We talk to London’s top chefs about how they are dealing with the strange ‘new normal’. This week Top Cuvée’s Brodie Meah talks about missing the buzz of service and taking solace in a spot of wine-tasting.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Brodie Meah and, along with Max Venning, I operate Stoke Newington’s neighbourhood wine bar Top Cuvée. We also operate an online wine shop, Shop Cuvée, selling seasonal British plates and natural wines.
How has coronavirus affected your business over the last four months?
It’s certainly forced us to make a few changes; we made the decision to close the restaurant and start trading solely as a shop, and serving heat-at-home ready-meals before the lockdown fully kicked in. We began by couriering by wine by bike. We’re a neighbourhood restaurant so listening to what the community wanted was really important. We’re constantly adapting the offering as we learn what our customers really want.
When were you able to open back up and how did you celebrate?
We opened the restaurant side of the business back up as soon as we were allowed on 4 July – the very act of welcoming guests felt like a celebration in itself! We realised that while we love the new online side of our business, we’re hosts at heart. It was great to welcome back to many people and see the area so vibrant again.
How are you managing the ongoing effects of the virus?
We’ve reduced the number of tables inside, have hand sanitiser on every table and encourage people to observe the current guidelines. Due to the reduced capacity in the restaurant we are pushing online and retail sales to offset the reduced revenue until we can get back to full capacity. We’ve seen huge success with our online retail shop, having to expand storage space too. It means we’ve been able to expand our fanbase and community too, with those who may have not have visited our restaurant learning about how we approach wine. We hope to be able to welcome those people to our restaurant in due time too.
How have you kept sane when the restaurant was closed?
Opening up the shop has meant we haven’t had time to think about anything else, but being surrounded by a constantly changing selection of wines that all need tasting certainly helps.
What did you miss most when the London dining scene was closed?
The social aspect of working in the food industry, not being able to pop into our friend’s places for a glass of wine and a chat on the way to work shone a light on how much our social life is entwined with the industry. That and not being able to enjoy a delicious pint of Guinness with a roast on my day off.
Where was the first place you went when lockdown was eased?
I went straight to Three Sheets for a vodka martini and I’m looking forward to getting down to Leroy as soon as possible for an indulgent night raiding their cellar. The list is very long so the prospect of working my way around all my favourite London restaurants is a welcome one.
Do you the restaurant world will go back to ‘normal’?
I hope some form of normality will return with regards to people dining out with friends. The rise of working from home should have a positive impact on small, local businesses, with more people in neighbourhoods who usually would have been commuting. I also think people see how important local establishments are and will be more willing to support them.
• For more information or to book a table visit topcuvee.com