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Gywn loses his self-worth in overpriced chains and gives his expert opinion on Leon’s ‘Super Lean Quinoa Salad’.
How does one pronounce ‘Pret a Manger’?
Surrounded by Parisians and laudable linguists, it was a bit of a shock for me when this became the debate, after I simply called it ‘pret’ without even a hint of a French accent. Being from Cardiff, it is just about the fanciest restaurant in the city centre.
When I tried to show off to my new-found-fresher-friends my cultured way of life, therefore, I felt a tad disappointed (with a hint of self-loathing) that I had instead proven myself to be an ignorant ignoramus, when they all berated me for my pronunciation and my lack of imagination.
Perhaps more than anything else in these first weeks, what has stood out to me is just how uncool, uncultured and unintelligent I really am. Who knew? I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower and read Pride and Prejudice and so naturally like to think of myself as somewhat of a genteel, civilised philosopher, strolling the streets in the twilight, waiting to bump into love in some dimly lit bar.
Unfortunately, these self-delusions have been mostly destroyed (I still remain fairly narcissistic) by the fact that I have now met people who have lived all over the world, have seen each different continent, and have actually read philosophy.
So I figured that to make up for my lack of stereotypical culture and intelligence, I would become a food critic. Genius, I know.
Coming from the sheep-farming fields of South Wales, my experience of good food doesn’t go far beyond a hunk of lamb and some mint sauce. Arriving in the Big City therefore has caused me to reconsider everything I don’t know about food, and made me want to explore the goings on of city cuisine. More than anything, I want to be able to return to my rural village filled with pretentious knowledge about ‘deconstructed’ seafood, the latest in Japanese bento boxes, and of course how to pronounce ‘Pret a Manger’.
The only problem with such a noble pursuit as a fresher in London, though, is the lack of money, lack of knowledge and chronic cba.
Nevertheless, I began checking out the most cultured, hipster, Shoreditch-esque places near me. Should I try the mysterious take-out menu at Itsu? Maybe the healthy-hipster options at Leon? Perhaps the futuristic serving methods of Vapiano?
Naturally both for the sake of information-finding and pretentious posturing, I asked about my flatmates to see if they had tried such food. Were they as in-tune with the local cuisine as I was?
In fact more so.
Typically though, for a wannabe-hipster who has just arrived in London, I decided to go for Leon.
Leon is a terrific place to start out on one’s journey towards pretentious food knowledge. It is filled with people just like you and me, who venture slightly beyond an overpriced panini from old Pret, but don’t quite have the imagination to go somewhere that doesn’t serve a ‘Chicken Burger and Coke please’. Here you can feel good about yourself that your trying new things, but comfortable knowing that the other wannabes aren’t judging you.
And nothing makes you feel like a legitimate food critic like delicately munching on a ‘Superclean Chicken Quinoa Salad’ whilst sitting outside of the Tate Modern.
Despite a rather bothersome wasp, I ate a meal that far surpassed my expectations, and I’m not even saying that to make you think I’m legit.
The quinoa was textured but not raw; the weird red balls were sweet but not overpowering, the chicken could have come from Nandos. Moreover, the fact that it called itself ‘Superclean’ really made me feel like a successful fresher, not simply living off the occasional chocolate bar and half-price Bankside Bar cocktails. All for about a fiver.
A terrific start to my career I feel, though I kind of wish I’d gone to Pret.