There is a paradox characterising the way we eat now. On one hand, global uncertainty is affecting the choices we make about what to buy; on the other, there has never before been so many people on the planet with disposable incomes and an insatiable desire to try new things. The consequences are wide-reaching: the best restaurant in the world is serving foraged weeds and mould; elevated dining experiences are popping up in caves; plant-based eating has gone mainstream; and we’re seeing a world-wide renaissance of street food.
In the face of what’s been coined a ‘retail apocalypse’, restaurateurs, chefs and innovators are developing new F&B blueprints that respond to financial, social, ethical and environmental challenges. In this Field Notes we sketch the changing landscape of eating and drinking from Copenhagen to the deserts of Western Australia.
Market Hall, Fulham
Unlike a sprawling ‘food court’, a ‘food hall’ in the UK typically refers to a mix of local artisan restaurants and providores under one roof. As mainstream palates become more worldly and people more hungry for social connection, food halls are becoming focal points for public gathering. Across London, the Market Halls group is part of the wave of upscale food halls springing up in gentrified neighbourhoods. Their model is to upcycle heritage buildings with established architects and handpick a batch of local restauranteurs to service a communal dining area.
Their Fulham outpost is housed in an Edwardian former railway entrance, restored by Faulkner Brown Architects with social media-friendly backdrops in mind. The model gets around many of the barriers small restaurants face in desirable areas by offering reduced overheads, minimal start-up costs and steady footfall. The results have been highly successful for both the group and operators, as well as a boon for local landlords who have reported a boost in property value. On top of the seven kitchens, Market Hall in Fulham has two bars serving craft British beers and spirits, a fitness studio, an event space, café and rooftop terrace.
As developers rise to the expectation that projects should be cleaner and greener, there’s an overlap with an increased public consciousness around the provenance, ethics and nutritional benefits of what we eat. Melbourne’s Acre restaurant and urban farm crowns the recently-opened Burwood Brickworks, which is set to claim the title of ‘World’s Most Sustainable Shopping Centre’. Burwood Brickworks, located about a half an hour from the Melbourne CBD, was designed by NH Architecture with consultation by eco-restauranteur Joost Baaker (Silo, Brothl and Greenhouse). Acre epitomises the kind of transparency that an inner-city audience is curious about, introducing 2500 sqm of food production on the roof. The restaurant is a pedagogical device that helps visitors understand how food production works, and how they can become involved and touch the earth more lightly.
The Store X, Berlin
It’s difficult to describe exactly what the Store X’s main product is – food, workspace, furniture or fantasy. The 2800-sqm store is a venture of Soho House (sitting underneath Soho House in Mitte) and has sister stores at Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire and 180 The Strand in London. The Store X is a platform for ideas, objects and stomachs to be activated. As well as a café and pizzeria, there is co-working, a record store, a furniture showroom, a bookshop and a unisex hair salon – all encouraging you to linger and make yourself at home. While Soho House above remains members only, The Store X is open to the public and creates an interface with the street. The Store X works hard to stay on the radar of the creative classes through exhibitions and partnerships with established artists, architects and designers.
A plant-based eating revolution is continually gaining traction, and it’s reached everyone from fast-food giants to the pinnacles of gastronomy. In 2018, Noma, the Danish restaurant that has repeatedly been named ‘the best restaurant in the world’, reopened on a new site with a new menu. Embracing the plant kingdom, the menu now includes a ‘Vegetable Season’ from July–September each year. The move was considered alienating at the time given the meat-eating clientele, of whom some have waited months for a table and travelled internationally for a meal. For founder Rene Redzepi it’s an existential move that’s about aligning with the future of food. The Noma team, Redzepi says, is exploring the idea that ‘maybe our future is vegetarian’. With a track record for changing the way the world thinks about food, Redzepi’s actions are likely to continue to lead the way.
Fervor, Western Australia
Nomadism suits chefs well. They can travel, innovate and avoid the costly overheads of a high street address. In recent years we have seen chefs around Australia opting to remove themselves from a permanent location, instead choosing to utilise unique urban spaces to host dining experiences. Fervor takes things a little further by travelling deep into regional and remote Australia, partnering with Traditional Owners to harvest native produce and host dining events in situ. Fervor’s founder and owner has worked at multiple Michelin-starred restaurants including Noma. Following a trans-global jaunt working at world-leading restaurants with a focus on native ingredients, Paul ‘Yoda’ Iskov was inspired to dig deeper into what grew in Australia. As well as offering a way of connecting with country, the popularity of the events proves people are keen to engage with heightened and emerging dining experiences that would be difficult to conceive of in a typical restaurant typology.
Thomas Dudley is an editor and strategist at Right Angle Studio. His research and writing focuses on human habitats, the built environment, culture and regeneration.
Lead image: Dinner on the Western Australian Wheatbelt by Michael Sippe Photography, courtesy of Fervor.