As food prices continue to rise and my salary unable to keep up with the rate of inflation, I faced a grim economic decision and made cuts to my lunch budget. While I have no intention of starving this year, I can no longer justify spending excess of £5 a day in cafes and delicatessens. At lunch time I now have to unwrap wholemeal sandwiches from a recycled Tesco bag and savour the grim banality of an economic recession. With my taste buds regressing back to the 1980s, I became nostalgic for the culinary delights of the credit boom when it was acceptable to spend well beyond your means.
Lunches can brighten up even the most mediocre day at work. At the strike of noon, I consider lunch time in Fitzrovia to be a truly glorious affair and not just because I am not working. Fitzrovia is arguably one of the best places in London to enjoy a mid-day feast and with almost every world cuisine available, I regularly satisfy my carnal desires at the Goodge Place Food Market. Despite my modest salary, I have always strongly believed that beautiful food should not be restricted to advertising executives queuing up for crispy garlic prawns or Lebanese falafel from Hoxton Beach.
On becoming accustomed to enjoying a grand luncheon everyday, I would attend trendy cafes and rotate my meals depending on whether I fancied Japanese noodles or a Vietnamese Bánh mì sandwich. Alternatively if I was running low on funds, I would resort to a taste of real life at Greggs. Such poor eating habits became the norm towards the end of last year when I began my efficiency drive. While saving is now an economic necessity, I sometimes feel disillusioned eating wholemeal sandwiches and occasionally slip back into decadent ways.
Food is one of life’s great pleasures and one of my favourite cafes in Fitzrovia is the charming Italia Uno, which serves rustic dishes and beautiful Italian sandwiches. Such is the popularity of the cafe you will regularly see immigration-style queues in anticipation of a cold slice of prosciutto. While undoubtedly popular with local residents, the cafe’s interior is ordinary and customers should wait until after 2pm for the peak lunch crowds to disperse before entering this family run outlet.
Almost all of the regular clientele are from the Bel Paese and their sandwich menu is absolutely divine. The classic Piccante sandwich with extra sun-dried tomatoes is the undisputed favourite and at £3.80 a sandwich it is very reasonably priced. Sadly Italian sandwiches are now confined to a distant memory as my lunches are forcibly digested in front of a keyboard. Unable to turn back the clock, I now walk past the middle-aged advertising executives queuing up for Lebanese falafel and can only marvel at what unrestricted wealth can buy in this age of austerity.