Thursday, 14 July 2011


£2.28 pp, 57 Cornmarket street, Oxford.

A minor calamity meant that I had to abandon plans for "brunch" in West London and go to Oxford for a picnic and punting.

Our punting technique left much to be desired, but our onboard picnicking was textbook, as was the subsequent drinking session, taking in all manner of ales, cocktails, wines and a meal split between two different restaurants.

Starters and cocktails at the Oxford branch of Jamie Oliver's superlative Italian eaterie, segued seamlessly into a plan to execute a longstanding ambition of mine...

It may seem unlikely, but up until pretty much exactly a year ago I had been plagued by a lifelong vegetarianism. In the intervening time I have endeavoured to eat my way around as much of the Animal Kingdom as possible, but had specifically held back on the big one, the quickest, easiest, and cheapest way to clog your arteries yet invented- the burger.

And I was going to start with the one that started it all; the granddaddy of obesity epidemics, the butterfly wing at the beginning of a billion bouts of heart disease, the McDonalds Hamburger.

As a dining venue McDonalds is found wanting pretty well across the board, the atmosphere, seating, lighting and service all seem designed to maximise turnover, getting people in and out as quickly as possible. But perhaps the greatest impediment to a good time is the lack of alcohol. Impediment, that is, to the unambitious, because whilst I placed our order at the till I dispatched my Sister to the pub next door to fetch us some beer.

The burger itself is almost inedible, which is funny because in a physical sense it requires almost no effort to actually eat. It has the texture of something that has been masticated, digested and reconstitued. You certainly wouldn't need teeth to for it, 'though that's just as well as it's only people without teeth who are likely to be insensible enough to want to. By far the best thing here is a lone slice of gherkin, providing the sole bastion of crunch in the whole soggy affair. There are very large number of more pleasurable and less dangerous things to do with a pound coin in the world, all way up to having someone drop one from the top of a very tall building onto your head.

I found all of this rather a surprise, the place after all is very, very popular, and I was expecting it at least to be tasty in a full-of-fat-sugar-and-salt kind of way. But the disappointment, I was assured by my two companions, was no one's fault but my own. Far better, they assured me, to trade (ever-so, ever-so slightly) up and opt for the double cheeseburger at £1.29. So we did that.

It has two slices of gherkin, and consequently is exactly twice as good, 'though not, you will notice, twice as expensive. In a very twisted world I would commend the quality-price-ratio in comparison to its little brother.

But things aren't that bad yet, so I shan't- the whole thing's rubbish, it's all uphill from here.

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