Fine Dining Redefined

featured-post
sector - food & drink
type - trends
Trends
A number of new restaurants are transforming fine dining, helping it to shed connotations of exclusivity through community-orientated initiatives

Drivers: what’s happening

The impact of lockdowns, changing populations and rising costs of labour and provisions has forced many fine dining and hospitality spaces to close in recent years. Renowned restaurants that have shut include The Ledbury in London and Augustine in New York, while in France, some 3,300 bars, cafés, bistros and restaurants went out of business in 2020 (source: The Times).

Elsewhere, Michelin-starred restaurants are feeling the pinch. Denmark’s Noma this year reported a net loss of about £197,400 ($227,000, €227,250) after recording only a small profit in 2020, according to a filing with the Danish Business Authority.

Beyond economic and employment woes, however, the closure of hospitality spaces is also affecting diners themselves. Research conducted by YouGov and commissioned by the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD) reveals that 66% of adults believe the closure of bars and restaurants during the pandemic caused a decline in mental health, potentially due to the conviviality and community that such spaces can offer people.

Now, as the global restaurant sector finds its rhythm once again, a number of new fine dining spaces are emerging that eschew exclusivity and solemn surroundings for a future of stronger operations built on a foundation of collaboration and community. Here, the emotional experience – and joy – of both dining and working in hospitality are brought to the fore and celebrated.

Published by:

21 September 2022

Author: Kathryn Bishop and Savannah Scott

Image: Gohar World, US

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Hi Felicia in Oakland. Photography by Patricia Chang

Le Saint-Hubert

Swapping competition for community and collaboration, Le Saint-Hubert in the Luberon Valley, France, is part of a group of local restaurants that recognise that fine dining can be more sustainable and more sociable. Opened by Lise Kvan and Éric Monteleon in 2019, the restaurant takes cues from the 18th century building’s history as a former dance hall, cinema, post office and hotel to now offer a more social take on fine dining. As part of this, Kvan and Monteleon have also launched Bon Fond, a project in which ‘time-honoured French techniques combine to create a deeply rooted gastronomic culture, bound together by incredibly generous, hard-working, passionate individuals’. Next, Le Saint-Hubert plans to re-open its rooms so diners can crash upstairs after a genial evening of gastronomy.

Hi Felicia

Further seeking to transform fine dining from stuffy to sociable is Hi Felicia, a Californian restaurant that is using interiors inspired by people’s homes to create a restaurant that feels ‘more like a friend’s house’ – think couches, coffee tables and houseplants. Run by chef Imana, who uses only her first name, the restaurant serves a 12–14-course tasting menu of fine dining with a ‘comfort food’ edge, with Mexican and global flavours sprinkled throughout. It’s the interiors and ethos, however, that make Hi Felicia a space for friendliness – even fun – where dining is concerned. ‘My team, they’re all artists and queer and non-binary people, and they love food and they love wine, and they love going deeper with me,’ explains Imana, who tells Eater of her plans to earn a Michelin star with the restaurant, which is providing a space of representation for people who are often overlooked by the industry.

‘My team [are] all artists and queer and non-binary people, and they love food and they love wine, and they love going deeper with me’
Imana, founder, Hi Felicia
 
 

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