Last week’s London restaurant news round-up concluded with the feeling that “it sometimes feels like two parallel realities are in play at once.” As coronavirus cases continue to rise in the U.K., this feeling gets starker. The government announced the possibility of new national COVID-19 lockdown restrictions that would close restaurants for “a few weeks,” while new restaurants continue to open and hugely successful lockdown pivots revert to their usual guises.
- Tooting Market started the week at the weekend, by rescinding the eviction of Caribbean fish stall The Lone Fisherman. It had originally evicted Christopher Smith’s restaurant after a police drug raid on the market, despite Smith saying nothing was found and the police not providing evidence that anything had been found. Management later conceded to Eater that it had “acted hastily,” and offered Smith a new lease. Meanwhile, a Deliveroo “rider” who was actually an undercover police officer raised questions about food delivery companies’ relationship to the precarious working economy that they create, and how that relationship impacts marginalised groups that often find themselves stuck in it.
- Also over the weekend, Sir Terence Conran, a London restaurant visionary, died at 88. While Conran sold his restaurant empire in the early 2000s, his legacy of quality, simple design and dishes resounds in kitchens that never bore his name.
- Restaurants had found themselves in rent limbo at the start of the week, with the lease enforcement moratorium that protects them from eviction due to expire on 30 September. Now, the government has extended coronavirus eviction protections until the end of 2020, but that doesn’t offer a solution to restaurants’ biggest fixed cost outside of buying them time to negotiate with their landlords.
- Restaurants’ next biggest cost is usually staffing, and that’s causing headaches too. With the coronavirus job retention scheme set to expire at the end of October, and many restaurants still not able to reopen, there’s a growing push for targeted support in a sector that could face 900,000 redundancies without it.
- Two restaurants that found success with lockdown invention are taking different tacks. The most exciting pizza in London is bowing out of Borough Market as ASAP Pizza shuts down, while NYC-inspired salt beef slinger Monty’s Deli has got its home-delivery pastrami into bouji bakery chain Gail’s. On Instagram, colourful tins of Portuguese and Spanish conservas are popping off.
- And two more restaurants are busting ahead with opening, as cases rise. Noble Rot Soho — run by chef Alex Jackson, formerly of quietly excellent Provençal restaurant Sardine — will add flourishes like eggs casino and a daily goulash to its menu in homage to The Gay Hussar, which previously stood in its new home on Greek Street. Meanwhile, Pantechnicon, whose Belgravia postcode and Doric columns have huge spy villain energy, is in fact a mixture of Nordic and Japanese restaurants, cafes, and bars.
- But all this could change if new government plans for a national lockdown targeted at hospitality businesses come into play. It would apparently be “a few weeks,” but given Boris Johnson and co’s predilection for throwing out leaks to see if they stick, it’s much too early to tell.
- Two big media returns in the food world this week. The Pengest Munch, the phenomenal chicken shop criticism channel run by chicken connoisseur Elijah Quashie, is back to regular programming for its five year anniversary. Meanwhile, Great British Bake Off (GBBO) returns with a baking trailer, its contestants, and an air date: 22 September, Channel 4.
- Marks and Spencer probably thought it had “weird food thing” locked down for the week, after it launched a Percy Pig cuddly toy that matches the Percy Pig sweets, whose faces children eat.
- Unfortunately for M&S, a sack of wet eggs at U.K. supermarket Morrisons stormed in and wrestled away online attention. Readers’ questions about what wet eggs are, why wet eggs are in a sack, and other things that have big sack of wet egg energy are answered herein.
As for where to eat...
- A guide to eating well along Cornwall’s beautiful coastline.
- The best tacos in London.
- London’s most singular Chinese takeaways.
- London’s best bakeries.
- The best Sunday roasts in the city.
- The London restaurants extending the “Eat Out to Help Out” discount.
- The ultimate guide to eating at home in London.
- And a full list of dining guides for the weekend.
Until next week, eat well and be safe.