Saturday, February 21, 2009

Harvey Nicks - too good for chimps

The past few days I've been my normal pretty depressed self. People used to ask me what my politics were and I used to say 'Champagne anarcho-socialist'. These days it's just prosecco. It's not a happy time for most. I've even managed to feel sorry for the poor blighters at the Sun, hearing that News International are laying off 60 journalists. In fact, I almost bought the paper, after picking it up whilst I was having my obligatory city-centre-shopping-tea-break at Pret. I came across this article. Some woman kept a chimp as a pet which then bit her friend's eyes out. She loved the chimp. It was quite a tragic story. But the quote kept me laughing for hours. "Until you’ve eaten with a chimp and bathed with a chimp, you don’t know a chimp.” The Sun and its journalists are obviously trying to cheer everyone up with their stories. This time it worked. Or is it the blitz spirit? Under normal circumstances I would hate News International and their journalists, but hearing that they're all going on the dole brings out a sympathy laugh for their 'human' (or in this case chimp) interest stories that our journalist 'professors' used to harp on about.

Whilst I was pondering capitalism's imminent demise I decided to give what will probably be the last bastions of this economic creed a run for their money. A soup-run for *my* money in fact. Yes, I went to Harvey Nick's for my lunch. There's something so unsettling about carrying massive bags with a tray around Pret, nice as the tea and wonderful salad is. You feel like the underclass. Shuffling along, banging into people, wondering if you've just poked someone's eye out with your latest Poundland bargain. The seats are just too close together and you need ten arms. There's no excuse NOT to go to proper lunch in Leeds on a Saturday. So I left the Sun behind, after the using the (frankly rather pathetic) facilities at Pret. Don't get me wrong. I love Pret. It's the only chain I do love. But, it's only two minutes from a Leeds icon.

I toddled off to Harvey Nicks. I paid the huge £7.26 for my lunch at Harvey Nicks (including service). But what do you get for your money? Well, for the extra £2 than you would probably pay at a similar cafe, you get a long list of extras. *Proper* pepper in a mill. Salt in a mill. Single expresso - which comes with an optional glass of tap water. You get what used to be called 'silver service'. With my roast tomoato soup with croutons and creme fraiche I was given a choice of three breads. The manager is a very friendly and knowledgeable man, dressed immaculately in a pin-stripe suit with this incredible posture that makes me think he does yoga. And this is the crucial difference. Not only are there no chimps, nor even newspapers hanging around with stories of chimps. There is impeccable, personal and personnable service. They glide over to you, and glide you to your seat. Every wish is their command. The staff are attentive, experienced, knowledgeable and the service is seamless. And then there's the views. You might think, what's the centre of Leeds to look at? Well, the Harvey Nick's cafe is in the Victoria quarter where all the very expensive shops were done up recently. So the architecture is very smart if you like that sort of thing. What I love are the coloured glass windows on the roof. All different colours in modern designs, just beautiful for non-economic, peaceful and optimistic contemplation. And so, I leave my lunchtime date with myself, not only feeling sated, but not feeling too impoverished or ripped off. Comrades, when we do take over the world can we keep quality food establishments like Harvey Nichols?

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