Step inside any restaurant, and you will most likely see the words' local' and 'seasonal' on menus narrate intriguing conversations. There is a new wave of culinary innovators and drink connoisseurs around the world, championing hyper-local sourcing and thus changing dining experiences and the way we consume. These restaurant dining experiences embody more ingredients grown in our local communities that are not only sustainable and organic, but for consumers, it provides new culinary experiences by using lesser-known plant life.
Nature to table dining experiences
In light of the pandemic travel restrictions, many diners took to their neighbourhood restaurants and experienced locally grown produce infused with plant life from their communities. Many of those restaurants now only source ingredients that are grown and made locally.
Across the country, lesser-known plant life has begun appearing on food and drink menus. From amaranth, a nutty, earthy flavour adding texture and taste to granola, to lavender and Aztec sweet herb infused botanical gins. Chefs are experimenting with bringing more local nature to reduce their impact on the environment but deliver on big flavours.
Local flavours and ingredients building human connections
Ed Verner, who owns a restaurant in Auckland, states one of his favourite ingredients is Kawakawa, a plant that grows in his local area, a mix of green peppercorn and citrus. He sources the plant from a nearby forest and uses its berries to season kimchi and cocktails. Similarly, Anne-Sophie Pic, the head chef at Raffles Singapore, confesses one of her favourite ingredients is the Herb of Grace which is native to Singapore. Herb of Grace, or Choucao, was one of the first herbs she discovered in the city and uses its bitter taste to create consommé to pair with pasta parcels.
We'll undoubtedly begin to see more and more culinary experiences being emulated across restaurants, taking muse from other countries inspired by local produce and foraging. A rise of botanists growing plant life to elevate taste profiles, enabling chefs to offer consumers more choice.
Noteworthy restaurants that are similarly inspired by local ingredients include Kindred and Penicillin Bar. Kindred in Hammersmith is built on community and human connection, using flavours and ingredients from communities in London. Penicillin bar in Hong Kong has a unique concept about utilising locally sourced, foraged ingredients and not wasting any part of it. The bar and restaurant won 'Asia's most sustainable bar in 2021' by Ketel One's Sustainable Bar Awards.
More and more European chefs are practising 'Allemansrätten', the Swedish term 'the right to roam'. For many years Swedish culinary curators have traditionally explored vast green areas Sweden cultivates. One of Sweden's many popular Spring drinks is flavoured with nettle and birch leaves grown locally, elevating the sensorial flavour experience.
By discovering local treasures, these innovators who are foraging locally are not only revolutionising the concept of 'farm to table'; they are enabling themselves to form stronger connections with their creations, understanding nature and its influence to inspire future creations.
The Midnight Apothecary in London uses seasonal ingredients sourced from their very own homemade garden. Their drinks are inspired by plants, such as smoked sage and wild vermouth with angelica seed bitters. These gartenders are growing carefully chosen plant life that compliments local spirits and tonics, having a better understanding of how to elevate the sensory palette with their organic ingredients.
Hyper-local sourcing is changing the way we eat. Chefs are more imaginative and inventive with tastes and textures, with what is growing around and within their community. In addition to elevating flavour profiles, menus focused on local produce and sustainability are also promoting an increased awareness of social responsibility and creating and maintaining better wellbeing connections with its consumers.