“When, in 1996, I hung up my bib as the restaurant critic of the Observer, I went out with a grande bouffe by eating at McDonald’s and La Tante Claire in a single lunchtime. It seemed to me that yoking a Michelin three-star temple of cuisine to a fast-food joint where the keener staff wore three plastic stars perfectly expressed the taste of the nation. If only I could have foreseen what was to come. This culinary de bas en haut was soon to become the very Kulturkampf of New Labour’s Britain.
“I never really wanted to review food anyway. What interested me was fancy restaurants as a theatrical experience – the bourgeoisie ogling itself in mirrored booths. Perhaps now, at last, the time is ripe for a little deflation, and maybe we should all start paying attention to what’s on the end of our plastic forks, not Nigella, Marco Pierre, Fucking Gordon and all the other celebrity egg-flippers. It’s in this, more grounded, spirit that I undertake to survey the establishments where we actually eat, and the real meals they serve. Only a fraction of the population will ever nosh in La Tante Claire, whereas, at current sales levels, the 1,115 McDonald’s in Britain could serve a meal to every man, woman and child in the country given a mere 35 days.”
To read the rest of Self’s Real Meals column, visit the New Statesman website.