The least welcoming, most alienating place I have ever eaten in London is the top floor of the Oxford Street MacDonald’s (the branch near Borders). I missed lunch on Friday because of a meeting and didn’t get a chance to eat until 4PM, at which point hunger won out over taste and I headed for the nearest available burger. The McDs in question has recently been refurbished along strictly demographic lines, with three floors of eating experience offered depending on how desirable a customer the McMarketing people think you are. The ground floor is a family area, with the ragged mothers and goggle-eyed brats familiar from branches everywhere. There were too many balloons around for my liking so I went upstairs. My mistake.

Upstairs, you see, is the Sound And Vision Lounge. The “Sound” is mostly big-beat and the “Vision” is free internet access and computer games to play. I was the oldest customer by, I’m guessing, almost a decade. Every other mid-afternoon adult customer had seen sense and turned tail, but I decided to brazen it out. This was the playground of the 16-25 agegroup, the people McDonalds desperately wants to love it, and they will spare no expense to win that love. The kids regarded me (big, bearded, in a suit no less) with amused contempt, the staff with a sullen hostility. I wiped my mouth once with a napkin and it was whisked from my table in under two seconds – the word had clearly gone out, “Fat adult in youth zone! Brand Taint imminent! GET HIM OUT!”.

So where had I been meant to go? On the way down I checked – “Lounge Seating and Toilets” said an arrow. No free interweb down there, I’m guessing – but next time I shall know my place.