News & views |  10 ways to make the best of the 10pm curfew

News & views

10 ways to make the best of the 10pm curfew

There’s no doubt about it the new 10pm closing time is bad for restaurants and pubs. Having a son who’s a restaurateur (no, he didn’t ask me to write this!) I feel it keenly on his behalf. From fine dining establishments to takeaways many rely on a late sitting to balance the books.

Already stories are circulating that people are cancelling 8pm bookings because they have to leave by 10. My first reaction was that that was because they’re under 40 but most likely not. It’s just that we’re all too set in our ways.

So maybe the plan for the next few months - helping restaurants out in the process - should be to be more flexible about the time and way we eat out.

Here are 10 strategies to help you survive the 10 o’clock curfew:

1. Eat early evening

It’s bad for you to go to bed on a heavy stomach anyway, didn’t your mum tell you? That means booking further ahead as 7pm slots are going to be in high demand. (Remember if you book and can’t make it let the restaurant know. Please. Life is hard enough for them as it is without dealing with no-shows)

2. Breakfast late and eat earlier still

You may have sneered at Americans who eat dinner at 5pm. Not such a bad idea now though is it? It probably means having a late breakfast or brunch rather than lunch however. A better strategy for the weekend, admittedly, but do-able for those of us who WFH (work from home)

3. Bring back elevenses

If you breakfast early, on the other hand, you deserve a coffee break with maybe the teensiest slice of cake. Or, if you want to do it in flamboyant style, Bob Bob Ricard in Soho just introduced a Waffle & Bellini hour at weekends from 11am-12noon. Maybe one to try at home?

4. Go out to lunch rather than dinner

You do it on a Sunday, why not the rest of the week? You’re at work? Fair enough but working from home? Come on, why not skive off for a sneaky Friday - or Hump Day, come to that - treat. And if you find that hard to justify start your working day earlier and . . .

5. . . . revive the late lunch

Remember the days pre-Gordon Gekko when lunch was very much not for wimps. Start at 3, go on till 6 - or the 10pm curfew if you’ve the stamina for it and they’ll let you keep the table

6. Bring back high tea

A great British tradition which deserves to be resurrected. Bacon and egg pie? Ham egg and chips? Thick slices of fresh white bread slathered with butter? Followed by crumpets and cake (although possibly not if you’ve already had elevenses - see 3, above). Think 5pm-ish.

7. Go for a dish

We seem to have got into the habit of feeling we need to order more than one course when we go to restaurants - several if we’re sharing with friends. Which may be one reason why I actually managed to lose weight during lockdown. I wasn’t eating out all the time. The French have got it right with their plat du jour. Just go for the daily special and a nice glass of wine. As one restaurateur (The Drapers Arms in Islington) tweeted:

"Our booking system remains open until 9pm. Apart from anything else we remain a pub & you are still welcome to come & just have a drink. We’ve a few bottles that would struggle to last 59 minutes. I also think if you walk in sit down order a steak & a glass we can get that done."

8. Eat on your own

Worried that you’ll seem like Billy No-mates? It goes against the grain, doesn’t it? But there’s something really nice about realising you don’t *have* to have a solitary ready meal at home and nipping into your friendly local. And you can do it ANY TIME YOU LIKE without having to juggle diaries with your friends.

9. Go home and have a nightcap

Honestly it’s not the end of the world if you have to leave a restaurant at 10pm or even earlier. Go home, curl up on the sofa (or better still in bed) with a nice whisky, a tot of rum or, um, a mug of Horlicks. Whatever rocks your boat. What are autumn evenings for?

10. Buy a meal or bottle to take away

Finally many restaurants are 'pivoting' - as we must apparently now call it - to a business model that involves trading as a takeaway, deli and/or bottle shop. (What’s wrong with the good old word ‘adapting’?). Whatever - you could support them by buying a meal or ingredients from them rather than going to the supermarket. Or an extra bottle of that wine you enjoyed to drink at home.

In short restaurants are resilient (they have to be), resourceful but also really up against it. If we want them to be there for us in six months, never mind twelve months’ time it’s up to us to be flexible too.

Whether you’re a restaurateur, publican or a customer, I''d love to know how you’re dealing with the 10 o’clock curfew.

Top image by Dmitry Zimin at

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Comments: 2 (Add)

Jo on September 29 2020 at 23:58

I did not know Ottolenghe has a new cookbook! Must get it! And thank you for your suggestions, they're spot on. I'm in the states, but long to go to England!

John Gardiner on September 27 2020 at 10:29

Great advice and we so need to support our favourite restaurants. Thank you 🍽🍷

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