The UK food revolution has bypassed the likes of public transport and motorway service stations. Why must we still suffer like this?
Welcome to gastronomic hell. Or, to be more exact, seat 24, carriage C, on the 11am to Bristol Temple Meads. For it is autumn and I am travelling again, from one end of the United Kingdom to the other. There will be planes, trains and automobiles and while punctuality can’t be guaranteed, one thing is certain: the eating options will be truly awful. We like to think we have gone through a food revolution in this country over the past few decades and in terms of restaurants, and availability of ingredients, we have. But start travelling by public transport or, God help you, pull into a motorway services, and it becomes clear that revolution is still at the Molotov-cocktail-throwing stage.
In Bristol or Peckham or Ancoats right now it’s all ‘nduja and seared hispi cabbage and roasted golden beetroot with whipped feta. Meanwhile, on the 11am to Temple Meads it’s “Would you like to avail yourself of our coffee and Twix deal for £3?” and “Just how bad would you like to feel about yourself today?” The fact is you can have anything you like when you’re on the move in the UK as long as it’s a bolus of oil-drenched carbs. There are sugar-spiked muffins, and dismal croissants so flaccid no form of culinary Viagra would ever get them up again. The buffet car sandwiches taste of profit margin and old age. The “healthy option” on board is a bag of salted peanuts. Get on a domestic flight and a mini-tube of paprika flavour Pringles is about as close as you’ll get to an act of self-care. And in a well-equipped motorway services you’ll have the full choice from Burger King to KFC to Costa.