The dining room at the Reform Club is one of my favourite places for lunch (for me it does not work as a dinner venue).
The relationship between the proportion of the room and the act of eating gives a pace to the meal, which is important to the process of digestion. Eating should not be a rushed affair. I was appalled to learn of an insurance company who give their staff free sandwiches and coffee if they sit at their computer through their lunch break. Not only does this completely go against the idea of the leisurely lunch but it goes against the whole ethic of anything that might be called a meal.
The act of eating is an essential part of life.
Not only does it provide the nourishment that is required but it provides an opportunity for social activity. Stopping to eat is the daytime equivalent of dreaming. It is a time to reflect and reconsider those points that have emerged in the day. It is a chance to obtain others'views, to discuss and think. If, however, you do not work in a city the range of places to eat is diminished. If you work in a business park you are doomed to your local canteen, which is probably franchised to a catering firm.
I have never understood why 'catering' in the UK is so bad. Operators claim that their fare is customer led. If this is true, caterers and customers deserve each other. The surroundings are just as depressing.These carpet-tiled, Formica-tabled, strip-lit rooms are so far away from the Reform Club dining room as to be hardly recognizable. I am not suggesting that every public dining room should aspire to the standards set by Charles Barry at the Reform Club. Indeed, many of the places with the best ambience have not been touched by an architect at all. In Menorca there is a wonderful restaurant called 'The Trebol'. It is by the water, with sunshades covering a raised terrace. From its concrete benches you can observe passers-by without feeling that they are invading your space.
Bruce McLean and I have had many lunches there and find that it re-energizes our collaborative work. This place is almost exclusively fish. I can recommend the parrot fish, when in season, which is bright orange and delicious. Time taken to eat properly is an investment which a snack on the hoof cannot provide.
Many people skip lunch, have just toast and coffee for breakfast, and will eat out at night. Their smart stainless steel kitchens are never used. If we lose the art of eating we will end up with a society of dysfunctional robots whose views are never modified by a slow lunch or dinner lubricated by a fine wine.
Time with family, colleagues and friendsfocused around eating - should be encouraged. I always try to have Sunday dinner with my family.Often we go to La Famiglia, off the Kings Road in London, a Tuscan restaurant which is conducive to conversation. The place is simple, with white tiles, black and white photographs on the walls and properly dressed waiters. We have to revive the act of eating, and I suspect that designers and architects are not the best people to do it. The effective spaces are a natural expression of the owner's individuality.
The loss in the art of eating, as opposed to the increase in the act of eating out, is a further attack on the right of self-expression.
First you must eat properly, and properly means taking time to enjoy it. Corporate-style eating gives you ulcers and it makes you die young.
Will Alsop, from seat no 1K, flight number AC 868 Toronto - London.