As we prepare our taste buds for al fresco dining in London, our restaurant insider Adam Hyman offers a gentle reminder of some do’s and don’ts for your first meal back and lists his five must-visit restaurants for you to experience.
Under Boris Johnson’s orders at the end of last year, restaurants in London had to close their doors and miss out on the lucrative festive season trading. On 12 April this year – when outdoor hospitality is permitted – it will be nearly four months to the day that they’ve been closed and close to a total of eight months that many businesses have been shuttered over the past year.
In the face of adversity, many restaurants pivoted to retail, while others used meal kits as a way to bring in some much-needed cash. It was inspiring, to say the least. However, the cash earned from such ventures doesn’t really go anywhere in making up for lost business. With redundancies in hospitality at a record high and revenues down by as much as 50%, the 12 April and the 17 May (when indoor hospitality is permitted) are much welcomed – and needed - dates for the restaurant calendar.
One of Adam’s recommendations for al fresco dining is Barrafina, a must-visit if you like Spanish cuisine.
It should go without saying, but the hospitality industry has been dealt a nasty blow in the last year or so. So, as we prepare and dream about tucking in again, let’s be a little bit mindful of those who are showing us to our table, making our food, and making sure our experience is a memorable one. Here are a few reminders...
Manners maketh man
Needless to say this goes in every walk of life but, I often find even the most polite, mild-mannered people lose all inhibition when they step foot in a restaurant. Nobody likes bad service, we get that, but nobody likes people who are rude either. Remember the person on the other side of the maitre d’ desk or serving you your schnitzel is also a person with feelings. We encourage feedback but condemn rudeness. I’ll let you into a little tip – behave like an asshole and you’ll be treated like one.
The hospitality industry is not quite match fit. We’ve been on the side lines for four months patiently waiting to be called up. We’re just warming up, so forgive us if we’re a little rusty. We’ll make mistakes but rest assured everyone is wanting to offer the best hospitality and give you the best of times – it’s what we’re good at.
No to no-shows, please
We know it’s nice to decide on the day whether it’s a long lunch on the terrace at the River Café or a salad, fries and rosé kind of afternoon at Soho House. But, not only is it unfair on your fellow diners to make multiple bookings and then not turn up but it’s also a real blow to restaurants. At a time when most of them are operating at a fraction of their normal capacity, just drop them a note if you cannot make it. It takes no time to do this, it’s polite and we really appreciate it.
Don’t outstay your welcome
Sure, we’ve all been stuck in our apartments having to cook meal after meal, but for the next couple of months we’re going to have to learn to share. While we’d all love to get the best spot in the spring sunshine and not move for the afternoon enjoying endless Aperol Spritzs, have some consideration for the fact that’s what everyone else wants to do. London has lots of parks, remember.
Be kind and tip
I won’t bore you with the politics around furlough for hospitality staff but let’s just say they got the short end of the straw. If you’ve enjoyed your meal and had great service, tell them. It may seem a little cliché but one of the best ways to show your appreciation is also by leaving a little something as a gesture. Regardless of the amount, this act of generosity goes a long way both financially and motivationally.
Spoiled for choice? Here are Adam’s five recommendations for outdoor dining in London (weather depending!).
01. The Berkeley Beach Huts
A bit of Whitstable and Margate comes to this Knightsbridge hotel…
02. The Delaunay
Käsekrainers in Covent Garden...
03. The River Café
The Hammersmith institution. Need I say more...
04. Barrafina (Multiple locations)
One of London’s best Spanish restaurants...
05. BRAT at Climpson’s Arch
Tomos Parry’s BRAT at Climpson’s Arch is not to be overlooked...
The Delaunay in Covent Garden reopens for take away and terrace dining from The Counter on 13th April.
Adam Hyman is the founder of CODE Hospitality, a digital membership club for hospitality professionals.