Reopening of indoor dining sparks celebrations

Harborne Kitchen

The reopening of indoor dining on Monday has set the scene for joyful reunions of families and friends, according to one chef.

Ronnie Kimbugwe, head chef at The Mitre Hotel in Hampton Court, Surrey, said: 'It's joyous to watch family members who haven't seen each other for weeks and months greet each other and wonderful to facilitate that:' Staff were 'buzzing' and dancing to Red Hot Chili Peppers as they prepared to reopen, he added, describing it a bit like 'a phoenix rising from the flames'. Tables for restaurants are booking up weeks ahead, with guests happy to book all evening and lunchtime long. 'Previously people wouldn't have wanted to dine at 5.30pm but now they tend to eat right across the evening up to 9.45pm," he explained. 'They're much more flexible.'

Venues with outdoor space were able to start serving again from 12 April, but that ruled out six in 10 of them, according to industry body UK Hospitality. Harborne Kitchen in Birmingham was one. Like other restaurants in the city it had to close at the start of November when Covid forced an earlier lockdown than in other parts of the country, and it hasn't reopened until now, more than six months later. 'We're fully booked for the next four weeks and filling up quickly for the month after that,' says operations director Jennie Watts.'The pandemic's impact on hospitality in Birmingham has been absolutely massive. We've been waiting such a long time to reopen, everyone's really excited.'

Anna-Marie Julyan