This is a serious issue, on a par with legalising drugs or votes at 16 (well, nearly), is the troubling question of independence; not state independence or Scottish independence, but eatery independence. Just which wins? The groovy, individual brasserie of guide book acclaim, or that trusty chain where you can order without thought (let’s face it, you know the menu) and probably arrive coupon in hand….there’s no Orange Wednesdays at Sticky Beaks.
Ask anyone and they will probably lament the lack of independent ‘food outlets’ in Cambridge. However there are a few, so why does every birthday supper inevitably take place in Zizzi, GBK or if you’re feeling really adventurous, Wagamama? I argue that this is because we are creatures of habit. No one wants to worry about turning up to this ‘really quirky place I know’ to find that half the dishes are out of stock, the loo is in another building or, worst of all, you have the share a table with parties of strangers; communality is for canteens only. Pizza express might have the same, tasteless art in every one of its branches, and you certainly can’t show off your inner explorer by claiming to have discovered it, but it does provide a comforting environment that’s hassle free each time. Invite someone to lunch at the Rainbow Café and you’ll need to explain where it is; suggest dinner at GBK and its perfect positioning opposite the p’lodge is universal knowledge (where Downing = universe). Independence is great, but it so often stumbles at the big-vs-little-business hurdle; inability to bulk buy means few reserves, which means you can spend ages setting your heart on Butternut squash soup only to be told it has finished. The crashing disappointment, the trauma of making another choice, is just not fun. Order in Prezzo and they are hardly going to be out of pizza.
This having been said, the most memorable coffees or lunches are undoubtedly the ones that are a bit different, where you can meet the owner, choose a kooky beverage (I discovered Liquorice tea in Indigo Café) and sit smugly in a bubble of independence and originality.
The Blake Society is THE Downing College society for all arts and humanities students and anyone interested in arts-type things.