For 59 years, La Gaffe has served Hampstead's foodies and fussy-eaters, and though the pandemic has been "extremely tough", manager Lorenzo Stella is excited to welcome old friends - and new ones - on May 17.

Lorenzo, whose parents Bernardo and Androulla started the restaurant in 1962, told the Ham&High the Covid-19 pandemic had seen "the rug pulled out from underneath us".

He added: "Unable to trade, it's been a bit of juggling act. We decided not to go down the takeaway route - I wasn't sure it'd be financially viable for us to trade, I wasn't sure it'd be safe for us or for our staff."

Ham & High: La Gaffe in Hampstead in the early daysLa Gaffe in Hampstead in the early days (Image: La Gaffe)

Though the restaurant - once a haunt of Royals and home of the Queen Mother's favourite paté - hasn't been operating, the guesthouse rooms above it in Heath Street have been available to those who have needed to travel during the pandemic.

"We have been here 59 years now - one of the oldest businesses in Hampstead," Lorenzo said. "Talking to my mum and dad, they said of course there have been lots of ups and downs over the decades, but nothing like this.

"But we are still here."

Ham & High: Bernardo (left) and Androulla Stella (middle), who started La Gaffe restaurant in 1972 years ago, with son Lorenzo (right), who now runs the businessBernardo (left) and Androulla Stella (middle), who started La Gaffe restaurant in 1972 years ago, with son Lorenzo (right), who now runs the business (Image: © Nigel Sutton email

He said he is thankful that owning the building put La Gaffe in a more comfortable financial situation than some of its neighbours, adding: "I feel so sorry for businesses in Hampstead who are having to pay such high rents."

Lorenzo said reminders from loyal customers checking in on La Gaffe had helped his team pull through.

He said: "It means so much to me when I have customers telling me what La Gaffe means to them. I get such a thrill. I remember when I was much younger, when I was working here in my 20s.

"People I would see here when they were young come back and are sitting with their families. That's what keeps us positive in these times."

Lorenzo added that he hopes, come May 17, customers will feel "safe and comfortable" bringing families back to the restaurant.

He said: "All of the online things, online businesses, are fine but we can't live our lives through a phone or a tablet or computer.

"That's not what we are. Human beings need to be social, that's what hospitality is about."