Rab McNeil’s Week
It sounds bonkers – a Michelin being the ultimate accolade – but it seems some establishments would really rather just offer a more informal and relaxed experience than have all these high expectations that cost a pretty penny to satisfy.
I was surprised to read this. It’s always been my feeling that you could feed posh people a Greggs steak bake in Lidl’s cheesy sauce and they wouldn’t suspect a thing – they’d paid through the nose for it, so it must be fine.
Surely that’s the key: just ramp up prices. It’s like holiday accommodation. I know of ridiculously priced joints that are always fully booked because the more you charge the more they come. You just have to place a few ads in glossy mags aimed at those, and such as those.
But where does that leave us, and such as us? Well, I for one applaud those restaurants and hotels that would rather provide a warm, informal service than have everything stiff, expectant and privileged.
We, the mob, have also got to eat. And, as long as our chips are properly cooked and not crinkle-cut, we’re happy.
Someone mentioned Greggs earlier, and it was heartening to learn that the cheap and cheerful food outlet had posted a healthy rise in third-quarter sales.
This has been attributed to punters buying their breakfast there, which sounds like a grand way to start the day. Mind you, these days, Greggs never shuts up about healthy options and its “Balanced Choice range. It’s even offering Thai Chicken Soup from this autumn.
Well, as long as they never forget that their business was built on sausage rolls, I suppose we’ll just have to thole such New Age nonsense.
Veg, veg, veg, wonderful veg
This shock news just in: man cannot live on sausage rolls alone. There’s also such a thing as veg – someone at the back has fainted – and the fact is we still don’t eat enough of it.
Veg is good for you, which is why it tastes terrible: a major design flaw by the Great Creator or heavenly CEO. All the same, Nourish Scotland, backed by Scotland Food & Drink, is hosting the Scottish “strain” (sounds like the mot juste) of the UK-wide Vegetable Summit in Edinburgh on 24 October, with the aim of getting punters to “pledge for more veg”.
And by veg they don’t mean “Dundee salad” (chips). I worry, though, that they might be overdoing the veg. Key topics to be addressed at the summit will be The Big Veg Gap, Increasing Veg in Hospitality, Children’s Views on Veg, Boosting Veg Growing in Scotland, and Increasing Veg Sales in Retail.
It’s reminiscent of Monty Python’s Spam sketch, with the agenda or menu translated as The Big Spam Gap, Increasing Spam in Hospitality, Children’s Views on Spam, Boosting Spam Growing in Scotland, and Increasing Spam Sales in Retail.
You want to ask, like Mrs Bun in the Green Midget Cafe: “Have you got any key topics without veg in them?” (while a bunch of Vikings sings “Veg, Veg, Veg, Veg, Veggity Veg, Wonderful Veg”).
Why flying’s no longer fun
Who would get on a plane? I haven’t done so for years, even though I love flying (former air cadet, d’you see?).
It’s not simply that I haven’t got anywhere to go, but the whole experience, certainly on commercial airlines, has become a nightmare.
Airports, once places of excited anticipation, have become dens of fear, suspicion and stress, where you’re bunged about from pillar to post, and your belongings are combed for dodgy substances, be they hallucinogenic or explosive (never get these mixed up – it’ll blow your mind).
Then you must suffer the ignominy of the class system, watching those who’ve paid more for superior service waddling on first while you must take your chances with the hoi polloi.
Flying used to be fun. You were fed well and offered as much drink as you could handle. The staff were kind and smiled at you.
Once, on a quiet flight (well, I was the only passenger) from the north, I was allowed into the cockpit. Another time, at Yule, we were like birds in the nest with our beaks open as the stewards shovelled in heaps of food and drink.
But that was then. And this is arguably now. The principal reason for the decline in service is that the staff have become soured as a result of experiences with the the Torremolinos brigade and footer fans flying to international away games. No one works with the public for long before becoming a misanthrope.
But that doesn’t mean they have to take it out on the rest of us. Even the late Lord Fraser of Carmylie, a lovely gent, was harangued by stewards on a flight to Dundee. Outrageous.
Once, on a flight from the USA, I saw a beverage-dispensing steward positively lay into an American citizen who was listening to music on earphones and hadn’t heard his important “tea or coffee” message. Poor Yank was instantly disabused of his previously held myth about polite Brits.
Actually, that was a good while ago. Flights have been going downhill, as it were, for years. Security is a joke. One nutter says he has explosives in his shoes and, for years afterwards we all have to take off our footwear in case it contains ordnance.
Now we run the risk of finding that our chosen airline has gone into administration and we have to be airlifted home, or that flights have been cancelled because they forgot to mark the pilots’ holidays in the calendar.
Nope, have a staycation, folks. Go by boat or take the train. Anything other than get into a cramped cylinder full of recycled farts where you’re treated like a tramp at a top hotel.