Monday, July 18, 2005
Let them eat cake
Why is food so shit in the Lake District?
Even assuming the locals never eat out (and why would they) it's supposedly a place dedicated to serving the millions of visitors it fleeces annually with every comfort and stimulation they could hope for. And yet, not only is the food almost invariably crap, its rare as hen's teeth toboot. Countless times have I walked into a cafe at 2pm to be told that lunch is finished, or at 4.30pm to be told that no tea is available as it's dinner time (for who - the under 5's?). As I personally keep most of Ambleside's ethnic restaurants afloat over the darkest winter months with my custom, I can't help but feel like the place could try and meet me half way for the rest of the year.
Last weekend we endured a phenomenally overpriced and pretentious 4 course (obligatory menu type for optimum ripoff)) dinner with Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane, who were up at Grizedale to discuss their greasy pole sculpture for Appleby. There were butter swans (melting rapidly), bucket sized wine glasses, bread rolls stuffed with God knows what, and brusque staff. Luckily the company was entertaining and each new plate was greeted with gasps of amazement by us - I think the staff interpreted this as flattery...
Case Study from Today:
I leave the house having not had time to lunch there due to rigid adherence to new time management self-help book, plus not wanting to get in the cleaners way. I am driving for an hour or so to the 'local' hospital for an X ray, and whilst en route I realise that the only lunch prospect viable is the local supermarket. My car renders any alternative costly and time consuming (you'd be amazed at how scarce and expensive a parking place is up here), but, flirting with the almost alluring mystery of the prospect of a hospital sandwich (would they exist? what fillings would be left by 2.30pm?), I decide to press on until after my appointment by wolfing a banana.
I am early, and so I cruise around Barrow-in-Furness, a hardcore kind of place far from the Lake District's pretensions. There's a chip shop here , doing well at lunch time, but I don't fancy it in the heat. There used to be a great little old-fashioned italian run by an expat Sicilian with that skin condition the Singing Detective on Tv had. Photos of hen nights with his signature banana dessert plastered the walls but you could always face out onto the streets whilst you ate a well-priced and speedy (something you NEVER get in the LD proper) spag bol.
I digress - to cut a long story short, on my way home - famished at 3pm - I remember that a nearby town has a rather chi chi little cafe in which I am certain to be able to eat. Now, I am no hard core ethical consumer, but i feel a little self-satisfied as I decide to opt to support this local entrepreneur instead of the supermarket, I park, I pay, then sit down inside the cafe - the girl emerges "We're just doing soup and cake now" Soup?! And not just soup, celery and stilton - a soup which almost sounds like December. It's 80 degrees outside.
So, you guessed it, I end up in the supermarket, where along with another 40 ors so diners, I enjoy a well-priced and speedy cooked English breakfast - at 3.15pm on a hot July wednesday.