It's something I hadn't really thought about while restrictions were in place. Best not to, I suppose, it would have just made the mundanity of the experience even more unbearable. Now, however, as the light at the end of the tunnel grows ever larger as we rush towards a degree of normality and the return of those simple pleasures I know exactly what and where I have missed - Dine, the Theatre Royal and The Dome being my top three.
In these uncertain times, familiarity offers a degree of security, so for my first venture back into the real world I headed off to Dine, Paul Brennan and Stuart Muir's award-winning bistro above the Traverse.
A late lunch and a catch up with River City's Jimmy Chisholm saw me reunited with the Cambridge Street eaterie where the friendly welcome makes the Covid protocols feel like the most natural thing in the world - it's amazing how few people now have a problem with wearing masks moving around and how the use of sanitising stations has become second nature. A second visit with pals to indulge in Balraj and Ollie’s top cocktails proved every bit as relaxed, the layout of the premises and table service ensuring you never feel crowded.
Table service rules at my 'other office' too. The recently reopened Theatre Royal Bar, by The Playhouse is resplendent in a new golden decor. With the old booths replaced by a fresh open-plan design, again masks are de rigueur and there’s a new system for ensuring there's never more than two in the loos at a time. But the best thing of all about the Theatre Royal, as I've discovered during the last couple of weeks of glorious weather, is the pavement terrace sun-trap. Probably Edinburgh s best kept secret and a people-watchers heaven. If you sit indoors, check out the framed playbills near the doors, historic snapshots of the Capital’s long lost theatres.
At The Dome, on George Street, there's no more need to queue for a temperature check before you go in and, but for the extended space between the tables, normality has all but resumed - table service has long been a thing at the city's most spectacular bar and restaurant. Just book if you can as the reduced capacity means you might not always be able to just walk in.
Around the corner, The Ivy on the Square too has settled into a reduced capacity new normal as well as having a stunning new ceiling to admire upstairs. Foodwise, my tip is the lobster linguine. You won’t be disappointed.
Choosing places you’re comfortable with will prove the key to restoring confidence in the return to normality I believe. The fact that every Friday there’s a crowd now attending Armadale Stadium for John McGillivray and I to share all the speedway action with is a testament to that. So if you find you’re nervous about taking that first step back to into life post-lockdown, pick somewhere you’re already familiar with, take it at your own pace and before you know it, we’ll all be part of the new routine.