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Charlie Mellor from The Laughing Heart
© Joe Woodhouse

Charlie Mellor on why this year will be great for London restaurants

The restaurateur behind Hackney’s The Laughing Heart and the Big Night app on why hospitality will thrive this year

By Time Out London contributor
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Restaurants are a vital ingredient in the complex recipe for culture in London. We curate experience, put art on a plate, pour stories into your glass – we design your escape to a more beautiful moment. We prime you pre-theatre and bring you jokes, a plate of pasta and a glass of wine on your otherwise mundane Wednesday night. We are the setting for some of the most special moments in life. Restaurants are magical.

And now, we have returned. I cannot wait to have guests back in my dining room, ready to be cared for. I have so much exciting stuff to share with each of you.

There is nothing like nearly losing everything to help you realise what is worth fighting for, and what can be left behind. Now we’re back, we’re stronger. This coming year can indeed be something rather special.

I’ll caveat this by stating a fact: many of us are broke as fuck. We have our best plans laid and will put in a big effort to reopen with a bang, but we need you to order the grower champagne and that supplement course. Just say ‘yes’ to the wonderful things we have been dying to share with you. The hospitality industry needs patrons now more than ever. 

It’s encouraging to see an increasing curiosity from restaurants and guests about the provenance of what we consume. Already this year I have seen some of the finest produce of my career from UK suppliers. We haven’t even hit the summer in all it’s bounteous glory, or that precious moment in early autumn where plucked game and wild mushrooms, stone fruits, berries and cobnuts, fattier fish and matured cheese ripen all at the same time. In September, many of the best importers release the finest wines of the year. That’s my favourite time of year to dine out. 

You’re going to see and hear more from the restaurants you love this year. We have evolved into multichannel entities. Nowadays your favourite spot on the other side of town, or even the other side of the country, can deliver you a finish-at-home dining experience to bring a bit of its magic to you. Our online content has sharpened, there are digital and real-life collaborations with other brands – and mouthy, romantic, restaurateurs are even writing for Time Out. There are so many ways to tell stories and reach people now – it’s brilliant. I anticipate these innovations will continue and become more sophisticated this year.

There are nights when a restaurant is like a stage. The lighting, the music, the aromas from the kitchen form the backdrop. The wines all have stories to tell. Our guests join the orchestra and chorus with chatter, laughter and the percussive tinkling of plates, glasses and cutlery. It’s all part of our triumphant performance. We are happy in these moments. We are restored by them. This is the year for a renaissance of culture and hospitality. Let’s begin by raising a glass to that.

Want more reasons to be hopeful about this year? Read what Tim Key has to say about why this year will be great for live comedy.

Ready to eat out? Check out London’s best outdoor dining spots.

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