Isolation diary: Ordering a takeaway?

I haven’t ordered a takeaway since going into isolation, hence the query in the headline. Should I?

I am scrupulously careful with anything that comes into our home. Anything that can wait is left in the hall for a couple of days before I open it. That can’t be done with any food deliveries that need to go into the fridge or freezer, so I wipe bags and packages with antiseptic wipes and wash my hands after handling them. In any case, I am pretty confident that the major supermarkets are taking protective measures, so am not too worried by the things I order from them.

Takeaways are another matter. Many local restaurants that were already providing takeaways have had to focus on the delivery side to keep their businesses going. Others have ventured into deliveries for the first time, including some high end restaurants. It is really important to support these businesses, but are we taking any risks in doing so?

I was intrigued to see that Noma, which has been named, more than once, as the best restaurant in the world, is opening again under the relaxed restrictions in Denmark. It will sell exactly two dishes – a rather special cheeseburger and a veggie burger – for around £20 each in an outdoor winebar. Now I would happily pay that for something from Noma, where meals usually cost around £400 per person. Sadly they don’t deliver to the UK.

I used to scoff at paying such ridiculous amounts for one meal, but in recent years I have begun to understand why people do it. I have now been to several Michelin starred restaurants and eaten meals at around £60-£80, which have been amazing.  That is, after all, less than the average price for a theatre ticket in London, so I look on it as a special treat and a good evening’s entertainment.

We once went with the family to Heston Blumenthal’s pub, The Hinds Head, in Bray. It has one Michelin star and is across the road from the more famous Fat Duck, but at far more affordable prices. They sent me an email about their Hinds Head At Home delivery service during lockdown, but sadly again we live too far away to take advantage of it.

The slightly out of focus photo was taken at the only pub with two Michelin stars – Tom Kerridge’s The Hand and Flowers in Marlow. While that remains closed, Kerridge is offering a ready meals delivery service from his other pub The Butchers Tap, at very reasonable prices, as well as supplying 500 free meals per day to health workers and others in Marlow.

It seems quite a lot of fine dining restaurants in London and elsewhere are offering a delivery service now.  Although their food would be amazing for a special occasion at home, to be honest, at the moment I would just love to get a takeaway from my local Indian or Chinese restaurants.

Now I had written this post before spotting Jay Rayner’s article in the Observer today on ordering takeaways (which he had previously promised never to mention). He has some great recommendations.

So I come back to my question: How safe is it to order a takeaway? Can we be sure that the kitchen staff and delivery people are minimising the risk of infection? I’d love the answer to be yes. Can you reassure me?



Please note

We have been in full self-isolation since 16th March to protect my husband whose immune system is compromised.

If you are in self-isolation then join the Lib Dems in self-isolation Facebook group.

You can find my previous Isolation diaries here.


* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th May '20 - 11:05pm

    We are not being quite as strict as you as we are leaving the house to walk the dogs, take them to the vet and the like but are keeping any human interaction to an absolute minimum because of the high risk categories my husband is in.

    We are having takeaways – or at least my son and I are. Sometimes my husband indulges, but not very often.

    I do worry about contamination and probably overthink how I deal with it. So, the food arrives with a contactless delivery. I take it in. The plates are already out. I put the package down and wash my hands. Then I open the boxes and spoon them on to the plates, washing my hands if I think there is a possibility of any sort of contamination. Once it’s on the plates, I get rid of the packaging and wash my hands again before eating.

    The food we order is generally so hot that I reckon any bugs would have been killed off and we trust the places we order from as we have been doing so for years.

    After reading this, I think I might be eating pizzas with a knife and fork from now on though.

    It’s one of the things that helps make lockdown easier for my son.

  • Not quite the same but pre-virus I would hit the local supermarkets for freshly made rolls every day but stopped during the virus after seeing bakers coughing over the products on a couple of occasions. I would say not worth taking the risk, even if wearing masks they are likely to get the virus on their fingers, wiping away the mucus from their mouths. It will be safer when restaurant staff are tested every day but that will need instant tests rather than what we have at the moment.

  • Takeaways in Surrey Heath have been the treat to break the nightmare that is lockdown.

  • Thanks for the comments. I like the suggestion of reheating food when it arrives, but I think the packaging poses more of a risk than the food itself.

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