With banquets banished and feast forbidden, no longer any lingering lunches and no more all you can seat, it was with welcome relief that we heard restrictions had been relaxed. But with new regulations sprouting up overnight like mung bean shoots, we found trying to score a booking quickly becoming a cross between quiz shows: Fast Food Family Frenzy, otherwise known as the Snack, Slurp and Swig; or a reality show, Survivor Gourmet, Gobble Graze and Gnaw.

Chinese whispers had us heading down the thaiway towards an oriental expresso eatery, orienteering to the food court which luckily was still in session.

The buffet with the buffer barricades we rebuffed, deeming it dicing with death. Terms and conditions were being broadcast from loud speakers.

No overtaking on the smorgasbord line, no double dipping or dealing, no share platters or plates, no tapas to tap and go spreading germs, so cold water was poured on that idea.

The neighbourhood fish and chippery only had chips on their cold shoulders and had drawn up the claw bridge. The local Greek was closed, throwing a new spanokpita into the works. A Gravlax situation was quickly developing but finally, in a fine French finale, an Arc de Triomphe!

Along with a big helping of attitude we were given strict instructions to bring our own knife, fork and spoons. A miner’s hat and a canary was recommended but not essential although a knack for speed eating was.

With reservations not only about the food, we completed the required questionnaire in triplicate, promised to provide fingerprints and DNA on request and furnish a doctor’s certificate if we wanted to pass the salt.

If we passed the temperature check, conformation and dental inspection, we could safely enter both their hallowed halls and Crufts Championship Show next year.

The next decision, what to wear. Hospital scrubs we deemed too casual, so I donned my best beekeepers outfit, complete with veil slash fascinator. My better half couldn’t decide between a coat of arms or a full suit of armour along with helmet and visor. In the end he left the coat of arms and the mace, opting to go casual. A spray of disinfectant behind each ear, and we were off.

Arriving at ‘Roux the Day’, we followed Check Point Charlie, who, waving a red flag in front of him, led us to our table, separating us from the other diners like eggs for a soufflé. We passed a lovely hand sanitiser fountain with a pleasing fragrance of peach and bleach. Handballing our menus from a safe distance, he thoughtfully pointed out the life jackets stowed under the seat, complete with whistle and a light if we needed the loo.

CAUTION! Contents may be hot.

Fresh bubble wrap matting was placed around the table so the staff would be alerted if we tried a sudden move and hot boiled napkins were draped over us with tongs, reminding me of a surgical procedure I once had.

A flower-bedecked flagpole centrepiece with an elegant white flag which was to be hoisted if we wanted to draw attention to ourselves.

The chefs – safely ensconced in their stainless steel bunkers – were never to be seen. Our waiter retired to his outpost, to scan the horizon for any personal space invaders while rearranging his arsenal: a lasso, butterfly net and a handy cattle prod to keep any stragglers from straying.

Any move on our part earned us some frosted glass looks.

Coronavirus corkage carnage was safely averted with BYO with the wine glasses pushed towards us with the skill of casino croupiers. The food was served a la carte on a little red wagon, carefully pushed back and forth by a pulley system bedecked with black and yellow crime tape.

Battling a vicious vichyssoise that almost ate our spoons, the main course was steak so rare we could hear the cow mooing. The flambé on our crépes suzette was lit by a flamethrower aimed at our table with, what must be said, less accuracy than desired. The flag centrepiece went up in flames so we utilised the tablecloth to semaphore surrender.

Our waiter donned a face mask and industrial strength gloves to remove our leftovers that were swept dramatically into hermetically double-sealed surgical containers and delivered back to us by a remote-controlled bomb squad robot.

With our allotted time for nosh nearly up, it was decided to leave before any ejector seats could be activated. It was time for the reckoning and as we passed the tipping point, paying the ransom demand for our freedom we left ‘Roux the Day’, stumbling through the now misnamed non smoking section and after bumping into another table, apologised profusely to the cardboard cut outs occupying the seats and with the sound of the fire alarm serenading us a fondue farewell ringing in our ears, we fled, having filled up, forked out and well fed up.

Hazel Girolamo lives in Ulverstone with her family. and has lately become the personal servant to a German Wirehaired Pointer who has infiltrated every aspect of life. Hazel prefers to look and write about the lighter side of life.