A good night out at a lively and fun place like Borough Market represents all that the terrorists loathe, says Stephen Jardine
Across five years this column has tackled every aspect of food and drink. From the horrors of food poisoning to European farming policy and the joy of a well made cup of tea, nothing is off limits. However I never thought terrorism would creep into this space, but it did last Saturday night.
The London terror attack targeted the epicentre of London’s eating and drinking scene. If you read this column, you know about food and drink so that means you know about Borough Market. Dating back to 1014, it has always been where Londoners go to eat, drink and make merry. In 1270 it was selling corn and cattle but by 1406 “bread, wine and other victuals” had been added to the offering. By 1933 it had turned into a wholesale market selling nearly two million bushels of fruit and vegetables. Another reincarnation turned it into the bustling international marketplace it is today with over 100 stalls selling fish, meat, cheese, bread and cakes.
With 4.5 million visitors every year, it is also now one of London’s biggest visitor attractions. Inevitably that has attracted plenty of bars and restaurants. On visits down I’ve enjoyed seafood at Wright Brothers, tapas at Brindisi and the best British cooking at Roast. What’s not to like? Well if you are a self-styled jihadist, the answer is everything.
Borough Market represents everything they loathe.
It is a multicultural melting pot of races and faiths enjoying life. In the twisted mindset the attackers have made their own, that is beyond unacceptable.
They hope cruel and random attacks will batter us into submission, forcing us to batten down the hatches, turn down the fun level and avoid bars, clubs and restaurants where enjoyment might offend and provoke further backlash.
Unfortunately for them, the opposite is true. It just seems to make the rest of us even more determined to have a good time. I can’t put it any better than Richard Angell who was caught up in the chaos last Saturday night and returned the next day to pay his restaurant bill and tip the staff saying “it is the very least I can do”. He went on to set an example to us all.
“If drinking gin and tonics with my friends, flirting with handsome men and hanging out with strong women continues to offend the cowards who sought to cause us such harm, then I for one will be doing it more not less, “ he said.
In recent years, there have been arguments about what it really means to be British. Of course it is many things to many people but if one thing does sum up our approach to life, it is our commitment to a good night out. We now spend more on eating out than we do at home and we put more behind the tills of bars and clubs than many other comparable countries.
We have an eating and drinking scene that is the envy of the world and we like to enjoy it. Should we give that up for people who want to drag us back to the dark ages?
Last night hospitality operators in London organised visits by their staff to Borough Market to help the bars and restaurants get back on their feet. Food bloggers have also been urging people to return and tonight many businesses in the area will be reopening for the first time. We can demonstrate our solidarity by going out, having fun and doing even more of the things the attackers seem to hate. That way, they always lose.