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A year of dining out (and in)

There were plenty of dark clouds for our restaurant critic in 2020, but a few spectacular silver linings, tooA chilly Saturday night in February and I am walking wide-eyed along London’s Gerrard Street, staring into brightly lit Chinese restaurants which should be crammed but instead are not. Waiters, who normally make feeding the crowds look like a deft contact sport, stand still, amid the vacant chairs. I do not know it yet, but this is the true beginning of 2020.I was there to review a branch of Four Seasons, one of my favourite restaurants in Chinatown, where they serve pork belly that boasts crackling with an echoing crunch, and an addictively burnished Cantonese roast duck. My review was meant as an act of solidarity with the entire Chinese restaurant sector, which had endured a racist backlash because of reports of some virus thousands of miles away in Wuhan. What I didn’t know then was that, within six weeks, all those restaurants wouldn’t just be short on custom. They would be shuttered, along with every other hospitality business in the UK. Windows would be boarded up, staff furloughed or laid off altogether. Forget showing solidarity with one corner of the industry. It would be time to get behind the entirety of the sector and the millions of people who work in it. Continue reading…