*Big Brother voice*: Day 618,261 in the coronavirus house. Despite Boris Johnson’s weekend announcement on the lifting of some lockdown restrictions, the hospitality industry is still struggling with the impact of coronavirus. Restaurants and cafes are to stay closed until at least July, as the virus continues to ravage the UK. Millions of hospitality staff remain out of work for the foreseeable future, with the Hospitality Union calling on the government to extend financial support packages and rent relief to help ease the burden.
Despite the uncertainty facing their sector, some restaurants have been able to offer food deliveries and takeaways, or have adapted their menus to serve customers safely during lockdown. (Let’s also take a moment here to acknowledge the work of the delivery riders, who risk their health to keep people fed and happy during the pandemic – and for low pay and poor working rights.)
Frankly, as we near month three in lockdown, we are all starting to get sick of our own cooking – not to mention the kitchen disasters that come from having to feed yourself three times a day. If you are lucky enough to be able to afford luxuries during the coronavirus crisis, takeaways are a godsend, providing both much needed variation to pesto pasta and the one good Ottolenghi recipe you can cook, and a reminder of what restaurants were like in the Before Times. Remember eating in a room full of strangers??? Truly wild.
We asked some of London’s best chefs about the deliveries that have been getting them through lockdown, as well as the home-cooked dishes they’ve been enjoying in their own kitchens. NB: always tip the Deliveroo rider!
Mandy Yin, chef and owner of Malaysian Laksa restaurant Sambal Shiok and Nasi Economy Rice on Holloway Road
We’ve only ordered fish and chips this whole time, but I’ve basically just been cooking everything that I’ve been craving myself. However, I do love our regular Cannons Fish and Chips
near where I live in Southgate, and it happens to be amazing. Our usual order is two haddock and chips, plus mushy peas and tartare sauce that comes as a standard. We’ve hunted far and wide for decent fish and chips, and Cannons’ fish batter and crispy chips are amazing. But to be honest, it’s better eaten fresh in their restaurant!
Selin Kiazim, chef and owner of Turkish restaurants Oklava and Oklava Bakery + Wine in Shoreditch and Fitzrovia
I live in Tufnell Park and I’ve only ordered takeaway pizza (because my partner Steph loves it) from Happy Face in Kings Cross. I’m a bit of a purist with pizzas, so my go-to is a Margherita. Happy Face use great produce, so the mozzarella and tomato sauce are delicious. Their dough is especially great, it’s a 72-hour ferment and has great flavour and texture. Wash it down with a negroni, which is just really well balanced and very drinkable.
Rang Baban, chef and owner of Kurdish restaurant Nandine in Camberwell
Honestly, we’ve just been staying at home eating through whatever leftover stock we have. Of course, having mum, Pary, like ours means the magic happens at home, too. She makes the most incredible foods – things that she rarely has time to cook or had forgotten about. We’ve had only had one takeout from Morley's because Mum misses their hot wings.
Budgie Montoya, chef and owner of Filipino restaurant Sarap in Brixton
Not many takeaway orders here as I’ve been cooking loads – it helps with the anxiety. I’ve been testing ideas at home and figuring out how Sarap will look like after the lockdown. I’m based in Bermondsey and there’s plenty of good suppliers who are doing home deliveries: fruit and veg from Puntarelle, bread from Little Bread Pedlar, charcuterie from Crown and Queue, cheese from Mons Cheesemongers, wine from Ancestral Wines and Jones, The Butcher, who are also my supplier for the restaurant.
The biggest tip I can give to home cooks is to clean as you go along to make clean up more bearable, leaving it all to the end is depressing and usually, a big enough deterrent for people not to cook.
Shuko Oda, chef and co-founder of Japanese restaurant Koya in various locations around London
My local Indian takeaway Babur and also Bona, which is a local pizza place near where I am in Forest Hill – both are tasty and now really feel like a treat. For veg deliveries, I’ve loved and longed for [Japanese vegetable producer] Namayasai, their vegetables have always been in my daily life and cooking. I realise how much I missed it when I got my first veg box during lockdown. I felt it in my body – literally! Namayasai’s vegetables are warm and extremely nurturing. Truly fulfilling for the mind and body.
Jackson Boxer, chef at Orasay in Notting Hill and Brunswick House in Vauxhall
Right now, we are very poor and the lockdown has essentially bankrupted me. Both my restaurants, though still in operation, are pretty much insolvent, so we haven't been ordering much – mostly just eating leftovers I bring back from the restaurants, which has kept us happy and fed. We’re treating the children to the occasional pizza from The Collective
in Kennington Park, which is one of my favourite places in London and reminds us all of more carefree times.
We're not really a takeaway or delivery family, because I take huge pleasure in cooking with and for my children whenever possible, as does my wife. Occasionally, I order late night food from Wuli Wuli in Camberwell when I need a numbing hit of Szechuan heat, although they’re currently closed.
Andrew Wong, founder of Chinese restaurants A Wong and Kym’s in Victoria
From what I saw during my daily exercise allowance to Chinatown last week, most Chinese restaurants are closed, but I’m glad to see that Asian supermarket See Woo now does home delivery.
Lockdown has been amazing in getting me to finally use up loads of random ingredients, such as fermented and dried sauces that have been lingering around the flat for years. One of my favourite dishes is the salt and pepper chicken wings from Wingmans in Kilburn. I was given their cookbook recently and it has got me hooked on their wings. Their recipe manages to overcome the problem of “limp skin” chicken wings – the skin is super crisp.
Sirichai Kularbwong, chef at Thai restaurant Singburi in Leytonstone
Honestly, I haven’t had anything remotely good since lockdown and when I finish work, there’s nothing open or available on Deliveroo or Uber Eats in my area – I almost teared up last time. However the KFC in Lea Bridge is open. My regular order is hot wings, which brings back memories of when me and Dad were living in a one-room flat. It was our treat and one of the things we bonded over. We’d order a variety bucket and he always made a request for a side breast. He said that the Lea Bridge KFC branch was the best (kind’ve true – some branches had very salty seasoning and their chips, back in the day, were the best).
John Li, chef and owner dumpling Dumpling Shack in Spitalfields Market
We've ordered our fair share of Deliveroo. My business partner and real-life partner, Yee and I are based in the Isle of Dogs area, and we’ve ordered from Black Bear Burger to satisfy my burger cravings. They’ve been one of my favourite burgers ever since we were neighbours at Broadway Market. When we're working at Spitalfields, we've ordered from the brilliant Smokestak – love their beef ribs.
One of my top ten restaurants to hit up first once lockdown has ended is definitely Keu, who do my favourite banh mi in London.
Lillian Luk, chef and founder of Shanghai Supper Club in Marylebone
I've consumed large quantities of cheese since the lockdown, as well as homemade sourdough. I've taken on baking because I was looking to learn new skills and challenge myself. I find cooking comes naturally and I do that three meals a day for the family, so it’s not enough to keep me mentally engaged during a lockdown. Learning to make sourdough, on the other hand, is a stretch for me – no pun intended!
Baking aside, we have ordered dinner from our local Persian and pizza places, Colbeh and L'Antica di Michele. I always get salad olivieh and lamb shank over rice from Colbeh. They also make this amazing bread, which sadly is not on offer during this lockdown. For pizza, I always get a Margherita. I tend to order things that I don't often cook or can't cook as well at home.
Normah Abd Hamid, chef and owner of Malaysian restaurant Normah’s in Queensway
Most of the time, I cook for myself because this is the only time I have for my family, but for something different, we normally order from this family-run place Haminados on Chepstow Road for their salad. Our all-time favourite is the baked beetroot, artichoke and celeriac. It’s a small, homely and friendly place with a seasonal menu. I’ve been trying a lot of vegan and vegetarian dishes lately.
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