Tag Archives: food reviews



just say no

Do you want to hear the most depressing joke in the world? Here goes: what do you get if you cross a really shit pie with an undercooked, anaemic cheese omelette?

A quiche, that’s what.

If you are an elderly woman looking for an inexpensive yet vaguely ‘sophisticated’ item of food to take to the vicar’s coffee morning down the village hall, then you just about might have an excuse for indulging in this soggy, tasteless abomination.

Or perhaps you actually enjoy the texture of mashed-up jellied eyeball encased in reconstituted sawdust.

If neither of the above applies to you, then what in God’s name are you doing? Put that bloody thing back on the shelf and get some proper food.

Be on the lookout: as the festive season approaches, it is probable that you will find yourself in a situation where kids are doing quiche. You may think it looks big and clever, but it isn’t. If you want pastry, have a pastry. If you want cheese then have some cheese. If you want some bacon then have some bacon.

Quiche? You’re better than that..





serves 5-6?! Serves 1 more like! (If that 1 is me)

The quest for genuinely meaty meat-substitutes is, you might think, a largely futile endeavour. Quorn steak? About as steak-like as a bathroom sponge. And veggie bacon rashers bare about as much resemblance to the real thing as Tony Blair bares to socialism. (Have I used this simile before? I’m pretty sure I have but I can’t be bothered to look through the hallowed annals of AFB.)

This is a shame as, once liberated from an inevitably unfavourable comparison with their tasty yet immoral cousins, meat-substitutes are often pretty decent on their own terms. How much more tasty, for example, would Linda McCartney sausages be if they were marketed not as sausages (with all the images of unattainably yummy pig eyeballs and anus thus connoted) but simply as, I dunno, ‘mashed vegetable cylinders’ or something. It would lower our culinary expectations, and thus enable us to appreciate the fairly pleasant taste on its own merits.

With this in mind, my expectations upon purchasing a bag of frozen Quorn ‘chicken nuggets’ was reasonably, but not unrealistically, high. I anticipated a perfectly serviceable evening meal, but was very far from expecting McDonald’s-esque levels of gustatory ecstasy. I was ready to give the whole shebang a solid 6, maybe 6.5, out of 10; a 2:1 in Media Studies; a 3-star review from Broadway Baby.

What transpired far exceeded my humble expectations. The nuggets emerged from the oven crisp, oily and golden. Penetration with a fork* revealed said nuggets to be pleasingly crispy, with a coating that slipped off like lingerie on a wedding night. And here is the fulcrum of the whole discussion: the insides were qualitatively indistinguishable from actual chicken. They were positively fowl. So all in all, what I had was basically a plate of delicious, crispy, unctuous chicken nuggets, but without any dead animal offal. Win win.

Granted, the similarity between Quorn ‘chicken’ nuggets and chicken chicken nuggets might have something to do with the fact that actual chicken nuggets themselves taste somewhat indeterminate. But it doesn’t matter; the discovery of a vegetarian item that tastes actually tastes like what it purports to represent is enough to land Quorn chicken nuggets with a 9.5/10. A First from Oxford. The fucking Perrier Award of food. Booooooom!

*sounds like a death metal band. Penetration With a Fork.



Father, I have a confession.

I have lived thirty years on this earth and up until last week I did not know that watermelon rind was edible. I can’t remember how I happened upon this piece of information, but after discovering it I have been eating the stuff non-stop. Hell, I’ve even been buying watermelon just so I can eat the rind. I munch my way disconsolately through the pink flesh just so I can get to the tough, chewy, vegetal exterior. (I suppose I could chuck the flesh away, but that would make me pretty monstrous.)

It’s not even as though I particularly like it. It doesn’t even really taste like it should be edible – it is slightly rubbery and bitter, with the faint whiff of something you’d pick up and eat in the garden. But hey – I thought it was inedible, and then discovered that you can, in fact, eat it. That, my friends, is reason enough for me to chow down like a mo fo. I even packed some pieces of watermelon rind into a tupperwear container today, and ate it on the District Line. Real men never use tupperwear! Hark at the power of new knowledge!

An analogy, I suppose, is this: no matter how little you have or how shitty your life is, imagine everything you own gets taken away from you, and then given back. You appreciate it all anew. It’s like that with watermelon rind: you spend your whole life effectively being told by your internal monologue that you can’t eat it, and then suddenly you can; those voices in your head were wrong. You are energised, refreshed by the vigour of new information and stimulation for your taste buds.

This general idea can be extended beyond the environs of Cucurbitaceae (the word lovingly cut and pasted from Wikipedia) to encompass life more generally. Your kids won’t eat their vegetables? Tell them that they are inedible, and cannot be consumed. Tell them they are naughty, dangerous, taboo. Then, a few months later, tell them that they are edible after all. Now watch them stuff their faces with broccoli like little hamsters. (Or cry after having enjoyed a month of Twixes and chicken kievs. I dunno. What do you think this is, science?)

A subtle, highly philosophical distinction needs to be made. I am not saying that banning or discouraging something makes someone automatically want it. Firstly, it doesn’t: making love to goats is banned, and I don’t want to do it. Secondly, my affinity for watermelon rind was awakened not upon being told that the stuff was inedible (indeed, I am not sure I was ever explicitly told this) but upon being told that it was, having previously assumed that it wasn’t. Suppose goatular lovemaking were legalised tomorrow: get me to the nearest goat farm!*

*I am not sexually attracted to goats. But sheep on the other hand…**

**I am not sexually attracted to sheep. But llamas? NOW you’re talking…***

***I am not sexually attracted to llamas. Toyota Priuses however? Phew!****

**** I am not sexually attracted to cars.




Having covered off Curry Club and Chicken Club in a fastidiously lazy manner, it seems only right that I move trudgingly on to Wetherspoon’s Friday night offering, which is controversially not deemed a Club, but ‘Fish Friday’.

Alright then, Fish Friday, you contrary fishy weekend revolutionary, what have you got?

Well, first of all, a limited selection of items riffing on the basic concept ‘fish and chips’, and second of all, the kind of lovingly-crafted utter mediocrity you can expect from every Wetherspoon meal other than either ham, egg and chips or gammon, egg and chips.

It was clear to see that the fish was patchy in coloration once the batter began rolling off like Wilko wallpaper, which in itself could be seen as problematic if trying to look for positives about the meal. Any forensic would surmise that blows had been made against the flesh of this beast – battered to death. Geddit? Yeah? Yeah? Good.

The chips were good, bordering on excellent. They always are; Wetherspoon employs star chip chefs in any given locality. The peas were convincingly chip shop-esque, in the sense that a Tony Blair rubber mask is convincingly Tony Blair-esque.

In short, replace the fish with ham or gammon and you’re on to a winner.

An additional observation is that perversely, during Fish Friday in the Wetherspoon outlet I happened to be in (Coronet, Holloway Road, London) there was also an offer available on strawberry daiquiris. Nobody whatsoever was drinking them, with or without a fish-based meal.

FISH: 3/10

CHIPS: 8/10




the absence of any Pret sandwich, yesterday

Lord knows, there’s a lot for the professional cynic such as me to dislike about Prêt sandwiches. The smug way they relentlessly proclaim their own virtue on their packaging; the fact that they are allegedly ‘handmade’ yet look and taste exactly the same in every branch from Little Twiddlington to Wankbridge (who makes these things? Robots?); the fact that their pickle is made out of mashed-up kittens.* But however annoying and inadequate Prêt can be, not having Prêt can be even worse.

Let me explain.

Many a morning I get a Prêt sandwich on my way to work, if you can call what I do ‘work’. The identikit nature of the sandwiches is indeed not conducive to gustatory excitement, but there is a sense in which this very fact suits the monotonous nature of the daily commute: you know where you are with a Prêt sandwich, just like you know where you are with a stultifying office job.* I would even venture to say that I have come to enjoy this aspect of my day: go into Prêt, pick up a sandwich, tell them that no, I don’t want coffee but that, yes, I do want a bag, attempt to use the cardreader to the left when I should be using the one to the right, ask for extra tissues and BAM! Get the hell outta there.

Eating my Prêt sandwich on the Hammersmith and City Line is one of life’s (very, very, very) small pleasures, in the same bracket, I would say, as picking out a medium-sized lump of earwax.*** Imagine, then, my veritable horror at discovering, this morning, that I had left my salmon sandwich in Prêt, after having purchased it! I found myself on the tube, with that taste you get in your mouth when you have cleaned your teeth but not yet eaten anything, sans sandwich and also sans the £3.50 I piddled away on it.

It is difficult to describe this kind of disappointment. Obviously it is not requiring of wailing or garment-rending, but nor is it the kind of thing you can just shrug off lightly. It eats away at you like a little mosquito bite****. There was nothing for it but to read my Metro. And sob.

A great philosopher once said that ‘you don’t know what you got til it’s gone’. Going into a Prêt and buying a sandwich is a fairly mundane experience, but going into a Prêt, buying a sandwich and not eating that sandwich is worse. Thus, it can be deduced that, once a Prêt sandwich is purchased, it is better to eat it than not to eat it. This is a fairly minimal standard for any comestible to reach, but by God Prêt reaches it, unlike, say, most Tesco sandwiches, which you would probably have to pay me to eat. But that, my humble readers, is a topic for another thesis.

*not true.

** I do not have an office job, but I will not let that get in the way of an apt analogy. Ooh, can you feel the aptness? That, my friend, is damn apt.

*** fuck me, that’s apt.

**** apt.



Peanut butter is a strange one, operating as it does in the culinary hinterland between sweet and savoury. At least, this is the case with regard to British peanut butter; I am reliably informed that its American cousin is unambiguously sweet. I could use this as some kind of metaphor and embark upon an incisive social commentary regarding Britain, America and the differences thereof, but I am not in the business of profundity. I am in the business of average food. And crying tears of abject failure.

Growing up, I only ever associated peanut butter with either toast or sandwiches, both of which are definitely savoury. I cannot emphasise this strongly enough. Chocolate spread is for children; if you are an adult fan of chocolate spread you are an infantile moron. Honey is nice, but only in the context of cake or porridge, or maybe to flavour ale with. Put it on toast or in a sandwich and it becomes wrong. It’s like Leviticus dammit – these are the rules, don’t question them. Putting peanut butter in a sandwich makes it savoury, so when I found out about the American proclivity for peanut butter and jam  in the same sandwich, my mind was blown (I didn’t know that American peanut butter is much sweeter). Sweet and savoury together? There is surely little worse. Many a time has my heart sank upon finding fucking raisins in my rice. I am very much pro-segregation when it comes to sweet and savoury. I could labour the racial analogy a bit more, but I’m a bit too nervous to do so.

At least, I was pro-segregation. Like the protagonist in American History X, however, I am a changed man. My mind and my heart have opened; my gustatory prejudices have evaporated like, erm, milk. I dunno. Anyway, I am no longer a food bigot.

And here is why: blackberries and peanut butter. Let’s crack on with the blackberries first, let’s get this into some kind of order.

Blackberries are a fairly high-percentage fruit. Most fruit is violently unpredictable; pick up an apple, for example, and there is probably a 3 in 5 chance it will be a bit shit. Plums have a 7 out of 10 chance of being rubbish, and don’t even get me started on apricots. Blackberries, I would say, have about a 5 in 7 chance of being pretty, pretty, pretty good. This is not as high as a lychee, which is almost unimpeachably good (peaches, ironically, being unimpeachably pretty bad), but it is still good. Another good thing about blackberries is that you can find them growing wild in the most unlikely places; as AFB co-founder Gary will attest, I once foraged for them on the terraces of a non-league football match.

And lo, it came to pass that I did combineth blackberries and peanut butter sandwiches on the same plate, and yea – it was good. It must be mentioned that the sandwiches were with wholemeal bread, which definitely made the whole experience more wholesome, more artisanal. Using cheapo white bread would have rendered the whole thing exceedingly tawdry, like licking Angel Delight off a prostitute. But no: wholemeal peanut butter sandwiches combined with blackberries makes for a very decent meal. Or not really a meal, more of a snack. But very decent nonetheless. I’d give it a good, solid 7.5/10.

So there we have it. I have seen the light. I am no longer a food Nazi. Now if I could only do something about this Swastika on my forehead…