True Gripes / Food of love ..: Pick up your beefcake at Tesco

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The Independent Online
In most cities, the supermarket is the last bastion of non-dressing: a place to visit in your scruffiest jeans and trainers, sans make-up, and with unwashed hair.

In London, the opening of Tesco Metro in Govent Garden at first appeared to be bringing the joys of slob shopping to an area where it was traditionally lacking. But Tesco Metro, we have now learned, is a supermarket only in appearance. Its real function is a pick-up joint: the hot after-work cruising spot for the thirtysomethings.

On my first visit last week, I slipped up and left the store with several bags of shopping. But yesterday, after a work-out at the gym, I blow-dried my hair and went along in full make-up to see how the place is living up to its already formid-able reputation.

The good news is that Tesco Metro is heaving with black leather; the bad news is that it's all in the form of briefcases, attached to the wrists of extremely boring looking men in pin-stripe suits. One was trying to decide between the green gnocchi and the white tagliatelle. 'Fancy a bit of gnocchi over at my place?' I whispered. He dropped the lot and dived for a pounds 1.39 bunch of asparagus.

The men in suits are clearly the least available. They're all on their way home to wives and girlfriends and just pop in to Metro to show the rest of us what we're missing.

Disappointed, I went man-hunting in the Fresh Meat section, only to discover that it was a refrigerator full of rindless backs and free range chickens. A man with black, slicked-back hair and dressed in a creased raincoat, hovered suspiciously, eyeing a woman. He looked as if he was going to opt for turkey breasts, though he didn't look averse to those of the woman either. The kind of man who helps police with their enquiries, while the neighbours tell newsmen 'he kept to himself, just him and his Special K.

Another, with only a Cumberland pie in his basket, turned his back to the pizzas and tried surrepitiously to scratch his backside. Also over at the pizza section was a young man with acne, whose face merged with devastating ease into his background.

If the pizza section is for the physically unsound, the fresh herbs shelves are for the posers. One man pretended to know what lemon grass was for, but put it back when he saw the price (79p). Other men gathered up herbs along with fresh fruit and vegetables.

By 6.15pm, the place is so crowded, if you saw someone you fancied you'd have very little energy to do anything about it. But as with most singles' joints, there is less to the shelf than meets the eye. When you leave Tesco Metro, at worst you'll end up with a bag full of groceries. At best, four weed-lings and a bagel.