Restaurants across Leicestershire and beyond are busily preparing to welcome dine-in customers once again, after being closed for more than three months.
The Prime Minister announced last week that hospitality businesses including restaurants and pubs would be able to reopen from Saturday, July 4 – much to the delight of business owners and customers.
Mountsorrel fine dining restaurant John’s House is Leicestershire’s only Michelin-starred restaurant, and is well known for its excellent food and service.
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The restaurant, launched in 2014 by chef John Duffin at his family’s Stonehurst Farm, is set to reopen to diners on Tuesday, July 7.
Talking about the news that restaurants could reopen, owner and head chef John told LeicestershireLive: “To hear confirmation that we could reopen was a big relief.
“We’re waiting for the 7th, as we close on Sunday and Monday anyway, so it’s not practical to open for one day and then close again.”
John and his team are currently making changes to the restaurant to ensure social distancing can be adhered to, and that the highest levels of hygiene are maintained.
An old hayloft, which was previously used for storage and occasional functions, has now been converted into a second dining area.
According to John, this has doubled the size of the restaurant and means the same number of diners (26 at one time) can still be accommodated. All tables will be at least one metre apart.
“We’re also staggering the bookings, and opening earlier to give people more space,” said John. “We’ll have people arriving every half an hour rather than every 15 minutes, so it should make things a bit easier, but there will hopefully still be a buzzing atmosphere.”
John says additional hygiene measures have been added to the restaurant.
“It was spotless anyway, but we’ve added in hand sanitisers and signs reminding guests to sanitise their hands when they enter and when they leave, and the toilets will be cleaned after every use,” he said.
Another big change is that front of house staff and chefs will all be wearing personal protective equipment.
When it comes to the food, guests can still expect to be wowed by the culinary delights for which the restaurant has become known.
With the chefs spending more time than usual cultivating the vegetable patch, there’s a wealth of fresh seasonal produce waiting to be eaten.
This includes lots of beans, peas, herbs and heritage potatoes. John also expects the tomatoes to be ready by the time the restaurant opens.
During lockdown, the chefs have also been preparing traditional meals, such as fish pie and lasagne, and making fresh bread and cakes, all of which have been sold at the farm shop.
The fresh bread, which is the same as guests enjoy at John’s House, has proved very popular. So popular, in fact, that John is planning to make the bakery a permanent feature, giving customers a compelling reason to keep shopping local, as they have been during lockdown.
“The farm shop has been very busy, because people have wanted to avoid going to the supermarket. Hopefully they won’t go back to the supermarkets and will continue to support us,” said John.
Talking about diners coming to the restaurant, he continued: “I think because people have been inside for so long, they are keen to come out now.
“Our phones went mad on Tuesday after the announcement, and we’ve had a steady amount of bookings since. Plus, we’d already got a lot of bookings in the diary since before lockdown.”
If you’d like to book a table at John’s House, you can do so via the website here.