Lisa Markwell: Edible soil? Sometimes you just want a pizza


Click to follow
The Independent Online

You know what I never say to myself? Mmmmn, what I really fancy to eat tonight is an edible stone. Or crispy milk skin. Or some soil. This week – when the awards for the World's 50 Best Restaurants were announced – it's this kind of food that has been deemed most worthy of our attention. The winner of the number one slot (third year running) is Noma, the Danish paean to extraordinary dishes that look more like works of art than anything you'd put in your mouth. Coming up on the outside is Mugaritz, home of the stones (in actuality, potatoes made to look like stones. Go figure).

As the restaurant critic of sister paper The Independent on Sunday, I realise that being perplexed – and sometimes repulsed – by very fashionable food makes me very unfashionable. But while I applaud the ingenuity and technique on display at such places (and a visit to them is often more akin to theatre than restaurant), I quite like going out to eat when I'm hungry and leaving when I'm full, less than four hours later. Yes, to experience the full tasting menu at the world's überchef's establishments, you must invest a lot in time as well as money.

(There's much talk this week too, of "endurance theatre"; that's nothing on the numb bum you get on a hard chair in an austere, chilly restaurant for four hours while plates of food assembled with tweezers and a paintbrush are presented with reverence usually reserved for the Dead Sea Scrolls.)

That's not to say I wouldn't love the chance to experience Noma when it comes to London for a 10-day pop-up at Claridge's hotel during the Olympics. But for the experience, not for the "gosh, delicious, let's bring Susie and Bill here next week".

Making a list of the world's "best" restaurants is terribly flawed. I respect anybody's right to make a list, and realise it can make entertaining reading, but when it comes to eating, best should equate to "one you want to go back to", surely? If we continue to fetishise just a few of the most outré establishments in the world, and let the less innovative but consistently pleasurable, moreish places wither and die, we're doing the restaurant trade a grave disservice. It's a tough business that deserves our support at the mid-range level, and that's where there's plenty of good eating to be done.

The two best meals I've eaten in a long time were at an unashamedly traditional, cheap Italian where the pizza came in six varieties, rather than 60, and were the equal of anything I've eaten in Rome or Naples, and at the Michelin-starred Petersham Nurseries, where a new chef, Greg Malouf says he has no time for industry plaudits and is more interested in the bonhomie of the restaurant. As guests sit down, they're offered a bowl of crisp, fresh vegetables and a generous dollop of baba ganoush. But if it's crispy milk skin you're after, you'll have to read The Independent on Sunday to find out where...

There are Olympics tickets, after all

In a tremendous sulk since I failed to secure any Olympics tickets, I've ignored the slow but inevitable build-up of excitement around me. Until, that is, I realised that I could buy tickets for the football fixtures.

In a naked attempt to win favour with my truculent teenage son, I found myself clicking with wild abandon until I stopped to think. Did I really want to watch Honduras versus Morocco in Glasgow? Would even the football-mad son want to?

London 2012 fever infected me, but not for long. I wonder if I'm alone, or if there will be a lot of half-empty stadiums around the country this summer.