SOUTH Albury eatery The River Deck has a spring in its step this week, bathing in the winter sunshine.
Nestled on the banks of the Murray River at Noreuil Park, the contemporary bistro has been slowly and steadily returning to business after the coronavirus pandemic impacted the hospitality sector nationwide in March.
Having closed for six weeks, The River Deck partly reopened on May 6 to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the restaurant building.
It initially offered takeaway food and coffee five days a week before recently reopening the restaurant for breakfast and lunch.
Hero dishes featuring homegrown produce comprise Murray Pure beef cheek and Billson's Stout pie, chips; coq au vin, free-range chicken maryland, vegetables, pappardelle; and smashed avo, local feta, roasted tomato, dukkah, herbs.
The River Deck operator Alex Smit said they were cautiously and optimistically embracing their return to business amid the COVID-19 crisis.
"We've been shepherding everybody through this period and shepherding the business through," he said.
"We've had very good support from our loyal customers; we've had great support from customers given it's winter. We want to be a survivor not a casualty."
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Mr Smit said although he expected some fragmentation in the hospitality sector, people would continue to connect over good food at their favourite eateries.
He said in some ways this concept had changed little in a century.
"Hospitality is about being hospitable, enjoying a meal with friends and not having to worry about cleaning up," Mr Smit said.
"My only fear is that some of the service aspects might change; I can't dress the table how I'd like to and we have these QR codes now. Everywhere, service may risk becoming a little stilted."
Having taken over as the official caterers for the Albury Gold Cup this year, Mr Smit said the loss of that event was challenging, just as COVID-19 closed the sector.
"If we'd got that event over the line, I would have been far more relaxed going into lockdown," he said.
"The upside, in terms of the impact on the supply chain, was that people were phenomenal to deal with."
Mr Smit, who is a board member for Destination Riverina Murray, said domestic tourism should rebound.
"Albury has got so much to offer tourists; some really rich experiences," Mr Smit said.
"The next three weeks including the school holidays will be especially important."
The River Deck,
48 Noreuil Parade, South Albury
Phone: (02) 6023 5980
Open daily, 9am-3pm.
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