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Self-isolate in style: Scots chef offers fine-dining takeaways

Stuart Graham

Agence France-Presse

Edinburgh, United Kingdom  /  Fri, March 20, 2020  /  09:03 pm
Self-isolate in style: Scots chef offers fine-dining takeaways

Sous chef Robbie Probert (right) and owner Campbell Mickel (left) lay out takeaway trays as they start to prepare dishes from their 'Social Distancing Menu' to be packaged and delivered to customers at Merienda restaurant in Edinburgh on March 18, 2020. (AFP/Andy Buchanan)

Campbell Mickel slices a kiwi fruit in the Merienda restaurant in the plush Edinburgh suburb of Stockbridge when his concentration is broken by a vibrating cellphone.

He answers and his eyes light up as he engages with the caller who wants to do something rather unusual -- order a "social distancing delivery" of the restaurant's award-winning cuisine.

"Delivering a meal in a foil container is not something I would normally consider but these are unusual times," Mickel says of the slump in business caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

"Business has been wiped out. We don't get bookings, we only get cancellations. So we have had to come up with a way of surviving and do things that we weren't prepared to do before," he told AFP.

The menu, designed for customers looking to "self-isolate in style", was launched on Wednesday morning.

Later in the day, the First Minister of the devolved government in Edinburgh, Nicola Sturgeon, announced there were 227 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Scotland, with three deaths. 

Shortly before lunchtime, orders for roast salmon with lobster sauce, beef bourguignon and chicken chasseur with bottles wine to accompany have already come in.

"It's looking promising," says Mickel, whose restaurant last year won recognition in the Bib Gourmand awards, run by fine-dining bible the Michelin Guide.

Unlike fast-food, orders need to be made a day in advance and the service is for people who want to stock up with "a few meals at one time".

Read also: Dublin deserted as coronavirus dampens St. Patrick's Day

Deliveries can be left on a doorstep to avoid any human contact and the food will come with instructions on how best to enjoy it.

Assistant chef Robbie Probert says the challenge is making sure meals prepared by the restaurant, arrive looking as mouth-watering as they would in the restaurant.

"It is about making things simple for people," Probert says.

"We are going to take it to 95 percent of its completion. It is going to be delivered cold and it is just a matter of people being able to heat it up, so that it is ready to eat for them."

Mickel lays out the last of his foil containers and sighs.

He is anxious, he says. Not only for himself but for the entire supply chain he uses.

"We have a whole line of suppliers, from fisherman to butcheries and vegetable sellers," he says.

"Many of these businesses operate on very tight margins. If we don't keep supporting each other we will be wiped out in the months ahead."

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