FIFTEEN weeks after being plunged into lockdown, one of the biggest freedoms we’ve been denied was this weekend re-gifted to us – and I wasted no time in taking advantage.
Whilst good food and drink have not been in short supply over recent months (my waistline will sadly vouch for that!), it’s the social setting and convivial atmosphere of the pub and restaurant experience that I’ve missed most.
So, upon receiving an email invitation to book a table at one of my favourite local hostelries, there was no hesitation.
It was only on the lead up to our visit on Saturday night however, I started to question my (usually very sound) judgement. Social media – and headlines – were piling on the pressure to ‘stay at home.’ We were constantly reminded of ‘second spikes’ and ‘local lockdowns’ were very much in the news.
Was I being irresponsible in taking the family to step out into this brave – and as yet untested – new world? Should I, like most in my social circles, steer clear for a while longer to observe how things ‘pan out?’
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to cancel on more than one occasion last week. The overthinking mum and the logical fact-driven journalist were at odds.
But the favourably low local COVID statistics added much-needed perspective.
And as a PR professional who works with many small local businesses, I also felt compelled to lend them my support.
I had witnessed first-hand their struggles for survival throughout lockdown and had long told myself that the moment I could do my bit to help get their tills ringing again, I would.
And after all, I reasoned, my family were due some celebrations in lieu of three birthdays, a significant wedding anniversary, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and other assorted milestones. So, suitably reconciled, off we headed to The Globe in Warwick.
The restaurant, in Theatre Street, was very much in the spotlight for its ‘first night’ audience.
On researching their COVID-Security measures, I was satisfied this chic gastropub, part of the Oakman Inns stable, had customers’ safety at heart. These included restricted numbers, discrete screens between some tables, disposable menus, cutlery brought to the table, signs to keep traffic flowing one way, an abundance of hand sanitiser and the option of at-table ordering via an app.
Would this infringe on the restaurant dining experience I’d so sorely missed? Would first impressions of the ‘new normal’ have us rushing back for a repeat performance or re-joining the more cautious supporters of stay at home? After all, a meal for four at your average south Warwickshire gastropub comes at a not-insignificant price. Would it still be a price we were willing to pay?
I am delighted – and relieved – to report that, for us at least, the answer is yes. The overall dining experience was not that dissimilar to that of pre-lockdown. Considering this was reopening night, the team at The Globe handled their new regime with reassuring confidence and calm. Their genuine delight at being back on the front line of hospitality was clear to see. The servers we spoke to have missed the buzz of their restaurants as much as we have.
I was surprised to find a lack of face masks however. Whilst only optional for serving staff, it struck me that this may have offered an increased level of reassurance among more nervous diners, especially when they leaned over to collect plates and glasses from the table.
All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our long-anticipated family meal out and am pleased I didn’t talk myself into succumbing to that last-minute cancellation. In fact, buoyed on by this, we are heading out again next weekend, this time to Tasca Dali in High Street.
I am particularly pleased to support Tasca which has been much missed in the town. But it was a close call for this award-winning – but famously compact – Spanish restaurant which narrowly avoided hanging up the closed sign for good thanks to a recent change in the 2m distancing rule.
The restaurant can now accommodate double the number of diners than planned – although full capacity will still see a third fewer customers catered for on their busiest nights. There are still struggles ahead.
Whichever pub, restaurant or café you’re most looking forward to again frequenting, for that peace of mind it’s worth first checking up on their safety measures.
Make sure they are accredited as COVID-Secure and plan ahead such as downloading their apps. And don’t be shy to contact them with questions in advance of your booking. Businesses will be sympathetic to your nervousness to return through their doors and will work with you to offer as much reassurance as possible.
Many also offer outdoor dining which – on the finer days – can be a great compromise for those not ready to yet take the leap across their thresholds.
We are so lucky in south Warwickshire, to be surrounded by a fine choice of eateries and drinking holes and I, for one, am looking forward to reacquainting myself with most of them over the coming weeks and months.
Whilst I am clearly no scientist – and there is no such thing as zero risk – I am reassured that, if you choose wisely and follow the measures and advice in place, it is possible to once again enjoy our favourite restaurants and pubs safely, whilst also doing our bit to reignite the local economy.
Now I’ll definitely drink to that!
The Globe: www.theglobewarwick.co.uk
Tasca Dali: www.tascadali.com