Posted: 10.07.20 at 09:36 by Philip Evans
By KATE WILLIAMS
To be honest, my husband and I rarely ate out pre-coronavirus so when we did, it was a treat. Something to really savour and enjoy.
Because of this, I was previously firmly in the camp of not wanting to return to pubs or restaurants post-lockdown based on the grounds of thinking the experience would be more hassle than it was worth.
However, we were invited to visit our local village pub on reopening week to witness the changes that had been made and to see if going out now really is worth the trouble.
The Tuckers Arms in Dalwood, run by husband-and-wife duo Craig and Tracey McGowan, is well known for its fabulous food and friendly staff and, pre-Covid, its diary was chockablock, diners having to book well in advance to get a table for a weekend evening meal or the famous Tuckers Sunday roast.
As we all stumble our way through these uncertain times and the hospitality industry reopens its doors to what feels like a whole new world, many patrons are unsurprisingly under the impression that going out for a meal is now going to have the shine taken off it.
I felt exactly the same - why wouldn’t I? Until last night, that is. Admittedly, I was initially wary and apprehensive about going. We have been pretty careful not to mix too much as we are in a social ‘bubble’ with my mother, who lives next door and is over 70. So, the thought of going out to a pub, mingling with all those others who may or may not be being as careful as us, was a little daunting to say the least.
I was also worried about doing the wrong thing and the joy being taken out of what is supposed to be a relaxing and enjoyable evening.
As soon as we cautiously walked through the door to the thatched pub, we were met with a friendly smile and a warm welcome from cheery landlady Tracey - albeit from behind her face shield - and a discreet hand sanitising dispenser.
Shown a table in the corner, I realised there was a partition between our table and the next. But not some sort of clinical, plastic sheeting, oh no. It was more like the type of dressing screen you would see in the bedroom of a stately home. Beautifully decorated, it would look to a newcomer it had always been there. And, do you know, I quite liked it. I always feel slightly uncomfortable in a restaurant where you are sat eating close to strangers, so this was a welcome addition.
It soon dawned on us that it all actually felt very normal indeed and we were able to completely relax and take advantage of the excellent food, drink, service - and lack of washing up on our part.
Concerned about the use of toilets knowing the pub loos are rather small, it was one of the first things I enquired about. No panic there either as The Management has invented a genius yet simple traffic light system where those needing to pay a penny just gave the sign outside a quick flick to red, then back to green on their way out, ensuring no breaking of social distancing rules in the little loos.
An easy one-way system has been implemented and drinkers can quickly give their details via a QR code - or short form for those without the technical attributes. Extra space has been created with a lounge area in the usually busy skittle alley and the beer garden, now transformed by fairy lights into a truly magical setting to sit and forget about the worldly worries.
Hats off to Team Tuckers, as they are affectionately known locally, they really have gone all-out to create a place of security and assurance. Tracey summed up the mindset of staff by saying: “We just want everyone to come and enjoy themselves and realise that it is still quite normal and very safe. And, if there’s anything else or extra that needs doing, then we will take care of that.”
With a handful of tables removed and a few extra measures in place, our experience was quite honestly a safe and enjoyable one - to the extent that the curse of Covid was almost forgotten.
If you think you deserve a special treat following lockdown, call 01404 881342 and book yourself in.