St Albans restaurants and cafes re-open after shutdown
PUBLISHED: 09:35 08 July 2020 | UPDATED: 12:09 08 July 2020
It has been a long few months of not being able to pop out for a halloumi wrap at lunchtime or drag my husband along for a roast on Sundays, so I could not have been more excited about the prospect of going out for a meal again.
After weeks of lockdown, restaurants in St Albans are re-opening and eager for customers. but I wonder if things will be significantly different?
So I went to some of our city’s favourites on the days afterwards, speaking to staff and customers about the changes made and what they feel like under the “new normal”.
In Hatch on Holywell Hill there is a really relaxed atmosphere and a buzz of excitement.
There is enough space for socially distancing and some of the classic favourites are back on the menu. One customer tells me she can’t wait to come back soon for a burger.
Owner Chris Evans said: “Although it has been a tough few months, the shutdown gave me time to make new exciting plans for our menu.
“I’m pleased with how the place still feels like Hatch and that our regulars and new customers are happy.”
Local mum Kate Gardner was having a coffee with her son Max in Caffé Nero. The tables are spaced out and it feels more relaxed than it did last week when they were stacked away.
The staff look calm and not many customers are wearing masks.
The 32-year-old from Harpenden said: “It’s lovely to be out. I have no worries about coming out for coffee or to eat a meal.
“It feels less intimate in a way but I have missed the buzz of restaurants and cafés.
“Some times we now get a take-away and go to the park as we have got more used to eating outside.”
Outdoor eating seems to be continuing even though diners can now eat inside again.
Management at Prae Wood Arms said: “We are still the good old Prae Wood Arms you know and love, but for obvious reasons you may find us a little different.”
Changes at the pub have included asking customers to wait at the door to be taken to their table and to sanitise their hands on the way.
The pub said indoor gatherings should be in groups of up to two households and outdoor ones of six people or less.
I get a warm welcome at The Beech House as I am asked to give my full name and my telephone number.
I am shown to a table which is the only way to order – nobody can go to the bar, the staff come to me.
It is quite busy with chatting couples and colleagues and tables are again quite far apart, but otherwise nothing is different from usual.
Manager Rebecca Canner tells me that lots of returning customers have been in already and the feedback she has had has been positive.
She added: “We are asking everyone to respect social distancing, providing full table service and taking details in case needed for track and trace.”
Richard Marrett, general manger of St Michael’s Manor, said that guests are really able to use the vast garden space.
Saturday and Sunday were both really busy with guests taking to using the online app to order food and drinks to their tables.
He said he has created what he believes to be “the best table in St Albans, with views of gardens and the lake together with its own private summer house”.
However, it has not all been plain sailing. Head chef at Loft Jonathan Beattie said things have been very quiet since the re-opening.
He said when they first opened it was difficult – usually the restaurant does 120 covers but now they are down to just 42.
Jonathan explained that he still has to buy in all the fresh produce that is offered on the menu and then if it is not used, it is thrown away.
But there are some businesses which have yet to start trading again, including Loch Fyne, Pizza Express and Bill’s.
The Ivy will be re-opening on Wednesday, with new safety measures including thermal cameras for temperature checks, the use of tracking software for all employees logging daily temperature readings over a seven day rolling period, and professional deep cleaning and disinfecting on a daily basis. Air filtration units have also been fitted and dedicated members of staff have been appointed to ensure health and safety is at its highest standard.
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