Lockdown Soul Food

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No one can deny that the past year has been tough, but if there is one positive to come from the current lockdown, it’s that we have never been so spoilt for choice when it comes to home dining options.

Whether it’s a hot takeaway meal delivered straight to your door, or a five course pre-prepared dinner to be reheated at your own leisure on a quiet Saturday night (for what other kind of Saturdays are there right now?). Whether you want a curry from Mother India, burgers from Bread Meats Bread, burritos from Bibi’s Cantina, a full-blown tasting menu from Six by Nico, pizza from Paesano, or even salt and chilli mozzarella sticks from Ho’s Chinese (yes, you read that right), it’s now available at the touch of a button.

Choosing the weekend meal has become one of the most exciting activities of my week and while a takeaway or dine at home meal every weekend (sometimes two) might seem excessive, we can all comfort ourselves knowing that we are not only treating ourselves to quality food, but we are, above all else, supporting local businesses. Businesses who have taken some of the biggest hits throughout the pandemic, becoming a scape goat for rising case numbers, and living with constant uncertainty as to what the next week or month might hold. Learning to adapt has been key, and it certainly has not been easy, so I plan to shine a light on not just the success stories, but the work these businesses have been doing behind the scenes, proving that, even when we’re locked up in our homes, People Make Glasgow.

In March 2020, when restaurants first closed their doors and panic buying was at its peak, the team at Kothel decided to take action, creating an outdoor market stall on Crow Road selling their own coffee, cakes and snacks as well as fruit, veg, pasta, flour and essentials.

“With the help of some amazing volunteers, we also supplied and delivered free food parcels to over 65s, and the most vulnerable in the community.” explains owner Ed. “Community is at the heart of everything we do. We always want to be a place where people can come together, and despite this not being possible for a large portion of the past year, our community spirit is stronger than ever.”

In fact, since the lockdown announcement last March, Kothel has been open every day, only closing for Christmas, adapting the business to fit with the changing guidelines. As well as supporting the vulnerable and local communities, they managed to open a second restaurant, Wee Paree, in August 2020, launched a Kothel Pizza Club and partnered with Help the Homeless Glasgow, preparing 300 meals a week for homeless charities across the city.

“I feel strongly about helping those in our city who need it most. It’s such a difficult time and we must support each other and stay strong. We knew we wanted to help and could put our great team and kitchen to good use and I’m delighted we could help such an amazing organisation.”

Similarly, the team at Eusebi Deli have been making huge efforts to keep the vulnerable and homeless fed throughout lockdown, working with Kindness Homeless Street Team, who provide 2,000 hot meals per week to the homeless in the city centre, as well as helping to house the sick and vulnerable.

“We initially cooked from home with the help of our team and Eusebi customers.” says Giovanna. “When we returned, we continued to cook from the restaurant kitchen and currently do so even though we are closed. The charity is made up entirely of volunteers, started by Laura McSorley. There is a huge humanitarian cost of lockdown and they are now feeding 25% more people than before lockdown.”

Outside of their charity work, the Eusebi team worked tirelessly to adapt their business to the ever-changing guidelines, creating an online shop where customers could pre-order their favourite dishes from the deli to heat at home, launching a hot food takeaway service with Uber Eats, and creating themed heat at home menus for Christmas and Valentine’s Day – I for one can not wait to dig into my five course Italian feast on the 14th of February!

Though they have kept connected to their community and had huge success with their online shop, the changes have not been without their difficulties, as Giovanna explains;

“The unknown and initial fear for everyone was the greatest challenge. It is so difficult in a front-facing business like hospitality, wearing masks initially left us feeling disconnected, a smile is so powerful. The biggest obstacle was putting the humanity back into a hospitality environment.”

While it is clear that restaurants have had a difficult time, it has been perhaps even more challenging for the city’s pubs and bars, especially when rules about the consumption of alcohol at times seemed arbitrary and confusing. For west end beer bar and shop Grunting Growler, when lockdown was announced, it was a ‘stop, drop and roll’ moment, owner Jehad explains; “There was virtually zero information on what I could or couldn’t do as a business… when it was announced that off-sales were classified as essential, that’s when the manic adaptation kicked in. Overnight, Grunting Growler went from a beer shop and bar to a fully fledged e-commerce off license.”

He ordered more beers, began stocking wines and batched cocktails (their coconut daiquiri got me through a few of those early lockdown weekends) and began hand-delivering orders to thirsty customers across the city.

“There were times I had no idea what I was doing, and plenty of mistakes were made along the way, but our customers were super understanding with every hurdle that we hit. And without a doubt, our customers have been the true MVPs of COVID.”

Where Jehad has beer covered, The Cocktail Collective, as the name suggests, has been bringing quality cocktails to homes across the city, and now nationwide. Launched to support local businesses and keep Glasgow’s thriving cocktail culture alive during lockdown, they provide expertly made cocktails, allowing independent bars like Vodka Wodka and Kelvingrove Cafe, to generate income despite their doors remaining firmly shut.

And so, while the hospitality industry continues to face obstacles due to the pandemic, there are also stories of success. Just look at Cail Bruich, whose head chef Lorna McNee has brought Glasgow its first Michelin star for the first time in 18 years, not to mention the hundred other small victories that restaurants, cafes and bars have claimed over the past year. So here’s to each and every one of them, and here’s hoping it won’t be too much longer until we’re back at the tables of our favourite bars and restaurants, never taking that simple pleasure for granted again.

For more information please visit:

Kothel
Eusebi Restaurant & Deli
Grunting Growler
Cail Bruich

And to help a local charity go to:

Help The Homeless Glasgow
Kindness Homeless Street Team

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