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Continuing the "Is London Delicious"? debate

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Continuing the "Is London Delicious"? debate

Tony Finch | Dec 3, 2001 07:39 AM

Having lived in London for nearly all my 50 years,and having worked for a time as a restaurant reviewer(critic would be putting it too grandly)for a London magazine in the mid-seventies,I have no doubt that the quality and variety of food available,both in restaurants and in shops,has improved beyond recognition over the last couple of decades.

What is not inbred in London,and this applies to the rest of Britain as well,is an "attitude" to food which one finds throughout France and also in Italy and some Spanish towns,eg.Barcelona.

These places do not have superior ingredients.But the people see food as an element of life to be respected,loved and cherished in a way we in Britain just do not.

Any two bit town you go through in France has delis,butchers,bakers etc. with products lovingly displayed,seved to you pleasantly,even the cheapest purchase carefully wrapped and presented etc.This is not done for the benefit of free-spending tourists but is part of the fabric of ordinary life.

On the other hand continental Europe is almost mono-cultural foodwise.Yes I know there are non French restaurants in Paris but they are a mere handful compared to London and not really rated as much more than a cheap diversion(Michelin's bias against'ethnic'restaurants is well known.A French chef's idea of 'experimenting with Eastern flavours' is to sprinkle some curry powder into the cream sauce surrounding the scallops).

It is this culinary multi-culturalism which is both a strength and a weakness in London.A strength because of the wide variety of cuisines available,but a weakness in that we do not have a 'national' cuisine woven into the fabric of our everyday lives.We have breadth of choice but no cuisine reaches into the depths of our identities.Food is not an essential part of our family and therefore ,although delicious food is readily available in it,our city as a whole can never be described as delicious.

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