Taking advantage of their employer’s flexible working policy, Cat and a colleague bunked off to Ryde one lunchtime for reasons to tedious to go into. The Cat had already eaten her nammit but her friend, who was recovering from a heavy night on the sauce at Ocean Blue Quay, Ventnor was in desperate need of hangover food.
Driving along Smallbrook Lane and spotting a discarded fries wrapper here and a drinks carton there, Cat’s friend – who was keen to find somewhere that would serve some salty, fatty food with a good helping of (non alcoholic) drink to rehydrate her depleted organs – knew where to go. The litter drew them to its source – McDonald’s.
Matt and Cat aren’t snobs – far from it. They pride themselves on their egalitarian approach; their comprehensive coverage of both the most modest of burger vans, to the exalted Island’s Michelin-starred restaurant marks them out from other, less proletariat reviewers. Until now, however, the epitome of fast food restaurants, McDonald’s, has not entered their radar. There was a near miss in early 2009 but this ubiquitous eatery could not be avoided forever.
Disappointingly for Cat, when her friend swerved onto the restaurant’s vast landing pad and trickled to a halt in the big car park, she realised that they weren’t going to have the complete drive-in experience, choosing instead to eat in. There was a practical reason for this; Cat’s colleague, although extremely good at multi-tasking, considered it unwise to simultaneously scoff and steer.
Nothing was spent; only a single ‘fry’ was consumed by The Cat.
Years ago, Cat commuted to a job in Shanklin and, during her daily drive along Brading Road, she watched the rapid erection of the McDonald’s. Delivered in kit form on a low-loader, the pre-wallpapered sections were bolted together and, with the indecent haste of a barn raising, the restaurant was ready for business within a couple of days. Yet when she went in, imagining it to be particularly flimsy, Cat was impressed with the robustness of the structure – it looked like a proper restaurant!
Cat’s friend was an old hand at the McDonald’s experience. With a young son who enjoys the free colouring-in, the plastic toys and the food, she was a regular visitor. For Cat, who is not a parent and spends all day colouring-in without needing to go to a restaurant to do so, this was all new. It was probably a good job that Matt wasn’t with the chums that day as his dislike of menus with photographs on them would have probably sent him into a spasm for, displayed above their heads were pictures of supersize food, backlit and glowing. This necessitates the consumer to raise their face upwards in a position of near-worship. However, there was not much time to study the bill of fare as Cat’s mate had already given her order – cheeseburger, fries and a bottle of water. Water? What happened to tantrum-inducing caffeinated fizz?
Cat and her friend were given instructions to find a table with a promise that the meal would be brought over. Waitress service? Curiouser and curiouser! There were plenty of tables to eat at, although some of them still had the debris of previous occupants scattered on their melamine surfaces. This is not the fault of the restaurant, it’s indolent customers too idle to follow protocol and empty their meal remnants into the big bin. Cat wondered if they were related to the people that threw their wrappers out of their car windows in Ryde’s adjoining highways.
Whilst waiting, Cat examined free McDonald’s literature which boasted of WiFi, meat provenance and sustainability. The corporation is certainly doing its best to turnaround its reputation as a mass-producer of unhealthy mystery meat patties. During the wait Cat’s colleague went to get ketchup and returned with two dainty paper ramekins filled with the red stuff. Mystified, Cat demanded to be shown where this had come from. A ketchup pump has been installed which dispenses a good dollop of tomato sauce into an open chip-dip-friendly vessel. No wrestling with plastic sachets? Surely some mistake?
Before long the waitress arrived with a cardboard box on a plastic tray. The box contained a poorly-presented flat-looking burger, the “plasticky” cheese of which had disappointingly leached out during its journey from kitchen to table. However, it was all contained within the box and, with judicious use of a chip (there is no cutlery to be had here), it was scooped up and eaten. Cat deigned to nibble on a chip. It was very hot – obviously freshly cooked. The cheeseburger was reported to be lovely the gherkin was tasty; just the thing to ward off the post-plonk munchies. To provoke further dehydration Cat’s friend sprinkled her chips with plenty of mineral-replenishing salt.
Before long, the meal had been eaten. Cat was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience, from the waitress service, the cooling air conditioning and the McDonald’s propaganda. The menu was pretty limited but that is supposed to be the company’s USP – it’s the same food wherever you go in the world. So, was Cat lovin’ it? Without having tasted the food she could not give her usual honest appraisal. However, the vicarious experience suggests that McDonald’s is a great place for cheap and fast food. Shame about all of the litter it generates but that’s a whole other story…