Ever wondered what do you really buy when eating out in London? Ok, we all know that high class and four stars restaurants cannot serve bad quality food, but what about these regular ones? The restaurants which take the majority of London dinning scene? Spending my summer working in four different restarurants/ cafes/ pubs and gathering information from many of my colleagues I could tell you a little bit about it. First of all, forget about fresh products. Even if the meal is prepared fresly on the spot, the products have been alredy few days in a fridge or they were preparred before. Basicly, freshly preparred product is fresh only for a few hours. Try eating it a little bit later or the next day… I remembered when my mother in Poland used to prepre casserole or some long cooking dishes which only tasted better the next day when it absorbed all the spices and herbs and gained rich full flavor. Not in this country. The smell and taste of ‘fresh’ products on the next day is so discusting, you would not be able to eat it. Even foods in supermarket have special chemicals added to them, that actually makes them go off quicker. What happens is people buying huge quantity of food, when they finally have some time for shopping, which goes off faster. Then they just have to throw it away and buy some more food. That is how supermarkets make money on us.
But lets go back to restaurants. There, it gets even worse. Not only they don’t have fresh products but they use the cheapest and the lowest quality ones. I mean for example, they would use parmezan for chicken ceasar salad, but it would be the cheapest parmezan they can find. The other thing is using the cheapest oil for salads instead of good healthy ones, like olive oil, they also use cheap equivalents of butter. Do you know what I mean?
The other thing is cheating on ingreadiends that they put in a meal. For example they would put a name of salad – ‘Salmon salad’ and then there would be hardly any salmon in it. Me myself I witnessed the situation when our boss, she came to the restaurant before a lunch time and saw salmon salad made by the cheff early that morning (there was a lot of salmon in it). She ordered to take it downstairs to the kitchen and then with no special kitchen clothing, shoes or eaven gloves(!) she started to take the salmon out off the salad and putting it away for the next day to use. When I saw her in the kitchen, all her hands full of golden rings, covered with salmon, mayonaise and pieces of salad, it made me sick. She did the same thing with the chicken salad later.
The same restaurant also did not have concession for cooking meat and hot food. So they had all the dishes delivered frozen and then they just heated it in an oven or pan before serving. Actually it is not so bad, when you realise, that in most of the other places they use microwaves for heating up most of their food. In a very famous chain of steak restaurants in London, where a lot of my friends use to work, they didnt even have a proper kitchen. Everything came frozen and it was just heated up before serving to customer. In most of the restaurants it is a regular practic to buy frozen, already prepared food and then just heat it up. The only thing which is really prepared fresh is probably a salad. All the cakes, desserts , potatoes, fries, meats like steaks, chicken, grilled meats, minced meats, casseroles, lasanas come from frozen or they were prepared many days ago. ‘Freshly baked bread’ is also from frozen. Scrambled eggs would be made form prepared egg mass, delivered in big plastic 5l bottles.I could give you a long list here, but lets just say more or less everything you can imagine is prepared like that. The worst of all however, is fish and seafood, which never should really be frozen and defrosted because it looses its taste and simply starts smelling bad. But as it is, most of a times, just impossible to get fresh seafood in London, every restaurant uses frozen one.
Other thing is ‘healthy’ fast food restaurants that claim to be a healthy choice among the others. Their food except all the healthy ingredients also containts high amounts of sugars and fat usually hidden in sauces they add, bread, crutons, cheese they offer. Their healthy desserts are not healthy at all. They just make us fall for the ilussion of healthy.
The things that probably we can figure out ourselves is: serving food which exceeded its expiry date, food heated up many times (many times to many), charging too much for low quality of food, cheting on coffee quality (very hard to find 100% arabica).
At the end of all these prectics here comes the most important one- higiene. I cannot even think about one restaurant which would respect all the higiene laws. Food is prepared in dirty containers, sometimes with dirty hands. Kitchen serving so many dishes a day can never be properly clean and most of the times workers do not really care.
Customers in London are often tourists who really don’t understand what they should get on their plate, but the original Londoners are not being smarter eather. They are usually too busy and too short of time to care about what they eat. They are rich enough to pay the bill which reagrding the quality of food, should be much smaller. They are addicted to junk food so much, that as long as what you serve them has their favourite sugar or fat taste, they don’t care. It is really dissapointing that so ‘high developed’ city is so low food conscious.
In ths city I feel controlled all the time. Cameras on every street are constanty watching my moves. Cameras in shops, in bars, restaurants, buses, metro, at work. Maybe people feel safer with so many cameras around them. I don’t. There is no freedom in London. There is this delusive freedom that money gives you, but there is no real one.
Everything is so organised and so perfectly controlled that sometimes I feel like I cannot breathe. Everything is explained on numerous signs and information written everywhere. Sometimes I think that Londoners stopped to think on their own. They just follow. The streets are full of people following the crowd, following the most popular touristic sights, following the metro arrows.
But what annoys me the most in British people is that they are martinets and they will do their best to help in keeping general order. For instance you cannot get in a bus with no valid ticket. Driver will make sure that everybody has tickets and pleading, crying, explaining wouldn’t help here, as they are determind to do their job correctly. Not that it affects them if there are people without the ticket inside the bus, but that is their job and they will make sure its done well. The same thing happens in metro and all the offices, banks, agancies you go to. The bureaucracy will drive you crazy, but they will still sit calmly at their desks repeating, they don’t know how long the waiting will take. It is exactly the same thing you can find in India, but I guess it is not Indian people’s fault as it is a post colonial British influence.
Brits have a bunch of crazy rules and prohibitions that are supposed to make a life easier but sometimes I cannot stop myself from laughing at them. There is the latest one, which I found in front of the British museum.
The other crazy thing about this city are the things you have to pay for. The tube tickets prices are radiculously high, let alone the rent. But there is also a number of things that you woldn’t expect to pay for. One of them are hammock chairs in Hyde Park. I was sitting there relaxed one day when suddenly I was asked to pay for it!Another one is playing in public. Artists have to pay to perform their music on the streets of London. Of course, not many of them do, because prices are so high they could never afford it. Other things are the public events. Festival of colours, which in most of European cities is for free (you just need to buy a packet of colours for something about 1 pund), in London would cost you minimum 30 pounds. The same thing with other festivals. In Spain, France, Germany or Poland festivals have prices most young people can afford. Here, you need to have a well paid job to afford these things, as prices can start even at 100 pounds. National museums in London are for free which is really good, but if you take a look at all the private museums and other atractions like London eye, aquarium, Madame Tussauds they are all unbelievably expensive. Also things like cinema or open air events are usually very expensive. That creates a typical problem- people with money have no time to enjoy all these things and people with time have no money to do so…
Not like India, I should have said LIKE DELHI.
London is like a centre of Delhi. When you walk through the streets in Oxford Street there is so many people, you have to be concentrated at all the times. And it is even worse than India, because in Delhi everybody, including rikshas, cars, caws, motos and even tourists, were part of this big moving mass, however it had a secret order, people were creating this organised flow and you could practise and learn how to move in all this crowd. On the other hand in London, it is impossible.People rarely get out of your way, they are all in a hurry, except the tourists who are incredibly slow, instead of changing their passages in a fluant and natural way, they seem to be stuck on a street, kindly waiting for their turn to pass. In tube there is about the same amount of people as in a Delhi metro. Constantly passing through the gates. All controlled by cameras. It looks unreal, passangers like zombies, don’t seem to notice anything around just follow their way. But there is one difference- in India people were full of life, these ones are dead. They don’t look at each others, because it would be impolite, they do not care what anyone thinks, sleeping, reading, always on their phones.
But what recalls my memories from Delhi the most is Soho in the night time. Streets are overflowing with people, there are lights everywhere, mojority of cars are slow buses and even slower taxis, stopping at every corner. Every minute you can spot a bicycle riksha decorated with colourfull lights. There are sounds and smells all mixed together. When I am coming back from work, late at night, on my bicycl,e through all this crazyness, I feel more like home.
London is strange. People definitely work too much. They are stressed. Under superficial layer of kindness there is so much frustration, just waiting to be triggered. And it comes out, after proper amount of alcohol, especially on Saturday nights, but usually just a few hours after work in English pubs, at every corner, every night. They all look so unhappy, hiding behind their ‘fashionable’ clothes, fancy drinks and expensive things. I have never seen so many girls afraid to be themselves. Tan, nails, shaping underwear, fake eyelashes, tones of make up, hair perfectly done, stylish, high heels, even the way they talk is not naural. They are constantly worrying how they look, believing that having all this perfect body and new clothes will finally make them happy. People in London do not live their life. They live the life the have learned form TV and from comercials. The have so many foreign restaurants and yet they will never know the real foreign food, because they preffer to change it according to their own British taste. Turkish, Chineese, Japaneese, Greek, Mexican, Spanish even Italian restaurants they never serve their original food as it is, because British people would never buy it. British go to the Turkish restaurant ad order fajitas, they go to Italian cafe and order English Breakfast, they go to Japaneese and they are having chicken sushi. They are trying to be cool and alternative, but if anything destroyes their perfect routine, they are not so cool anymore.
London people have nothing. They have things they can buy. Is that what makes us happy? In this city with no alcohol and drugs it’s difficult to find your joy of life.