After more than a year of Covid-19, London’s comeback on the tourist scene

Royal blue on a beige background, nicely set tables, and the air that already smells of spices. This Thursday, May 20 in the morning, Imad Alarnab receives in his brand new restaurant, Imad’s Syrian Kitchen, in Kingly Court, an enclave of Soho, in the heart of festive and commercial London. White tee-shirt on jeans, Imad is overwhelmed, but delighted. He opened the place the day before. “We are overbooked for the next two weeks”, explains the 43-year-old restaurateur, who has become a character on the London culinary scene.

This Syrian refugee had to flee the war and Damascus, abandoning his three restaurants there, but he took with him his grandfather’s falafel recipes and his entrepreneurial skills. When he landed in the British capital in 2015, after being “Passed everywhere” – “Greece, Macedonia, and even the Calais jungle” –, he began by cooking for charities, where his dishes were popular. From friendships to crowdfunding operations, he managed to raise the money needed for this place, inaugurated for the new stage of English deconfinement. Since May 17, in fact, pubs and restaurants can again serve indoors and cultural places have finally been authorized to reopen.

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Imad’s Syrian Kitchen only turns forty places for lunch and dinner, for a capacity of sixty, physical distancing still having to be maintained at least until June 21 (last stage of English deconfinement). However, this does not undermine the contagious optimist of the restaurateur. “It’s the perfect place, totally London, both comfortable and friendly. These moments of coming back to life are the best times to start a business. There is a market for everything here in London! The city will restart after the pandemic [de Covid-19], it is absolutely certain. ”

This trendy canteen is on the list of places highlighted by London & Partners, the promotion agency of the British capital, which is launching a major advertising campaign, with a budget of 6 million pounds sterling (7 million euros), in order to revitalize its economy, which is exclusively oriented towards services. “One in seven Londoners worked in restaurants before the pandemic”, recalls Tracy Halliwell, director of tourism at the agency. The objective is above all “To attract national tourists and to make Londoners rediscover London”, continues the professional, because this summer, as in 2020, the city will very likely have to do without foreign tourists.

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