May 13, 2020 / 10:58 AM / 14 days ago

Private clubs in London cater to nurses and needy during pandemic

LONDON (Reuters) - Behind the shuttered doors of some of London’s top private members’ clubs, chefs in masks are preparing thousands of meals, not for the well-heeled and well-connected but for health workers and those left vulnerable by the coronavirus pandemic.

A worker from Annabel's private members club prepares meal packs for NHS staff at their premises in London, Britain, May 11, 2020. Picture taken May 11, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Annabel’s is part of a network of peers and Michelin-starred chefs that has opened kitchens during the nationwide lockdown and is sending 7,000 meals per week to London hospitals with the help of volunteers, suppliers, members and supporters.

The tables in its secluded garden in London’s exclusive Mayfair district are laden with brown paper bags packed with meals awaiting delivery.

Richard Caring, whose businesses include Caprice Holdings restaurants, Annabel’s and The Ivy Collection, says his family charity, The Caring Foundation, aims to call on his network to provide one million meals by the end of June for health workers, emergency services staff and the needy across Britain.

His businesses produced 90,000 cooked meals last week as Britain’s death toll from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has topped 40,000, the highest in Europe.

“We ... have restaurants and clubs and all of them, of course, have kitchens,” Caring, 71, told Reuters by email.

“We had thousands of staff ‘at home’ and when you put those two together, kitchens and the amazingly loyal staff, it was obvious that we could help.”

INDEBTED TO HEALTH WORKERS

Soho House, a global group of hotels, restaurants and spas, is providing thousands of meals weekly for health workers and the vulnerable in London, Barcelona and across North America as well as bedrooms in its Istanbul hotel for medical staff between shifts.

Chefs from the Ned, whose members could once enjoy a rooftop pool overlooking London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, have teamed up with Soho House to create lunch and supper menus that include beef bourguignon, mushroom stroganoff and lentil dahl.

Nick Jones, Soho House’s 56-year-old founder and CEO, said small taskforces of local volunteers had been drawn from each city around the world to limit travel during the pandemic.

“We were looking for ways to support from the moment the Houses closed,” he told Reuters by email. “Many of us at Soho House are indebted to the NHS (National Health Service) both for the work they are doing now and at various points in our lives.”

The clubs have not forgotten their members. Soho House’s online offerings include home hair care tutorials, cocktail masterclasses, fine dining recipes, yoga and meditation classes.

Annabel’s also has a reputation as a party destination to maintain. For that, it is relying on social networking app Zoom.

Members have also shared Greek food and cocktail classes and taken a virtual trip to Italy to learn the tricks of cooking veal Milanese and tiramisu.

Caring worries about the future of the hospitality sector. But he says the lockdown has allowed him to spend time with his children, aged one, three and five, although the Portuguese lessons his wife insists on are “certainly not easy”.

Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Mike Collett-White

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