Lunch Out, At Last
At last, a day to eat out at the local pub after almost 12 months. The Real Food Inspector had booked his table today some months ago - as soon as a date was set for the end of the lockdown. Booking online is the easiest and most convenient way to ensure that you get one of the limited tables that most pubs will have in their outdoor areas or beer gardens. Arrive in good time, or your table will be snapped up by others, turning up 'on the off chance'. Remember to wear a face mask into the pub and until your get to your table. Don't forget to register with the venue, so they have a record of your attendance. They are expected to retain this information for 21 days before destroying your data. The table and chairs should have been sanitised before you arrive and the paper menu should be exclusive to you and destroyed or 'recycled' after your use, and not passed on to someone else. The cutlery and napkins should arrive in a glass or tumbler for your exclusive use. Your waiter or waitress should be wearing a mask, even if it proves difficult to hear them! Tables should be at least two metres apart and fellow guests should adhere to this. There should be a one way system in operation into and out of the pub and its beer garden, and signage to the washrooms should be clear. Masks should be worn when leaving the table and returning there. Rules, rules and more rules.......but if it eventually means that we can all eat out, as we did in the past, then it has to be worth it. Currently, tables are limited to six people or two households of any number. However, what is to stop twenty four individual friends booking four tables of six? Let's just hope that pub owners are switched-on to this kind of abuse and put safety before profit. After such a long lockdown, it's tempting for establishments to 'turn a blind eye' to groups 'stretching the rules', only seeing the pound signs that have eluded them for so long.
That's enough of the rules, but what about today's experience? It was a joy to eat out after such a long time! Admittedly, the menu today was limited, but nothing more than you would expect, as pub and restaurant chefs 'feel their way' out of a lockdown, bringing back staff after a long absence, and so sticking with the safe and saleable dishes that they know well. A leek and chicken pie with mash and veg, provided the comfort food, the Real Food Inspector had yearned for. His partner, savoured the haddock and salmon fish cakes with a cucumber and leaf salad. A fruity bottle of Italian white wine didn't come cheap, but an excuse to celebrate eating-out in the spring sunshine could not be missed. A bill of £62, plus a well deserved 10% tip for the diligent, safety conscious and polite staff, marked the start of the Real Food Inspector's programme of 'Eat-Out Lunches' across the Midlands over the coming weeks.