The Handbook
The Handbook

With the possible exception of the weekend they invented lasagne, this Saturday is set to be the most remarkable date in the history of dining. There has never been anything like this, restaurants, bars and clubs haven’t closed closed for months on end at any time in history. Even the plague and the great fire couldn’t stop table service.

But this Saturday the hospitality industry will emerge from their government induced coma, blink a few times and then ask if we’d like a table for two. Here’s how to navigate this historic weekend…

Get In Early…

The early bird gets the worm, and if worms aren’t your ideal starter then you’re going to have to get in line before the rest of London cotton onto the same idea.

Wine club 67 Pall Mall has taken this to the nth degree and will be opening their doors to members and their guests at precisely 00:01 on Saturday 4th July.

For everyone else, it’s going to be a matter of making sure we manage to get into the restaurant or pub of our choice. If you thought that the IKEA queues were something, brace yourself…

Book Ahead

Restaurants are operating under new paradigm. Walk-ins will be walk-back-outs as restaurants are overwhelmingly only taking bookings right now. Partly because those that are reopening this weekend are going to be chokka, but also in a bid to be COVID-secure.

Not everywhere will be taking bookings, pubs particularly are likely to be queuing affairs. Beavertown Brewery have teamed up with poet comedian Tim Key to write poetry on the pavement for those in line to read to while away the time.

Leave your deets

I’ve just booked a restaurant for Saturday, and it involved leaving contact details for both myself (name, email and phone) but also for my guest.

Sadly it’s not the manager hitting on you, but rather is government mandated so that if anyone in the restaurant later tests positive for coronavirus your details can be passed onto the fledgling test-and-trace system.

Expect it to be a bit weird

Remember the last time you went to a restaurant? Forget it, it’ll be different this time round.

If you’re used to arriving a bit early and getting a drink in at the bar, then that’s off for a start. Expect hand sanitisation stations, one direction traffic and facemasks.

It’ll be weird, but worth it.

Outdoors if possible

This is the summer of outdoors dining! With the virus far less likely to spread out of doors, restaurants are utilising any outdoor space as best they can.

The Berkeley yesterday announced that they’ve retooled some outside space to create a brand new restaurant, The Terrace. Meanwhile, beer gardens are likely to be massive this summer, with new beer garden announcements coming thick-and-fast.

Spend spend spend

This is crunch time for restaurants. Even with government help, restaurants have been through one hell of a time and there are myriad pitfalls ahead as footfall, particularly in Central London, and tourist numbers look like they’ll be low.

So no pressure, but if you could spend some of all that money you saved during lockdown on eating out then that would be great for the industry, plus you get to eat out!

Don’t Expect Everywhere To Be Open

It’s not like you can flick the hospitality switch on and every single restaurant opens immediately. Plenty of restaurants are open from Saturday, but others will take time.

The Groucho Club is opening on Monday, Ikoyi opens on 17th July while The Goring, for example, won’t be back online until 4th September.

Not everywhere will reopen…

Your absolute favourite restaurant will hopefully reopen this weekend or soon, but there’s no guarantee. Sadly forced closure for more than three months, followed by what might be the biggest recession in history hasn’t proven to be an ideal operating environment for some big-name restaurants.

Here are some notable casualties, but we’re fully expecting more…

And Enjoy…

It’s been a tough and emotional few months, you deserve this! Unless you’ve been illicitly snaking off to Sweden over lockdown you’ve not eaten out since March, this is the moment to finally make the most of it. Book a table, go with your bubble or one other household and absolutely pig out!

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