In the midst of the greatest threat to individual liberty – not to mention health and livelihood – that most of us have experienced in our lives, it is a sad inevitability that the hospitality industry has taken the first economic hit. What we don’t know at the moment is if this is a recoverable, if irritating, situation that can be overcome with patience, good humour and forbearance, or if it spells the end of many of the interesting drinking and dining options that we have in this country.
Yet there is something that individuals can do to support their local restaurant rather than simply writing posts of solidarity on social media (and those help, too). A surprisingly and hearteningly large number have converted themselves into temporary takeaways, with many also offering home delivery.
It has now become something of a civic duty to support your local restaurant or pub in these straitened and deeply unsettling times. As Geoff Norcott remarked on social media recently, announcing his intention to go ‘100% takeaway’, ‘1. Supermarkets have earned enough, 2. Local businesses need support 3. I’ve always wanted to live like this.’
Here are some of the best and most interesting ones (although, of course, this is all subject to rapid change; some places that initially announced that they would do takeaway and home delivery sadly realised that it was logistically impossible):
Ollie Dabbous’ Michelin-starred Mecca in Central London is launching a distinctly upmarket delivery service. A glance at the menu reveals that caviar, 50 day aged short-horn-beef rib and barbecued octopus are just a few of the delights that can be ordered, on the grounds that they travel particularly well. To make the whole experience that bit more upmarket, wines from Hedonism can be selected alongside them to pair perfectly.
If you’re an Islington resident who has fancied trying James Cochran’s much-acclaimed restaurant, but has somehow never found the time to visit, then his new ‘Around the Cluck’ service will surely answer your prayers. Offering a range of casual and inexpensively priced dishes, including Jamaican jerk chicken with Scotch bonnet jam and glazed crispy pork belly, they offer collection, or for the elderly, vulnerable or public sector workers, James will deliver it to your house himself on his bike.
Stevie Parle’s much-beloved pasta restaurant has traditionally been tricky to nab a spot at, which makes its advent to your homes all the better an opportunity to sample it. However, Parle and his team are going a step further at this trickiest of times, offering a special delivery service of freshly made pasta, at £5 for 500g, and store cupboard staples including semolina flour. Or maybe you’d want just to dive straight into the carbonara bucatini and rigatoni with wild mushrooms and garlic, parmesan and olive oil.
The Indian small plates specialist Kricket has never been behind the curve since it opened, and so it continues to innovate and look forward now. Diners can enjoy some truly special treats including pork cheek vindaloo, keralan fried chicken and hyderabadi baby aubergine, or treat themselves to an isolation feast for one, which will include a main dish, a pilau rice, a papad, mango chutney and raita, and a sharing starter with the main for two.
It is particularly sad that Italy has been so horribly affected by the current crisis, but their cuisine is never going to pall. Covent Garden’s exemplary restaurant has joined the band of places offering top-quality dishes that can now be enjoyed at home, and we have high hopes that the gnocchi with veal ragu, lobster ravioli and perfect spicy baby chicken will be a few included. A shame, really, that the exemplary service can’t be included – but soon it can be enjoyed in situ once again.
Black Axe Mangal
Highbury’s ace kebab emporium has attracted endless praise for its superb, boundary-pushing food, but people have occasionally winced at the lengthy queues and ear-splitting music. Well, they talk about clouds and silver linings, and now you can enjoy their deliciousness at home, without any need to wait in line or to hear loud heavy metal at top decibels; we do, of course, understand that this also adds to the appeal for many.
This Dalston Italian-Japanese spot opened to critical praise a little while ago, and now they’re ahead of the curve with the response to the crisis. Not only can you get their ramen and risotto delivered to your home, but they’ve gone the extra mile to make sure that you can have a decent drink to go along with it. Their cocktail selection is vacuum packed for transportation, and their wine list is available, so if you wanted a Venetian Sour or Waquila, now is your chance.
I asked for recommendations of local places on social media, and several different people recommended this exemplary spot separately. Their response to the situation was to reinvent themselves as a pop-up shop, open from Monday to Friday and selling everything from comfort food like Cornish fish pie and braised lamb with pearl barley and root vegetables to supplies like craft beer, wine and, for the non-alcoholically inclined, lots of soft drinks too.