Flowers are more than a trend. They are, one writer tells us, an important part of our history. “The ancient Romans decorated the food for their banquets with flowers, and in Pan-Asian countries it is still common to dress even a plate served at home with a colorful flower.” These beautiful plants have been used as decorations for centuries. On the plate, on the table, and even in the form of jewelry, flowers have always captivated our imaginations.
It’s no surprise that chefs and restaurant designers are returning to their floral roots. Flowers appeal to our palates, our eyes, and our sense of design. In the age of Instagram, visual appeal is more important than ever – so why not capitalize on one of the oldest trends known to man?
More and more restaurants are serving dishes that showcase flowers, microgreens, and aromatics. This trend is especially prevalent in Washington, D.C., where restaurants at every level are petal-ing their floral wares. From the Michelin-starred Barmini to rising stars like Little Wild Things, guests can choose among a wide variety of floral foods and drinks.
“Edible flowers have come into their own in the last year or two, with more people understanding their health and flavor benefits. They are so fun to play with, and can be savory or sweet or decorative,” Chelsea Barker, director of operations for Little Wild Things, told Eater. These ingredients can be found in a wide variety of menu items in various restaurants, from vegan bowls to rib roasts to cocktails.
Petal to the Medal
The flower trend is growing so fast, it’s going beyond the menu. Soft, feminine – and yes, floral – restaurant designs are also blooming. When she was designing Morris American Bar, Swatchroom designer Maggie O’Neill says, “I went home and I said to my husband, ‘I can’t do another place like this. I can’t do another dark, Edison bulb bar.’” Instead, Morris is bright and airy, with floral accents: perfume bottles containing aromatic cocktail ingredients.
Restaurants around the world are showcasing flowery wallpaper, soft color palettes, and beautifully Instagrammable decor. Lauren Winter, owner and co-designer of Primrose, explains why this is good for business, simply saying “if you have women in your bar, men will come.”
A New Aesthetic
This soft, beautiful trend is putting down roots in American cuisine. But where did it begin? Over a year go, Eater journalist Bill Addison predicted the rise of an ethos he calls New Romanticism. What do restaurants with this ethos have in common? He writes, “the aesthetic they share is painterly: layered but not towering, polychromatic, and, ingredient-wise, often as rich in flora as it is in fauna.”
These dishes are as appealing to the eye as they are to the tongue, inviting guests to sample – and photograph – everything on the menu. This is not just a new way of thinking about food; it’s also an innovative approach to restaurant marketing. How does your restaurant appeal to the five senses?