THE DEVASTATING force of Covid-19 hit the hospitality industry fast and hard, with one restaurant especially feeling it's crippling blow... opening their doors for the very first time just before the pandemic began.

Bosses at The Bay Botanical, who first welcomed diners in mid-January last year, had no idea of the challenges they would soon face - with months of closure, stress and restrictions before them.

Elaine Brownsell - owner of the business on The Broadway - is confident that without the "complete nightmare" of the pandemic her restaurant would be "rammed".

But with Covid-19 leaving the team no time to make their mark in the area, the last 18 months proved "the worst possible start" for the new eatery.

Elaine, said: "Where we are used to be the old Mr Ping Chinese Restaurant, but we only had about six weeks before we went into lockdown and had to close.

"It really has been such a nightmare for such a new business, especially when so much love and soul has gone into the place.

"Being a new restaurant, we'd not had the chance to get our footprint out there. We'd even got a whole load of leaflets printed and we couldn't even get them to hand out.

"Getting off the ground just seemed impossible. We just hadn't been here long enough, so it was really frustrating.

"When we first opened we'd got a big booking for an evening birthday do, but as soon as the pandemic hit there were cancellations left right and centre.

"At Christmas we even redecorated the restaurant with the hope people could come in.

"But everything just seemed to be changing on a weekly, even daily basis. There was no end goal and it was like trying to steer a ship in the dark."

Fast forward to now, business at The Bay Botanical is back on track - with the team set to launch a new European twist on Friday and Saturday nights.

It's hoped the venture is just the start of amazing things to come for the Thorpe Bay eatery.

Elaine continued: "When we first opened it was meant to be our launch where we could build our name, but we had that taken away from us.

"From Boxing Day we were actually shut all the way until May 17, it was devastating for us to have to be closed for such a long time. We just had to do what we could with the takeaways.

"We're now finally back open in full swing, which has been so exciting.

"We're trying to do something a bit different, so we're opening up Friday and Saturday nights. Here we want to go up a couple of notches and have European cuisine, whether its chicken chorizo, moussaka or Spanish meatballs. We will also be doing European starters and desserts too."