The riots in London and the United Kingdom this week continue to shock a nation known worldwide for its manners and ceremony.
On Monday night, masked looters with bats stormed a restaurant in the generally pleasant north London neighborhood of Notting Hill, demanding that diners hand over wallets and jewelry.
“I had come to terms with the fact that it would be an expensive dinner, but boy, I had no idea how expensive," a tourist eating at The Ledbury wrote on a blog Tuesday.
“Around the fourth dish of the tasting course, there were loud bangs outside. The restaurant staff was yelling at us to get away from the windows. Before I knew it, the front door, a solid piece of glass, shattered and people came crashing in with hoodies, masks, and random weapons.
“The looters were yelling at us to get down and throwing stuff all over the place. I got down and started taking off my wedding and engagement ring to hide somewhere, but unfortunately wasn’t fast enough.
“One looter came up and demanded my phone. I didn’t have it with me since it was in my purse and it was out of arm reach. I also didn’t want to lead him to my passport, so I said I didn’t have one.
“He told me to take off my rings and grabbed my hand, trying to yank them off. His friend tried to help too, but the rings wouldn’t come off and I just yelled at him that I’d take them off myself.”
When a second round of hooligans attacked the two Michelin star Ledbury, the staff was prepared. After ushering patrons into bathrooms and the wine cellar, waiters and cooks armed themselves with rolling pins, knives and other kitchen utensils and fought back would-be looters, who quickly fled the scene.
Once the area was safe, the restaurant provided diners with much-needed alcoholic beverages, including whiskey and champagne.
"Notting Hill always has had an edge to it; I've been here for six or seven years now and there is an underlying edge that the general public don't really know about it, but I wouldn't expect it to happen here. I wouldn't expect it to happen in Britain full stop, let along Notting Hill on a Monday night," The Ledbury's head chef, Brett Graham, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
"It was a massive surprise, and I was quite shocked at the damage they caused to other businesses in the area. They did the whole row: a small restaurant on the corner got done, a pub got done down the road."
At one local pub, a bartender fought off rioters with a cricket bat. Elsewhere in London, groups of men in areas such as Eltham in the southeast gathered on the streets Tuesday night to protect their homes and families from gangs of looters. In the largely ethnic minority neighborhood of Southall, a mass of Sikh men gathered in front of their local temple with swords, bats and hockey sticks.
Over the past five days, nearly 800 people have been arrested in London at last report. Rioting began in Tottenham on Saturday, and quickly spread across London and then to other cities in England. Wednesday has proved to be relatively peaceful, but many business will close before nightfall in fear of further looting.