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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 o 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 butter ies 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 o
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 sta 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 di 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,