For our first foray back into the world of eating out, we went to The Summerhouse in Maida Vale.
Visored hosts greeted us warmly, asked us to apply hand sanitiser and showed us to our table via a one-way route around the restaurant. Tables were well spaced apart and separated by shoulder-height (once seated) perspex screens.
They are like subtitles – after 10 minutes, you don’t notice them. Waiting staff were all masked.
Cutlery is brought when you order – with little sachets of antibacterial wipes and they don’t pour the wine or the water, but the menu, food, service and ambience are every bit as good as they ever were.
BAW Cafe in Mill Hill dishes up consistently good, tasty, inventive food, and for summer they have added new dishes – chicken lollipops (gluten-free) are lollipop-shaped drumsticks in a tasty mildly spicy coating.
Paneer chilli packs a bit of punch and honey veg is a sweet and savoury slim latke with grated vegetables. All the other faves are still available and the front of this lovely colourful place is open on warm days.
We waited eagerly for it to open, and then it did, and just two days later we were in lockdown and it had to close… but last week it reopened with strict hygiene and distancing measures in place!
SOYO Diner (kosher) on Golders Green Road is THE place to go for burgers, rotisserie chicken, fried chicken and all the sides. Yes, of course there are onion rings.
There are hearty salads and pasta dishes too, plus amazing desserts such as black chocolate cake and diner-style ice cream sundaes. Upstairs is a large 80-seater event space, for when we can party.
But in the meantime, sit downstairs and tuck in. (Open throughout the ‘nine days’ with a fish menu.)
Delamina in Marylebone has taken every measure possible to make the team and guests feel safe. These include greater table spacing, staff temperature readings and mask-wearing, rigorous hygiene and social distancing controls, including new ‘contact light’ service procedures. If that’s not enough to get you in, then maybe dishes such as cod chermoula on dill yoghurt and Israeli couscous with roasted artichokes and wild za’atar will.
One good thing to come out of the new measures is that many no-reservations restaurants have changed their policy. Barrafina tapas bars in Coal Drops Yard, Dean Street and Covent Garden are all taking reservations.
So are flamboyant Italian Trattoria Gloria in Shoreditch and its sister restaurant Circolo Popolare in Fitzrovia. Best of all, Dishoom now takes dinner bookings in its Shoreditch, King’s Cross and Carnaby Street sites.
Going out doesn’t have to mean going to a restaurant, and my friend Louise Cowan’s The Picnic Hunter’s Club is a new venture from The Gingerline, which is well known for innovative immersive dining events. Using an app that you download onto your phone, this is a treasure hunt, at the end of which you get a delicious picnic to enjoy. The treasure hunt around Clissold Park is good fun and a way to build up an appetite. The picnic box (meat/veg/vegan available) includes a cocktail and three courses of tasty treats.
Just before lockdown, chef Jake Finn’s plans to open a restaurant had to be shelved. He quickly set up a home delivery service, but this isn’t a regular takeaway… this a highly skilled chef prepping dishes for you to cook or finish at home.
We tried the marinated salmon fillets, which come with instructions to smoke on cedar wood planks on the barbecue. Wonderfully moist and tender, we had them with quinoa, roasted peppers and courgettes in a tangy tomato dressing and jumbo asparagus in shallot vinaigrette with crumbled feta. I also sampled a superb Italian lasagne with sticky caramelised onions. Hands down the best food I had during lockdown. Dishes from £15.
Now that we’re all working from home, there’s no excuse not to give breakfast the attention it deserves. Bluebelles, in Mill Hill, has launched a new brunch delivery.
Fanned avo with toasted seeds on a charcoal bap was
a winner and we enjoyed cute eggy pots – shakshuka in one and spinach and crème fraîche in another. Fantastic banana bread with toffee sauce, gluten-free courgette and avo cake with freshly-squeezed orange juice is delicious.
Sit on the spacious terrace at Tish (kosher) in Belsize Park on a sunny day and you could be on the French Riviera. Tuck into bar bites and tapas-style dishes or the full à la carte menu of contemporary European dishes and Jewish favourites. Sunday brunch is a signature option and desserts are a particular speciality here, at the hands of pastry chef Chesky.
SushiDog is delivering sushi making kits with everything necessary for a fabulous foodie craft activity. Lots of little pots and packets, brightly coloured cards with detailed instructions, lush green fresh produce and one of those wicker mats. There’s a spicy tuna option and salmon/avo, plus edamame beans, sweetcorn, cucumber, spring onion, crispy onions, soy sauce, sesame seeds and pipettes of spicy mayo. Kits start at £25.
I’ve been so inspired by the incredible innovation and creativity of chefs and caterers during lockdown that I set up Signature Dish, a platform to browse, order and deliver restaurant-quality food from professional chefs to at-home diners. Our most popular offering is a traditional afternoon tea with freshly-cut finger sandwiches, bite-sized cakes, crumbly scones, fruit skewers and chocolate-dipped strawberries. We are adding new dishes from more kitchens all the time and delivering all over north London and Herts. Tea for two £30/family tea £50.
On sunny days when we go out for coffee, we talk about ‘getting a Frappuccino’. In South Africa, they talk about ‘getting a Freezo’. What’s the difference? Apart from the taste, the biggest difference right now is you can have a Freezo at home! There’s a guilt-free sugar-free version and a creamier regular version. Both are absolutely freezo-licious and there is a range of other frozen and hot drink flavours too, most of which are kosher.
From £17 for 1kg bag.
Home-made falafel can be a fiddly affair, but the falafel DIY kit from Yummy Plant-Based is all the fun of homemade falafel with none of the messy effort! The kit contains falafel mix to make 25-30 falafel balls (you can fry or bake) and tasty tubs of YummyPB spicy tomato sauce, hummus, tahina, green chilli dip, pickles, red cabbage salad, five squidgy pitta breads and za’atar seasoning. All that, plus half an hour of fun in your kitchen, for just £20.
Classic fish and chips, whole grilled sea bass and traditional slow-cooked Moroccan cod are just a few of the traditional and fusion dishes at White Fish in Hendon. There is also whole range of homemade side dishes and dips. If you’re holding a small, socially-distanced gathering in the garden this summer, White Fish can cater for this, too ,with bespoke menu options.