The writing’s on the wall (!!) for Leeds’ Bro-Food Misogyny

14919277099_866cbe73dd1

I mentioned last week in my Almost Famous review that their embarrassing attempt at “subversive” branding was enough put me off going there again, and as such they fell off my radar entirely – we had nothing to offer each other.  That was, until I saw this article by Helen Graves last night, which brought some more details to my attention.

Photo: Helen Graves (helengraves.co.uk)
In particular, there was a justifiably negative response to the women’s bathrooms, specifically the fact that the walls are plastered in first-person displays of low self-image and low self-esteem.  “Why can’t I be thinner?” is one of the questions being forced into female customers’ subconscious while they look in the mirror.  “Maybe laxatives are the answer?”  Other snippets designed to nudge women towards Almost Famous’s feminine ideal include suggesting “My hair is too frizzy” “My nose is too fat” and “I wish I had boobs like Katy Perry”.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if the Gent’s bathroom was a haven of insecurity and critique as well, with 1200pt Helvetica saying things like “Your willy is a bit crooked today” and “You brought a date to a restaurant which serves something called ‘Bitch Juice’, what the fuck is wrong with you?” but they don’t.  Instead, when male customers (hopefully) wash their hands and admire themselves in the mirrors they’re given the opportunity to read an exert from American Psycho
“I believe in taking care of myself and a balanced diet and rigorous exercise routine. In the morning if my face is a little puffy I’ll put on an ice pack while doing stomach crunches. I can do 1000 now. After I remove the ice pack I use a deep pore cleanser lotion. In the shower I use a water activated gel cleanser, then a honey almond body scrub, and on the face an exfoliating gel scrub. Then I apply an herb-mint facial mask which I leave on for 10 minutes while I prepare the rest of my routine. I always use an after shave lotion with little or no alcohol, because alcohol dries your face out and makes you look older. Then moisturizer, then an anti-aging eye balm followed by a final moisturizing protective lotion.  

There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman; some kind of abstraction. But there is no real me: only an entity, something illusory. And though I can hide my cold gaze, and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable… I simply am not there.”

Women are encouraged to wonder “Who is that girl in all of my boyfriend’s Facebook pictures?”, whereas Men get to briefly assume the role of one of literatures most notable delusional narcissists.

When I visited I noticed that the front of house and floor staff were women around 18-22 (While the males were behind the bar making drinks, or just behind the bar talking about man stuff like doing press ups) – is this considered an appropriate working environment for young women?  If I went to work every day and got told “My bum is really flat”, I might just start to believe it.  And my bum is fucking gorgeous.

This isn’t Leeds Bro Food scene’s first foray into misogyny though.  Primo’s came under criticism a couple of years ago for their marketing, which encouraged customers to “Get Freshers while they’re still thin”, and responded to the criticism by suggesting that Primo’s loves big girls, because they keep them in business.  Red’s True BBQ launched a campaign earlier this year which parodied domestic abuse charity adverts, with the hilarious twist that it was to help “convert” vegetarians.  And let’s not ignore Get Baked/Mr. Nice Guys, who every so often encourage their Facebook followers to launch a tirade of abuse against Cher Lloyd for no apparent reason, with predictably vulgar results.

Unfortunately, when negative attention is drawn to these campaigns it only makes the idiots responsible for them think they’re doing a great job at “viral marketing”, and the equally stupid apologists jump to their defence, mistaking critics sense of decency for “Being easily offended”, all the time normalising the outdated messages that the restaurants perpetuate.  Are the people who approve these campaigns really that out of touch the the pop culture that they think sexism is still fair game?  A national dialogue is open on equality now lads; feminism is a backing dancer for Beyonce.

Leeds is desperate at the moment to be considered “Food Capital of the North”, and 90% of restaurants and vendors are doing great work towards that.  Unfortunately while this minority tries to make up for the shortcomings of their food with shock tactics, all the things which make the city great will be ignored as our city’s image boils down to little more than attention-craving LAD Bible burger joints.

Update: After maintaining silence for most of the day, Almost Famous issued the following statement on their website, complete with photograph:

The designs in our female toilets have caused upset and we are sorry. Almost Famous is a young company, we take risks, but we got this one wrong. We want to stress our intentions weren’t to offend. The designs were created by a female employee to voice her own and other women’s insecurities. We accept we didn’t communicate this properly. The designs are currently being removed from all of our restaurants.

The Almost Famous Team”

All credit to them for being proactive.  The “we’re young mavericks who are naive, and as a result took a swing and a miss” and “it was a female employee’s idea” attempts at absolving blame doesn’t quite cut it, but it’s better than the usual “Some people just can’t take a joke” or “We’re sorry you were offended” responses to criticism – so that’s some progress.
Of course, this doesn’t address their promotional video featuring a close-up of a woman’s face while she masturbates over the thought of a ketchup-lubricated lapdance (Don’t waste your time watching it, it just looks like a 2008 episode of Skins set in a service station), but it’s a start…

Takeaway Review: Mr. Nice Guy’s

P20915011

In my experience of reading food blogs – and I feel that I can speak with authority on the subject, having read as many as three – I’ve noticed an absence of reviews for takeaway places.  It makes sense really, reviewing something in your own home takes what little glamour there is in food blogging, strips it down to loungewear of ambiguous cleanliness, and plonks it on a sofa in front of Netflix.  There’s the ratings section of JustEat of course, but comments sections on websites tend to be the domain of angry loners and Illuminati-theorists; not the type of people you can take a reliable restaurant recommendation from.  Never one to shy away form suffering for my art, I’m going to step up to the plate* and offer my services.  First place up for review: Mr. Nice Guy’s

*polystyrene carton
Opening last year as a spin-off from the wildly successful Get Baked, Mr Nice Guy’s was one of the first places in Leeds to offer American-style burgers; dripping fresh patties, shiny buns etc etc.  Anybody who knows about Get Baked (Which is absolutely everybody, by the way.  Their social media game is on point) knows that they’re passionate about their product, it shows in their enthusiasm for the business as well as the reception from customers; these are the type of people you want to be making your food.
The combination of wild popularity and an admirable dedication to making everything fresh means that waiting times can be higher than you’d expect from a burger place – their website advises it can take up to an hour and a half for delivery.  Being starving and impatient, I sat poised at my laptop from 17:58, refreshing the order page until it came online at 6pm, placed our order of a Nice Burger (£6), Ohio Burger (£6.5) and Jalapeno-salted Fries (£2), and played the waiting game.
The waiting game sucked, but luckily we received a call a couple of minutes later telling us that our order was on the grill and would be sent out soon – which was a nice touch – and within half an hour a cheerful delivery man was at our door with bags of burgers.
I went for the modestly-named Nice Burger first, Nice Guy’s take on a bacon cheeseburger, with the addition of their signature Nice Sauce.  Unsheathed from its double-wrapping I noticed that in transit the juices from the patty and the melted cheese had made everything inside the bun kind of congeal in the best kind of way, meaning that each element of the burger was present and correct in every mouthful.  I’ve been spoilt rotten this week with burgers, this one being the third I’ve eaten, and it was probably the best.  While the patty was a little overcooked for my liking (When it comes to patties I’m with ODB: Baby I like it raaaaAAAaaaw), allowing it to sit and harmonise with the rest of the ingredients for ten minutes inside a wrapper gives it the edge.  I would never be able to sit and watch a burger for ten minutes if it was in front of me, regardless of how cohesive the ingredients would be by the end of it.  The Jalapeno-salted fries were alright, but could have done with more Jalapeno salt.  Decent sized portion though for the price, we had one between us and it was plenty.
Next up was the Ohio, which contained bacon, cheddar, and a smear of peanut butter to glue everything together.  I swapped the bacon for candied bacon, but also added lettuce because my body is a temple, son.  As much as I talk about the virtues of a simple, gimmick-free burger, I can be a sucker for feature-pieces like this and Red’s Donut-Burger.  Much like crystal meth and dance music, I feel they’re something I need to indulge in while I’m still relatively young and hip, before they can cause any irreparable damage or cause me to look like a fat wheezing slob in public, embarrassing myself by trying my hand at a young man’s game.  The Ohio was good, but not something I’d order again.  Without the sweet and sharp Nice sauce cutting through the flavour landscape (can I get away with saying that?  Ok, just this once) it became a bit difficult to eat, but this might have been accountable to the fact I’d already eaten one burger by this point.  I’d recommend you try it once, but the Nice Burger is your best bet for a classic burger.  
In the end I had to have a little walk around the room and stoke the fireplace (not a euphemism) before finally, heroically finishing the thing.  Perhaps I’m more suited to blogging from outside of the public eye after all…