Last week, the restaurants and pubs in the U.K. were left none the wiser about when and how they could reopen for dine-in customers. There were those that returned in limited capacity, while others announced they would not reopen at all, citing ongoing uncertainty and the inability to comply with social distancing measures.
This week, it was more of the same: Confusion and uncertainty remains, with the government still not offering any clarity on the opening date for hospitality. In that context, more, big-name restaurants were forced to announce permanent closure at their current premises, and yet there are those who continue to innovate, adapt, and return to the communities that need them.
The government did end the week by offering restaurants a short-term reprieve on rent, an issue which continues to threaten many business’ long-term ability to operate. Alongside the publication of its “code of practice” for tenants and landlords to negotiate new terms, it has extended the period in which evictions are prevented from taking place — from the end of June until the 30 September.
Here’s what happened in the London food and restaurant world this week, in brief.
- The government began this week saying it was formally reviewing the social distancing rule — aiming to reduce it from two metres to one, a measure which is designed to give more hospitality businesses the ability to operate at capacities closer to that which they did before the pandemic. At what cost? And too little, too late?
- It later emerged that the government had been ready to issue new reopening guidance for the industry, including details on when, but its last-minute decision to conduct a review on social distancing had delayed any announcement.
- High-end, luxury restaurants have been the first to announce that they will not reopen as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, restaurateur Richard Caring’s 38-year-old Le Caprice — a favourite of Princess Diana and Mick Jagger — joined two-Michelin-starred the Ledbury in confirming that it would not reopen at its location in St. James’s.
- The following day, one of the city’s best Indian restaurants — Indian Accent on Albermarle Street in Mayfair — announced that it would not reopen either.
- The third major closure announcement of the week came from quietly excellent Sardine, a low-key Mediterranean restaurant off City Road in east London. Chef Alex Jackson cited social distancing restrictions behind the restaurant’s inability to reopen.
- Who does the London restaurant industry actually serve? That is a question Eater contributor Jonathan Nunn sought to answer in a long-read about the panoply of cuisines and longstanding restaurant communities of the Old Kent Road.
- In the week that the Premier League returned, Manchester United and England striker Marcus Rashford educated the government on matters they ought to understand themselves. Rashford forced Boris Johnson into an embarrassing u-turn on a decision not to support 1.3 million children with free meal vouchers this summer.
- Not unjustifiably, on Wednesday, the trade body for hospitality in the U.K. asked the government to urgently provide clarity on when restaurants could reopen.
- This was supported by the pub industry which told the government it needed to know when it could reopen by the end of this week. So far, no update...
- A group of cross-party MPs found that the government’s furlough scheme had disadvantaged many in the hospitality industry. The exclusion of tronc (service charge payments) from wages in applications had dramatically reduced the amount restaurant staff, unable to work due to COVID-19, had received. It must be amended, the treasury committee concluded.
- One thing that could save restaurants in the short-term is the ability to trade outside, where the rate of transmission of the coronavirus is thought to be lower. As such, a massive outdoor dining scheme — involving road closures and temporary licenses — for businesses in central London was announced this week by Westminster council, plans which could aid businesses in Soho, Chinatown, and the wider West End.
- The U.K.’s largest pub group, Greene King announced it would pay reparations for its founder’s involvement in and benefit from the slave trade. The decision comes after widespread protests in U.K. towns and cities calling for racial equity and social justice, a movement which has taken cues from Black Lives Matter protests in America following the killing of George Floyd in police custody last month in Minnesota.
- Here’s an updated list of key London restaurants and food businesses reopening for takeaway, collection, and delivery.
- This week that included chef Faye Gomes’ outstanding Guyanese stall Kaieteur Kitchen in Elephant and Castle.
- And Brawn in Hackney, which launched a new online retail platform.
- This weekend, here’s a guide for where to enjoy cocktails and wine at home, delivered from bars across the city.
- Plus options for pizza...
- ... pasta ...
- ...and ice cream for collection or via delivery across London.
- And reminder of Eater’s full list of recommended restaurants for collection and takeaway across the city right now.