'It feels magical': Hospitality workers welcome back the community

Laurie Wordingham waiter

Hampstead and Highgate's pubs, cafes and restaurants welcomed life returning back to normal for National Hospitality Day - Credit: Polly Hancock

Hampstead and Highgate pubs, cafés and restaurants have battled through a turbulent 20 months.

For National Hospitality Day, we’re celebrating the venues at the centre of community life who make the area such a vibrant place to live and work. 

Last September’s lockdown came just days after new dog cafe Dande on Heath Street opened for the first time. 

Owner Cookie Sami said: “It sounds so cheesy, but it feels magical to have our furry customers and human customers back again. 

“We’re doing what we were made to do, just bringing joy back to people’s lives and feeling like we’re in our own little happy place here. 

“There aren’t many places where dogs have such a good time, and the humans can as well.  

Cookie Sami

Dandie owner Cookie Sami smiles with colleague Taylor and fluffy visitor Ziggy - Credit: Polly Hancock

“Dogs bring such joy to our lives anyway – we need to appreciate them more. 

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“I think it’s important that more places allow dogs in, because everyone loves them.” 

At South End Green’s Garden Gate pub, assistant manager Valter Ferreira said his team are happy to be back. 

He said: “The atmosphere here is great, and we’re trying to get more events in as well, like jazz bands to give the Hampstead vibe to customers. 

“Since we reopened, we still have our regulars but there’s quite a few different people coming in, which is good for business. 

“During lockdown, it was challenging when customers came in without facemasks, and doing full table service, so we had to retrain the team and get used to the new programme. 

“But we’ve actually kept some things, like the outside table plan which makes the garden feel much bigger.” 

Valter Ferreira

Garden Gate's Valter Ferreira said his team is delighted to be back - Credit: Polly Hancock

Lauderdale House Café worker Laurie Wordingham, 21, agreed: "We're selling as much as we used to, there's now just a more orderly system, so it's better," he explained.

"There's more space for us to work in, and so it's less hectic.

"Business is good, even if it's raining."

 Laurie Wordingham

University student Laurie Wordingham has worked at Lauderdale House Café every summer since his gap year - Credit: Polly Hancock

Highgate’s The Red Lion & Sun owner Heath Ball is glad the every-changing restrictions have come to an end.

“I felt a bit like a schoolteacher, because there were so many rules,” he laughed. 

“Some customers had forgotten how to interact at the beginning, but most people were great at following procedure. 

“It was a real sigh of relief when we opened, getting back to what we know and love. 

“Hospitality is less of a job and more of a lifestyle, it’s what we do.” 

Red Lion & Sun Highgate

Highgate's Red Lion & Sun deftly adapted to ever-changing Covid restrictions - Credit: Polly Hancock

Coffee Cup’s Bekim Haradini added: “It feels good to have people back, and of-course they’re very happy as well. 

“We just don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. 

“I’m concerned because once the weather gets cold, I think the NHS will struggle because of the virus and also colds as well. 

“But at the moment it’s good.” 

Coffee Cup’s Bekim Haradini

Coffee Cup’s Bekim Haradini is concerned about the winter months - Credit: Polly Hancock