Some restaurants' vital signs are promising. Despite the closed signs, restaurants are stirring back to life, or, to be more precise, their kitchens are.
It reminds me of Belfast city centre which went into a kind of post-teatime curfew during the Troubles every evening after the shops closed. You would have thought there was no city centre life at all, yet you could push open the door of, say, Pat Catney's Kitchen Bar and walk straight into a Friday night with people enjoying pints, pleasantries and light petting.
The same could be said of other city centre bars like Madden's, Kelly's Cellars, The Crown and Robinson's. I like to think that the same is happening now and that behind some of the closed restaurant doors, whites are being donned, vegetables being prepped and fresh fish and meat being delivered to the back door because there's business to be done.
I was able to order a full Saturday night dinner for four from east Belfast's The Hoose restaurant last week but only after they made contact with me to let me know they were doing deliveries. How I would have known about this service otherwise, I'm not sure. There is no central pop-up directory for restaurants now doing takeaways in the same way as there are for grocers, fish mongers, butchers and delis.
But if The Hoose is able to deliver perfectly sound two and three-course dinners at a pre-determined time, then there must be a good few more out there doing the same (very grateful if you could let me know of any restaurants in your area now doing deliveries by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org).
By the nature of takeaways, there will be limitations on range. In a way, this is a reassuringly woke way to eat as it firmly sticks to the Greta Thunberg principles of low food miles. But I was more concerned by the impact of even a shortrange journey on the quality of a roast dinner and anything crispy.
The Hoose delivery (within three miles) menu is simple but appetising. There is enough variety, a selection of children's meals and a reasonable £1.50 delivery charge to make this a repeat treat.
A starter of baked goat's cheese with walnut crust, balsamic onions and chicory followed by cajun squid with lime aioli and mixed leaves for the vegetarian, crispy salt and chilli beef with peppers, onions, fresh chillies and sriracha mayo, slow braised lamb shank with olive oil mash, apple and cranberry red cabbage, honey roast carrots and a duo of duck including pan-fried duck breast and duck leg croquette, sweet potato fondant, burnt butter cabbage, carrots, broccoli, and mango sauce, chocolate delice and two biscoff cheesecakes, all seems impossibly beyond survival in a heat-proof box for longer than a few minutes.
It's the humidity which is most likely to soften the crispiness, mush up what was previously firm and render down to its constituent parts the likes of fondants and cheesecake. Yet the delivery arrives, full social distancing measures observed and, behold, in great condition with good maintenance of textures, flavours and temperatures.
The crispy beef is just that, the lamb shank dinner all served in one big cardboard bowl, as good as it would have been served from kitchen to table. Everything is sound.
But a fatal error on my part means one item, noodles, is missing. The adviser, who has been looking forward to a dinner not made of leftovers, tries to contain her disappointment. But it's too late. The dinner is not quite ruined, but close.
I can't even blame The Hoose for the takeaway error. It's my fault. So my lesson for confinement survival is: always triple check the order.
Available Thursday to Sunday
Squid x 2 - £10
Crispy beef x 2 - £11
Lamb shank - £13
Duck - £12
Garlic fries - £2.50
Cheesecake x 2 - £10
Chocolate delice - £5