I am in Wandsworth Town. If ever there was a place to stultify the imagination, this is it. I don’t even need to think how to describe the people here and I hate myself for it. It is lovely, an oasis of loveliness in the grot of London. But this bit seems like one massive cliché.
From the posh bacon butty stall by the station with an eclectic menu down to the second hand shops, butchers and public phones with integrated cash points, this is a place that shouts middle class. There is no escape. There is nothing offensive here.
It is all comfy. The Pantry is just down the road from Wandsworth Town Station in a row of nice looking cafés and restaurants. It is full of a variety of lady that can be summarised with a fairly smug term. Having not brought my own lunch, I decide to investigate The Pantry.
I imagine a place full of jam and shelves and guess what I find there? I order a chicken mayonnaise sandwich and Fentimans Ginger Beer. Those Fentimans people are really clearing up in the middle class soft drinks market and quite rightly too. The ginger beer is pleasingly free of artificial sweetness that you get with so many soft drinks. And the ginger is hot too.
As I sit down at a big communal table to wait for my sandwich I look around and in front of me is a big jar of jam. And a milk jug. And a bowl of plums (there may have been a shelf too, but I was a bit surprised by the bowl of plums and I stopped looking around at this point). Plums? Were they for anyone to eat? Like the really posh equivalent of a bowl of peanuts in a bar? I was still struggling with this thought when my lunch arrived on a plate. Well, mainly, it was a plate. Looking closely at the plate, I saw some green leaves. Were they lettuce? I couldn’t tell. Maybe they had gone through a special machine to make them inoffensive. Looking even closer, I saw two slices of sourdough bread sliced in half.
As I slowly raised the top slice and peered beneath I felt like a child at the seaside looking under rocks for small shrimps. And I found some! Actually, it was chicken. And it was fascinating. It had a uniform texture. It wasn’t fibrous in any way. It was all pretty much the same colour and thickness. I wondered if there was someone in the kitchen being presented with boiled chicken breast, slicing off pieces of equal thickness for the sandwiches. In small portions. Or maybe they had put it through the same machine they used for the lettuce. I heard a rumour once that most meats bought in a supermarket were reconstituted meat. Even the ones you buy from the deli counter. I don’t know how true this is, but it was a thought that kept crossing my mind while I looked at the chicken.
I bit into the sandwich as mayonnaise squirted through the holes in the sourdough bread, which it turned out was mainly hole and crust. I kept on biting. And biting.
Now I like a bit of crumb as much as the next man, but this was a little over the top. Apparently, bull sharks have the strongest bite of any sharks. Their bite exerts more pressure than is required to kill or eat anything in the natural world. I am not sure they have eaten at The Pantry.
So I sat there masticating while the kitchen staff threw things around and waiters wandered around looking surly. And helping the digestion along with the occasional sip of ginger beer. The mayonnaise didn’t do much other than coat my fingers and help the chicken slip down my throat a little bit. It tasted of Hellmann's.
And I was in a bit of a rush, so I asked for the bill while I was eating - the waitress was very efficient. I would say that the bread was bracing. And I needed something to brace me when I saw how much they had charged for me to eat a little bit of questionable chicken and bread and stare at the expanse of plate in The Pantry (I suppose puzzling over a bowl of plums is an expensive pastime in Wandsworth).
There was a breakfast cereal once called Country Pantry, which I thought could be an imaginative term of abuse. As I sat there chewing on the last bit of crust with my bank account even smaller than the chicken sandwich, I kept on thinking of people who can sit in places like this all day, with enough money to allow them to consider the plums and the phrase that kept repeating in my head as I walked out wasn’t yummy mummy.
Change from a tenner - 2.19
Taste - 5
Time out - 15 mins
Country Pantry - 7