“Let’s go out for lunch on Sunday.” said my husband.
“Yes please,” said I, when in fact what I should have said was “we may need to apply for a re-mortgage before we confirm our booking.”
I have eaten out a few times since the restrictions have eased. I have sat outside wearing every item of clothing I own, whilst enjoying a pizza and some nasty wine. I have sat next to an open fire and enjoyed a deluxe fishfinger sarnie and a bonfire night’s worth of smoke. I have shivered with both hands wrapped around a paper cup and slurped on a coffee, after wiping a rain splattered bench with a napkin. And I have absorbed every last ounce of energy from my friends and felt happy as can be.
But, this was the first time all four of us were going out to eat together indoors.
A big occasion I think you’ll agree…
We were shown to our table and it was very exciting, just to be indoors and watch the rain hit the windows, not us, was enough to start the meal on a good footing. The menus came and we ordered drinks. Two summer’s ago my son was offered crayons and a colouring in sheet, this time he was offered a wine glass. He was thrilled, us not so much, and neither child was offered the kids menu. This is a big deal. Not because the child has left babyhood far behind, but because, all of a sudden, you are paying for four adults to eat.
To be fair our food was lovely, but one sticking point, which is happening more and more as far as I can tell, is that a lot of restaurants are serving the meat/fish/whatever you are having, but everything else is a side dish, an added cost.
“Fish and a side order of chips please”.
No that’s wrong, the dish is fish and chips, oh but that’s fish in batter, if you have fish that is grilled it is perfectly acceptable to charge for the potato element separately. Astonishing! Granted this way allows for you to tailor your plate to exactly your preference, but, from where I’m standing, it adds at least another fiver to the bill (I need something green with every dinner, peas usually).
So, Sunday was a huge success and I enjoyed every second of it, so it was kind of worth it. But I think I might have managed just as well with luxury food and wine made at home and the four of us sitting amicably around the table.
During lockdown, we have all become food obsessed. Dinner was often the only interesting thing that was happening that day. As a nation we have upped the ante and taught ourselves to make nice food, and to pair it with decent wine.
For example, gone are the days when I look at a pub menu and picture a stuffed chicken breast with a creamy sauce in awe, now I can make that guy quite easily myself. I know I don’t like sage or tarragon, and I know that I can air fry most things and get a similar result to a pub meal but with a lot less calories. I’m not talking superstar chefs here, I’m talking run of the meal pubs/restaurants. The kind of places that will, in my opinion, be closing their doors for good unless they up their game. We have stayed in, we have learnt lots, we are skint and we know bad food, and I don’t think we will tolerate it once the novelty of someone else washing up has worn off.
So, a word of warning to all you mediocre pubs. Don’t be putting your prices up to cover your Covid loses. Improve the quality of your food, even if it’s not hugely profitable to start with. Because trust me, the sector is going to shrink, and only those serving up better than we can make ourselves will make the cut.