As the pandemic raced around the world and as public health messaging warned us not to come into contact with others, the number of cancelled tables stacked up more quickly than the number of entrants to a Conservative Party leadership race.
Businesses that had been in good order found themselves burning through their cash reserves as they’d cater to a handful of customers, rather than a full restaurant.
The money coming in through the till failed to cover the cost of ingredients, let alone staff wages, overheads, rent and more.
The countless small, independent restaurants that are the backbone of this region’s gastronomic economy found themselves in limbo. Should they retain staff if that meant their business going under and running out of cash? How could they pay themselves, as directors, when there was no money coming in?
Rishi Sunak’s furlough scheme soon eased the worst of the crisis, though problems remained as businesses leaked cash with no income.
And so, within days, the first of the Eat At Home Box deals sprang up. In Shrewsbury, CSons, of Milk Street, created a putative box that allowed people to enjoy globally-inspired dinners from the comfort of their kitchen, with helpful instructions provided via YouTube.
In Birmingham, the Michelin-starred Carter’s was at the forefront, creating elegant box meals that also helped to teach new skills. Fancy curing your own bacon? Carter’s obliged.
As the hospitality sector quickly realised, Eat At Home Boxes could provide a variety of functions.
Firstly, they provided a financial lifeline to stave off the imminent threat of closure. Numerous businesses are only trading today because they moved into the sector when other revenue streams had dried up.
Secondly, they kept customers connected with their favourite local restaurants, avoiding the need to de-couple and re-couple at the end of the pandemic.
Thirdly, they kept staff in work, keeping skilled, high-level workers on board when they might otherwise have moved into different careers.
And, finally, they gave customers the opportunity to eat around, sampling new dishes and eating from restaurants that at other times they may not have considered visiting. So, for instance, exquisite burgers, Michelin-starred blow-outs, great pasta and brilliant meat were all more readily available than they’d ever been. Regular gourmands found the DPD delivery driver arriving on Fridays with the weekend’s treats.
The end of lockdowns has shifted the dial, of course, and restaurants are happily re-open for trade. But the way we eat out – or, rather, eat in – has changed. Footfall in our towns and cities remains considerably lower than it was before the pandemic.
There are regular, legitimate cancellations as people who become infected with Covid cancel tables that they’d otherwise have filled. And diners who got a taste for good quality food delivered to their door are happy to continue with that form of dining – particularly as fuel prices and parking charges rocket.
La Tua Pasta has been in the game since 2006, long before any of us imagined we’d be locked down or waiting on the DPD driver. It has been producing delicious fresh pasta for customers at its market stalls as well as prestigious hotels, restaurants and caterers in the UK and abroad.
Over the years, the company has grown but one thing has stayed the same; its commitment to making the very best handmade fresh pasta.
The company was founded by Francesco Boggian and his wife Caroline. Francesco decided to bring a piece of Italy to the UK by making truly authentic Italian pasta. He wanted the pasta to be so well-crafted, and so fresh, that chefs would be proud to serve it as their own hand-made pasta.
Moreover, he wanted to create a friendly business environment where the team could flourish. The belief is that a happy and dedicated team gives you great customer service as well as delicious pasta.
With those founding principles, and a small team of pasta makers, they developed over 300 types of fresh and filled pasta.
La Tua first sold pasta at farmer’s markets, including the famous Borough Market, and soon became the pasta makers of choice for many of the top restaurants and hotels in London and beyond.
In 2018 Francesco, Caroline and their family moved back to Italy and, after falling in love with La Tua Pasta at Borough Market, Nicolas and Patricia Hanson took over.
Today, together with the original team, Nicolas and Patricia continue to put the integrity of the product, the honesty of the ingredients, and the shared values of the team at the very heart of everything they create.
The food is utterly delicious. Their shop features numerous Great Taste Award-winning dishes, as well as plenty of add-ons, like 30-month DOP Parmigiano Reggiano, antipasti, dessert and bundle boxes. There are luxury boxes, like a special Jubilee Tortellini, as well as sauces and wines. It’s like going to your favourite Italian – but without the driving.
We ate a mixture of filled pastas and unfilled pastas with robust sauces and butters.
Truffle butter with tagliatelle was earthy, luxuriant and deeply satisfying while a mafalde egg pasta with an artisan beef shin ragu was rich, robust and big on flavour. A filled tortellini with black truffle and ricotta was majestic, the sort of restaurant-standard dish that evokes happy memories, while a tortelloni with burrata and black truffle was creamy and decadent.
Artisan lamb Romanesco Ragu was magnificent, a heavenly sauce with bags of flavour, while a spicy sausage ragu containing salsiccia Calabrese was peppery and slightly hot. Small pockets of Parmesan added another layer of flavour, melting into the hot pasta dishes.
The number one dish was a braised wild boar tortelloni, with an artisan tomato sauce. Heaven in a bowl.
The pandemic changed the way we eat – perhaps that’s one thing we can be thankful for.