food & drink

London's latest Blitz

In wartime the casualty lists are divided into three categories: dead, wounded, and missing. The present coronavirus war is only different in one respect: there are no missing, only dead and wounded. If the casualty list were to be further broken down into categories of business activity, restaurants and bars would head it. The current list names 60 restaurants, mostly 'dead' in that they have closed definitively, although a few 'wounded' do plan to reopen sometime. The deceased are many all-time classics of gastronomy, most having operated for decades.

The group comprising such top establishments as Le Pont de La Tour, Quaglino's and Coq d'Argent is closing all of its 38 restaurants with immediate effect, having already shut down its Paris and New York operations. Catering group Compass issued a profit warning after closing almost half its outlets.

The UK government's advice to stay away from pubs, clubs and restaurants to stop the virus from spreading has been a terminal gesture. As one restaurant owner stated, "I won't question the government's advice [...] but to do this to an industry without any fiscal support whatsoever condemns us to death." He urged the Chancellor to stage an "enormous state intervention", pointing to measures for business announced by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, on Monday.

This column is not the place for statistics, but suffice to say that, starting with the long-time classic, Le Caprice, the list of closures runs to 60+, all first-class establishments with decades of success behind them. Many of Britain's top chefs have found themselves in the dole queue.