Super Saturday – Match ReportPublished on July 11, 2020
A week on from 4 July or “Super Saturday”, the day that the UK government permitted bars, restaurants, pubs and hotels to reopen, how’s it all going in the dining rooms of our Michelin-starred restaurants?
The FT reported this week that at Veeraswamy, London’s oldest Indian restaurant, which has been open for 94 years and even stayed open during the second world war but shut its doors during the coronavirus lockdown, a sign tells guests to prepare for a temperature check and at the reception desk there are steel columns dispensing hand-sanitiser gel, and packets of wipes are laid at each place setting. Bookings for the Super Saturday spiked as customers prepared for their first meal out in months, however beyond last weekend, with a dearth of tourists and the corporate lunch trade, and with social distancing measures limiting the number of tables, customers were reported to be “thin on the ground”.
New health measures will differ from restaurant to restaurant, reflecting that the government’s directions for reopening are guidelines rather than hard rules. At Veeraswamy, waiters will initially serve tables wearing clear plastic visors, while at Pollen Street Social, which will open in August, serving staff will wear white gloves and masks. At Scott’s and the Wolseley, front-of-house staff will not wear any protective clothing. Tables will be pre-laid in some, while others — such as the Gaucho restaurants — will have the tables bare, save for a decoration or place mats, until guests sit down.
Stephen Hutchings, general manager of Scott’s, said: “We are trying to keep business as normal.” However, with screens to separate tables and waiters having to learn how many times they must wash their hands and how to offer the new wine list, which will involve scanning a QR code so that it can appear on a customer’s phone, it seems business will be far from normal.
Our favourite restaurants face a challenge in retaining the luxurious atmosphere we enjoy, when service is done in protective clothing, menus are wipe clean rather than leather bound and hanging out at the bar is strictly banned.