Much of what I say below is well known and would apply at all times and not just during the 2012 Olympics – junk food always tastes nasty. Nonetheless it seems worth reiterating a few basic facts about McDonald’s as a scummy corporation and Olympic sponsor (seasoned with some comments about other really crap fast food and coffee chains).
1. Any branch of McDonald’s – as official Olympic sponsors McDonald’s have prevented other food outlets selling chips in the Olympic area; and this despite the fact they only sell french fries made from reconstituted potato and not chips (which are sliced and fried potatoes). This chip ban is yet another McDonald’s’ public relations disaster and it has received plenty of coverage in the UK media. Back in the 1990s there was The McLibel Trial, when this giant corporation took two London based activists to court for documenting its poor environmental, health and labor records, only to discover such a heavy handed approach to legitimate criticism backfired. The book Fast Food Nation (2001) by Eric Schlosser addresses how McDonald’s uses its political influence to increase its profits at the expense of people’s health and the social conditions of its workers. Schlosser also criticises McDonald’s for targeting its advertising at children. In 2002 McDonald’s were successfully sued for misrepresenting its French fries as vegetarian, when they contained beef broth. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) continues to pressure McDonald’s to change its animal welfare standards.
2. Any branch of YO! Sushi – The food goes around the restaurant on a convey belt and you take off what you want. Despite labels supposedly telling you when the food should be consumed by (I don’t remember ever seeing one – but then it is years since I first and last ate in a branch of this chain and on that sole occasion I was a victim of ‘corporate hospitality’) you might as well be eating at a buffet. The chances are the food is not going to be that fresh, but then the experience might appeal to connoisseurs of that variant on Russian roulette that I call botulism roulette.
3. Anywhere in Stratford. Back in the 1980s the old Stratford shopping centre had the last branch of The Golden Egg I can recall seeing anywhere in England. That cafe was a relic from my childhood. Set up by Philip and Reggie Kaye in the early 1960s, the Golden Egg chain brought a jazzy mood to eating in British low-price popular restaurants through riotous colour schemes and brilliant opaline lights. Right through the 1980s and into the 1990s Stratford had a gritty if run down urban vibe. The Olympic development seems to be a final attempt to get rid of that and since it and the new Westfield shopping centre will be packed out with tourists during the Olympics, it is a place to be avoided at all costs this summer. For a taste of old Stratford check out Bronco Bullfrog (1970, directed by Barney Platts-Mills) – it isn’t the greatest movie in the world but has a nice title track by The Audience and shows Stratford at its peak.
4. Starbucks – mediocre coffee and mediocre sandwiches and snacks to go with it. The mediocre coffee of other big chains like Costa Coffee is also to be avoided… The best coffee in London is sold by smaller operations.
5. Pret A Manger – another soulless chain selling mediocre coffee and disgusting filled baguettes, soups, salads, croissants, muffins and cakes. ” Bad news for Londoners – 75% of this chain’s outlets are in the British capitol.
6. Pizza Hut – crummy pizzas, crap interior design. You know you don’t want it!
7. Bella Italia – bad pasta and worse pizza. Part of the Tragus Group, who also own Cafe Rough and Strada – which should also be avoided. Rather than corporate chains like Bella Italia you’ll get much better food in family run Italian cafes and restaurants – the numbers of these small business in London seem to have declined but there are still many around.
8. Nando’s – a chain specialising in chicken dishes, this ‘restaurant’ is strictly for the birds. Same goes for KFC!
9. Burger King – McDonald’s by any other name stinks just as bad… McDonald’s and Coca-Cola might be the two big 2012 Olympic sponsors but it could just as well be Burger King and Pepsi for all the difference it makes. Both McDonald’s and Burger King sell junk food you really don’t want to eat coz it tastes like shit.
10. Anywhere in or around Russell Square – This area of central London seems to be housing a lot of the international media during the Olympics and has been transformed (along with Southampton Row that runs off it) into a major traffic bottleneck. More than a week before the Olympics began Russell Square seemed to have been largely emptied of traffic and filled with dozens of security personal in high-visibility jackets ordering around anyone who had the temerity to enter the area. Aside from Stratford itself, this part of Bloomsbury appears to the the worst place you could go in London during the Olympics!
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!