Top Singapore restaurant trends 2023 by chefs and F&B experts (Part 2)
1. An increase in alcohol-free beverages
Alcohol-free tipples will be more popular than ever in 2023, says Aaron Jacobson, Restaurant Zén’s General Manager and Beverage Director, referencing data from NielsonIQ, which valued alcohol-free and low-alcohol wines, beers and spirits at US$3.1 billion (S$4.2 billion) in 2021. In the same year, sales of low-alcohol beverages rose by 8.1 per cent, while non-alcoholic ones rose 33.2 per cent. That trend will continue, Jacobson predicts.
“The lockdowns trapped many inside, changing their outlook. With health and wellness top concerns for many, these industries are on the rise,” Jacobson adds.
“Additionally, the younger generations drink less and are far more interested in creative alternatives. Better options and creativity will fuel growth, but tectonic plates are shifting, and demand for these products is already there. Thus, innovation and growth are driven by more people buying them.
“What I hope to see are more restaurants catching up on international trends and focusing innovative attention on beverage programmes.”
Additionally, the younger generations drink less and are far more interested in creative alternatives. Better options and creativity will fuel growth, but tectonic plates are shifting, and demand for low or no-alcohol tipples is already there.
The market for low-ABV (alcoholic strength by volume) drinks and non- alcoholic cocktails is picking up, says Nigel Moore, Accor’s Senior Vice President, Food & Beverage, Southeast Asia, Japan & South Korea.
“What has been interesting is the explosion of flavoured teas and pairings. For example, Dilmah launched concentrated iced tea mixtures that are excellent.” Additionally, fine dining restaurants like La Dame de Pic at Raffles Hotel are serving Copenhagen Sparkling Tea.
Restaurant Zén offers non-alcoholic beverages made from seasonal ingredients. (Photo: Restaurant Zén)
2. Locally farmed ingredients becoming mainstream
Instead of importing produce from across the world, more chefs are choosing local ingredients or those grown nearby.
Vertical farming is becoming more precise, according to Moore. “The systems have matured. Eight to 10 years ago, they weren’t as effective or efficient. It used to be more techie guys trying to do things rather than people who actually were growing it as produce.”
Since vertical farming emphasises resource maximisation and energy conservation, the younger generation is more engaged in such fields, adds Moore.
Vertical farms are now often installed in warehouses or hotel rooftops. “Besides working with artisanal farms, we also source microgreens and herbs from the hotel’s aquaponic farm,” says Kirk Westaway, executive chef at Jaan at Fairmont Singapore. “These ingredients enhance our evolving menu.”
“More and more producers are coming forward to share their stories and ingredients with us. At the moment, we get organic vegetables from Cameron Highlands and Singapore-based vertical farms every couple of days. We also have wild heirloom rice, honey, and unique salt and sugars from Borneo’s mountains.”
Wong adds, “Recently, we talked with a Sabah farm growing a free-range breed of local beef using Japanese technology and nutrition practices. We’re excited to see the results.”
Seroja is not only about celebrating ingredients, but also the people around the region, and hence we’re also placing the same amount of effort to work with artists and artisans such as local musicians, potters, florists, paper makers etc.”
At the moment, we get organic vegetables from Cameron Highlands and Singapore-based vertical farms every couple of days. We also have wild heirloom rice, honey, and unique salt and sugars from Borneo’s mountains.
At Candlenut, chef-owner Malcolm Lee uses ingredients like durian to make fermented sambal tempoyak, and ikan parang (wolf herring fish) to make sambal lengkong, a spicy fish floss. He also incorporates belimbing (starfruit), jering (a pod-like fruit from South-east Asia), breadfruit, and hashima into his menu.
Han Liguang of Labyrinth has been supporting local farmers since 2018. “We were the first to use locally-grown produce before the government even launched its 30 by 30 initiative.” He adds that vertical farms are heavily supported by the government now, “but the problem is that the produce doesn’t always taste that great.”
Chef Kevin Wong of Seroja, whose menu is a tribute to the Malay Archipelago. (Photo: Seroja)
He believes that nature produces the best-tasting ingredients, while vertical farms and agrotech provide consistency in output. With the government phasing out traditional farming, he laments, “As a chef, I deliver flavour from good quality produce. How will I cope when (traditional) farms disappear? Many are winding down and lowering their production, or having manpower difficulties, which affect their business and output quality.”
Nevertheless, Han strives to use herbs and vegetables from Singapore and Malaysia. He also gets frogs from a Singapore farm, honey from NutriNest Bee Rescue, and crabs from Ah Hua Kelong. His custard apples come from Vietnam, pomelo from Thailand and the Philippines, fermented black bee honey from Indonesia, and chocolate from Malaysia.
As a chef, I deliver flavour from good quality produce. How will I cope when (traditional) farms disappear? Many are winding down and lowering their production, or having manpower difficulties, which affect their business and output quality.
From a new generation of chefs and culinary experts advocating farm- fresh produce from Singapore and its neighbouring countries to hotels using cutting-edge technology, and non-alcoholic beverages, good food has never been more compelling.