10 Places Not To Eat In London During The 2012 Olympics

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.

  1. Nando’s – a chain specialising in chicken dishes, this ‘restaurant’ is strictly for the birds. Same goes for KFC!
  2. 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.
  3. 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!


Comment by Peter on 2012-07-20 17:04:19 +0000

I feel some expansion of the entry on Nando’s in partic might be in order; referencing maybe their unsubtle commercials featuring Libyan Dictator Colonel Gaddafi with a solid gold ak47 and former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Zimbabwe Dictator Robert Mugabe with a water gun etc, wtf it has to do with chicken is not clear.
Did Chris Morris write this or what (from nando’s Olympic website) : ‘Nando’s GigNics will be a perfectly packaged PERi-PERi picnic, set against the backdrop of a sizzling summer soundtrack. The events will bring together and celebrate the people behind the restaurant revolution. Each GigNic will feature live performances from some of Nando’s hottest fans including Rizzle Kicks, Clement Marfo and The Frontline. Interspersed with world music performances and DJ sets, the day will bring together an eclectic mix of musical cultures and styles offering 8 hours of non-stop Nando’s entertainment.’
This is their own blurb. They are taking chicken to the Olympics. They say. Here in Scotland I pity the poor Londonder, good luck all.

Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-07-20 17:23:20 +0000

For some reason the idea of botulism from a sushi conveyor belt seemed very funny to me-I went in one of them once on some disastrous date or other. Never again.

Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-07-20 17:24:56 +0000

Peter’s comment is hysterical.

Comment by ken davidson on 2012-07-20 17:26:40 +0000

Pret a Manger: 50% owned by McDonalds

Comment by ken davidson on 2012-07-20 17:29:45 +0000

ok NOT McDonalds propaganda. Pret a Manger is owned by
“Specialists in private equity investments and funding, providing financial resources, support and assistance for businesses in the UK and Europe.”
with management participation.

Comment by “Occupying” a Table on 2012-07-20 18:23:39 +0000

Walter and Donna’s Deptford Deli outlet (homemade delishes, tea 75p in a china mug) was ousted from the Laban dance school by a recent steep rent increase. The franchise was taken over by the overpriced and bland SODeli, part of the Compass group of “food” distributers. I’ve taken to occupying one of their tables in the Laban canteen just by sitting there not ordering anything every Saturday when I daughter attends her dance class. I also move the A sign they have at the entrace to Laban around, sometimes hiding it…sometimes laving it sideways on so no-one can read it.

Comment by Brian Kavanagh on 2012-07-20 18:54:13 +0000

This is the ultimate contrarian’s nightmare. Ghostmilk. In 20 years time there will be postmodern ‘artists’ setting up replica pastiche McDonalds and Starbuck’s exbos in Berlin. 100 years after. They will make some money out of it after years of complaining about other artists doing the same. Capitalism will be brought to its knees.

Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2012-07-20 19:13:53 +0000

In which case capitalism will continue to function making money out of kneepads.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-07-20 20:23:57 +0000

Kneepads indeed! Although when I was a kid and told to clean the floor I was given a rectangular half-inch thick spongy rubber mat to kneel on when I was doing the edges and other more ‘difficult’ bits. Ain’t seen one in years either!
Other people doing my work for me in the case of Peter etc – thanks! I’ve never been in a Nando’s but just going past they look and smell horrible. I hardly watch TV so I haven’t seen their adverts either…
Occupying a table and not buying anything is a good idea indeed…. if you can put up with the ambience of these places and/or get to use the wi-fi…
You have to watch out with botulism – my pal Blaster Al Ackerman told me years ago he caught it once and went around for several days thinking he was a train and going ‘toot toot’!

Comment by Lord Snooty on 2012-07-20 22:50:03 +0000

Is it okay to eat at Claridges?

Comment by kperry on 2012-07-20 23:30:29 +0000

I will leave comment as an restaurants that I used to go to have all likely closed up . but there was a few that were good on Mare Street

Comment by Michael Roth on 2012-07-21 04:03:08 +0000

I eat at all of these places because I am on a strict diet. Food poisoning is the best way to keep my weight down.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-07-21 18:07:14 +0000

Botulism is good for you!
@ Kent Perry – there are still some pretty good alternatives to chains on Mare Street, and a very good Indian further down towards Bethnal Green on Cambridge Heath Road….
@ Lord Snooty – funny you should ask that because one of the Semina books I edited a few years back – Bubble Entendre by Mark Waugh (Book Works 2009) – features a terrorist incident in Claridges druing the 2012 Olympics. Read it and decide for yourself if you still want to eat at Claridges!

Comment by Tim Wells on 2012-07-21 19:06:22 +0000

I’ve eaten at ‘the Pie Crust’ caff that’s in Bronco Bullfrog many a time. It’s currently closed ”til further notice.’

Comment by Alexander Brattell on 2012-07-21 19:50:05 +0000

I used to love the Pie Crust, excellent Thai in the evening. Sorry but not surprised to hear it’s closed.

Comment by Alex Dipple on 2012-07-21 22:19:18 +0000

I dont think anyone expects McDonalds to be actual food anymore… that pretence is long gone. In which sorry state bad press can hardly touch them.

Comment by Nick Papadimitriou on 2012-07-21 23:01:45 +0000

I was intrigued by what you said about Russell Square. I live on the edge of the Hampstead Garden Suburb and am usually approached by ‘security officers’ whenever I take a night walk through the area. They’ve even tried to get me to give my name and address. I can’t believe what is happening to this country. Any call for deep topographers in North Korea?

Comment by Fionn Brettell on 2012-07-22 13:30:50 +0000

I only ever go into McDonald’s if I need a piss.

Comment by Rick Zurrekt on 2012-07-22 14:19:17 +0000

Yeah, that’s the vindictive spirit I like. I saw the arrival of the olympic flame to London on TV (BBC), and, taking apart that I don’t have the minimal interest in that event, I recognized that London is a city that I love so much that I would eat everyday in in the worst dens happily if I could be there.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-07-22 14:43:53 +0000

Well yesterday I got totally messed around trying to go about my business in east London and the roads were all screwed for the Olympic flame… Didn’t have time to go in a fast food joint, I was running too late!

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