How to still enjoy tapas in West Essex
- Credit: Archant
Coronavirus may have closed the restaurant side of the business, but Las Tapas continues to bring a taste of the Mediterranean to Chingford
There’s no doubting the extent to which the restaurant industry has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic. At the time of writing, UK pubs, cafés and restaurants had been shut for weeks (although many have been offering takeaway) on government orders, with the venues not set to reopen until July at the earliest. However, some restaurants have found ways to adapt during these challenging times. West Essex Life spoke to Korhan Gulgun, owner partner at tapas restaurant business Las Tapas (which as well as Chingford also has a restaurant in Brentwood), about how the company is coping in the crisis.
How would you describe Las Tapas to those who don’t know about it?
Las Tapas is basically a Spanish-themed tapas restaurant, but we call the tapas more ‘gastronomic tapas’. We try to stay away from the feel of the classic-looking tapas restaurants where the food is cooked in a rush and slapped on the plate with no presentation or proper taste. We come up with very innovative dishes and attractive presentation using only fresh ingredients. It’s basically tapas within a fine dining concept, really.
When did you open your restaurant in Chingford, and why did you decide to open there?
The Chingford restaurant was opened at the end of October. Our Brentwood restaurant, which we opened back in December 2018, was a success right from the start. We had quite a few customers coming from the outskirts of London to visit us, so we thought there was potential to serve food somewhere between Essex and London. We started looking for a venue to open and we bought a restaurant in Chingford that had previously been an Italian and had been operating for 30 years.
How did you feel when coronavirus forced you to close both your restaurants?
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We saw it coming because the Monday before we closed on March 19, the government announced that the public should avoid gatherings and crowded places like pubs. It had a knock-on effect on us straight away. When we heard that restaurants had officially closed, it was terrible news but also kind of good news, because after the Monday announcement, business was going nowhere.
Financially, we’ve suffered, but very luckily, the government has been generous enough to help small businesses like ours. At the moment, we’re managing, but at the end of the day, we didn’t want government money – we wanted to open, operate and contribute to the economy. We just hope lockdown isn’t going to last much longer so that we can get back on our feet and carry on with what we do – and enjoy doing.
You’ve launched a delivery service. Can you tell us more about this?
Because tapas mostly concerns sharing dishes and the food has to be served quickly, it’s not really suitable for takeaway. That’s why we’ve created a new takeaway menu that appeals to everyone. We still have tapas dishes, but we also have main courses, including gourmet burgers and salads. There are some really scrumptious dishes on offer.
You’ve provided free meals for NHS staff during the coronavirus crisis from your Chingford restaurant. Can you tell us more?
We saw lots of NHS staff missing their mealtimes in hospitals and going back home empty-handed, supermarkets closed and things like that, so we thought it would be nice to provide NHS staff with a free meal to do something from our end. I called Whipps Cross Hospital – they were really happy to have us do something – then asked how many meals we should do. They worked out that if we did 50 meals, that would be enough, and so we did 50 nice gourmet chicken dishes with romesco sauce and creamy mashed potato. We also cooked individual vegetable paella dishes for 50 people and churros for a dessert. We delivered the food to the hospital and the NHS staff were very happy – they said it was very nice of us. Obviously, we were not the only ones providing food for them – I’m sure other restaurants were doing it as well – but it sounded like they’d never had Spanish food delivered before. They were very pleased.
What are your hopes for Las Tapas after the coronavirus outbreak has ebbed away?
From what we observe in the news and from the conferences, it’s going to be very challenging for every sector, especially hospitality and restaurant businesses, because things will get back to normal very slowly and I’m sure restrictions will be in place for social distancing and the like, especially in restaurants, pubs and bars. We anticipate we’re going to be asked to cut restaurant capacity to at least 50 per cent – that’s what we think, anyway. I’m sure there will be one table empty, one table full. So, times will be very challenging for us. That’s why we need to innovate and sail through this crisis. Hopefully our delivery business, as well as half-capacity restaurants, will help the business going forward.
Las Tapas Chingford is open for delivery from Tuesday to Sunday from 5pm to 10pm via Deliveroo and Uber Eats. For more information, visit lastapas.uk/Chingford