From the Standard
Like an underground newspaper in a repressive state, copies of the New Yorker are being passed around by shocked London sophisticates. At first glance, it is hard to understand why they should be transfixed by the review of Fiamma, a Manhattan restaurant by one Nick Paumgarten.
The New Yorker rubbishes its cold pasta, slow service and inept bartender. “Fiamma is all prix fixe,” thunders Mr Paumgarten. “The bottom rung is three courses for $89. Throw in Barolo, tax, and tip, and, boink, you’ve been Londoned.”
Er, yes, Londoned. The Urban Dictionary of
modern slang defines it as: “A stateside expression for being overrated, overpriced and underwhelming, as in, ‘By the time the day was over I had been truly londoned’. See also ‘ripped off’ and ‘****ed over’. ”
The shame of it is made all the worse because the New Yorker does not feel it must explain what “londoned” means to its readers. The editors assume that so many of them have gone to what we like to think of as the greatest city in the world and been so londoned, no further elaboration is necessary.
I must acknowledge that there is a grain of truth in the charge. I too have sat in Michelin-starred restaurants where diners are expected to worship celebrity chefs whose most impressive creations are their staggering bills. I can imagine that our hotels and attractions must offer a very low-price-to-value ratio to tourists.
But then I can always flee the centre to convivial Italian restaurants in Clerkenwell, that are infinitely preferable to Fiamma. Or dive into a pub which has survived Labour’s mean-spirited smoking ban, safe in the knowledge that none of the regulars will ask for a Martini.
There is a final point which the New Yorker and many other miss: London isn’t a bad city to be short of money in. If you do not have to worry about housing costs – a big “if,” I accept – you can go from the Tate Modern to the National and on to Exhibition Road. If you don’t want to use up your Oyster Card, tramping the streets of London, sticking your nose into the churches, museums and odd shops is one of the greatest and cheapest pleasures available to humanity.
Perhaps we cannot compete with Manhattan high life. But if we were to take the Statue of Liberty and put it next to the Thames Barrier, its slogan, “Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free,” would ring out truer here than it does there.
From the Standard