Have you been out for a meal recently? Since this whole Lockdown and overall chaos, we have not been dining out. But last weekend it was a friend and some times creative input to this Blog, Colstar’s Birthday and we were heading to a restaurant. This is our experience.
The Birthday Boy decided on Noodles for a Birthday meal and Wagamama as his choice. At first the Dean St Branch, but when we realised it had closed down, we took to their website and settled on Leicester Square. They are all alike it was just a case of practicability and location.
Now usual routines are get ready and head out, booking a table ahead of time for around 8pm, then find a local Public House for a few Post Appetiser Beers.
On Saturday however we were on the tube and out at Leicester Square by 5.45 and the place was alive, filled with guys looking at girls in the smallest outfits possible, all freezing their arses off in the chilled London weather and there was us wrapped up against the wind. We headed to Irving St and discovered the Restaurant is shut down, not according to their website, but in person it really was. So a quick change of plans and a round of calls to the rest of our party of 6 and we set off for the nearest open branch, Bedford St in Covent Garden.
Then Ash got bitten by a horse and we had to detour to a Superdrug to get plasters.
We met our friends and the Birthday boy and stepped inside and were greeted with a sign saying to scan the QR Code and don a mask before entering.
We were led to a table at the back, near the kitchen and sat between the screens which are slid up to the side of the table and thus separating us from the next party – this is a good idea, the first and one of the few all evening, but these simple plastic sheets make the dining experience more personal, rather than the usual bench dining, where you may be unlucky enough to be seated beside complete slobs, or simply people untaught in the art of eating in public. The screens helped, if only some of our group were versed in the art of restaurant dining we would have been sorted.
We ordered a surprising number of Vegetarian dishes between the 6 of us. Being as we had 1 pescatarian, 1 Confused (Claims Vegetarian, but never questions ingredients in food, or crisps, but won’t eat eggs!), Bob is a Hard Veggie, with Vegan Tendencies, Ash is a Meat Eater still but a lot less these days (Maybe once a week) and then another meat eater, more determined and the last is a devourerer of anything, no questions asked.
We sipped our rather small and over priced bottles of beer and Colstar indulged in a Lemongrass and Ginger Tea, really letting his hair down on his birthday! and chatted.
Once seated the experience of Pandemic Eating Out was pretty normal, the only evidence aside from the screens were the waiting staff in masks, but like the screen it wasn’t a hinderance to the experience.
Wagamama’s didn’t disappoint on the food when it arrived, though it was rather staggered with some of us having a 10 minute wait after the first plate was placed on the table, but that gave us time to try to teach the Philistine how to use ChopSticks, I (Ash) am not great at using the cutlery but I’ve certainly used them enough, yet one of our party had never even held them before, he didn’t even know to snap them apart, but this is also the guy that has never been inside a Coffee Shop (why are we friends with this guy?!)
With food over the bill was sorted and Masks were donned again to head for the door and the outside, which was still light, in that moment we forgot just how early we had started off. But we picked a direction and headed towards the pubs, only to find every bar operating a booked table entry only and seemingly empty inside, it is a wonder how these places are going to stay open, when there are about 10 people per bar.
We wondered for a bit then one of our number pulled the trick from his sleeve, informing us that he had booked an emergency table at Brewdog in Seven Dials, which was clearly needed. So we walked a loop of the Covent Garden Piazza and headed back to Cambridge Circus and the Craft Beer Bar.
Here we were shown to a table in the back and told to QR again and handed one beer menu. It was clear we were to sit and stay sitting, no going to the bar, no taste testing the selection of beers, we suspect laughing is only allowed at certain times! but we ordered our choices, blindly, some to great disappointment and others sticking to old favourites. We drank but weren’t asked to pay, we thought we had free beers!
It is the first time we have been in a bar/pub since February and it is not the same experience, it is a lot less relaxed, less fun and certainly a lot less easy to enjoy yourself.
At 9.15 the ‘waiter’ appeared and asked if we wanted another round, then disappeared for 15 mins, eventually we got another staff member to take our order and finally got our drinks and sipped at a new selection, then 2 minutes later the initial barman appeared holding a stack of plastic cups and informed us to drink up as they would be shutting in 10 minutes.
As it turned out, everyone was out of the bar by 9.50, they were mopping the floor under our feet and eagerly pushing us out as quick as possible.
We headed to the tube and then discovered the new Rush Hour! 10pm on a Saturday Night has all the elements of a BC (Before Covid) Wednesday Morning on the Central Line. The tubes were blocked, stopped and packed with people. Oh such a good idea to shut every venue dead on 10pm and force everyone onto Public Transport for an hour. All because the Government seem to think Covid only works between 11pm-6am so best not let people stay out past then!
Well it was an experience and not one we want to do too often so the UK Government will probably win in the end, curfews and no alcohol consumption for us in 2021 it seems! Look forward to never seeing friends ever again, no more spontaneous nights wandering from pub to bar to clubs, no more casual nights eating in China Town at 1am and no more dancing your feet off at a rave at 6am. No the UK the country that goes to bed with a cup of coco at 10pm is here to stay it seems!
Have you been out recently? How did you find the experience? Let us know in the comments and come back next time for something else.