We imagine that we’re up-to-date, relevant and in touch with the wider world. And yet in these times of enormous disruption – actually, without hyperbole, let’s call it what it is: catastrophic upheaval – it’s a challenge to know what’s going on from one day to the next.
Will Boris Johnson issue a new edict? Will he encourage the police to hit the streets? Will Rishi Sunak provide money to keep restaurants open, or closed? Will hot food vendors be allowed to trade? Have they even been closed down by the time you read this? What in the hell is going to happen next?
There are no fortune tellers who can predict what will happen tomorrow, let alone next week, next month or next year. We are all in uncertain waters, doing what we can, trying to survive, eeking out a living from one day to the next.
The hospitality sector, Britain’s third biggest industry with a multi-billion pound turnover, is on its knees. The best will survive, those whose businesses were exposed to unsustainable risk will not. It’s a jungle and not all will make it through.
In the past two weeks, restaurants have experienced once-in-a-lifetime change. They have been forced to close doors, adapt, diversify and find new ways of making a living.
Rebels, in Chapel Ash, on the outskirts of Wolverhampton city centre, is one such. Formerly a well-run and well-regarded outlet providing pizzas, pancakes and healthy shakes, at the start of this week it found itself in a position where it could no longer welcome paying guests to sit and eat. Social distancing will save many thousands of lives and like restaurants across the region Rebels is sticking to the rules.
By Monday, that didn’t mean it couldn’t offer a takeaway service, however, and so we placed an order and looked forward to restaurant-standard food from the comfort of our own home.
It’s difficult to be overly critical at a time when the norms upon which we all depend have been shattered. The very fact that the business is still trading, that people are fighting to stay afloat ought to be more than enough to endear the Rebels team to the wider community. And while neither the food nor service were at the top level – and we won’t pull punches, we’ll share the details – we had nothing but admiration for the business that Rebels operate and the staff on the frontline.
Rebels prides itself on offering relatively healthy options. The idea of a stuffed crust is anathema to a restaurant that uses wholegrain bases. And while there’s a tendency towards them having a cardboard-like texture, there’s no denying that a Rebels pizza doesn’t guilt-trip you into wanting to run a 10km race after you’ve eaten it. Light, crisp and moreish, they are as pleasant a healthy-option as there is in Wolverhampton.
I ate a BBQ chicken pizza that was smothered in sticky, sweet-umami sauce, generous pieces of chicken and thin slices of red onion. It was pretty good without being memorable.
My partner’s pizza had been jumbled when I placed the order. I’d phoned 40 minutes ahead, imagining that by providing such notice the joint would have things ready when I arrived – particularly as I appeared to be the only fool to place an order on a Monday. Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on your perspective – the pizza had been cooked to the wrong dimensions, so we received an XXL that was roughly the size of a small table.
So far so funky, but the pizza had been cooked before mine had gone into the oven. And warm/tepid salmon pizza is never a good look. It might have been nice when it was still hot; I wouldn’t know. It stood for 15 minutes while they caught up to cook mine and by then, well, the pizza had had its chips.
The drinks were good, as was the sushi. In addition to a range of healthy pizzas – spicy cauliflower, anyone – Rebels also offers decent sushi, with black rice, kewpie mayo, avocado, cucumber and more. My partner ate a pleasant Californication, which featured brown rice, black rice, king prawns, cucumber, kewpie mayo and tobiko. She declared herself to feel three years younger after eating it – and may well have been right.
For drinks she enjoyed a really thick strawberry and banana smoothie, made with plenty of fruit, almond milk and dates. It was sweet, sticky and unctuous. I drank a Cool As A, which was made with – you guessed it – cucumber. Pineapple, lemon, ginger and apples provided zing and refreshing sweetness.
I’d ordered a dessert. You can’t visit a pizza and pancake place without buying pancakes and they were the highlight of the evening.
I’m Butter Now featured a stack of four American-style pancakes with peanut butter sauce, banana, yoghurt and blueberries. They were delicious and didn’t feel as though they’d pile on the pounds.
While social distancing rules meant it was not possible to enjoy the sit-down experience, I still got a fair idea of service. The guy who’d messed up the pizza order more than compensated for his error. He provided the XXL (please don’t ever cook a pizza that big, there’s no point) at no additional charge.
He was humble, apologetic and charming about his error and clearly eager to please. So while he’d scored an own goal to put Rebels 1-0 down at half time, he took it upon himself to score a brace and ensure a winning experience.
Scoring Rebels 7/10 feels as though it’s one mark too generous. However, in the circumstances, it also seems churlish to score less.
These are unprecedented times and it’s on all of us to support our local independent restaurants if we still want to have places to eat when Covid-19 has passed.
We’re in this for the long haul and restaurants need our support. In many ways, we’re Rebels with a cause.
If you know a great restaurant that’s offering a brilliant take-away service, let us know. Email email@example.com with the details, so we can check it out.
PIZZAS – FROM £8 PERSONAL, FROM £14. LARGE, FROM £18. EXTRA LARGE
Cheesy greens, £9
Beef bonanza, £10
Surf and turf, £10
Chocolate, strawberries and banana, £7
Salmon and ill, £8
Hot berries and strawberries, £8
Beef and kewpie mayo, £7
Crab sticks and soft cheese, £7
22, Chapel Ash,