Editor-At-Large: Fifteen reasons to eat in

Share
Related Topics

Admit it - you were secretly chuffed by the news that Jamie Oliver's swanky restaurant Fifteen has just been given the thumbs down by the public, scoring the lowest possible score for food, ambience and service in the latest edition of Harden's Restaurant Guide. Its dismal rating is based on reviews sent in by ordinary members of the public who paid around £65 a head for dinner. They're probably the very same people who probably shop at Sainsbury's and watch cheeky Jamie on television whipping up gorgeous dinners in a trice.

Admit it - you were secretly chuffed by the news that Jamie Oliver's swanky restaurant Fifteen has just been given the thumbs down by the public, scoring the lowest possible score for food, ambience and service in the latest edition of Harden's Restaurant Guide. Its dismal rating is based on reviews sent in by ordinary members of the public who paid around £65 a head for dinner. They're probably the very same people who probably shop at Sainsbury's and watch cheeky Jamie on television whipping up gorgeous dinners in a trice.

The same Jamie, two years on, is happily married, a millionaire, a dad, and is big mates with Brad and Jennifer. Pitt and Aniston, that is. There's a perfect symmetry in the fall from grace of the cheeky chappie from Essex with his irritating vocabulary. How we all applauded his brave attempts to rescue the unemployable youth of today. We tuned in to watch his laudable efforts in our millions. Some of us, myself included, were so impressed by Jamie's big bold plan, we decided to book a table, wait weeks, and pay the ludicrously inflated prices to worship at the trough of the Master. After all, it was for charidee, wasn't it?

My evening at Fifteen was exactly like many of those mentioned in Harden's guide. Leave aside the surly bouncer on the door who kept us waiting in the rain outside while we were checked off a list. And the man behind the bar who wouldn't serve us a drink without taking my credit card. And the fact that our table wasn't ready. Can I just mention that we sat with menus for 30 minutes before someone took an order, then waited an hour for food, and another 45 minutes for desserts? The bill was huge, and so were the egos of the staff. The food was excellent, but what the pukka geeza seemed to have overlooked in his master plan was that primarily people eat out for social reasons. That's why the Ivy still tops all the polls as the place diners want to go, because every member of staff in the place makes you feel special, from the doorman to the coat check lady to the man who brings bread to your table.

In this country we now eat out more than ever before, and every night of the week, in restaurants all over Britain from Buxton to Bridlington, Bath to Barnstaple, young men and women are poised by reservation books waiting to greet their customers. Yet, weirdly, very, very few of them have any social skills whatsoever. Having just toured the country with my one-woman show, I've done ample research. For some reason the average maître d' thinks they are doing you a favour by even letting you through the door. Arriving on time at a fish restaurant in Bury St Edmunds I was greeted by a snotty French woman as if I was the human equivalent of dog poo. Naturally my table "wasn't ready" and I would have to wait at the bar, a space about the size of a card table, already heaving with other customers in a holding pattern. I had to fold my arms close to my body like a praying mantis while clutching a glass a wine and firmly resist the urge to sock Ms Manager in the mouth.

And if you dare to complain that perhaps you don't want to sit in the middle of the room, or by the open door to the toilets, or the serving hatch, they look at you with utter incredulity - who the hell do you think you are? All this could well be the reason many people opt for a take-away or a burger. It eliminates all the interpersonal stress that comes with dealing with staff who don't know how to be servile. But I can guarantee that after seeing Morgan Spurlock's extraordinary documentary Super Size Me (which opens at the end of this week) you won't be rushing to your latest McDonald's to bridge that hunger gap.

On reading that two girls were suing McDonald's for making them obese, he decided to live off the McD menu for a month to see what effect it had on his health. The film makes shocking viewing, as Morgan piles on the weight, sees his liver begin to stop functioning, and kisses goodbye to his sex life. The UK is heading down the same road to obesity as the United States. A whole generation of fat kids can be seen waddling round your local supermarket every weekend. Pausing to pick up a pizza or a carton of frozen oven-ready chips is probably the most exercise these youngsters get. Unlike Michael Moore, Spurlock doesn't patronise the fatties he talks to or the McDonald's staff who serve him. He is always cheerful and charming, which is why this film has had such an impact in the States, taking almost $11.5m at the box office and winning awards, picking up one in Edinburgh when it was premiered here last month.

The film is also a savvy look at corporate power and how McDonald's has infiltrated every town, every airport and every place you spend time. In Britain they've even got branches in hospitals. Spurlock points out that even their "healthy" salads are packed with salt and sugar. I pick up the latest free directory to Whitstable and what flops out? A leaflet with a map of every single branch of McDonald's in the area. McD's has more branches, a bigger congregation and more pulling power than any church in the land. The people who eat the most fast food are the poorest members of society, those who work long hours and haven't got the time or the inclination to cook after hours of travelling on public transport to and from work. The lesson you take away from this film is that the only way to deal with the might of McDonald's and the obesity crisis is via education.

Why can't each and every school in Britain ban soft-drink machines from their premises and teach cooking? Sod citizenship classes - getting an eight-year-old to eat a fresh green vegetable (chips are the most consumed vegetable in the United States, and I suspect the same is true here) or cook a shepherd's pie is worth a handful of GCSEs. I have never eaten a Big Mac and I hope that by the time I'm shoved in my coffin one will never have passed my lips. My body is a temple undefiled by McMuck, along with Coke, Pepsi and KFC, all taste sensations I have no desire to become addicted to.

You read it here first: starting last week, Marks and Spencer launched its new advertising campaign designed to make us love it again. Now Philip Green is toast, M&S is seeking to reposition itself as our favourite store. Steven Sharp, the director of marketing, store design and e-commerce, tells the latest issue of Marketing magazine his new campaign was "inspired" by the column I wrote about the hapless Mr Green's attempts to commandeer a British institution. I'm still waiting for my vouchers, Mr Sharp. In the meantime I will be doing my shopping at Tesco where I can buy a packet of white cotton Bridget Jones-style knickers for £4.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Exhibition Content Developer

£19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in South Kensington, this prestigi...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established managed services IT...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Recruitment Genius: Plant Fitter - Construction Industry

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This well established construction equipment d...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Bahrainis on an anti-government protest in May  

Hussain Jawad's detainment and torture highlights Britain's shameless stance on Bahraini rights

Emanuel Stoakes
August 1923: Immigrants in a dining hall on Ellis Island, New York.  

This election demonises the weakest

Stefano Hatfield
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003