At the entrance to Veeraswamy, London’s oldest Indian restaurant, a sign tells guests to prepare for a temperature check. At the reception desk they are greeted by steel columns dispensing hand-sanitiser gel, and packets of wipes are laid at each place setting.
But instead of the usual busy lunchtime service last Thursday, there were just two members of staff quietly laying tables for the first service in three months, after the coronavirus lockdown forced the 94-year-old restaurant to shut its doors for the first time — it even stayed open throughout the second world war.
“We will deliberately be maintaining as much of the atmosphere as possible,” said Ranjit Mathrani, chairman of Veeraswamy, which he co-owns alongside two other fine dining Indian restaurants in London and the casual dining chain Masala Zone. The additional health and safety protocols are one of a “tsunami of challenges”, he added.
Consumers and restaurateurs