In March, restaurants were forced to close. In July, steadily, they began to reopen. In August, a £10 government voucher scheme obscured the fact that COVID-19 had not gone away. By September, there was a 10 p.m. curfew; by October, restaurantgoers were restricted to visits with guests only from their own household. And then, last weekend, at the end of a long seven months, all nonessential businesses in England were given notice that they must close once again.
Yesterday evening, at 10 p.m. they did just that. Almost all hospitality businesses are better prepared than they were in March, but myriad uncertainties remain: When and how can they reopen? Who will come when they do? What happens to rent?
Below is a collection of photographs of some of London’s most well-known and most-loved restaurants, cafes, bars, and bakeries as they served guests for the last time. Many will remain open for takeaway; others, now furnished with delivery infrastructure, will hope to mitigate lost sales. And unlike the novel eeriness that fell on the city in March, yesterday and last night felt like a celebration: the last supper, with restaurants and their patrons bowing out with a we’ve-been-here-before-and-we’ll-get-through-it-again-like self-assurance. They had little choice.
The reality is — restaurants cannot be confident that they will be licensed to reopen before the new year. At which point, they will be left facing a new year and new cycle of uncertainty all over again.
Esters — one of the city’s best coffee shops and brunch cafes pulls down the shutters in Stoke Newington, east London. Owners Jack Lloyd-Jones and Nia Burr will continue to offer takeaway and local delivery through the November lockdown.
Jolene, possibly London’s coolest bakery, serves its last customers yesterday afternoon. Co-owner Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim told Eater on Monday: “We can survive this of course as well as flourish: this is a time to experiment and being more fluid with offers and formats.” That will see the bakery open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily serving “easy, popular food and drinks items including pastries, bread, sandwiches and pizza as well as coffee and wine.”
Mangal 2, the popular Turkish ocakbasi in Dalston, relaunched in July with a new image and new menu under the direction of brothers Ferhat and Sertaç Dirik. It will remain open for takeaway and offer delivery via Slerp and Big Night through lockdown.
Dalston bakery Dusty Knuckle preparing to close yesterday afternoon. It will remain open for preorder takeaway through lockdown.
Claire Ptak’s inimitable cafe, cake shop, and bakery Violet recently underwent a refurbishment after the pandemic had forced the owner to pull out of her second project this summer. Violet will remain open for coffee, cake, and pastries throughout the next month.
Hill & Szrok stood out among the few real success stories of lockdown 1.0: a butcher offering high quality meat added a range of provisions and some choice takeaway food items, such as excellent cheeseburgers and first-rate sandwiches. Open for takeaway for the next month.
Pavilion bakery on Broadway Market folds its cardboard and prepares to close yesterday.
One of London’s best restaurants — 40 Maltby Street in Bermondsey — serving its last customers last night. It will remain open for fresh and frozen takeaway provisions Wednesday to Saturday, 12 — 5 p.m.
Left: Faye Gomes’ recently relocated Kaieteur Kitchen, which serves outstanding Guyanese food in Elephant and Castle will remain open for takeaway through the next four weeks. Below, preparing to close last night. Right: Noble Rot 2.0, the Franco-Hungarian restaurant which opened on Greek Street in Soho in September, yesterday evening. Noble Rot will be closed through lockdown.
The last customers leave chef Nick Bramham’s Quality Wines in Farringdon last night. It will re-pivot to Quality Wines at Home from tomorrow.
Left: Flor, by the team behind Michelin-starred Shoreditch restaurant Lyle’s, with its last remaining tables yesterday evening. Flor will remain open for takeaway through lockdown and will see the return of ASAP Pizza on Sundays for the foreseeable future. Right: Padella, a restaurant which never doesn’t have a queue outside, will sell pasta kits nationwide this lockdown.
After the last coffees at one of London’s best cafes, Rosslyn, in the City,
Left: Outside one exceptional Malaysian restaurant, Roti King. Right: Inside another, Normah’s. Both will remain open through lockdown, the former for takeaway; the latter for both takeaway and delivery.
Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Gymkhana will sell curries, grills, and breads to celebrities and lay food enthusiasts throughout lockdown, via both takeaway and delivery.
The great Koya, Shuko Oda and John Devitt’s Japanese udon noodle and small plate specialist, prepares to close yesterday evening. It will remain open for click-and-collect and delivery through lockdown.
The Laughing Heart in Hackney bids farewell to its last guests yesterday night. Owner Charlie Mellor used the first lockdown to develop a new delivery business to challenge the likes of Deliveroo. It’s brought on big names like Luca, Mangal 2, and the Camberwell Arms.
Left: The last guests sit on the terrace outside Italian restaurant Mitshel Ibrahim’s Ombra, a restaurant whose constant innovations and adaptations through the pandemic have set it apart from so many others in the capital. Right: Its doors closed. Ombra will launch a full online pastificio and shop this week to service its customers’ lockdown needs.
“Cash & Gre” — what remains of the former “Great Wall” Chinese takeaway sign above P. Franco, the singular Clapton wine bar and Eater restaurant of the year, 2017. It will remain open for off-sales through lockdown...
...cheers to that.