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Hospitality Kingpin Jeremy King Laments COVID-19 Policy as Reopening Approaches

Corbin and King owner reflects on the last 12 months, the government’s failures, and tries to remain optimistic ahead of reopening in April

UK - Restaurateur - Jeremy King of the Wolesley, who has been an outspoken critic of the government’s coronavirus response and the impact of successive lockdowns on London restaurants
Jeremy King
In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

Restaurateur Jeremy King of the Woleley, Delaunay, Brasserie Zedel, and Cafe Colbert has issued his latest musings — a newsletter which reflects on the challenges of past 12 months, of lockdown, government failures, and, now, the prospect of reopening. “It’s not that I want these newsletters to be laments but a friend wrote to say that he had been missing “Jeremy’s Jeremiad” and why hadn’t I written recently? — which of course spiralled me into introspection,” King wrote.

The five months or so since I last got in touch and incurred the Government’s wrath (by pointing out that their legislation deemed “business meals” as legit) have left me wondering what to say without automatically assuming the shroud of pessimism… But one thing that irks me, or I imagine most of us, is not being listened to, not heard, just ignored. Which seems to be the strategy.

“It doesn’t matter how full our basket of wares is with logic, rationale, empiricism, objectivity etc.,” King goes on to say. “If the ‘buyer’ thinks they are fully stocked then they ain’t buying — particularly if it means admitting mistakes — and no-one seems to be doing that at present!”

King calls it: “The proliferation of narcissistic denial.”

The maitre d’ and government critic believes it is too late to get through to policymakers; he’s given up and is instead focusing on the future, and on reopening: “I sat down with a fellow restaurateur some weeks ago to plot our next campaign for action, hoping to utilise all his/our significant connections in the government,” he wrote.

“However there came a point when we looked at each other and said: ‘What’s the point? We just have to see it out.’

“So that’s why I am writing now — not to despair, but to think positively about the future, as our forbearers had to do under much greater adversity.”

Here are the best lines from King’s latest dispatch:

Remembering closure 12 months ago
“It is chilling to contemplate that yesterday marked the one year anniversary of us closing the restaurants in anticipation of the lockdown — we felt we had no choice.

“And as I contemplate the year I also take strength from it and particularly the wonderful spirit of the staff in terribly challenged circumstances; many deprived of up to 60 percent or more of their earnings.”

Taking the positives
“One thing that I feel will benefit us all, and strengthen the industry, is that I believe customers will have a greater appreciation of restaurants and, just as importantly or more so, restaurateurs and their staff will have a greater appreciation of customers.”

The end
And do let’s celebrate that the end of this 12 month nightmare really is in sight – not because of lockdowns, curfews, tiers etc but because of vaccinations – what a triumph! So let’s all give a big shout out for Kate Bingham – the person who was actually responsible for the success of the Vaccination programme that everyone else is trying to take the credit for. (“Success has many parents – failure is an orphan”).

The Roadmap
Best I leave that subject alone too so let me now turn to positive restaurant news and not dwell on the multiple inconsistencies of the ‘Road Map’ extant:

Outdoor dining
Terraces at Delaunay Counter, Colbert, Bellanger, and Soutine will be opening 13 April, but with shortened menus — “for practicality and to limit the potential losses if the weather is inclement.”

“It is not going to be possible to accommodate advance bookings I am afraid.”

Colbert will also be back in the middle of Sloane Square for drinks and some snacks. “We will be operating a crepe stand — sweet and savoury — as well as serving cold platters of charcuterie and cheese.”

Each site that opens in April will also be doing takeaway but will have varying opening hours.

Indoor dining
By 17 May “we plan to open everywhere – assuming the ‘parents’ don’t stop the car and go and sit outside a pub…”

Reservation lines for indoor dining at all of the restaurants will open Monday 29 March.

Home dining
“I should mention that despite the extraordinary reception and success of the Home Dining operation we don’t expect to continue this service beyond 16 May — not on a day to day basis. Space is limited in the Delaunay kitchen, where it is produced, and we need to concentrate on being restaurateurs.”

Corbin and King’s massive new seafood restaurant in Soho.
“One of the big frustrations for us is having had to stall the completion of Manzi’s and although we will be recommencing work as soon as possible we do also need to be prudent and ensure that trading is secure for the foreseeable future before we lay out the not inconsiderable sum needed to finish.”

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