I can’t count how many times I’ve fallen in love with a bar or restaurant – with its relaxed vibe, delicious food, gorgeous décor – only to discover that it is, in fact, a chain restaurant. Although this realisation was at first depressing – is everywhere a chain? I mean, really, everywhere? – it has completely opened my eyes to their appeal.
Firstly, a chain restaurant is by definition popular – and in the hunt for cute, individualistic places to eat and drink, this widespread popularity is somewhat denigrated, making the average La Tasca obsessive (yes, me) feel a bit embarrassed about my shameless attachment to their mass-produced croquettes. I too love finding distinctive little haunts in unexpected streets or exploring the more ‘hipster’ parts of Glasgow, but that doesn’t mean that craving a Las Iguanas is inherently boring, or that the same popularity that sees customers flock to one-off restaurants in the West End is any less celebrated just because there’s more than one of them. In fact, they’re convenient, tasty and always exactly what you want – you’re lying to yourself if you don’t enjoy a cheeky Nando’s now and then.
And even though the food might not be as authentic as your average independent eatery, who’s to say that it isn’t appetising in its own right? Just because Asian fusion isn’t an authentic representation of each country’s individual food traditions doesn’t mean that it’s not flavoursome or inventive. This might be the fussy spaghetti bolognese lover in me talking, but occasionally simpler really is best.
Sometimes the very ubiquity of these dishes works in chain restaurants’ favour.Although I would always rather explore a city’s own unique food scene, sometimes it’s fun to investigate familiar names in unfamiliar locations: for me, Bella Italia’s polpette Americano is still completely delicious even though it can be found in cities all over Britain. And as trying to decide upon places to eat is notoriously difficult amongst my friends, sometimes the lure of a well-known menu is just too much to resist. So long live the chain restaurants of the world – providing good food to lazy diners everywhere.