Relaxing on a lime-green chair near the upper floor bar with a smile of utter contentment on his face, Rick Stein is clearly glad to be back in the historic surroundings of his Marlborough restaurant.

The staff that are hurrying over the wood-panelled floors, tidying the tables, and cooking up a storm in the basement kitchen thought they would never set foot inside Lloran House again but as we speak, they are putting the finishing touches together for a grand reopening.

It closed in March because of the lockdown and suffered such a huge loss of trade over the following months that the closure was going to be permanent.

But thanks to the landlord offering a rent reduction as a last-minute saving grace, most of the laid off employees could be re-hired.

The world has changed considerably since the High Street fixture shut, and visiting a restaurant is not quite the same experience it was pre-pandemic.

But Rick is hopeful that loyal regulars and new customers will be eager to pop in for a bite to eat – and the fact that 140 people booked for the first day alone suggests that he’s absolutely right.

He told the Adver: “It’s a baptism of fire for everyone to get back into the habit but I'm really happy that this is back and it’s nice to see the place again.

“We are confident that we're here to stay now. It was a real wrench to have to close so we are indebted to the landlord for making it possible for us to hopefully make a modest profit.

"And to the government, too – if the reopening date for restaurants had been put off for much longer, this would definitely have gone because the debts would have mounted up too much.

“It’s a lovely restaurant and I love coming here for lunch. We’ve made the menu a bit cheaper because we felt we had too many lobster and Dover sole dishes, it was too exclusive.

"We will still have dishes like that but we need to have more value-for-money dishes too and make it more casual, with tables outside and encouraging people to come in just to have light lunch, maybe a dish of mussels and a glass of wine.

"The interior is so grand, it's worth coming just to sit and chill out, it has a lot of charm."

Restaurant kitchens can be hot and hectic but coronavirus guidelines have required a slight change to how they work.

Rick added: "There’s been nothing like it before. I’ve been running restaurants since the early 70s and been through a few serious financial crises but nothing like this, we have never had to close down for months.

"The chefs wear face masks in the kitchens all the time, which to start with was tricky because of the heat and I didn't think it was going to work, but everybody's used to it now and nobody's complaining.

"It's a testament to human beings' ability to put up with change - people were saying 'no-one will like restaurants with the tables further apart' but you don't notice it after a while, it's just nice to be back in a restaurant with that social conviviality, that's what it's all about.

"You can social distance in a kitchen - it's hard but not impossible. What we have done is make the menus much simpler so every chef is doing one thing and does not have to help anyone else."

The Marlborough food bank received a £1,800 donation from the restaurant which came from shares of the sales of the town's famous dessert over the last year.

Being in a landlocked county, the fish served in the Wiltshire restaurant comes from Cornwall but chefs make an effort to source other ingredients like wild mushrooms from the local area.

The Eat Out to Help Out offer will be available Mondays to Wednesdays throughout September as the restaurant missed the chance to be part of the government's initiative.