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‘We were excited to see our customers’: Havering restaurants enjoy positive reopening

PUBLISHED: 17:13 07 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:31 07 July 2020

Upminster's Sorrento Italian restaurant started welcoming back customers from Saturday, July 4. Picture: Ellie Hoskins

Upminster's Sorrento Italian restaurant started welcoming back customers from Saturday, July 4. Picture: Ellie Hoskins

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Many of Havering’s restaurants have opened their doors to the public for the first time in more than 100 days.

Indian restaurant Zaafran was one of many Havering restaurants to reopen after the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: ZaafranIndian restaurant Zaafran was one of many Havering restaurants to reopen after the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Zaafran

Though many continued offering delivery services during the coronavirus lockdown, Saturday, July 4 saw the return of dining in.

With Covid-19 expected to have a long-term impact on the hospitality industry, the Recorder caught up with a few Havering haunts to see how they fared over the weekend.

Istanbul Grill in Elm Park reopened on Saturday at around 40 per cent capacity, and manager Eva Biro said the return had gone “much better than we expected”.

Eva Biro, the manager and head chef at Istanbul Grill, said the reopening had gone Eva Biro, the manager and head chef at Istanbul Grill, said the reopening had gone "better than expected". The restaurant has bookings throughout this week, fuelling optimism for the future. Picture: Istanbul Grill

She explained: “We had one table full, the next one empty to ensure social distancing, then the next one full. We were excited to see our customers”.

Eva — who is also the head chef — said that the restaurant has bookings throughout this week, marking a “really positive return” for the Turkish Grill.

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Upminster’s Italian restaurant Sorrento is another which has returned to in-house dining.

Owned and managed by Franco Russo, the quaint restaurant normally sits around 50 people, though this has dropped to 32 to comply with social distancing.

Franco described the reopening as “a good start to this new era”, and said that customers “appreciated the work we did to make sure tables were separate enough”.

He added that due to the restaurants size, they would have to reconsider opening if the government was to impose the two-metre rule once again.

However, the situation is manageable at one metre, with Franco “happy to see old faces”.

The owner of Zaafran in Gidea Park, Sanu Miah, told the Recorder how he felt about reopening after lockdown, saying: “Someone asked me how will I feel when we can reopen the restaurant. I said ‘I will show you,’ and I started dancing!”

The manager — who has been in the industry throughout his adult life — said he was ecstatic to get back to “serving people”, adding: “Fine dining, eating in — it’s what we specialise in.”

Zaafran has reduced its number of tables from 20 to 12, with Sano happy to see his regular customers return once more. He said: “I am a people person, it’s as simple as that.”


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