I shop at Waitrose. The fact is, it’s my closest supermarket. Actually, there’s a late-night Sainsbury’s down the road, but if you had a sudden desire for a Barbary duck, goats cheese and fennel sandwich, you wouldn’t be able to find those ingredients at Sainsbury’s Metro, or whatever it’s called. In actual fact, there’s a much larger Sainsbury’s located closer to my apartment than Waitrose is – however, the car park is like Terminal 3’s short stay at Heathrow airport. My sister Katie and I have both inherited the John Bullock (our Dad) gene of literally always being able to find a parking space anywhere we wish to park. Seriously, we could drive to Buckingham Palace for an appointment with The Queen and find a parking bay right outside the palace gates. And if not, double yellow lines with your hazards left flashing will do, no? But this particular Sainsbury’s car park saw me driving round-and-round in a tiz, I tell you! A tiz!!
Back to Waitrose; I like it there. Yes, it’s a little pricier than, say, everywhere else you could shop for groceries, but the quality is very lovely. I do enjoy a stroll around the cream & green food halls that bear a semi-close resemblance to Harrods. I don’t ever do a large food shop either as I A) don’t have a freezer to stock and B) prefer not to cook as it risks dirtying my sparkling oven; so perhaps my trips to Waitrose where I grab a few bits and bobs seem less expensive as I’m not loading my trolley high with sustenance.
On Sunday I was there, flitting around the aisles in my weekend morning get-up, which is a combination of flip-flops, Hollister sweat pants, the T-Shirt I wore to bed, a baseball cap and sunglasses (I like to pretend I’m a celebrity at the LA Farmer’s Market) and I happened to pick up the Waitrose Weekend newspaper. This is a very thin publication that you’ll find in most middle-class womens’ recycling boxes on a Monday morning, having been picked up, not read, and thrown out. What caught my eye was the competition it was advertising: “Write a review of a restaurant for us and if you win you’ll get sent to a London establishment, incognito, and critique for the Good Food Guide 2014” The first thing that jumped out at me was the “incognito” part as this surely means I can wear my sunglasses indoors again. But then, naturally, the writer inside me became stirred by this prospect. I seized up that flimsy little Waitrose Weekend and took it home to read further about the competition as I nibbled on the very flaccid apple strudel I had treated myself to, which featured about 2 pathetic slices of apple and was as dry as a nun in a pub. There’s a review in THAT!
So I’m going to enter this competition. I’ll probably review The Belgian Arms in Holyport, which has just been taken over by my boss, Parky, so it’s a good chance to critique a newly improved restaurant. Anything that gives me the chance to evaluate something through writing is attractive to me and the chance to be published in the new edition of the Good Food Guide would be fantastic. There are issues that are irking me though…
1) I’m not really a foodie. I enjoy food, but my idea of a treat is an apple strudel. Or beans on toast. I enjoy fine dining but it always seems to involve fish, which I object to seeing as I’ll only ever eat cod drenched in salt and vinegar, or tuna churned up with mayonnaise. I love cooking but, as mentioned above, I prefer not to get my very neat and tidy kitchen splashed and stained. There’s a reason my utensils are kept in an aged ceramic decorative plant pot. I try and avoid using my kitchen sink, lest I rust the stainless steel finish and need to whip out the Cillit Bang. I spent the other morning holding a hot pan of stir-fried vegetables, deliberating whether I could put it down on the wooden kitchen countertop, worried about leaving a mark. But kitchen counters are heatproof; who knew!?
2) I have never reviewed a restaurant before – but this isn’t such a big deal as I feel like I could give my opinion on a heap of smouldering luggage if I so wished.
3) The prize, aside from reviewing a top London restaurant, is a day for you and a friend at the Waitrose Cookery School. The ten finalists all get sent there before the final winner is chosen. Part of me panics about this as I can’t really imagine what to expect there. Will they line us all up and ask us to identify different varieties of beetroot? Will we have to each bake a peach torte in a race against the clock? Will we be set an obstacle course which involves fencing against one another with oversized, crusty, turgid baguettes? Will I have to pie my opponents? When the winner is announced, will there be a cat-fight between Marjory from Surrey and Jeanette from Henley? I am grotesquely competitive so perhaps there’d be a fight between Marjory, Jeanette and me! With any luck though, the Waitrose Cookery School will be just like the one in the Waitrose Christmas advert, and I’ll get to skip around an Elizabethan kitchen with Heston Blumenthal and Delia Smith as we spin sugar nets around Heston’s swan-soufflé and Delia’s caramel mounds.
4) The initial entry that I will have to submit (about the restaurant of my choice) is only meant to be 250 words. As I’m sure you’ll have gathered from, well, this blog post, I cannot be THAT succinct. TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY WORDS to review a restaurant?? I’ll barely be able to explain how I crossed the establishment’s threshold in that many words.
My other bugbears with this competition is that if you are crowned the winner, you are deemed “The Restaurant Inspector” which, I’m sorry, sounds like I’ll be going in to review the cleanliness of someone’s griddle pans. Perhaps the winner DOES have to do that! Perhaps you get sent straight to the kitchen with a white lab coat on and a clip board, rating the sharpness of the chef’s Victorinox Forschners. Perhaps, after that, you get to try a crust of bread in the side-passage…
I shall enter this competition and post my review online. I suspect I shan’t win, if only because my review will end up being 4,000 words in length, but let’s give it a whirl. I guess I’ll hold off from writing my complaint letter about that sagging, desiccated strudel in case it hinders my competition entry…
– – A