* Food makes me happy
I have absolutely no grounds to call myself a food critic other than that of my tastebuds. However, I was raised on a diet of restaurant cuisine from a young age. One may argue that it was my family’s penchant for dining out (my father having belonged to a London restaurants society), coupled with the desire to emulate popular female TV characters, such as Carrie Bradshaw, whose fast-paced glamorous lifestyles left little time for cooking, that deterred my desire for cooking skills. One could also argue my dismissal stemmed from the headstrong notions of a preteen girl intent on rejecting female stereotypes. I was a rather precocious child; often outspoken and convinced everything was a conspiracy. Nevertheless I grew up with little to no interest in the kitchen, instead I decided to focus my efforts on developing my palate. A palate that originally, was somewhat averse to change. Hence there was the Coco Pops summer of ’94, the Greek yoghurt and rice Autumn of ’95 and the beef stroganoff winter of ’97 (though my father was to blame for the last preoccupation as it was a dish he believed to have perfected and continued to prepare it weekly for a solid three months.
Despite my North African ethnic origins, the flavours and indeed spice levels of most of my mother’s traditional Arabic cuisine was far from my liking. Indeed my mentality seemed to be that of the blander, the better. Meanwhile my mother was busy chugging tabasco and no doubt narrowly escaping the development of an ulcer. Suffice to say I have left the days of chicken dinosaurs and happy meals behind me and have refined my palate throughout the years. I have even upped my spice game and am no longer part of the feeble ‘lemon and herb’ misfits at Nandos. At this point though you may be wondering what ‘foodie’ in their right mind would dine at Nandos but when it comes to grilled chicken, not only do they do it for a reasonable price (I’m a strong believer in getting what you pay for), but they do it well.
*Everyone deserves a ‘cheeky Nandos’ at some point
The same may even be said for Pizza Express, though I hold pizza somewhat closer to my heart (she says whilst injecting mozzarella directly into her veins), and as such have narrowed down my favourite London pizza establishments to a top three; Homeslice, Pizza Union and Pizza Pilgrims.
*Please excuse my friend in the photo above, he was eager to devour our impressively-sized pizza, courtesy of the aforementioned Homeslice.
Due to my insatiable appetite for dining out, I came to be known as the ‘foodie’ amongst my group of friends; always ready with either a personally reviewed or well-researched list of top food establishments for various types of cuisine. I rationalised that since I would be paying considerably more to dine out rather than cook my own meals, the food I sampled should taste near orgasmic – if you’re imagining the cafe scene from When Harry met Sally, then you’re on the right track. Time Out and other London guides became my starting point before selecting an eatery, naturally followed with a cross-referencing on Tripadvisor to ensure quality. I was always on the hunt for the newest spots and hidden gems that London had to offer. Unsurprisingly I would often myself in ‘hipster territory’ but having lived in Shoreditch for a couple of years I imagined I could just about blend in. Nonetheless my friends would not hesitate to spare me for shameless ridicule when I would casually mention I had visited a ‘life drawing class-rave-brunch’ event. As I typed that I realised I don’t blame them.
Though my endeavour was not restricted to food. Despite being a renowned tea fanatic (and by renowned I mean my former colleagues held an intervention for me in the office), I have recently discovered the joys of a good cup of coffee. The reason behind my previous distaste for the beverage, I realised, was due to my limited knowledge of the existence of establishments other than Starbucks, Costa and Cafe Nero. However, I have spent the majority of the past year ‘working from home’ whilst I studied for my masters degree. This provided the perfect excuse to become a ‘working on my laptop in a coffeeshop’ type. As we all know, the complexity of the design atop the foam on your coffee is all the evidence you need of the ‘trendiness’ of an establishment.
*It should be noted that I’m still not a ‘real’ coffee drinker as I’ll often opt for a mocha or flavoured latte
That and the decor, which should include furniture made out of things not intended for use as furniture i.e. giant metal milk churns, wooden tree-stumps and (my personal favourite) space-hoppers.
I have also spent the past year involved in greater independent activity (this is another way of saying I have been single), including solo cinema trips, solo travels and solo dining experiences. As a result I’ve noted the importance of good customer service. Granted it has been said that British staff may not be as famed for customer skills as their American counterparts, nevertheless its significance should not be overlooked. Without the distraction of a dining companion customer service becomes a lot more prominent. As such, I have noticed that some establishments located in or around tourist hotspots tend to have staff with somewhat shorter tolerance levels. Most memorable of these was Cafe Concerto of which I’ve visited three of its London branches and have been incredibly offended across the board. At least they’re consistent eh. With a high-end menu and extravagant furnishings, they have proved once again that a great dining experience need not be determined by price or decoration. This has also been a lesson learned since moving to Tooting and discovering that the best curry houses are the ones resembling modest cafeterias opposed to plush restaurants.
Thus I retain that I am closer to that of a ‘foodie’ than a food snob. Unfortunately since I began writing this piece the term has become obsolete and us hipsters are now referring to ourselves as ‘yum-yums’ (not to be confused with the Greggs pastry).