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Restaurants are open for business. As proprietors and chefs get to grips with the practicalities of the “new normal”, their creative juices are flowing, not only in terms of the food on the menu but in the creation of culinary concepts that allow for social distancing in new – and often fun – ways. Here’s our selection of urban hotspots.
Joy, Portobello Dock, London
How do you create a unique culinary experience in London? You collaborate with up-and-coming gardener Arthur Parkinson, saving 1,000 dahlias from the doomed Hampton Court Flower Show to transform the terrace of your pop-up restaurant Flora into a butterfly-friendly, wellbeing-focused garden; bring beehives from home to serve your own honey store; and team up with pals The Goods Shed to create a farm shop on site and ensure fresh produce is served on daily changing blackboard menus.
This is the idea cooked up in response to social-distancing regulations by British chef Stevie Parle , who has returned to the site of his former Tom Dixon restaurant (Dixon is also a collaborator) to host a two-month event called Joy. Expect seasonal summer fare at the 70-cover “minimal-contact” restaurant, including clams with butter and fresh peas or Fosse Meadows chicken cooked over wood and stuffed with ricotta and ’nduja. There’s a Campari bar to whet the appetite, along with an Uncharted Wines and Beer Craft store, creating a “shop, drink and dine” hub that, if successful, will be extended into the autumn/winter months. joyatportobello.co.uk
Hotel Shangri-La’s Sidewalk Café, Los Angeles
Alfresco dining has never been more in demand. One especially appealing outside add-on has popped up in Los Angeles, at the art-deco Hotel Shangri-La. Spilling out onto the pavement in Parisian style while overlooking the Pacific, The Sidewalk Café is “bringing summer to the streets with a degree of improvisation, vibrancy and spontaneity”, says CEO Tamie Adaya. It’s a supreme spot for a Sundowner (or two), while the menu of Californian-infused cuisine is based around organic seasonal ingredients – from red snapper paired with roasted beets, turnips and heirloom potatoes to a 12oz New York steak served with purple-potato purée and mushroom cognac sauce. shangrila-hotel.com
Turnips with Tomas Lidakevicius, London
Fans of London’s Turnips, the Borough Market vegetable purveyor, have a new way of getting their green fix. The stall has been working with Tomas Lidakevicius, executive chef of Jason Atherton’s Michelin-starred City Social, to provide a vegetable-centric dining experience under the market’s arches. From Thursday to Sunday, Lidakevicius is serving seasonal small plates from a kitchen within a converted shipping container, with a five-course tasting menu available that can be enjoyed with a view of the grill. While dishes are driven by Turnips’ daily delivery of fruit and vegetables, summer diners can expect a mix of sweet potato and lentil croquettes, Provence tomato bruschetta and torpedo watermelon with galangal and lemongrass. “We’re so excited to be working with Tomas,” says Charlie Foster, son of Caroline and Fred Foster, who launched Turnips more than 30 years ago. “He completely shares our vision of joining the disconnect between market produce and restaurant food.” turnipsboroughmarket.com
Créatures, Galeries Lafayette Haussmann terrace, Paris
A buzzy vegetarian restaurant in Paris (yes, that’s right, we did say Paris and vegetarian in the same breath), Créatures – managed by chef Julien Sebbag – returns to the rooftop of the city’s Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann for the summer season. Sebbag describes himself as “the victim of an indescribable and carnal obsession for vegetables” and aims to serve vegetarian (and vegan) dishes that are “sexy and surprising”. His menu offers seasonal salads made of peaches, feta, radishes and scallions and plates such as the Beyrouth-Tel Aviv, a fusion of mint, parsley, dill, coriander, bulgur and raisins. Sip on herb and plant cocktails while taking in the breathtaking views of the Parisian skyline. creatures-paris.com/la-terrasse
APT, Bethnal Green, London
The idea for APT, a brand-new dining concept, came to Richard Lee Massey about a month into lockdown, when the future of the UK’s restaurant scene was arguably looking its darkest. “The pandemic has brought the industry to its knees,” says the brand consultant, who has a long career in hospitality. “I wanted to provide a platform that offered safe spaces for my chef friends to get back to doing what they do best.” At Bethnal Green’s Town Hall Hotel, diners can hire a private room with up to 10 guests, where they’ll be served a bespoke menu by a leading chef. Orasay’s Jackson Boxer, Spring’s Skye Gyngell and Koya’s Shuko Oda are all on the roster, which is as much an A-Z of London’s most exciting restaurants as it is a list of options. Stay tuned for other locations. aptand.co
And for some refreshment…
The Piaggio Ape is the tiny three-wheeled car – considered the younger sibling of the Vespa – that brings to mind 1960s movie trailers where Hollywood stars are ferried around the Amalfi Coast. Few know that its practical design was born as a response to the lack of transport infrastructure in postwar Italy. More than 70 years on, it is being used by Grandi Cru Della Costa Toscana – a consortium, headquartered in Bolgheri, of over 60 wineries of the Tuscan region – as a solution to the Covid crisis, which halted its calendar of tastings. Baptised “ApeWine” and painted in the traditional “milk-and-mint” colours of the original 1950s Vespa, it drives through Tuscany’s historical squares and landmarks – by way of Lucca’s Piazza Anfiteatro and the Fortezza di Mont’Alfonso – offering tastings, aperitivi and bottles for sale, as well as home delivery and catering services. “We hope to embark here on a journey crossing our regional borders,” says Ginevra Venerosi Pesciolini, president of the consortium. The calendar and contact info for catering can be found on its Facebook page. facebook.com/ApeWine-110092254090411
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