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‘Weird but enjoyable’ - Norfolk restaurants reflect on an unusual reopening weekend

PUBLISHED: 14:55 06 July 2020 | UPDATED: 15:22 06 July 2020

Simon Wainwright, owner and chef at SW1 Restaurant in Gorleston. Photo: Simon Wainwright

Simon Wainwright, owner and chef at SW1 Restaurant in Gorleston. Photo: Simon Wainwright

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As many Norfolk eateries welcomed customers indoors for the first time since March, owners have described the experience as positive but strange.

Lacon Arms owner Lorna Bevan said that it was important customers and staff could see each other's smiles and faces, because that's what makes eating out a better experience. Picture: ANTONY KELLYLacon Arms owner Lorna Bevan said that it was important customers and staff could see each other's smiles and faces, because that's what makes eating out a better experience. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Louise Elms, whose family have run the Filby Bridge Restaurant for 37 years, said everything went smoothly on Saturday after months of takeaway-only.

But she added that the best word to sum up the day’s events was “strange”.

She said: “The weekend went well. It was full - or at least the ‘new full’ - and takeaway orders kept up with lockdown levels.

“Everything was brought to the customer’s table, everyone complied with the need to provide their details for track and trace, each household remained 2m apart.

Richard Graveling, who owns The Grove hotel in Cromer with his brother, said Saturday's restaurant re-opening went better than he could have hoped.  Picture: MARK BULLIMORERichard Graveling, who owns The Grove hotel in Cromer with his brother, said Saturday's restaurant re-opening went better than he could have hoped. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

“It was postive and encouraging, but very strange at the same time.”

Likewise for Simon Wainwright, Saturday evening at his SW1 Gorleston restaurant was “weird but enjoyable”.

He said: “We had nine tables inside and a reduced capacity from 44 to 28. I was the only chef in the kitchen and the place was a lot quieter than usual.

“It was weird to see staff in visors - and to see empty tables without cutlery, condiments or napkins. I felt like we were guinea pigs in a way - and that other restaurants who haven’t yet opened would have their eyes on us to see if and how things worked.

Terry Hughes, one of the partners at the Belgian Monk. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYTerry Hughes, one of the partners at the Belgian Monk. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Though it’s clear the industry has changed forever, I really enjoyed the evening and liked the new set-up. I might keep it this way even after coronavirus.”

Lorna Bevan, at the Lacon Arms in Hemsby, echoed this positivity.

She said: “We got some great reviews from customers expressing how safe they felt.

“My team went for visors rather than masks when serving, as I think it’s important you can see people’s faces. That’s how we will bring humanity back into the industry after so long behind closed doors.”

Brad Baxter and his team on the rooftop at Gonzo's Tea Room in Norwich, as they created 'corona cubicles' for social distancing. Picture: Brad BaxterBrad Baxter and his team on the rooftop at Gonzo's Tea Room in Norwich, as they created 'corona cubicles' for social distancing. Picture: Brad Baxter

Meanwhile in Cromer, Richard Graveling, co-owner of The Grove restaurant, said things went smoothly up in north Norfolk too.

He said: “We were a little bit nervous on Saturday morning, but the guests were understanding.

“The staff have been getting to grips with new protocols and they’ve been magnificent, doing it with a smile on their face, although sometimes you can’t see it because they’re wearing a mask.”

The Grove’s restaurant is now fully open, and Mr Graveling said they had invested heavily in their outdoor seating area during lockdown and are now offering pizza alongside the a la carte menu.

Prince William talks to the owners and staff at The Rose and Crown pub in Snettisham  Picture: Aaron Chown/PA WirePrince William talks to the owners and staff at The Rose and Crown pub in Snettisham Picture: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Norwich’s restaurants also enjoyed a calm return to trade on Saturday, as they opened their doors to customers with a host of new rules in place.

Terry Hughes, one of the partners at the Belgian Monk in Pottergate, said while they had been fully booked on Saturday evening, fewer tables meant they saw half the customers they normally would.

“We had a good atmosphere - it started off with no-one really talking but the atmosphere did pick up,” he said. “It was nice to be back, but it was strange for the staff and customers. Having table service in the courtyard made it feel more continental.”

The weather, however, did impact footfall for some establishments.

Brad Baxter, who runs Gonzo’s Tearoom and Brix and Bones in Norwich, said it had been a slow start at the London Street venues on Saturday morning, but that by the afternoon it became much busier.

Anthony and Jeannette Goodrich at The Rose and Crown pub in Snettisham, Norfolk which was visited by the Duke of Cambridge.  Picture: Aaron Chown/PA WireAnthony and Jeannette Goodrich at The Rose and Crown pub in Snettisham, Norfolk which was visited by the Duke of Cambridge. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

“Everybody was super understanding,” he said. “It wasn’t sunny on Saturday so we couldn’t get the roof open, but it probably helped us find our feet. On Sunday it was nicer weather so we could, which felt really nice.”

And at the Rose and Crown in Snettisham, which was last week visited by Prince William, owner Jeanette Goodrich said they “weren’t as busy as expected”.

She said: “The weather wasn’t great, it wasn’t standing out in the garden drinking beer weather.

“The press had made it sound like it was going to be mayhem.

“I think people were a bit frightened. I think everyone’s waiting to see what’s going to happen.”


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