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Here’s What Happened in the London Restaurant World Last Week

The government’s new COVID-19 restrictions might impact restaurants, but as yet, they don’t know how

Masked staff at St. John Bread and Wine sanitise the dining room as part of Covid-secure safety guidance for restaurants in the U.K.
Staff at St. John Bread and Wine implementing Covid-secure protocols
Michaël Protin/Eater London

Restaurants knew that when the “Eat Out to Help Out” meal discount scheme ended, autumn started. It was already the beginning of a three month period in which restaurants and their employees faced down the vanishing of both rent protections and employee security, but new developments this week, including track-and-trace rules with fines attached but now indication of what they will be fined for, only add to the feeling of uncertainty. Contrasted with the return of a drip feed of new openings and reopenings, and Michelin’s certainty that it will hand out stars in 2021, it sometimes feels like two parallel realities are in play at once.

  • As has been characteristic, the biggest government coronavirus announcement this week both meant very much to restaurants, and very little. Restaurants are now obliged to keep customer details for coronavirus test-and-trace, with health secretary Matt Hancock saying the rule — previously a guideline — will be “rigorously enforced.” This would be a big deal, if most restaurants weren’t already keeping details and if the government’s COVID-secure guidelines for restaurants weren’t just that, guidelines.

  • The start of the week belonged to chains. On the commuter-sandwich front, Pret a Manger unveiled its new drink subscription, YourPret Barista, which would entitle a diehard stan of 99p filter coffee and a diehard hater of constipation to 155 drinks in the longest months, at the cost of £20. That would be strange behaviour, but Pret’s announcement happens in the context of a whole lot of strange behaviour. As the government, and the [free] press pushes the benefits of offices, water coolers, and commutes, Pret’s status as the water cooler of food is only getting starker, and many Britons’ concordant obsession with its essential mediocrity is only getting weirder.

  • Last Saturday, 5 September, Tooting police raided the only two Black-owned businesses in their section of Tooting Market. The Lone Fisherman, a Caribbean fish stall, was one of them, and now owner Christopher says market management has evicted him at three days’ notice, even though nothing was found.

As for where to eat...

Until next week, eat well and be safe.

The Dairy

15 The Pavement, , England SW4 0HY 020 7622 4165 Visit Website

Pollo Feliz

13-23 Westgate Street, , England E8 3RL 07479 478722 Visit Website

Vanilla Black

17-18 Took’s Court, , England EC4A 1LB 020 7242 2622 Visit Website