OK, a minor exaggeration there, but it was a close run thing. Pushed to extreme tetchiness by hunger, both The Man and I were getting close to tantrum territory on a recent trip in to the tourist centre of our new home, Sydney, because of the complete lack of any eating options that did not require a mortgage.
Tourist traps like Circular Quay, home of the Opera House and stunning views of Sydney Harbour Bridge, are always going to charge a premium. It was astonishing, though, that there was absolutely nothing cheap and cheerful to be had in the vicinity. What would a budget conscious backpacker or family out for a day trip do? Bring their own sarnies?
But it seems it’s not just touristic areas that are suffering massive inflation. Recently I was in Bondi Junction (the less glamorous twin of Bondi Beach) and found it impossible to get a quick sandwich’n’juice lunch for less than $10 – in the food court! In fact, I would go so far to say that there seems to be very little cheap and cheerful left in the food scene in Aus in general.
Coming home has been great in many ways. I am appreciating all over again the vibrant food and independent cafe culture that has really blossomed in Australia while I’ve been away. But – much as this might shock, food is cheaper in London, even allowing for the current strong dollar/ weak pound.
Since when has it been normal to charge over $20 for a burger?
How come a suburban Sunday breakfast for four costs a hundred bucks?
Why is beer so expensive when it’s part of our national psyche?
Where did the ordinary bakery go and how come I can’t get a simple chicken and salad sandwich?
How can the supermarkets get away with the prices they charge for basic foods? Where’s the competition?
The thing I find most curious is there is an untapped market for quick, interesting and not horrendously priced food, particularly lunch. I never thought I would be extolling the virtues of chains, but in the UK Marks & Spencers, Eat and Pret a Manger lead the way in providing interesting, good quality prepared sandwiches, salads and heat’n’serve dinners for relatively reasonable prices to people at train stations, in central cities and, yes, tourist traps. I can’t see an equivalent here in Australia.
M&S come quickly! Australia needs you!