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restaurants � food

mouthing o ff Dedicated followers of food fashion have turned restaurants into a serious

hobby. Does anyone ever dine out to simply enjoy themselves? WORDS NICKY EVANS

Whenever I visit

a newly opened

restaurant, I invariably

see the same faces.

There's the social media

star so busy  nding the

right camera angle for

the succession of dishes

he orders that he only manages a couple of

bites. There's the blogger dropping names

like Eminem drops F-bombs and regaling

everyone within earshot with

tales of all-expenses-paid

press trips. There's the bearded

guy sitting alone, chewing so

solemnly you wonder whether

it might be his death row meal.

There's the journalist nodding

mechanically at someone

from the restaurant's PR team, mentally

checking oƒ her list of Important Things To

Mention. And then there are all those people

tapping away on their mobile phones, only

lifting their eyes to request the all-important

Wi-Fi password or to tell their date to BACK

AWAY from their starter until they've  nished

documenting it on Instagram.

What do all these diners have in common?

They're not having fun. Sure, they might be

creating the illusion of fun via  lters, hashtags

and the spectre of FOMO. They might even

believe they are having fun as they network

and let the PR pick up the tab. But if they

were being honest, they'd admit they're not

there for enjoyment's sake anymore.

It's not just industry insiders who are

stripping the inherent fun from dining out

- it's an essentially human trait to extract all

the pleasure from the things we love. Think

of lepidopterists, painstakingly capturing

beautiful butterΠies and pinning their dead

bodies to a display board. Think of music

lovers playing the same few bars ad nauseam

to get a piece exactly right. Think of wine

bores, football bores, politics bores - all

people who make the subject that fascinates

them such a specialism that absolutely

nobody wants to talk to them about it.

It's the same with food fanatics. Trendfollowing

diners are seeing each opening

as little more than another item to cross oƒ

their to-do list. Instead of turning up at a hot

new restaurant because they've heard it's

amazing or the concept excites them, they

follow the hype - and the herd - to be  rst

through the doors. An endless queue outside

a no-bookings newcomer isn't the restaurant

enthusiast's cue to choose one of London's

zillion alternatives and save this experience

for another time - it's proof that they're

in the right place. They resign themselves,

comforted by the knowledge that a lengthy

wait only adds value to the bragging rights.

In our heart of hearts, we all know that

dining out should be about pure enjoyment,

and that a restaurant's food, however

delicious or avant-garde, cannot get the party

started on its own. Believe me, chefs have

tried enforced foodie fun: I've seen menus

attempting jokes (er, ha?), laboured concepts

explained by staƒ as if to pre-school children,

and attention-seeking gimmicks (well hello

again, liquid nitrogen…) all rolled out in the

name of fun. But none of these can bring

the good times without help from spot-on

service, sexy decor and a killer ambience.

For a restaurant to nail that elusive je ne

sais quoi, it also needs diners to play the

game. You wouldn't turn up to a party and

spend all night taking pictures of your beer,

would you? No: you'd just enjoy yourself. Why

should a meal out be any diƒ erent?

I know restaurants need bloggers, social

media mentions and reviews to build that

important word-of-mouth buzz. But most

chefs and restaurateurs didn't create their

restaurants with these people in mind -

they want ordinary folk to book tables and

be blown away, and to continue doing so

long after the  ckle early adopters move on

to the Next Big Opening.

So let's all try to take dining

out a bit less seriously: if Cara

Delevingne and Sam Rollinson

can prick the pompous bubble

of high fashion and get away

with it, the least we food lovers

can do is lighten up.

Nicky Evans is a food writer and restaurant

reviewer. Find her blog at everyday30.com

All those people tapping away on

their mobile phones, only lifting their

eyes to request the Wi-Fi password

he orders that he only manages a couple of

ILLUSTRATION: TIM McDONAGH

FIVE FUN FOOD JOINTS

Big Easy Nobody comes to this long-established

American theme restaurant for anything other than

a good time: you can't take things seriously when

you're wearing a bib.

Chiltern Firehouse This celeb magnet has

retained its crown as London's leading hotspot

thanks to a thrilling ambience based around the

promise of fun.

The Ivy An iconic London haven for seen-it-all

Londoners who've eaten everywhere. Guests know

it's their duty to bring the most fabulous versions of

themselves to dinner.

Le Gavroche The old-school spot-on service and

food allows you to get on with having a great time.

Plus with no signal, it's a Twitter-free zone.

Rök This Shoreditch newbie proves even

high-concept meals can be served in a fun,

down-to-earth way.

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