Chefs from across the capital have told the Standard of their relief at being back in work.
Last night was the first time London’s restaurants, pubs and bars were allowed to open since the second national lockdown was imposed on November 5, with Londoners braving the icy weather for a bite to eat.
“Being back in the kitchen is a joy,” Pali Hill head chef Avinash Shishandra said. "You could feel that energy from every member of staff. We were stoked!
“We’ve come back even more motivated and driven to cook the best food possible and see us through these tough times, you can taste in the food I think. Everything is high definition.”
Shisandra’s comments were echoed by many others across the industry with Lee Bull, Sushisamba’s regional executive chef, explaining: “I missed the comradery and the energy of our kitchen.”
“As a chef, there’s part of me that wants to look after people, so to see our guests back in the venue enjoying our food is good for the soul,” agreed Mark Greenaway of the Gentlemen Barista. “We may have limited capacity due to table distancing but my team and I are very glad to be back doing what we love.”
While it was announced last week that London would open again under Tier 2 restrictions, the Government were slow to clarify what time lockdown would be eased on on December 2, leading to some confusion over when restaurants would be able to serve. Sergey Men, chef-patron of newly opened Japanese restaurant Bisushima, blamed the uncertainty for a somewhat sluggish start.
"I think it was quite unclear messaging whether we could open on the second or third, which I think has contributed to a slower start, as well as people perhaps wanting to avoid the reopening rush and delaying coming out for a few days. Ironically it meant we only had around 20 covers last night but that's fine! We got brilliant feedback from our customers, which is what matters the most. And it gives the chefs a chance to get warmed up before a fully booked Friday and Saturday service.
“People weren't holding back. Nearly every table was going for the most luxurious dishes with premium ingredients. I suppose after a month of your own cooking it's time for a treat at last! The same could be said for drinks orders as well – there was a lot of sake on the go.”
Across the capital, restaurants are hoping for a pre-Christmas rush to help them both recuperate some of the enormous losses suffered this year and see them through January, which is typically one of the worst months for trade.