All you can eat
13 May 2021
This week: Why the return of restaurants is about so much more than just good food.
Common sense, caution. Such was the urging from Boris to England, where indoor dining – table service only – is back next week. (Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better – Brits also got the green light to embrace again).
• For the 77% of restaurateurs who weren’t able to open for outdoor dining, they can’t wait to welcome us in. “It’s a weird feeling not being able to ‘do what you do’. It’s akin to not being allowed to ‘be who you are,’” said Will Beckett, co-founder of Hawksmoor. “On Monday that will be over, and we can go back to doing what we love – looking after people and making them happy.”
• It’s a long road to recovery, though. “Challenges for the industry still await with the re-introduction of business rates and 20% VAT rates,” said Arya Razi, owner of Caldera Restaurant in East London. UKHospitality is calling for government support systems to be extended beyond the summer, reported Eater. (We’ve got the same message for the Gov. Get involved, and join our campaign to #SaveTheStreet). Indies in particular need our business. Be kind. Show up for your reservation.
• Near and dear to Appear Here’s heart: Imad’s Syrian Kitchen, which made The Sunday Times restaurant critic Marina O’Loughlin’s list of nine new spots she can’t wait to book (and we couldn’t agree more). No surprise they’re all neighbourhood gems – from a tiny Glaswegian diner to a corner joint in Bristol. “If nothing else this pandemic has shown how much the hospitality industry enhances the quality of our lives; from the takeaway coffee to the pub to the haute cuisine extravaganza, our landscapes look so much bleaker without them.”
“Welcome back,” O’Loughlin wrote. “And, as the Italians say, forza e coraggio.”
Strength and courage. We couldn’t have said it better.
FOOD IS LOVE
Just 6 months ago, we pondered the unthinkable: ‘If Restaurants Go, What Happens to Cities?’.
If food unites us, then restaurants are our social glue. So yeah, you could say they’re crucial to our wellbeing, our happiness – even to our sense of identity.
• More than just places to eat, drink, and be merry – bars and restaurants are potent symbols of inclusivity. Community safe space and NYC’s longest-standing gay bar, Henrietta Hudson, has reopened. “In 2021, queer visibility in Manhattan may not seem radical, but opening an al fresco lesbian bar in the same spot where windows have traditionally been draped… signifies a major shift in queer culture’s entrance into the mainstream,” observed Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner in Grub Street.
• Kitchens can broadcast powerful messages about environmentalism. Zero-waste restaurants are rare, but on the rise. Michelin-star chef Alexis Gauthier’s London brasserie Gauthier Soho is set to return as 100% vegan. NYC’s famed Eleven Madison Park is ditching meat, for good. “It was clear that after everything we all experienced this past year, we couldn’t open the same restaurant,” wrote EMP chef and owner Daniel Humm.
• What do downtowns the world over have in common? A concentration of restaurants. What else happens in clusters? Innovation. Coffee shop productivity is an actual, research-backed thing. The blend of ambient stimuli – sights, smells, sounds – and just being around other people pulls our creative levers. “The idea-generating kaffeeklatsches, or chance encounters, in coffee shops have historically sparked everything from political movements to world-changing startups,” noted Emil Skandul in Business Insider.
From canteens to watering holes, greasy spoons to luncheonettes – restaurants are the sites of celebrations and break-ups, where deals are struck and memories made.
So let us rejoice in the return of our friends in F&B. Whether you say santé or salud, za zdrovye or yiamas – here’s to their health, and yours.
Words by Amy Tai, creative consultant and native New Yorker now based in London.