Whilst waiting in front of the cinema last week I had time to take a photo of an advert in the window of the local Hippopotamus, a chain of grill houses kind of like Beefeater in the UK.
In addition to the crappy joke in the advert (it’s not worth translating) it’s a fairly horrible place. Not because it’s a chain (because there are quite a few that are decent like Le Pain Quotidien and Fuxia) and not because it’s not expensive, because I know tens of really great cheap places to eat, even in Paris.
It’s mainly because the place looks like it will suck the life out of you, and really goes against the whole food culture here. I remember doing an internship in Paris when I was 20, going back to England for a bit, and then finally coming back to live here definitively 5 years later and being horrified at the number of crappy restaurant chains which had mushroomed in Paris between the two visits – Hippopotamus and McDonald’s being the main ones that spring to mind.
It’s not that it’s worse seeing these in France than in the UK, I suppose I just had more of a romantic notion of France’s capacity to resist Anglo-Saxon style eating habits where boeuf bourgignon is replaced on the menu by a hamburger and TV screens are mandatory throughout the restaurant (see background of photo!)
Anyway, when it comes down to it there’s no reason why the French should be more immune to modern marketing methods than any other nationality (with that comment in mind, I will never reveal my actual profession…). But in protest, I will continue, like many French people actually, to boycott these places and try always to go to the little French café instead of the Starbucks and the independent bistro instead of Hippopotamus. Whilst probably sacrificing speedy service and polite, smiley waiters, but hey, you can’t have it all.