I’m writing this as an impromptu response to a Guardian comment (scrolling through them is my favourite past time, it’s like watching middle class Jeremy Kyle) because I couldn’t remember my password to login and reply on the website. And I didn’t want to become one of the people I spend so much of my time snorting at: The Guardian ranters. So, you’re going to get the pleasure of listening to my rant instead. I’ll tag a recipe onto the end to sweeten the deal.
The topic: eating out. Jay Rayner (eternal thanks to Mr Rayner, I feel 40% of all my posts have been sparked/taken some influence from your superior rants) recently wrote a post on his personal website responding to the inevitable comments he receives on the price of the restaurants he reviews every week. Usually in the form of ‘I could make that at home for a tenth of the price’, ‘I could feed my family for a week on that’, and ‘there are people going to food banks and you’re indulging in the hedonism of a £100+ meal on The Guardian’s (aka our) money’, Jay’s response is near perfect:
- To a) and b); chances are, you can’t make it at home. You’re not a chef. And if you were, you’d probably understand that the meal you are paying for also covers VAT, rent, wages of the bar staff, waiters, KP, commis etc. And if you don’t understand that, maybe it is best you stay at home and cook your Michelin star meal.
- To c); yes, there are people going to food banks, and that’s a terrible reality. But me splashing out on a meal for my birthday is not going to change that. Some people have disposable income, and can spend it on nice things. If you find this fundamentally wrong, go live in a Communist country. What’s more, some people on a low income have saved up for a long time to go out to a restaurant; it’s their right to, and you have no right to judge them for this.
- As for The Guardian paying for this act of pure evil indulgence; yes, it’s a very lucky job to have landed. Correct. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist.
- I would also add that since these people are commenting online, chances are they aren’t paying to read this article anyway, seeing as The Guardian is one of the new newspapers without a paywall.
But in the most recent piece he wrote in the Guardian, a slightly more muted and well-behaved version of the same response, was received in exactly the same way many of the reviews are; with more people complaining about the price of restaurants. And not just people saying ‘I could make that at home for a tenth of the price’ etc. No, this piece brought on new levels of idiotic replies. So, I wanted to extend Jay’s rebuttal and answer a few of the other common ridiculous, pseudo-self-righteous comments, from people who expect a full breakdown of exactly what their £26 steak went on (probably until they see that a measly 3% profit is being made on it).
So, the new wave of responses:
‘But why can other countries like Spain and Italy and Thailand do amazing, simple food for dirt cheap whereas we’re stuck doing average food for sky high prices?’
Why do you think? This is the UK. Have you compared the cost of property in London compared to Bangkok (I hadn’t until just now – currently weighing up the pros and cons of potential lack of clean air, tap water and green space with a new 1 bedroom flat with a shared rooftop swimming pool for £50,000)? Wake up, it’s impossible to compare the cost of anything between countries like Thailand and the UK. Also, I’m sure if we became accustomed to eating cow penis, jellyfish and chicken feet, our costs would probably decrease too – think of all the quality, British bred cow willies currently going to waste.
The problem is, you pay ridiculous prices and get hardly any food; top restaurants give pathetic portions
Don’t eat at a top restaurant, then. Some people are okay with paying £35 for something that reads ‘hake, almond, nasturtium’ on the menu and looks like an architectural miniature of the real thing; they’re there because the flavour of that morsel of food is exquisite, and in their opinion worth their hard earned (or otherwise) money. If you want to pay for portions, go to Smoking Goat in Soho. £35 got us a whole goat shoulder for 2 and unlimited sticky rice. Finish that and THEN complain to Jay’s column on The Guardian about portion sizes.
*Link to the Guardian article revealing that Michel Roux Jr’s restaurant wasn’t giving tips to staff and was paying under minimum wage*
Yes, one top London restaurant has been caught cheating, and I think it’s disgusting. I’m all for boycotting Le Gavroche and switching over when I see Michel Roux’s smug, Rasputin-from-Anastasia-without-the-beard -esque face on my TV, but he does not represent the whole restaurant industry. They’re not all slave-labour-supporting pricks, and so refusing them your business purely based on this is unfair. H&M, Zara, and GAP have been caught out using sweatshops that pay their employees peanuts, but I don’t walk around naked.
I’ll be the first to admit that some restaurants are ripoffs; I’m not saying that just because restaurants carry costs, they can get away with charging premium prices for average food. It just all depends on what you value in going to a restaurant. Minnow in Clapham was 100% picturesque, the staff were amazing and the drinks were nice. But at the end of the meal, we weren’t that happy paying £85 because the food just wasn’t very good. The next customer might say the food was average but the atmosphere and service (and 100+ likes they got on Instagram as a result of their post of the now-famous Parisian pastel restaurant front) made the meal completely worth the £85. It’s what you like to have from a restaurant.
So, I’ve gone on enough. Restaurants may be expensive, but life if expensive, so let’s get over it and start saving.
Though I’m sharing another recipe for tuna today, what I’m really sharing is the addictive tahini dressing. Tuna (like restaurants) is pricey, so if you don’t want to fork out for the ingredients for this, make the dressing and keep it for mixing through some pulses and greens for a salad, drizzling on any variety of grilled or roasted meat/tatties, and using it as a dip for carrot sticks, bread, a spoon, your finger etc.
Seared Tuna with roasted butternut squash and broccoli with a tahini dressing for one
1 big fat tuna steak
1 tbsp olive oil
1 butternut squash, diced into 1in cubes (I roast the whole thing and then keep most of it for lunches etc the next day)
1 bunch of tender stem broccoli (I also threw in some asparagus)
1 heaped tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
Parsley, to garnish
For the dressing (makes enough for leftovers)
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp (more depending on how runny you want it) water
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Juice of half a lemon (again adjust on how acidic you want it, you might want to start off with less)
1 tsp maple syrup (or honey)
1 tsp dijon mustard
Salt and pepper (to taste)
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Put your butternut squash in a large roasting tin and toss in olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes, or until tender and sweet.
- Meanwhile, make the dressing. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until smooth and fully combined. Taste and adjust until you’re happy with it.
- 20 minutes before the butternut is done, throw in the broccoli and asparagus and toss to coat in oil. Place back in the oven for the final 20 minutes.
- When the veg are just about done, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan on high. Pat your tuna dry with some kitchen towel before rubbing with salt, pepper and a little oil. Place in the hot frying pan and sear for about 4 minutes on the first side, and one or two on the second – or until done to your preference (I like mine quite pink in the middle and very crisp on the outside so I fry on high). When searing, don’t be tempted to shake the pan to ‘unstick’ the tuna – leaving it will allow it to develop a crust, which will naturally unstick it from the pan.
- Serve the veg topped with the tuna, pine nuts, parsley and a drizzle/inelegant splurge of the dressing all over.