20
Aug 04

Food Court London

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Food Court London — as is unsurprisingly the case in this our world of everything and anything in one place at one time (if you have the money and access to the right location), there are about eight million restaurants in London that presumably serve not-English food (as seen through an American’s eyes, of course — in an American’s eyes something like spaghetti is American, and thus is our nation made great).

The key lesson I’ve learned over time about restaurants purporting to serve a certain style from somewhere in the world is that it’s really all about what the proprietor’s own tastes are, what they think will sell, and where they can best make their mark. I’m not so much a food cultural tourist as, if all goes well, looking into someone’s personal idiosyncracy made manifest in the way of food, and the least it can do is try and taste good for the price.

So if you treat London as a massive mall then all the restaurants are the extended food court, going everywhere in a big ol’ sprawl, tucked in here and there and everywhere. And unsurprisingly those places designed as an experience have to balance themselves between selling the experience and actually selling the darn food. So far I’ve been pretty lucky though I won’t pretend to have hit every place truly worthwhile, then again I’ve only had so much time and money, and more often than not I’m just tagging along because plans have already been made. I have no problem with that, I’ll try anywhere once.

The most bemusing place was the one Belgian spot where all that there was to eat were shellfish and all to drink was beer, and there were pictures of huge old Belgian guys with slightly sour looks on their faces mid-meal on the glass walls and separations, and we all sat at long tables. Slightly regimented, but perhaps that’s Belgium for you? Do they actually do this all day, eat in front of pictures of huge old Belgian guys?

And then there was the tiny but ridiculously delicious Swiss fondue spot, and yep you betcha, lots of dark wood finishings. Fondue eaten on tatami mats in light open spaces, when’s that going to happen? No, instead the alpenhorns are blowing in my mind and large mustachioed men shout ‘Ricola’ in the distance before I finish some ungodly amount of chocolate, and then out into the street where I conspicuously fail to run into a St. Bernard.

I have yet to eat in a sushi place in London, though, now that I think about it. Any good ones? And how’s their sense of design and cultural tourism?

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