you with the ideal candidate. Know what you want. Know what you offer. Accept and keep all CV’s until you’re ready to make a decision. Keep in mind that an experienced chef may be able to expand her or his cooking repertoire – within limits. On balance, strong management skills are worth serious consideration too, especially in newer restaurants.

You’re looking for a chef comfortable with the style of your particular restaurant. The person you hire will determine the appeal of the menu, the quality of food preparation, food costs, and the happiness and efficiency of your kitchen and dining room staffs. And you want to retain an experienced and reliable staff for as long as possible. That way, they’ll be able to participate in various tasks and become professionally more versatile and more valuable to your business. Your chef should be knowledgeable about all aspects of food purchasing, inventory control, food preparation, and staff management.

Good staff morale is crucial to the success of your restaurant. Think about that restaurant you’ve never gone back to, all because of the miserable staff. (We’ve all been to at least one of these establishments.) The right chef will ensure that customers praise your professional staff – and return to your restaurant. As important as the food is the quality of the service. As every successful restauranteur knows, dining is always about more than a good meal. The experience should always be memorable.

Preparing my favourite dishes and going back to basics

Chefs in fine restaurants worldwide are ever more committed to keeping ingredients local, seasonal, and simple. Three to four well-prepared and carefully plated items are enough to please anyone’s palate and to provide an interesting variety of tastes and textures. Your restaurant should draw upon locally sourced produce picked at the peak of flavor and freshness; local or regional artisanal cheeses; beef, lamb, pork, and chicken (and eggs) from neighboring farms; and the freshest seasonal seafood. Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries are worth waiting for when picked and served in season, and there are many ways to serve them.

Diners themselves have driven this growing movement to fresh and local ingredients. Frozen and processed foods were restaurant staples until customers became more knowledgeable about the food they eat, what it contains (additives), and what it does not contain (nutritional value and flavor). The convenience of frozen food cannot be denied, especially when it may be stored for weeks, but the appearance and flavor of fresh ingredients challenge and inspire the chef you want for your restaurant. Properly handling fresh food in the kitchen requires expert organisation and preparation in order to produce a plate of simple foods with their complex and delicious textures and tastes intact or enhanced.

Preparation and presentation are crucial also. The simplest roast chicken may be paired with a fresh and flavorful vegetable; a local, artisanal cheese may be served with fresh seasonal fruit; lamb from a local farm needs no more than a salad of fresh greens and a vegetable. At Swan at Shakespeare’s Globe, for a fine example, you may choose Onion Tatin, with whipped goat curd and wild herb salad, or Herb Fed Chicken, with black and red quinoa, fennel, caper and wild fennel dressing — and select from a freshly prepared vegetable such as Roasted Heritage Carrots or Potatoes. What ingredients could be more fresh, more simple, and more local? How they are prepared is what makes them extraordinary. If your restaurant is known for its simple and excellent preparation of seasonal and fresh ingredients your customers will return for their personal favorite dishes and your reputation will grow.

For more information on our current dishes.

View our current menus at Swan London: http://www.swanlondon.co.uk/menus/
View our current menus at Swan in West Malling: http://www.theswanwestmalling.co.uk/menus

How to start a new restaurant

Everyone loves good food, and many talented people who cook – or are certain they’ll be able to find someone who can – think about opening a restaurant. What could go wrong? Right? The very devil may be found in the details. The first questions you should ask are: What knowledge do I bring to the project? And – What do I need to know to succeed? Research is the key; hone your vision and keep it clearly in mind when planning every aspect of your restaurant, from the menu to the decor to the way each table is set. Everything matters.

It’s always a good idea to start with the basics: Why do we go to a restaurant? And what makes us return? If criteria for the dining experience were focused only upon eating, we might as well just open a can and pop the contents into a microwave. But we want more – discreet and attentive service, comfort and ambiance, good food from an interesting menu, and trust that our dining experience will be just as wonderful the next time. And remember that even a restaurant with great food may fail if service is bad.

Where would you like to open your restaurant? The choice of location may determine everything from hours of operation to the prices on your menu to the time it takes to serve and clear a table. Your restaurant’s location may encourage parties, weddings, or in the location of one of our places, by the Shakespeare’s Globe – pre- and post-theatre dining, business luncheons, afternoon tea, weekend brunches and breakfasts, or any combination. Research your location and find out what draws customers to the area, what restaurants already exist there, and how you may encourage people to spend time in your new restaurant. Remember, too, that the people in the neighborhood may become your most loyal clients – and your best advertising.

We’ve saved our discussion of the most important and most daunting task for last: Unless you are one yourself, finding the right chef for your new restaurant may become a search both complex and very personal. The success of your restaurant depends upon your choice, and good chefs are at a premium. There are excellent culinary schools that produce many budding chefs, but finding a chef with the skill and experience to run a busy restaurant kitchen will take time and patience.

Overall, you should aim to provide a brand that is part of what you deliver in menu quality, décor, design, theme, but most of all, good service is what will keep you going beyond the initial buzz.

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About Diccon Wright

Christopher Diccon Wright is a restaurateur and property specialist who has established and grown successful operations in the UK and Mediterranean. He has also worked on a consultancy and advisory basis for a wide range of food and property clients.