Amuse-bouches: The latest restaurant news bites

This week the Welsh restaurant sector calls for an official reopening date for indoor hospitality, London restaurants scrap service charges and Dishoom finally opens its Birmingham outpost.

VAT cut on hospitality: In a statement this week, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has temporarily reduced VAT on hospitality from 20% to 5% and has also introduced a ‘Eat Out Help Out’ discount scheme for the month of August. The VAT reduction will apply to food bought in restaurants and for takeaway from 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021. The discount scheme will offer 50% off meals in sit-down venues (up to a value of £10 per head) from Monday to Wednesday throughout August. However, there has been some industry criticism as alcohol served in restaurants, pubs, bars and taprooms has been left out of the tax cut, meaning that wet-led venues will miss out on the advantages.

Welsh hospitality sector calls for reopening date: Newly-formed industry group the Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective is calling on the government to provide a reopening date for indoor Welsh hospitality. In a recent study conducted by the group, it was revealed that over 30,000 hospitality jobs in the country were at risk. Unlike England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Wales has only released a date for the reopening of outdoor hospitality, which will take place on 13 July. [Update: on 10 July the Welsh government announced that indoor hospitality could reopen on 3 August pending a continued fall in Covid cases. This means that Welsh restaurants will reopen a whole month later than their English counterparts. The move has been welcomed by the industry, although there is acknowledgement that it may be too late for some businesses.]

Bermondsey Beer Mile campaigns to become al-fresco destination: A group of south London brewers, gin distillers and cider makers, part of the so-called Bermondsey Beer Mile, are asking Southwark council to transform the area into a pedestrianised drinking and dining destination. The collection of taprooms, which are housed in rail arches, are working together on a proposal to the council after similar schemes have been unveiled in the capital. Simon Wright, founder of Hawkes Cider, said before lockdown, his taproom could have over 1,000 visitors on a typical Saturday. “The new proposal for Saturday outdoor seating will seat people in safe social distanced groups in the open air and better control the flow of people in the area. The atmosphere with the new measures will help restart and re-shape the area, to become probably the best place in
London to eat and drink out,” he said. Jack Hobday of brewer Anspach & Hobdsay agreed. “The pedestrianisation of Druid street could really save jobs and businesses. Even with on-trade reopening, our capacity and takings are right down after months with no income,” he said.

A quarter of Brits believe it’s safe to return to pubs and bars: In a survey conducted by YouGov, it was revealed that only 26% of Brits said they would feel safe returning to pubs and bars, while 37% said they would happily return to restaurants and cafés. Among those surveyed, it was shown that the 35-44 age group felt most unsafe.

Six by Nico cook-along attracts audience of 20,000: Chef Nico Simone attracted over 20,000 viewers of his steak pie cook-along live stream event on Facebook. The chef is set to reopen his restaurants, including his new London site, on 13 July.

Restaurants scrap service charge: Several London restaurants have decided to scrap their service charge and will be instead incorporating it into the price of the menu. As reported by Big Hospitality, the restaurants, which include Turkish restaurant Oklava, butcher and restaurant Hill & Szrok and wine bar and restaurant Leroy, said the decision had been made because the government had not included tronc payments as part of its Job Retention Scheme, meaning staff were left out of pocket.

Tom Aikens launches Musette: Chef Tom Aikens has launched a new delivery service, which will operate out of his Belgravia restaurant called Muse. Aikens won’t be reopening his restaurant for indoor dining until 3 September, owing to the layout of the site. Instead he’s launched a delivery service with dishes that can be finished at home, or ‘makeaways’. Options include Cornish lobster linguine, yakisoba noodles and stir fried rye noodles with napa cabbage, bean sprouts, pickled red ginger, toasted nori flakes and spiced peanut, and 12-hour herb brined roast chicken with chicken jus and truffle macaroni.

New openings:

Maison François: Originally scheduled to open in spring, French brasserie and wine bar Maison François is set to open in London’s St James’s on 14 September. The brainchild of founder François O’Neill, chef Matthew Ryle with Ed Wyand (who will head up the front of house), the restaurant will pay homage to the grand brasseries of Paris, Lyon and Alsace.

Dishoom Birmingham: The Birmingham outpost of Bombay-inspired Dishoom has also announced its opening date, having intended to open in April. The café will open on 18 July for a soft launch, while officially operating from 6 August.

Oyster & Fish House: Chef and restaurateur Mark Hix is set to open a new restaurant on the site of his former HIX Oyster & Fish House in Lyme Regis. Now simply called Oyster & Fish House, Hix said he “couldn’t let the site go to anyone else”.

Vaasu: As reported by Bucks Free Press, Chef Atul Kochhar is set to open his second restaurant in Marlow on 10 July (today). Vaasu, which will initially operate as a takeaway, will eventually be able to accommodate 80 people and include dishes such as jhinga tawa masala (prawns pan fried with ajwain, onions and peppers), nawabi murg korma (a chicken tikka dish with a cashew-cardamom sauce), and lamb dishes including lasooni saag gosht.

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