In Melbourne, we’re in lockdown again, and this time it feels particularly bleak for restaurants. There was such a reassuringly good mood in all the places I have gone to in the last couple of months, and I realised anew how important restaurants are. They’re at the hub of a social wheel whose spokes are diners, producers, distributors, staff, other restaurants, their local area, even landlords.
I picked up a take-away dinner from Estelle in Northcote this week, having discovered it was a whisker within the 5km range that was allowable. Now the range has been extended to 10 km, so it’s easy to go to Estelle, Philippe, Epocha, and Misterbianco, which is closest to me. Not to mention Maha, and Scopri. And those are the first places I think of, not a definitve list. We all have our own favourites. My view is that we now have something of a duty to support restaurants however we can. Order and pick up. Order and have it delivered. Save up and book a table as soon as it’s possible. And honour that booking! (And when you do, remember that staffing levels are not what they were, so don’t fuss about small stuff.)
We all have memories of restaurants. Sometimes it’s about the food. I can think of lots of meals that have taught me about flavours and dishes, things I have loved to eat. But more often, our memories are of an occasion, or a kindness, or a mood. I think of times with my children when they were small: of a long-gone restaurant called Panda where a waiter called Andy (whom I later met again at Flower Drum) taught my boys (and thousands of other children) how to use chopsticks. I remember a not-very-special restaurant in Italy, when my older son was just finding his appetite and asked if he could have a second serving of scaloppine. Of course. And then he asked for a third serving, and the cook and waiters stood at a distance while he ate it, and then everyone applauded. Those are scenes from restaurant life, as much as the grander occasions.
I’d love to hear about other people’s favourites. If you have time, please let me know (on the contact form).