In the past 12 months restaurants have been forced to adapt and reinvent themselves. Since Britain's first lockdown was introduced at the end of March 2020 they have become takeaways, delicatessens, and purveyors of online cookery courses and sellers of do-it-yourself home cooking kits. A year of lockdowns, curfews, new hygiene and social distancing regulations has presented huge challenges to the hospitality industry. The UK’s hospitality sector saw sales plummet by 48 per cent in the third quarter of 2020 according to research commisioined by UK Hospitality, and over 50 per cent of businesses are expected to fail before the end of the first quarter of 2021.
Necessity is the mother of invention and the inventiveness and ingenuity those in the restaurant trade have drawn on to survive the global pandemic has been impressive. It’s also perhaps unsurprising, given that the restaurant as we think of it today emerged from another period of turbulence and crisis—the French Revolution.
Eating out goes a long way back. The Romans had their taverns serving set meals and cook shops called thermopolia selling hot readyto-eat dishes of lentils and stews. In the Middle Ages, inns would provide communal buffets of cold meats or roasts to cater to the many people who didn’t have kitchens. Prior to the revolution in France, there were plenty of places where you could eat out but fine dining was a privilege enjoyed by the aristocracy in the comfort of their own homes, palaces, chateaux and manoirs.
In 18th-century France, while the aristocrats were enjoying haute cuisine prepared by personal chefs, harsh winters and oppressive taxation had left the bulk of the French population unable to afford bread. When the starving masses finally took to the streets of Paris in 1789, the aristocrats fled to the countryside, leaving their chefs and their fine wines behind. Both found their way to the cities' existing eateries and within a year, a host of new elegant restaurants with extensive menus had been established.
These restaurants were a microcosm of the New France, says David Gilks, a lecturer in Modern European History at the University of East Anglia. They were the places where the nouveau riche, who had profited from the revolution were to be seen. There were still shortages of basic food stuffs in many parts of Paris but in the nicer parts you would see people tucking into fine food in elegant surroundings.
In the 1760s the health-obsessed merchants of Paris developed a taste for light broths known as restoratives or restaurants, and dining halls where customers could sit at individual tables and sip them began popping up around the city.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
STING “I Make Records Out Of Love And Curiosity”
Sting returns to a place of collaborative creativity with the release of his new album Duets; even if, in almost every other way, he continues to find comfort, innocence and improvement in blissful isolation
Living With Hyperhidrosis
Hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating but carries a heavy, invisible burden—it’s not just damp patches and deodorants
YOU'VE GOT TO MOVE IT MOVE IT
We hear endlessly how good exercise is for our health, but you might be surprised to know just how good
If I Ruled The World Mark Galeotti
Dr Mark Galeotti is a scholar and writer, whose career has stretched from being attached to the British Foreign Office to teaching about organised crime in Moscow
In One Ear
This month, Olly Mann ponders the sentimentality of forgotten audios, and why he won't be throwing them out
Boy George I REMEMBER…
Boy George (59) is a British singer, songwriter, DJ and fashion designer, best known as the lead singer of the pop band Culture Club. Here, he looks back on growing up in south-east London, Band Aid and overcoming drug addiction
14 Books Helping Our Key Workers Survive
Books are valuable for so much more than simply reading, they're for sharing, escaping, learning and growing.
Home Remedies From Around The World
These 12 folk treatments are proven to work
Meditative Gaming For Mental Health
Jenessa Williams explores the surprising role that video games can play in managing our mental health
Spain's Best-Kept Secret
Asturias, with its gorgeous sea-to-sky landscapes and world-class cuisine, is like a country all its own