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23 July 2014

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Food for Thought - The Mayoral Candidates Speak Out

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London will elect its mayor on 1 May. Square Meal asks the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates for their views on the capital’s restaurant scene and finds that bicycles and bottled water are just two of the issues exercising these would-be mayors when it comes to improving Londoners’ dining experiences


ken - DPS_final2.jpg KEN LIVINGSTONE
Current mayor and Labour candidate

Do you think the capital’s restaurant scene is a good advert for London?
Absolutely, and the range has improved so much over the past decade – a combination of economic growth, the growing confidence of London and the city’s incredible cultural diversity.

What would you change about dining out in London if you were elected?
I want to put an end to the stigma of asking for tap water instead of bottled mineral water. Think of the waste and carbon emissions involved in bottling and distributing mineral water, and the cost of paying for it, compared with the perfectly good stuff that comes out of the tap.

What is the best way to improve the daily diet of the average Londoner?

Eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is good advice. Most Londoners have access to fresh food, but some areas are less well provided for. Our ‘London Food’ unit supports the greater provision of fresh food and encourages the farmers’ markets that are springing up in many parts of the city.

Should London restaurants do more to address environmental and ethical issues?

Yes, and I think they have a real role to play, particularly in recycling more food waste, which can be converted into a renewable energy source. They can also source more
of their ingredients as locally as possible.

As a politician, do you feel you have to watch how you behave in restaurants?

I’m a paragon of virtue wherever I am!

What are your three favourite London restaurants?

Vasco and Piero’s Pavilion in Soho is an old favourite for great, affordable food in central London. If we’re pushing the boat out, then Richard Corrigan at Lindsay House is a real treat. I love the tapas at El Parador in Camden Town and it has an excellent garden for eating out in summer.

Favourite London park for a picnic?

I go to Regent’s Park whenever I can, as you can visit London Zoo at the same time.

You’re being shot at dawn. What would you eat and drink at your last meal?

Probably a good bacon sandwich or a full English breakfast. It would clash, but to drink a decent Barolo would be top of my list.

Who would be your dream dinner companion?

Bobby Kennedy.

What annoys you most when eating out?

Staff not getting the service charge.

What is the single greatest issue facing Londoners today?

Climate change is the single biggest issue facing the future of the planet, and London’s greatest challenge is how we can take a lead in cutting emissions and adapt our city to the global warming that is now inevitable. But I am very positive about this. We really can make a difference and tackling climate change doesn’t mean reducing your quality of life. But it does mean we all have to change the way we live to cut out the wasteful use of energy.


boris - DPS_final3.jpg BORIS JOHNSON
Conservative candidate

Do you think the capital’s restaurant scene is a good advert for London?
I refer you to New York Magazine, which recently capitulated to the new culinary capital of the world. London, said the New Yorkers, has the best restaurants and indeed the snazziest dinner parties in the world.

What would you change about dining out in London if you were elected?
Improve the transport system that conveys Londoners to and from our wonderful restaurants.

What is the best way to improve the daily diet of the average Londoner?
I don’t believe in dictating daily diets to anyone, but what the mayor can – and should – do for Londoners’ health is make it easier for them to journey across the capital by bike or on foot. If elected in May I will work with the boroughs to make London the most cycle-friendly city in the world. And if we are to encourage people to walk around London more, we need to convince them that they are safe to do so.

Should London restaurants do more to address environmental and ethical issues?

All restaurants in London should be encouraged to conduct their business in an ethical and environmentally friendly manner. I don’t believe in coercive regulations, but I do think we should be incentivising and encouraging businesses to look after their staff and the environment while taking care of the customer. For instance, I am a strong believer in drinking tap water, which is of a very high quality in London. Bottled water is costly for the pocket and the environment, which is why, if elected as mayor, I will ban the purchase of bottled water from all the bodies I control. I would encourage restaurants to serve tap water over bottled, too.

As a politician, do you feel you have to watch how you behave in restaurants?

Of course, as everyone else does.

What are your three favourite London restaurants?

There are so many great restaurants in London. Pasha is a fantastic Turkish restaurant on Upper Street, Islington – the staff are wonderful. Another favourite is The Fryer’s Delight in Holborn. It’s an institution and its fish and chips cannot be bettered. Finally, The Duchess of Kent on Liverpool Road, Islington, is always good fun and its gastropub fare is delicious.

Favourite London park for a picnic?

Greenwich Park.

You’re being shot at dawn. What would you eat and drink at your last meal?

Bangers and mash with a nice bottle of red.

Who would be your dream dinner companion?

My wife.

What annoys you most when eating out?

People who text at the table while others are talking to them.

What is the single greatest issue facing Londoners today?

Crime. Figures show that robbery is on the rise, violent crime is on the rise, gun crime is on the rise, sexual offences are on the rise, domestic violence is on the rise, homophobic crime is on the rise and murder is on the rise. Fear of violence is inhibiting Londoners from living their lives fully and freely.


Brian Paddick - Paddick_final.jpg BRIAN PADDICK
Liberal Democrat candidate

Do you think the capital’s restaurant scene is a good advert for London?
It is brilliant. The range of tastes and budgets on offer is immense. Whether you are looking for traditional fare or obscure culinary delights, a cheap bite or luxurious Michelin-starred cuisine, London’s restaurant scene is as diverse as its people.

What would you change about dining out in London if you were elected?
We need a change in restaurant culture so you do not get a disgusted look from your waiter when you ask for tap instead of bottled water. Environmentally, bottled water is a no-no.

What is the best way to improve the daily diet of the average Londoner?

We need to make locally grown fruit and vegetables readily available to all Londoners. If we spent as much on advertising healthy eating as we did on advertising junk food, we would all be better off.

Should London restaurants do more to address environmental and ethical issues?

Yes. Sourcing food as locally as possible is a great way to cut down on food miles and it often means that the produce tastes better. We also need to ensure that catering staff are paid a decent wage in a notoriously badly paid profession.

As a politician do you feel you need to watch how you behave in restaurants?

I don’t think of myself as a politician. I am an ordinary Londoner running for mayor and I’m not going to change my behaviour just because I am in the public eye.

What are your three favourite London restaurants?

The Wolseley and The Ivy are favourite haunts, where good food and a warm welcome are guaranteed. There is a great Vietnamese restaurant in Pimlico, Mekong, with fab food at bargain prices.

Favourite London park for a picnic?

St James’s Park. On a warm summer’s day there is no better place to spread out your
picnic blanket.

You are being shot at dawn. What would you eat as your last meal?

The Ivy’s scampi in breadcrumbs is a totally unhealthy starter but who cares if you’re about to die anyway. The Wolseley’s sole meuniere is wonderfully filling and should sustain me through the dark night ahead. The Mekong’s toffee apple, with the sharpness of the fruit contrasted with the sweetness of the sugar coating, would be a sweet end… to this cruel world!

Who would be your dream dinner companion?

Aside from my partner of course, David Furnish and I have shared some truly memorable dinners together, not just the food but because he is such good company and the perfect gentleman.

What annoys you most when eating out?

Loud and aggressive people who treat waiters as servants. They have no respect for their fellow diners and fail to recognise the hard work most waiting staff do to make our dining experience a pleasant one.

What is the single greatest issue facing Londoners today?

The gap between rich and poor. If everyone believed they were getting a fair deal from this great city of ours, there would be less aggression, less crime and everyone would get on a whole lot better.

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