Gentrification and the art of the restaurant review.


The review is worth it for the preface about gentrification. Just yesterday, I saw a comment elsewhere to this effect: “Working class people can’t always afford to eat at local restaurants.”

I have no glib reply, but there’s a discussion waiting to happen.

Plot, London: restaurant review, by Jay Rayner (The Guardian)

As the gentrification wave reaches Tooting in south London, a new diner makes itself at home in the local market

It would be a mistake to write about Plot, a sliver of a restaurant serving terrible cocktails and great food in one of south London’s traditional covered markets, without first rehearsing the arguments around gentrification. It demands that context. We know where the G-word starts: with a bunch of self-serving fiscal policies which attract oligarchs and other non-doms up to their nipples in filthy cash into London. They buy up all the property, forcing the merely well-off out to the inner suburbs, who in turn force up prices. Each socio-economic group goes further and further out of the centre.

Those on lower, but still good incomes, come in search of cheaper property, and with them come businesses to service their needs. High streets which were once full of shops selling things that people actually need become infested by men with beards making pulled pork. Suddenly there are artisanal coffee shops, and clashing food concepts fusing the traditional dishes of Cambodia with, say, those of Wales.

Caricature aside, there have generally been only two ways to view this. Either all economic activity is good and to be applauded. Yay, for pulled pork and so on. Or gentrification makes everyday life prohibitively expensive for the traditional populations of these areas, who are on lower incomes and deserve better. The reality lies somewhere in the middle. What matters is an enlightened approach by landlords and local councils to managing the high-street economy. Get it wrong and a neighbourhood really can disappear up its own gilded fundament. Get it right and there’s more money for the council to run its services.

Tooting High Road is going through the process right now and, for the most part, it seems to be working …