After one of the strangest, confused, and most unsettling weeks in history for the London restaurant industry, Friday evening provided some sort of clarity: All restaurants — like all pubs, cafes, and other social spaces — were ordered to close by the government. The week’s last act in the bid to confront the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak came after the nation had been told to stay away from these businesses, when many feared for their livelihoods, and when so many restaurants were forced to find new and inventive ways of serving food to customers.
With restaurants now closed across the capital, the city’s streets are deserted; the institutions of culture, of social proximity, and shared enjoyment will cease temporarily to contribute to people’s lives in the way everyone is so used to.
What happens next no one knows.
Below is a collection of photographs of some of London’s most well-known restaurants from this weekend — either closed or serving takeaway; notices stating the obvious. Combined, it paints a surreal and eery portrait of a world so suddenly transformed.
The Michelin-Starred Clove Club in Shoreditch announced it would close on Wednesday. Its owners Isaac McHale, Daniel Willis, and Johnny Smith wrote on Instagram: “Now is the time for us all to be the change we want to see in our lives. Let’s look after each other and remember to be kind.”
Dishoom, one of the busiest and most popular casual dining restaurant groups in the city, lays empty in Shoreditch on Saturday. Its owners announced on Friday that all its restaurants would cease to serve diners. “In the past few days and weeks, coronavirus has blown our world apart. Last week already feels like a year ago, the present is unrecognisable, and the future is extremely uncertain. And the decisions we are faced with are incredibly tough.” For the time being, Dishoom, for the first time in its 10-year-history will sell its food via delivery.
Lyle’s, the Michelin-Starred Shoreditch restaurant and coffee bar, announced its closure on Wednesday. “This is unchartered territory for us all and while we navigate our way through these difficult times, our staff and guests will remain at the heart of what we do. We look forward to seeing you on the other side and welcoming you back again,” owners James Lowe and John Ogier wrote.
Brat, chef Tomas Parry’s inimitable seafood grill restaurant in Shoreditch, closed on Wednesday, turning itself by the end of the week into a takeaway market and grill. “During this time it’s incredibly important to us to continue to support our network of small farmers, growers and fisherman and we will do so in anyway possible,” the restaurant said.
St. John Bread and Wine on Saturday afternoon, serving baked goods and wine from its entrance on Commercial Street in Spitalfields, east London. (St. John has since announced that it would close completely, as of tomorrow 24 March.)
Bleecker, one of the city’s most popular burger brands, lifts its hatch in Spitalfields market on Saturday afternoon to send food out via a delivery rider.
Mediterranean restaurant Brawn, on Columbia Road, in Hackney, closed for business on Wednesday last week. Owners Ed and Josie Wilson said: “We are no longer able to guarantee that the work we do in serving food and wine is not putting some of our guests and staff at undue risk... We hope everyone can find a way to support the vulnerable local businesses, friends and neighbours that will be hit hardest.”
The Marksman, one of the finest modern gastropubs in the city, closed on Friday and has started selling pies and buns and other dishes for customers to takeaway.
The Wolseley is one of London’s most famous — and busiest — restaurants. On Sunday, with its grand doors closed shut, it was unrecognisable.
Left: The recently reopened Michelin-starred Indian restaurant, Gymkhana, on Albemarle Street in Mayfair serves as many celebrities as anywhere in London. On Sunday, like every restaurant in the JKS group, it was closed. Right: Blacklock closed its steak restaurants on Thursday. Yesterday, the site of one of London’s finest Sunday lunches, was shut.
Kiln, Ben Chapman’s innovative Thai grill in the heart of Soho joined its sister restaurant, Smoking Goat in Shoreditch, in closing on Wednesday. Chapman is working on developing options for grilled takeaway as well as prepared food for guests to cook at home.
Left: One of London’s most cult-followed brands, BAO, closed its four sites on Thursday last week. The group will launch a delivery service called Rice Error in the coming days. Right: Soho’s iconic Italian cafe, Bar Italia, so central to the hustle and bustle of one of the centres of London life, remains so incongruously closed.
Eater London’s 2019 Restaurant of the Year, Wei Guirong’s Master Wei in Bloomsbury is serving its liang pi and biang biang noodles through Deliveroo. Small and significant comforts in a time of crisis.
One of London’s outstanding modern wine bars, Noble Rot, resisted closure until the last minute. Few restaurants in the city serve to restore in the way Noble Rot’s dimly lit, romantic dining room manages. For the time that it sits silent, and its wine cellar remains undisturbed, options to support remain outlined here. “It won’t be like this forever,” the owners say.
One of the city’s finest fish and chip shops, The Fryer’s Delight in Holborn, will open between midday and 10 p.m. for takeaway only.
Moro, the peerless restaurant on Clerkenwell’s Exmouth Market, shuttered, yesterday. Sam and Samantha Clark wrote on Thursday: “The next few months are going to be incredibly difficult for many people, and many businesses, and our thoughts are with everyone. Please keep safe and we look forward to happier times ahead.”
Sushi Tetsu — an extraordinary seven-seater sushi bar in Clerkenwell almost impossible to get into, closed yesterday afternoon.
St John., perhaps London’s most well-known restaurant brand, was open for takeaway provisions this weekend. From tomorrow, all its restaurants, including this — the original in Farringdon — will remain completely closed.