Top food trends for 2020

by Tom Shingler 10 December 2019

We take a look at the ten foodie trends we think will rise to the fore in 2020, be it in restaurants, cities or the kitchens of home cooks.

Tom Shingler is the editor of Great British Chefs.

Tom Shingler is the editor at Great British Chefs. After studying journalism and working on national food magazines, he joined Great British Chefs in 2015 and has travelled the length and breadth of the UK to interview chefs and photograph their beautiful plates of food ever since. Tom is responsible for all the editorial output of the website and, of course, is obsessed with everything to do with food and drink.

The end of the year always gets us thinking about the months ahead. When it comes to how we’ll be eating and cooking there’s always a little bit of guesstimation involved, but by looking at the comings and goings of the food scene in 2019, it can be quite easy to pinpoint what will continue to grow into a full-blown nationwide change in our eating habits.

Some things are a given, like the continuous rise and evolution of veganism. It’s certainly not going anywhere, as we all reduce our meat consumption and the number of meat- and dairy-free alternatives continue to grow in terms of variety and quality. Others, however, are a little more subtle, or might be known in London but have yet to reach the rest of the UK. Take a look at the ten trends we’re putting our money on for 2020 below.

Year of the sandwich

Burgers, step aside – it’s time for the sandwich to get a gourmet makeover. The likes of Max Halley at Max’s Sandwich Shop in Crouch End (Ground Zero for the elevated sarnie) along with Sons + Daughters in Kings Cross have proven there’s a demand for something a little more refined than a greasy bacon butty or the limp, strangely moist-yet-dry supermarket offerings. This, combined withthe Instagrammable rise of the katsu sando, means the rest of the UK is set for an onslaught of upmarket sandwich shops. And we can’t wait.

Fin-to-tail feasts


We all got excited when Aussie chef Josh Niland released The Whole Fish Cookbook earlier this year, proving that the nose-to-tail movement that has changed the way many restaurants source and prep meat can be applied to fish and seafood. He showed that almost every part of the fish can be turned into something delicious, and there’s sure to be a surge of chefs showcasing all those ugly, fiddly bits in exciting new dishes. Keep an eye on the rise of ‘seacuterie’ too – the practice of curing seafood such as cuttlefish and turning it into sausage-like creations – pioneered by the likes of Tom Brown at Cornerstone.

Food hall hysteria


It feels like a new food hall opened every week towards the end of 2019, as restaurateurs realise it’s a low-risk way to peddle their dishes in a place that’s guaranteed high footfall. The phenomenon has already started to spill out of London, with cities such as Durham, York and Liverpool boasting their own hugely successful warehouse-sized dining areas. Global brand Eataly will finally be opening an Italian-focused food hall in London in 2020, and any clever city council will no doubt be signing projects off in the months to come as a way to boost ailing high streets and inject plenty of trendy street food vibes into their centres.

Back to the classical

We’ve poo-pooed the old ways of fine dining for a while now, wincing at the sight of white tablecloths, swapping snooty waiters for laidback hipsters and ensuring the playlist is as banging as the food. Clever chefs and restaurateurs (see Adam Byatt at Charlie's) are starting to bring back the good things from previous decades, however, with the theatrics of tableside carving trolleys, serene service staff and the decadence of classical French cookery making its way to the fore once again. It’s a great way to add a sense of occasion to a meal, without the stiff, uncomfortable surroundings of restaurants past.

Honey, I shrunk the restaurant

This year’s Michelin Guide announcement had a running theme throughout – small, independent restaurants, often in rural locations, with a tiny team of chefs cooking a single tasting menu for a dining room with less than twenty seats. With a shortage of well-trained chefs (and front-of-house staff) along with increasingly high levels of investment needed to open a big restaurant, we reckon this style of restaurant is only going to become more common. It makes sense from the chef’s point of view – they have better control over consistency and quality when cooking a smaller number of dishes for a smaller number of people. It results in some incredible plates of food, too – just be sure to book ahead a good few weeks (or months) in advance.

Singapore calling

It’s always tricky to pinpoint which cuisines are going to ‘go big’ at any one time, but for something relatively new to the UK, we’re putting our money on Singaporean. The city-state is a multicultural melting pot, something that’s reflected in its food with delicious results – think a mix of Chinese, Indian and Malay as a very basic introduction. The likes of Anaïs van Manen's Snack Bar in Dalston has shone a light on kaya toast (coconut jam on toast with a fried egg and soy sauce), which is certainly completely different to what most of us have eaten for breakfast before, and the more familiar street food dishes of noodles, seafood, roti and Hainanese chicken rice are just waiting to break the mainstream.

Set sail for Sri Lanka


For something slightly more familiar, Sri Lankan cuisine is finally getting the recognition it deserves, rather than being lumped in with Indian dishes. London restaurant Hoppers kicked things off with the country’s eponymous pancake baskets, and since then there’s been a steady increase in other establishments specialising in the cuisine. Expect kottu, sambals, cashew nut curries and more to make the move from unknown to beloved.

Purge the plastics


Disposable supermarket shopping bags are no more, plastic drinking straws are increasingly rare and street food vendors are ensuring all their cutlery and crockery are biodegradable – it looks like single-use plastics are (thankfully) on their way out. While it’s incredibly hard for a restaurant to eliminate them completely (although Skye Gyngell’s Spring managed it at the beginning of 2019), consumers are increasingly aware of the impact plastic packaging has on the environment. The rise of fill-your-own-container food stores and applied pressure on supermarkets to stop wrapping every fresh ingredient they stock in polyethylene means single-use plastics are (gradually) becoming a thing of the past.

New herb on the block?

Despite their questionable environmental impact (see above), those little packets of fresh herbs in the supermarkets have given home cooks access to a whole world of flavour – especially when they’re not green-fingered enough to grow their own. However, while fresh coriander, basil, parsley and tarragon are now used with abandon in home cooking, those herbs that aren’t mass-produced for the mainstream become something you generally only see in restaurants. Chervil, in particular, seems to be a favourite lately, thanks to its tarragon-meets-parsley flavour with a grassy, springtime finish. All it takes is one supermarket to start stocking bunches of it and we reckon it’ll become just as popular as the usual suspects.

Paint it black (garlic)

Black garlic first started to gain traction in the UK about eight years ago, but it’s been used in Korea for centuries. It’s made by ageing and fermenting garlic bulbs until they turn black, soft and sweet, but the process completely transforms the flavour into something a world away from what we usually associate with the ubiquitous cloves. Jam-packed with umami and tasting like a mix between balsamic vinegar, aniseed and smoky chocolate, chefs are increasingly including it in their dishes. It’s particularly useful for adding depth and complexity to vegan dishes, which could explain its sudden rise despite being available for so long. It may be a bit of a specialist ingredient for the average home cook, but expect to see it start to make its way into TV shows and cookbooks in the months to come.