What is it you love about food? Is that an odd question? You might have a complicated relationship with it. But, however you felt about food prior to this lockdown I’m sure you feel different about it now.
From local cafés serving hot meals to key workers, takeaways that are feeding the homeless or those heart-breaking stories of head teachers hand delivering lunches to vulnerable children; food has been intrinsic to how we’re caring and coping. So many of the inspirational stories of people connecting to people have been through food.
And I love food. But I love restaurants more. I have spent 6 whole weeks planning my dream post lockdown meals out. For the record they are:
1) A lazy weekend lunch at The Moorcock in Sowerby Bridge working my way through everything on the blackboard and sipping organic wine.
2) Eating oysters at the bar of Wright Brothers in Borough Market
3) Family Dim Sum Sunday at Oriental City- big round table- pillowy dumplings followed by bowls of noodles and garlicky greens
The restaurant relies on food being social. Their business models are dependent on us going out with friends, drinking, staying, tipping.
And then it changed.
Restaurants were forced to close and, well, it doesn’t look that promising from here does it? Insurers have not paid out as easily or as readily as many would have hoped, landlords have not agreed to rent reductions on properties that are now cleared out and boarded up and social distancing enforcements mean we would never get back those bustling open kitchens, crowded bar areas, cosy corners and packed beer gardens.
Let’s be honest, maybe we took all of that for granted.
And, yes, I get it- it might seem vacuous to talk about fancy restaurants at a time when food poverty is on the rise, demand for food banks has surged and there are so many people without any income. But the hospitality industry employs over 3 million people in the UK. It’s the buzz in our cities and the hub of our towns and villages. It builds destinations, it nurtures skills and it creates a culture. Restaurants will no doubt look differently after this. In an era when supermarket workers, food manufacturers and delivery drivers are classed as ‘key workers’. When food has become so significant. Then we’re going to have to start paying properly and uplifting working practices. We need the good bits. We need a chance to show that it matters.
The #NationalTimeOut campaign has brought together chefs and restaurateurs to ask the Chancellor for the entire sector to be put ‘on hold’ for 9 months. To push back commercial rents, and the debt repayments secured on premises, until January 2021. This will hopefully not only protect the venues but so many of the jobs in the hospitality sector. As part of this campaign they’re asking for us to write to our own MPs asking them to support the #NationalTimeOut. It only takes a few minutes of your time but will help give them a lifeline.
So if, like me, you miss that scrape of table legs on a hard floor as more friends join you in the pub. The frisson of ice in a metal cocktail shaker. Dipping your finger in the wax of a table candle. Misted up windows. Craning to see what the table in the corner has ordered. Starters. Low Lighting. The cold blast when the door opens and more people cram to be just where you’re at. Then, please, let’s keep the restaurants.