The joy of sharing a meal with loved ones after months of isolation - YEP Says
They say things get easier the more you do them but for many, myself included, the third lockdown felt the hardest yet.
Tired of Zoom calls and weary of winter walks, January to April felt like it slowly limped on, each day as repetitive and isolating as the last.
The truth is, as much as social media and video calls serve their purpose, they are no match for actual human companionship, and the absence of time spent with loved ones was acutely felt by many of us.
Cautious excitement brought us to April 12, when beer gardens and restaurants flung open their doors, and we scarpered - raincoat and woolies in hand - to join them.
My first outing was that very week when I headed with my partner and parents to Chow Down in the Temple Arches, on an uncharacteristically sunny Saturday.
It was absolutely joyous. Where I had perhaps taken spending time with my family for granted before, this time I was bursting with gratitude just to sit in their company, laughing at my dad’s terrible jokes and delighting in my brother’s 23-year mission to wind me up.
It was a fantastic day, and I’m not surprised to see that the organisers of the food festival have boosted their capacity, in response to huge demand from people here in Leeds.
Other venues have followed in Chow Down’s footsteps, deciding to optimise their outdoor space so groups can reunite safely together in rain or shine, and many people are still choosing to sit outside, despite indoor hospitality now being able to reopen.
Merrion Street bars and restaurants worked together to create the city’s biggest outdoor drinking area, while Greek Street has become a go-to place now that the street has been pedestrianised and there are more tables outside.
Roof gardens and terraces are also becoming a major draw with people opting for al-fresco dining, with venues like Oakwood’s Chophaus seeing a surge in bookings since redesigning their outdoor space and people clambering to find the ‘secret password’ to get access to The Rooftop at East Parade.
Likewise, Issho restaurant is set to launch The Rabenda Terrace, while a summer botanical garden is taking over the terrace at Angelica.
It feels like we are taking a leaf from the Spaniards and Italians and embracing sitting outside together, sharing a meal, a drink and just catching up.
Now that the weather has begun to warm up, I suspect this desire to be outdoors together will only continue, especially as we get geared up for the start of the Euros this weekend.
Whether that’s going round to a friend's for a barbecue (I’m already on my third of the season) or heading to one of the city’s festivals, people are yearning to spend time with each other.
It’s not just pining for the pub - it’s pining for companionship once again.