The Foyer, BBC Television Centre, Shepherd's Bush
BBC Television Centre
(open to staff and their guests only)
by Eggy Mair
Spare a thought for the philosophical problems of the night shift worker. Breakfast: is it the bowl of cereal you grab after stumbling out of bed in the middle of the afternoon, while still several hours shy of your recommended daily allowance of sleep? Is the meal you put away at the crack of dawn actually dinner, or is it just breakfast in another time zone? Can a breakfast really be considered "all day" when the outlet serving it is only open from midnight till 5pm?
Your intrepid correspondent finds himself considering these dilemmas, while midway through a gruelling week of nights spent in Television Centre. During the day, several thousand people work there, but overnight, a forgotten few are hidden away in its labyrinth of curved corridors, writing the morning's news, keeping services for insomniacs on air, and dusting and polishing Mark Thompson's throne. Making sure all these people can do their jobs smoothly relies on the relentlessly cheerful duo in the Foyer Cafe.
For £2.15, I think it's fair to assume that the 'all-day' breakfast on offer is either subsidised, or made from pretty poor quality ingredients. Having tried most of its combinations, I think your licence fee is probably safe. The bacon is salty, and often so crispy as to preclude cutting with the supplied plastic cutlery. The sausage is bland; its vegetarian counterpart a cylinder of Quorny nothingness. The fried egg can be a saving grace, but only if you can get it back to your office before it solidifies. I tried the poached option one day, and was baffled to find that it tasted of water, not egg.
I still don't know what they use to make the toast, but the plasticy texture and stripey pattern leads me to believe it may be a laminator - fried bread is a tastier, if deadlier choice. The mushrooms are generally too bland to merit a comment, and the hash browns notable mainly for their ability to melt through the polystyrene container. However, it's the presence of the takeaway box that causes a key problem with the dawn feast: baked beans, which can brighten any cooked breakfast, just swamp everything else in the box while in transit back to your desk. I have one colleague who will enthuse about this as a benefit to anyone who doesn't care to listen, but he's generally wrong about everything, and can be safely ignored. Substituting a grilled tomato is still a poor substitute for beans.
Nothing about the Foyer's breakfast is particularly satisfying, but the alternative is attempting the commute home on an empty stomach, and that's a potentially even less satisfying. Just another problem for the night shift worker.