Interactive and communal dining are on the rise, according to a recent study. McCain’s 2018 Casual Dining report revealed that spending patterns indicate people are spending more money on outlets that offer experiences, like food halls. The report argues that food halls and centres appeal to all generations due to their layout, offering plenty of space and choice. The report states: “Offering a mix of permanent and regularly changing local traders within renovated and restored buildings, food halls aim to give consumers both choice and familiarity in a setting designed to inspire a sense of community.”
I firmly believe that choice is a key trend of dining today. Consumers don’t want to be stuck with a rigid menu, they want something new and exciting, and visiting food halls is an excellent way of ensuring you get the best possible range of food and drink. This style of dining also benefits businesses, as bar and restaurant owners can test out new ideas at a much lower cost than leasing a completely new premises. No risk, and hopefully lots of reward.
The best food halls in London
Street Feast, London
Street Feast transforms derelict and disused spaces into thriving eating and drinking environments, with plenty of space for everyone to join the party. Every building Street Feast takes over becomes a melting pot of cultures and cuisines. From exquisite bao to perfectly-formed sourdough pizzas, you’ll find it all. This is the key element of any successful food hall, and the reason why communal dining has become so popular among younger people. The opportunity to eat whatever you fancy but enjoy a meal together with friends is an unbeatable experience. Street Feast’s main locations are: Dinerama Shoreditch, Hawker House Canada Water, Model Market Lewisham, Giant Robot Canary Wharf, Public Woolwich, Hawker Union Wood Green.
Bang Bang Oriental Food Hall, Colindale
With seating for 450 people, Bang Bang Oriental Food Hall is the largest Asian food court in London. Whether you fancy ramen, dim sum, katsu curry or even Chinese desserts, this is the place to be. The incredible range of food on offer here means that your dining companions will all find something they love, or maybe even try something new, and you can all share the experience together. If you’re all feeling adventurous, why not order a selection of plates and platters to share? The beauty of communal dining in food halls is that they are designed to encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and experience new foods.
Brockley Market, Lewisham
When it comes to some of the key elements of communal dining, Brockley Market has got it down to a fine art. Customers can eat at their own pace in the open air, chatting with friends and experimenting with new food. Brockley is one of London’s quieter markets, perhaps not offering the eclectic buzz many people look for from some of the more contemporary food halls. However it offers an excellent range of food, from artisan doughnuts with orange blossom, elderflower, pomegranate and pistachio from Crosstown Doughnuts, to wood-fired pizza from Van Dough, and you’re likely to find a quiet table to enjoy your food finds.
New food halls opening in London
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2018 is going be a fantastic year for the communal dining industry in London, with Europe’s biggest Japanese food hall, Ichiba, opening in West London. Run by Japan Centre, the food hall is situated in Westfield London, with multiple food stations offering ready-to-eat Japanese cuisine, freshly cooked on-site. If you’re craving katsu curry, sashimi or a matcha ice cream, this is the place to be.
Market Halls, a group of ‘UK-based, community-minded property investors and restaurateurs’ will be opening a handful of new food markets this year, including in Fulham, Victoria and London’s West End, in the former BHS building near Oxford Street. The West End market will be the largest food hall in the UK, according to the owners, with local producers, retailers, restaurants, street food vendors, bars and a demo kitchen.
Having seen for myself how the culture of food halls and communal dining has taken off in the capital, I’m excited for both restaurants and consumers, as the principle of choice continues to catch on.