Monday 27 July 2020

A socially-distanced pub lunch in London: The Paternoster review

Which pubs are open in London during lockdown? How do you have a socially-distanced pub lunch? Can I meet up with my work colleagues?

These were all questions running through my head when it was agreed we would go back in to the office last week to pick some belongings up.

I work in London - though I'm not sure if I should now say I used to work in London, as it seems a lifetime ago! At some point we will return to the office and I will have to get used to commuting again but at the moment I'm enjoying the time at home. Lockdown for me currently feels very different now my daughter is back at nursery, compared to the first three months while my husband and I were trying to work and look after a two-year-old - but I've definitely been luckier and had it easier than many.

So fast forward to July and I was looking forward to seeing my colleagues again, but with some trepidation. Thankfully I could get to the office by overground trains and didn't have to take the tube, and was able to avoid rush hour when I travelled. So there was only a handful of people on each train - though I was dismayed to see a few people not wearing masks. Of course, you can't tell if they are exempt or just refusniks - but my gut feeling said the latter.

My boss and I had arranged to meet for lunch, so the first challenge was finding somewhere that was actually open. There are a few articles online about which London pubs are currently open, but they tended to pick out certain venues with large gardens or in touristy areas - and what I needed was one close to the office. Luckily the pub companies have all updated their websites showing which of their locations are open, and what coronavirus measures they are taking.

The Paternoster, a Young's pub on Paternoster Square, was open and seemed ideal. It was very quiet on a weekday lunchtime so there was no difficulty finding somewhere to sit more than a metre apart from other tables - and we had a big enough table that we could sit a metre apart from each other. The pub asked for contact details for one of us on arrival, and encourages the use of their app to order and pay for meals. The server wasn't wearing a mask but put our food and drink down at one end of the table for us to reach across to get our own, which seemed very sensible.

Other than that, the whole experience didn't seem very different to usual - though I can imagine going for a drink in the evening is not like it used to be.

For lunch I had a fishfinger sandwich - for some reason I never think to make that at home but I often choose it when having a pub lunch! The fish was cod pieces in a beer batter (i.e. not the kind of fishfingers you have in the freezer at home) in lovely doorstep slices of bread, though the bread fell apart a little before I'd even got part way through the sandwich. Tartar sauce and lettuce were the perfect accompaniments and the proffered side order of chips made this a very satisfying lunch. Not as satisfying though as actually being able to eat out with someone for the first time in four months!

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