Among American colleagues this week I elected to seek clarification on the difference between ‘lunch’ and ‘luncheon’. Lunch, they said, was just lunch. A luncheon, on the other hand, was an event — which involved lunch — at lunchtime. Now it may be me, but even if it’s a noteworthy lunch, the distinction does not need to be made here in Britain. Lunch is either a complete non-event; the kind of experience which introduced us to the reprehensible neologism ‘al-desko’ or it is a Major Event, the like of which Britons are occasioned to refer to as a Long Lunch. We know our lunch(es).
And so to Argentinian chef Francis Mallmann who, it was reported in the Evening Standard this week, wants to improve the lunch experience for Londoners.
“What we have to show England is about lifestyle,” he said. “It is about sitting down and having something to eat. There is a huge beauty in that in my country. We actually sit down for lunch every day and dinner and, you know, we take time after lunch to stay and talk with friends. I love that. I am getting Londoners to sit down after lunch.”
Allow us to take apart this no doubt well-intentioned advice:
- “What we have to show England is about lifestyle.” Not sure you do, Francis. We have a very interesting, renascent food culture and, as we recently argued, there has never been a better time to eat in London.
- “It is about sitting down and having something to eat.” We know.
- “There is a huge beauty in that in my country.” Many would argue that there is here, too.
- “We actually sit down for lunch every day and dinner and, you know, we take time after lunch to stay and talk with friends.” Nice one. Thing is, sometimes living in a metropolis doesn’t always allow for such a leisurely meal in the middle of the day.
- “I am getting Londoners to sit down after lunch.” Good luck.
Elsewhere he says, “Food and wine can’t be the most important thing. The only reason is to sit down with friends, is to get food and wine to make you more witty and truthful. The food and wine is not the reason to be there.” Err, at Eater, we’d say it kind of is. And that doesn’t mean that company doesn’t matter. All of it matters.
The interview also informs us that Mallmann will be cooking at Into the Wild festival, “a one-day food, drink and lifestyle” event with Krug Champagne. One can only imagine that Mallmann would have gone nowhere near it — priced at £395 per person — had it been merely in the business of food and drink. Timing is 4pm until midnight: not lunch, not luncheon, not even dinner.
Mallmann is expected to open a restaurant this year, but is short of specifics when asked by The Standard: “We have sort of set up plans to make a restaurant in London. We’re looking at different sites. We have been working on this for two years. We are on a healthy path towards it.” We’ll be waiting, lunch-ready, for you at the end of the path, Francis.