Whether it’s Middlesbrough’s chicken parmos, Cardiff’s cheesy chips or Glasgow’s munchy boxes, the late-night snack is the purest expression of a city’s cultureby Jonathan Nunn / November 7, 2020 / Leave a comment
You could pinpoint the moment the heart of the UK hospitality sector was ripped in half: late on 22nd September, when Boris Johnson announced the 10pm curfew for bars, pubs and restaurants. The heartbreak was inevitable—the on again off again flirtations of Rishi Sunak’s furlough scheme, not to mention Eat Out to Help Out, could never be a replacement for a serious relationship.
There are plenty of reasons to believe that the 10pm curfew doesn’t work, even if you think public health should be prioritised over economic benefit. Forcing people who have been speedily downing pints onto the street, all at the same time, is a clear recipe for disaster. There’s also something final about a curfew, an uncrossable line you cannot adapt around: sure, you can open earlier, but that doesn’t help if everyone is at work then.
Still, if closure—whether through force of regulation or finances—is the alternative, most restaurants will find some way to survive if the curfew continues. But there is a subset for whom this may be one step too far. I’m talking about those who do their main business in the twilight of the drunkards’ rush hour: kebab shops, pizza takeaways with only a passing connection to Italy, chippies and falafel joints alike. Big name restaurants get plaudits and awards, but it’s establishments with generic names like Falafel King that oil our cities’ cogs with chilli and garlic sauce, providing a service that goes beyond satiating hunger and becomes almost literally vital. Once, after a night out, I recall vividly devouring a falafel and halloumi wrap in Camden that I am sure saved my life. It was as enervating as Pulp Fiction’s Mia Wallace getting a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart.
I find it strange that we don’t honour our late-night food more. Perhaps it’s the culture—even London, a city that increasingly apes New York, has none of the latter’s 24/7 food scene. Part of the problem is that if pubs and bars all close at midnight even without curfew, then there’s not much point opening too long past that. Though I’ve always…