Nervous about dining out? My experience of The Ivy Edinburgh's new Covid aware operation left me feeling comfortable and cared for - Liam Rudden

THE 100ml bottle of sanitiser fitted perfectly in the pen pocket of my jacket, a pocket I’d never normally use for fear said pen might burst.

Friday, 31st July 2020, 1:21 pm

As it would turn out, however, such a precaution would prove not quite as necessary as I’d imagined (sanitiser is everywhere these days, I’ve discovered) when I ventured out for my first meal and drink since lockdown kicked in nearly five months ago.

Invited to The Ivy on The Square to experience their new Covid aware operation, the other half and I donned our masks. First, however, we had to get there. Public transport. Another first since that fateful day in March when life in Edinburgh stopped. Having witnessed, from afar, the lack of social distancing on buses and the reluctance of many travellers to wear a mask properly, or even at all, a private hire car seemed a better option. The fact that it was raining and the cab offered a door to door journey was also an enticement.

My driver, the App informed me, would be wearing a mask and that I should use sanitiser before and after the journey - it’s amazing how quickly you can become paranoid about touching things you wouldn’t normally give a second thought.

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The Ivy on The Square - Blackened cod baked in a banana leaf

Arriving at The Ivy as another party departed, we waited for them to clear reception before being welcomed in and having our temperatures scanned. Standing in front of a futuristic electronic thermometer, my image soon flashed up on the screen, followed a moment later by my temperature, an acceptable 34.6 degrees.

Temperature test passed, I was then invited to use a free-standing foot-operated sanitiser dispenser before venturing into the dining room where the first thing I noticed was that all the staff were wearing smart black face masks.

Operating at 50 per cent capacity, tables were well spaced while new ‘invisible’ glass screens separated others, creating enclosed dining bubbles. There was also a bottle of sanitiser on each table and throughout the visit, staff also made a point of sanitising their hands between interactions. Their poor skin, with all that alcohol, I hope they also have really good moisturisers. They also sanitised all tables, seating and chairs between customers and encourage contact less payment. We kept our masks on when not seated, something that judging by those around us has already become the new etiquette.

The food, it has to be said, was possibly the best I have experienced in any of The Ivy’s I’ve visited. Try the Blackened cod fillet baked in a banana leaf with soy and sesame marinade, citrus pickled fennel, grilled broccoli and chilli and yuzu mayonnaise. It’s a meal that has to be one of my new most favourite things to eat, the other being the side of Marzanino tomato and basil salad with a Pedro Ximenez dressing. Could live on that alone.

So, a great introduction to the new Covid aware landscape to which we must all become accustomed, The Ivy on The Square is an example of how service and standards can be maintained as restrictions are relaxed. Throughout, I felt comfortable and cared for, which is really all you can ask.

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