London’s restaurants, cafes, and pubs entered 2021 uncertain over tougher coronavirus restrictions, and they end the first week of January in their third lockdown in 10 months. Here’s how that first week played out across the city.
- The week began with a stark reminder of the way 2020’s time under coronavirus damaged the restaurant world. A retail research report showed that hospitality redundancies rose 163 percent in 2020, and that’s just according to what got reported to one research body. The numbers will be magnitudes bigger.
- It also began with the roll out of the Oxford / AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, heralded as the route out of the pandemic alongside the Pfizer vaccine. While vaccines are a reason for hope, there thus far has been no indication of how their mitigation of risk will translate into any kind of reopening for restaurants, pubs, cafes, and bars.
- And then what was inevitable happened: England entered lockdown again. Logistically speaking, what lockdown means for restaurants in London is more of the same: they are closed, except for takeaway, collection, and delivery. But if the aim of a lockdown is to alter consumer behaviour — by staying at home more than under tier four or three — then trading patterns, supply needs, and staff rotas will necessarily change.
- The biggest questions following the announcement were two. How long for? And with what support? Rishi Sunak answered the latter with lockdown grants of between £4,000 and £9,000, purportedly designed to see businesses through until spring. It’s money, and money is better than no money, but lockdown’s similarity to the two previous tiers left restaurants asking why it took so long. It also left them saying that, with months of accumulated rent debt, it likely would not be enough.
- Michael Gove and then Boris Johnson answered the timeframe question. The former told restaurants not to expect much until March, and then Boris Johnson announced that coronavirus lockdown will end, in law, on 31 March 2021. He also said he hopes to ease it by mid-February, which is only half the total time legislation has been put down. Restaurants have recently been invited to reopen, and then been told to close at short notice after the “gradual easing” that Johnson again discusses, leaving money spent on employing staff and buying ingredients entirely wasted. They will not want to go through that experience again.
- With a timeframe in place, restaurants could respond. Nick Bramham, chef at outstanding restaurant Quality Wines, announced Arrosto, an Italian roast chicken delivery service with a line in fudgy roast potatoes glossed with the chicken’s juices. Meanwhile, Ealing pizza pioneer Santa Maria will move its flagship restaurant, and install a vegan offering in its place.
- Restaurants have also been responding to changing times since March last year. Brothers Ferhat and Sertaç explain how Mangal 2, the Dalston ocakbaşi institution, reinvented itself in the middle of the crisis.
- One of the most interesting food critics in the country is also changing tack. “Chicken Connoisseur” Elijah Quashie’s YouTube series The Pengest Munch will broaden its critical remit, already running the rule over three restaurants in Borough Market.
- A godfather of London restaurants died this week. Albert Roux, who opened seminal Mayfair dining room Le Gavroche in 1967, passed away at 85.
Dining guides for staying in this weekend...
- The best restaurants for delivery and takeaway.
- The best meal kits from London restaurants.
- Where to order delivery or pick up takeaway in...
- central London.
- north London.
- west London.
- east London.
- south east London.
- south west London.
- Where to buy produce, meat, fish, pantry items, wine, and beer.
- And some gear to make great coffee at home.
Until next week, eat well and be safe.