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Win a meal out at one of London’s top restaurants to celebrate lockdown easing on May 17

·6-min read
<p>Glamorous den of fun: Gloria</p> (Jérôme Galland)

Glamorous den of fun: Gloria

(Jérôme Galland)

Normality is within reach. June 21 remains the date that, with a little luck, all restrictions ease and life can be picked up where we left it in March of last year – but from next Monday, restaurants, pubs and bars will finally be able to welcome diners in from the cold.

The Prime Minister confirmed yesterday that from May 17, venues will be allowed to welcome guests inside in groups of up to six, and hotels will be able to open as well. The news comes as a third of the UK adult population has been fully inoculated against the virus and 35 million people have had their first jab. Covid deaths – those reported with 28 days of a positive test – now are mostly down to single figures, or in the low teens.

It’s something worth celebrating. In his announcement on Sunday, Mr Johnson said: “The data reflects what we already knew — we are not going to let this virus beat us,” and it seems as though that he may be right. Repeating his mantra that the UK would be “unlocking cautiously but irreversibly”, it seems as though the great interruption may finally be passing, at least in the UK.

While eating al fresco has been a boon — and pictures of diners turning blue under inverted umbrellas offered proof of just how much we’ve all craved being out — until the weather pulls itself together, the opening up of places inside is sure to feel a merciful relief to the era of rain as unwanted jus. Social distancing will keep places from feeling like their old selves — drinks standing at the bar are still out until June — but it’s a welcome start.

To mark their glorious return, we’ve asked some of our favourite restaurants across town to offer a table to our readers. To enter for your chance of a meal on the house, simply head to Instagram and follow @ESReveller, follow the restaurants below and reply to our posts tagging the friends you’d take. Winners will be picked at random and will be contacted throughout the week. Keep a watchful eye out for details as the week progresses, but below are the top tables on offer.

Fatt Pundit

Fatt Pundit
Fatt Pundit

What? Table for two, three courses with a bottle of house wine

When? 6pm, Monday May 17

Where? Though this Soho spot somewhat flew under the radar on opening 2019, it’s somewhere offering its own thing in the centre of town — namely Hakka cuisine, which combines elements of both Indian and Chinese cooking. Its origins lie in Tangra, an area in east Kolkata, and the Indian influence is apparent on entry: this has café vibes, low-lit with splashes of turquoise. This vibrancy carries over to the food; great colourful dips accompany steamed momos — a type of dumpling lively with spices, including one with goat meat and garam masala — or the lollipop chicken, where wings come crispy and hot with Szechuan chutney. This is food to get messy with, to have fun with: Fatt Pundit is somewhere to go to remember that joyful feeling of being out too late, snacking on another hastily-ordered round of food with a third tequila-spiked chilli sour.

77 Berwick St, W1F 8TH, fattpundit.co.uk, @fattpundit

Gloria

Jérôme Galland
Jérôme Galland

What? Table for two, three courses with a bottle of house wine

When? 8.15pm, Monday May 17

Where? Big Mamma, who’ve just announced their new summer opening Ave Mario, are known for their kitsch take on a good time. When it opened in 2019, Shoreditch’s Gloria marked the most-hyped restaurant opening in years — and things haven’t settled down since. In usual times, queues still stretch around the block for this uproarious Italian. Inspired by Capri in the 70s, the place is a glittering, glamorous den of fun, and the food is suitably over-the-top: carbonara served in a whole round of pecorino, huge steaks, grilled octopus and an enormous lemon meringue pie that’s rightly become Insta-famous.

54-56 Great Eastern St, EC2A 3QR, bigmammagroup.com, @bigmamma.uk

Top Cuvée

Top Cuvee
Top Cuvee

What? Table for two, three courses with a bottle of house wine

When? 7pm, Wednesday May 19

Where? Few people have tackled the past year with such gusto as the Top Cuvée team, who for a while in lockdown seemed to have most of the country drinking Chin Chin Vinho Verde (true to trendsetting form, they’ve since moved on). Their neighbourhood spot is justifiably a local favourite: it buzzes, it hums, it has that feeling of somewhere that’s on rattling good form, where everyone is having a blast. It is wine-centric, with a focus on natural stuff particularly, though it does plenty in the way of cocktails and beer. Food is served as small plates — think terrines, burrata, all sorts of breads, cold meats — ideal for grazing over while quietly knocking back a drink and settling into that happy feeling of being exactly in the right place at the right time.

177B Blackstock Road, N5 2LL, topcuvee.com, @topcuvee

Tavolino

Tavolino
Tavolino

What? Table for two, three courses with a bottle of wine

When? 7pm, Thursday May 20

Where? Some restaurants are all in the setting, and Tavolino benefits from a better position than most. This Italian, which boasts former Bancone chef Louis Korovilas in the kitchen, sits on the South Bank with one of the best views in London, staring out over Tower Bridge. It’s the perfect spot to come for a glass of wine and some pasta, and to idle away an evening, especially if the weather is fine. The concept is simple: good ingredients left to stand on their own two feet, without much messing about. The cacio e pepe is one of the big hits, but the “silk handkerchiefs” — delicate folds of pasta — served with walnut butter and a confit egg yolk, startlingly orange, are a must.

2 More London Riverside, SE1 2DB, tavolino.co.uk , @tavolinokitchen

Friends of Ours

Friends Of Ours
Friends Of Ours

What? Brunch for four, including drinks. Brunch includes a main and a side per person, drinks include a cocktail and a glass of fizz per person, as well as a hot drink per person.

When? Noon, Saturday May 22

Where? Whereas for brunch but an Aussie-inspired place? Friends of Ours, with its egg-topped everything and avocados everywhere is one of those Hoxton places that fills quickly and stays that way all day. Despite that, the joy of this place is that they take their time; this isn’t a sit-down, shut-up, eat-up kind of experience, it’s somewhere to leisurely get through a few plates of pastries with coffee from Hackney’s unrivalled roasters Dark Arts before tucking into the likes of marinated lamb neck or homemade crumpets. Best of all, come back and you’ll soon feel like a proper regular.

61 Pitfield St, N1 6BU, friendsofourscafe.com, @thefriendsofours

Tacos Padre

Maureen Evans
Maureen Evans

What? A taco feast for two with Margaritas

When? 1pm, Saturday May 22

Where? Always protected from the rain and under the cover of Borough Market is this cracking taqueria from Nick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald has some serious pedigree for his food, having fine-tuned his cooking at Pujol in Mexico City, which is regularly name-checked as one of the world’s best restaurants. Tacos Padre is one of those places that feels like a secret; it sits unassumingly in the market, quietly turning out extraordinary plates of food without making a fuss. The tacos can stake a claim to being the best in the city, and the drinks have a delightful kick. Truly a joy.

Borough Market, SE1 9AG, tacospadre.com,@tacospadre