Last month, South African restaurants opened their doors for sit-down dining but with various guidelines they have to adhere to.
Restaurants had been under lockdown since 27 March and only started being allowed to open for delivery under lockdown level 4 in May.
Last week after I dressed up, put on my mask, and went out for dinner with a friend at Tasha’s in Umhlanga to relive the experience of dining out during lockdown, first-hand.
As we entered the restaurant, we were greeted by one of the waitresses who gave us a sanitiser and conducted a screening questionnaire where we had to detail our names, contact numbers, temperature reading, and whether we were showing any symptoms of coronavirus.
We were then shown to our seats. The staff was chatty and welcoming, clearly excited to have patrons. They even mentioned that they were excited to be back at work.
It was a quiet afternoon with all diners seated at a safe distance apart. We asked if we could order and the waitress brought a touch-free QR code menu for us to use. Initially, we were impressed, but soon we had problems with scanning it. We ended up using the normal menu which was sanitised before it was handed to us.
I ordered sirloin steak which was very tasty and succulent served with mushroom sauce and vegetables. This was my first meal at a restaurant in four months and as glorious a return to dining as I could have imagined.
The chance to eat food not prepared by myself was a thrill. To eat ingredients I don’t even know how to cook, to have restaurant quantities of salt and butter that I cannot see being added during the cooking, and to drink a mocktail from a restaurant menu was refreshing. I felt human again.
Restaurants and cafes might look and feel a little different with fewer seating and tables but sharing conversations in a space like that gives me joy. As much as the dining space isn’t packed the way we remember, the signs of life are good.
I can only wonder how good dining out is going to feel post the coronavirus. That said, the overall experience was really great, and I would be happy to dine again at any establishment that holds the same levels of compliance to safety and hygiene.