While Londoners have been unable to enjoy our favourite restaurants, it turns out that someone else has… Pubs, bars and restaurants have been shut for three months now and pest control officers are warning that they’re seeing more rats than ever before, reporting a 78% increase in the furry critters.
Rats are misunderstood animals, highly intelligent, we’re told, and not the creepy Black Death carrying vermin you might think. Rat PR are trying to sell the Tom & Jerry, Mickey Mouse version. And to find out more we caught up with Woody St John Webster (yes a real person, look him up) who, along with a string of other similarly dubious accolades, is a former rat catcher, to find out more about our old adversaries.
So, rats are taking over restaurants?
Well, let’s be crystal clear about one thing: they’re not taking over the management. When you go back to Cecconi’s after lockdown there’s not going to be a Rattus Norvegicus running front-of-house.
Not that they couldn’t, mind. You have to understand that rats are incredibly clever animals.
A rat could run front-of-house at Cecconi’s?
Okay, that’s an exaggeration.
But a Subway, or at a push a Prêt, I wouldn’t put it past them. Very clever beings.
Back on topic, why are rats being drawn to London’s restaurants?
Oh, for a variety of reasons. Firstly lockdown means that a major food source, discarded food, has been removed from the streets of central London. One man’s fumbled Gregg’s is another rat’s gourmet supper.
Plus if you look down the back alleys and bin areas behind many of London’s hotels and restaurants there’s invariably discarded vegetables, overflowing wheelie bins and someone having a smoke. And the rats love it.
But without all this ready nosh, they’re moving indoors. Because they’re incredibly intelligent creatures, rats.
Look down the back alleys and bin areas behind many of London's hotels and restaurants there's invariably discarded vegetables, overflowing wheelie bins and someone having a smoke. And the rats love it...
What else? You said a variety of reasons…
Well they’re incredibly sociable, too. So of course they’d want to head to a decent restaurant, club or hotel to meet other rats and do rat things together.
Just like we do. They really are brainy.
So clubs must be positively brimming with the things?
Exactly. Probably not 5 Hertford Street, though, they’re very strict about their membership.
In your experience, is this easy to fix and is it something we need to be concerned about?
Rats don’t like humans, they’re very smart (about Common Entrance level brainy), and so as we return to offices and hospitality venues, the rats will almost certainly want to clear out.
Plus, the weather is warming up quickly, meaning they’ll want to be out and about, enjoying the outdoors and sun, and with people back out on the streets food will be plentiful once again.
Have you eaten a rat?
No, but I have tried guinea pig in Peru once.
Chicken. With a hint of bacon.
Thank you to former ratter Woody Webster. Woody now runs the rat-free tuition business Bright Young Things.