20 thoughts you'll have before your first meal in a restaurant post-lockdown

Adam Liaw
You, your date and a whole lot of empty tables.
You, your date and a whole lot of empty tables. Photo: iStock

QUARANTINE COOKING

Slap your glad rags on because we're heading out on the town!

Yes, restaurants are opening again around much of the country but navigating exactly how that's going to work might be a little tricky.

The first thing to know is that depending on where you live the rules will be different.

If you're in South Australia you can eat at a restaurant but you're only allowed to sit outside, and you're also not allowed to drink alcohol for some very important medical reason apparently.

Will face masks be on the menu?
Will face masks be on the menu? Photo: iStock

If you're in New South Wales you can go to a restaurant or sit in a dining area of a cavernous but empty pub with nine other people and have a beer with dinner, but you're not allowed to have fun. This isn't because of COVID-19, but fun has been frowned upon in NSW for quite some time and even in times of crisis we shouldn't lose sight of our values.

If you're in Queensland you can only go out if you've had a flu shot, and in Victoria the only thing you're allowed to do is play a round of golf with Sam Newman, but if you're in Western Australia you'll be allowed to dine-out with a whopping 19 other people, as long as the thought of being in an enclosed space with that many people doesn't terrify you to your very core.

If you're in Tasmania you should probably just stay very quiet and hope nobody on the mainland ever tries to visit.

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If you are able to go out the first thing you have to do is get a booking. If you thought it was hard to find a table somewhere before all this, try competing with an entire city desperate to leave the house for one of 10 possible seats at the restaurant of your choice.

If by some miracle you end up with a table, your next problem is pants. This is likely to be your first meal in months that hasn't been accompanied by the comforting embrace of an elastic waistband so it's going to be a little bit of an adjustment, both literally and figuratively.

Still, won't it be nice to get out of the house and spend some quality time with the exact same person you've been stuck in your house with for the past two months?

As the evening approaches I don't blame you for being a little nervous. You haven't done this for a while and things are different now. What if the waiter isn't wearing a mask? What if they are? Are you supposed to wear a mask? If so, at what point do you take it off, or do you just slide the food under it past your chin? What if you sit down and on the next table there's Tom Bloody Hanks?

You overcome your fear and you're at the restaurant. There are maybe four other tables here and it's all a bit awkward. Do you say hello? Do you acknowledge that it's awkward? Is the waiter going to give a little speech and let you know where the emergency exits are?

Hopefully this isn't one of those restaurants where the owners have strong feelings about whether you should be allowed to look at your own phone or not, because now you're going to want to have the COVIDSafe app switched on so that in a couple of weeks you can know whether one of your fellow diners is infecting you with a deadly virus right this very minute. Put that thought out of your mind anyway, because this is your chance to RELAX.

But what if one of your fellow diners coughs or sneezes, attracting nine pairs of eyes and two months of pent-up judgement upon themselves? Even worse, what if the waiter sneezes, or one of the chefs out the back? Where was that emergency exit again?

Of course this may all be worth it for the chance to catch up with a couple of friends to find out what's new with them (nothing), what they've been up to (staying home) or how they're feeling (perpetual terror over the existential threat posed by a global pandemic).

You want to do the right thing by the restaurant, too. They've been doing it harder than most through this. But how? They're almost certainly losing money every second you're sitting in your chair.

Do you order dessert or does that just mean you're taking up a seat for an extra half hour? Go heavy on the wine and cocktails? Sure, but then again do you really want to be getting in a cab in the middle of a pandemic?

What about wolfing your food down in record time and getting some extra takeaway to help their bottom line? That one's probably not a bad idea. Maybe leave a healthy tip, too. If you're even contemplating going out for a nice dinner in a restaurant you're probably not one of the millions of Australians who now find themselves out of work.

It's going to be weird. Probably the weirdest dinner of your life. But at least it'll be something. And something is a step in the right direction.