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London Restaurants Brace for the Second Closing

Lockdown came in on Thursday 5 November, and the vibe running up to it on Instagram was very “last supper”

Singburi’s famous yellow and green sign Signburi/Instagram

Welcome back to Insta Stories, a column examining the London restaurant scene through the often-problematic medium of Instagram. This week’s filter is icy.

News of the week

Run Lola Run. The 25th Hour. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Creative types throughout history have extracted plenty of narrative drama from the fact that people act differently when subject to extreme time pressures. So perhaps, a few years down the line, someone will pull together an adrenaline-soaked thriller set in the five-day window between Boris Johnson announcing a second national coronavirus lockdown and the enforced closure of all of England’s hospitality venues. Suddenly, the merely hypothetical — everyone has a list of favourite places — became something far more practical and apocalyptic, as hungry Londoners realised they only had just under a hundred hours to tick items off bucket lists, revisit old favourites, or simply enjoy being sat at a restaurant table rather than languishing in their own kitchens. And so, with restaurants obliging by adding extra last-minute capacity, the race was on. By the time this is published, the deadline will have passed, the diners will be preparing to eat. And there will be some very upset punters who didn’t score that Fergie-time reservation. But cheer up! We’ll probably get to go through this all over again come spring.

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I mean, where else?

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Endurance of the week

If it’s hard for the punters, imagine how much worse it is for the restaurants themselves, who have been told to put everything on hold, at best for at least a month, with no guarantee of either things getting any easier after that point or their compliance having a traceable role to play in any hypothetical improvement. But here they are, cracking on as per, readying the next pivot in a year already overloaded with them.

Obligatory seasonal content of the week

It was Halloween. There were pumpkins, and pumpkin-related ephemera. Moving on.

Prematurely deceased meme template of the week

Look, this is not the first time that someone has observed that the news moves quickly in 2020. But, guys, THE KIM KARDASHIAN ISLAND THING LITERALLY HAPPENED A FEW DAYS AGO. In a just meme economy, her immortally insensitive first tweet on the subject would have gone on to ricochet around social media for months, if not years – it truly was that bad. And yet, in this benighted year? Crickets, less than a week on. Thank goodness we have a few brave souls still flying the flag.

Dish of the week

Only the best for the captain’s table.

Shot of the week

It’s hard to believe that Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver even have a vulgar word like “pivot” in their shared vocabulary — it’s easier to imagine them reciting the opening of TS Eliot’s ‘Ash Wednesday’ to one another as they discussed how St John might respond in extraordinary fashion to these extraordinary times. However they got there, no arguing with the result.

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In these extraordinary times, we too are embarking on something a little out of the ordinary. Whilst our restaurants are temporarily closed, we will be preparing magnificent, steadying pies to share at home! . Starting this Friday, our pies will take on a different form each week - do keep an eye out for our upcoming pie schedule! And with our ear tuned to the seasons, our inaugural lockdown pie is the marvellous Pheasant and Trotter. The suet crust cries out for cracking, unveiling the rich filling, bubbling beneath! Then there is the 'a HA!' moment when the suet pastry yields to the pie's unctuous juices and takes on a glorious dumpling-like quality. And, of course, there is the marrow bone chimney, which gives the pie its integral structure. A generous pie for two, complete with its very own enamel dish (yours to keep!). . Once your pie has made it home, cook in a medium oven (200°C/350°F) for 45 minutes, until it is piping hot throughout and showing a deep golden brown. The marrow should be dancing in the bone. . For each pie sold, St. JOHN will donate £1 to @streetsmartuk, which helps support homeless and vulnerable people across the UK. . **Please note that our pies will be available to pre-order via our online shop, for collection from St. JOHN Bread and Wine, Spitalfields on FRIDAYS only. Please ensure that your order is collected between 12.00pm-4.00pm. Delivery is not available at this time.** . . . Photo by @samaharris - an integral cog.

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