When people mistakenly say or write ‘restauraNteur’, I’m always reminded of the pub quiz factoid that ‘restaurant’ derives from French verb ‘restaurer’, meaning to restore. i.e. The people who start and run them are not in the business of ‘restauranting’; they’re in the business of restoration.

Never has this been clearer to me than over the last month, when the act of going to a restaurant, being fed, watered and waited-on by others, AND NOT HAVING TO COOK, CLEAR OR WASH UP, has been sheer, restorative bliss. And this has been the case even though we’ve been sat outside in the cold, on tables that rock and / or angle away down the pavement, lined as they have been along fume-filled thoroughfares that could never be described as calming (Farringdon Road, Holloway Road, Shoreditch High Street). It has been novel doing something for the first time in a while, but also (and mostly), there’s been an enveloping sense of comfort.

I suppose that’s largely because of the aforementioned hospitality. Though I should also note that I’ve deliberately returned to old favourites, seeking classy Anglo-French small plates at The Quality Chop House; the layered spice of Sambal Shiok’s laksa; hot, fragrant and sour salads at Smoking Goat (salads in both vegetable, and also meat and herb laab form); and the homeliness of Towpath’s braises and ‘good seasonal things on toast’. Restoration and comfort are found in things that are familiar, no?

Personally, I’m not particularly hyped about the slew of ‘new openings’. And yet another evil quirk of the current situation, is that all those restaurants that from next Monday will finally be able to fling open their doors and allow us inside, are effectively starting from scratch. Everywhere is ‘new’, now. Retraining, reimagining has been necessary and costly; recruitment has been tricky for most; badly damaged supply chains are reconnecting. You’ll have a more relaxing, restorative time if you bear all those things in mind when eating out. Also: please don’t make multiple reservations and/or then no-show.