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Top Chefs in London and New York Plot Post-Lockdown Revivals

Restaurateurs are trying to figure out what the future will look like—and if they’ll be among the survivors.

Clare Smyth at the Core by Clare Smyth restaurant in Notting Hill, London.

Clare Smyth at the Core by Clare Smyth restaurant in Notting Hill, London.

Photographer: Miles Willis/Bloomberg

As businesses big and small gingerly prepare for reopening in the Covid-19 era, few are as anxious as restaurants—especially those with reputations, critical laurels, and culinary ambitions. In expensive cities such as New York and London, many operated with the tiniest of margins but powered through with huge volumes of bookings and reservations—that is, the sheer desire of their clientele for the exceptional food produced by their kitchens as well as the atmospherics of their dining rooms. What happens now that desire is mixed with dread?

“Restaurants are very expensive to operate, and when we start up, we have no idea about customer confidence and social distancing,” says Clare Smyth, chef-proprietor of Core, a 54-seat, two Michelin-starred restaurant that opened in 2018 in London’s Notting Hill. She’s one of the most exacting restaurant bosses in the world of fine dining, with exquisite taste not only in food and wine but also in decor and service. Her menus run from £75 ($93)for a three-course lunch through to £155 for the Seasons tasting menu. Add wine and service and you can spend hundreds of pounds per person.