Are we still in lockdown? Does anyone really know? When Government ministers accept they don’t know the rules and regulations and criticise journalists for asking who can say.
Earlier this week, one minister criticised a journalist for asking about the rules with this retort: ‘It’s not a quiz.’ No, it’s a pandemic. Boom boom. And we need you to be clearer on what we can and can’t do.
Hospitality has been caught between the cross hairs of Covid-19 as the Government seeks to get to grips with a virulent disease while not being so draconian as to kill the world’s sixth richest economy.
Amid that difficult balancing act, there are those who continue to plough on and make ends meet.
One such business is The Rustic Pizza Company. It’s located on a camp site at Bewdley, where social distancing is easy and people can forget about the horrors of Covid, Brexit and the US presidential election as they enjoy the sweeping hills, verdant trees and fresh air.
In 2017, The Rustic came to fruition, thanks in no small part to a grant from the European Leader Fund, which promotes rural tourism.
A great place to eat, drink, listen to live music and have a good time, it’s become a much-loved out-of-town destination for those from Bewdley and its hinterland, as well as regular holiday-makers.
It has continued to trade through Covid and directs customers through a relatively easy-to-download-and-use app.
Providing menus, the ability to pay and a preferred collection time, it has everything that might be required for those looking to buy food while maintaining social distance. In truth, most hospitality businesses have got Covid-secure regulations nailed, despite there being one or two rogues. The Rustic Pizza Company’s app was extremely helpful.
Collection was also pretty simple. Clear markings directed customers to a small hatch, from which food was provided.
A timed system of collection ensured no congestion or mixing with other clients and despite the impersonality of the whole operation, The Rustic Pizza Company deserves all credit for following the regulations, keeping people safe and having thought through a system and reduces contact and keeps people safe.
Perhaps one of them could go and give Matt Hancock or Boris Johnson a hand.
The glowing report fizzles out there, in truth. For while The Rustic Pizza company occupies a fabulous position – Bewdley is within walking distance, glorious countryside rolls out below like a giant green carpet – has good Covid regulations and provides an easy order service, the food is merely so-so.
There are small businesses offering fantastic pizza. Outlets as far afield as Birmingham and Shrewsbury serve varieties that would make the regulars in Naples salivate with desire.
However, as generous as we’ve been through lockdown in supporting independent businesses – a stand that continues – we also owe it to you to tell it straight and to provide credible recommendations on where you should spend your money and what value you’re likely to receive.
In the case of The Rustic Pizza Company, their food is fine, rather than being either exceptional or out of the ordinary.
I ordered a meat feast, generously proportioned at 12 inches and fairly priced, while my partner ordered a vegetarian number with balsamic vegetables. A side of fries made for a pleasant midweek supper.
The quality was okay. The fries, I assume, went straight from a bag in the freezer into the deep fat fryer before being smothered with salt, McDonald’s style. A little bit crisp, it would be misleading to suggest they were the stuff of dreams, pleasant though they were. The pizzas were of a similar standard. Wafer thin bases – I thought mine might be threadbare, at one point – both were moderately topped with bits and pieces that made for middling eating in the week.
The operative word in the rustic pizza company is probably ‘rustic’. Food is served without fanfare or frills, there’s no pretence at gourmet this or that; it’s pizza and chips, mate, at a bargain price; not quite as good as the finest ranges at major supermarkets but less fuss because you don’t have to go near an oven, if you catch my drift.
And yet, despite the lack of pizzazz or wow – the pizzas and fries were more school disco than Ibiza rave – The Rustic Pizza Company deserves credit for giving of its best. In a tough, tough market, it’s providing a fairly basic level of food, with burger nights, specials and the like. Serving a local community that hankers for a return to normal, as we all do, it’s providing income and putting a smile on the faces of locals.
Most impressive of all is its adherence to hygiene and the pervading regulations that aim to keep us all safe while slowing the spread of Covid-19. And that, frankly, is more important than whether or not the meat is high quality on a two-bit pizza.
During lockdown-not-lockdown, supporting local restaurants feels more like an act of solidarity than it ever has. The hospitality industry is struggling, as furlough comes to an end businesses are finding it hard to make ends meet and those who rock up in rain or shine need our help.
The Rustic Pizza Company has created employment where before there was none, provided a dining option to one of the region’s prettiest towns and given pleasure to holiday makers getting away on mini breaks. There’s nothing wrong in any of that. Its staff were brisk and efficient, its policies on health and safety 10 out of 10 and its location thrilling. As autumn and winter close in and the summer trade disappears, all such businesses need locals to keep them afloat.
In this harsh and unprecedented year, those who can afford to spend £20 on a simple supper are not only saving themselves the washing up, they’re also helping to recirculate money through local economies and keep people in jobs.
Garlic and cheese pizza £6
Ham and mushroom pizza £7
Meat feast pizza £8
Rustic burger £7
Rustic bacon burger £7.50
Southern Fried Chicken Burger £8
The Rustic Pizza Company,