I’d heard about the government’s ‘Eat out to help out’ scheme to encourage people back into restaurants but hadn’t thought through whether and when I might actually take advantage of it. Then I found myself participating twice by accident yesterday!
It started in Richmond in the morning. I’d taken my two little grandsons (5½ and 2½) for an outing to have a run around on Richmond Green, a walk down to the River Thames to see and feed ducks and geese, and then a gelato was promised at Amorino, where we could sit down in air-conditioned comfort (a definite bonus in the current heatwave), and Nonna could have a coffee.
The children like their child-sized cones. They can choose two flavours and they’re made up to look like flowers – the ice cream is shaped like petals. Normally these are £3.20. Nonna adores gelato but even for me, morning is too early. Instead, I like to indulge in a macchiato and one of Amorino’s small macarons; their gelato-filled macarons are totally irresistible.
I ordered, sat the boys on stools at the tall counter table (every other stool is labelled to not be used because of social distancing, though of course it’s OK for a family group to sit together). As I tapped my card on the payment machine I saw it was only £5.75. ‘I don’t think you’ve charged me enough,’ I told the girl behind the counter. ‘Oh it’s half price today when you eat in.’ Wow! What a bonus – half price and air conditioning.
The scheme is applicable on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays for all of August, with food and non-alcoholic drinks at half price, up to a maximum of £10 per person. The government foots the second half of the bill so the restaurant or cafe doesn’t lose out.
Back at my son’s I was told they were going for lunch at Giacomo’s (Coffee 091) because it was half price that day. Another member of the scheme … I was invited to join them.
Fortunately for the cafe (and us) in these socially restricted times they have a large frontage onto a wide pavement which means there’s plenty of room for a few tables outside. A table for six was free and so we settled down. It was my first meal out since early March …
We ordered a selection of bruschetta, panini, Parma ham, focaccia … We said we’d share everything – small plate style – so Giacomo arranged it for us to share easily, much of it arranged beautifully on a large wooden platter, and he brought everyone a plate.
The burrata with tomatoes, basil and focaccia was gorgeous: excellent buratta which was deliciously creamy inside and very tasty; sweet small tomatoes and some very good focaccia, which he makes himself.
Giacomo slices the Parma ham freshly from a whole ham and it’s very good. There was a panini with fennel salami; another with smoked mozzarella and aubergine. Everything was so good and the food there is always freshly prepared to order in a small kitchen at the back of the cafe; the quality of all the ingredients excellent.
A carafe of iced tap water was brought to the table with glasses for us all. The boys had some orange juice. It was all wonderful and so lovely to sit as a family in a favourite local cafe and enjoy a good lunch together. There were a few people eating inside but we were happy outside in the hot weather and with two excited little ones. Jonathan paid so I don’t know what it cost but prices are always very reasonable at Coffee 109 – and even more so at half price!
A lot of local restaurants are participating in the Eat Out To Help Out scheme and this seems a good way of encouraging people back into restaurants (which all have to adhere to the social distancing rules).