The New York Times is a fine publication, but it falls under our remit to call out any bunkum that anyone spouts about London — NYT included. Which brings us to Robert Draper's recent bunkum-spouting in Beyond Porridge and Boiled Mutton: A Taste of London — another of those 'British-food-isn't-all-shite' exposés. And maybe that sentiment can't be hammered home enough. But in this case, the context is more than a little askew, Draper boldly stating:
This otherwise noble capital inclining its palate to devotees of porridge and boiled mutton was never a thing to celebrate. Of course, a visitor could always find scattered exceptions. But it was work. The drab baseline held longer than it should have — even through the roaring '90s, which brought higher restaurant prices without a corresponding leap in adventurousness.
The suggestion that Damien Hirst, Blur and the Spice Girls were feasting almost solely on a Dickensian diet of drab watery flesh and oats, was swiftly pounced on by Buzzfeed's editor in chief, Janine Gibson:
If you ate porridge or boiled mutton in a London restaurant ten years ago can you please contact me urgently? https://t.co/pgEdDmtcig— Janine Gibson (@janinegibson) August 20, 2018
To which there were some wonderful quips, including one from Nathan Lane: "That's if you could find the restaurant in the thick pea-souper fog". Indeed, we do wonder if the New York Times thinks that the Victorian period came to an end around 2001, rather than 1901.
Nonetheless, continues the piece, London has very recently been yanked out of its dreary food days, citing a revolution that...
...holds true not only in the high-rent zones of West End, Covent Garden and Soho but also — maybe even especially — in less commercialized districts to the east, such as Shoreditch and Bethnal Green.
So. Yes there is good food in the West End, Covent Garden and Soho. And in Bethnal Green and Shoreditch too. But what about the daal and dosa in Tooting? The Korean BBQ of New Malden? The juicy grilled Turkish offerings of Green Lanes?
And by the way: lots of this fine food isn't exactly fresh on the scene. The NYT article lavishes praise on Basque restaurant Eneko, as if it's the first Spanish eatery in London. Try telling that to Meson Don Felipe, which has been serving authentic tapas to hungry Londoners since 1987. And while the NYT swoons over Gymkhana, as if it's introduced the concept of Indian food to London, it'd do well to remember that curry was being dished up to Londoners as early as 1773.
In a final twist of delicious irony, porridge and mutton might easily classify themselves as part of London's food revolution. Have you seen the queues of youngsters snaking down the steps that lead to Roti King on a frigid December night, in a bid for a bowl of its rich mutton curry? Do you remember 2015's Porridge Cafe, which ladled out milky oats at £7-a-pop to breakfasting hipsters? It's almost as if the author of Beyond Porridge and Boiled Mutton: A Taste of London hasn't done quite enough background research. Which might explain the correction at the end of the piece:
An earlier version of this article misstated the name of a London neighborhood. It is Mayfair, not Mayfield.
P.S. We still love you, The New York Times.