The London Review of Breakfasts

"Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper." (Francis Bacon)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Whole Foods, Kensington

Whole Foods
The Barkers Building
63 - 97 Kensington High Street
0207 368 4500

by H.P. Seuss

What the fuck is that SMELL?

Actually, smell doesn't capture it. It has the pervasiveness of a fug - but a fug is too low somehow, too damp. It has the dryness of an aroma - but then an aroma would imply that it's pleasant. It's not something you'd sniff for kicks.

Yeast is the predominant note, with sympathetic chords of wicker baskets, brioche and American things like popcorn and hire cars. There's a definite bouquet of straw, too; and with it the tang of manure and the surprisingly soft note of rotting flesh. The structure is redolent of emulsion paint. If it were a colour, it would be beige: the colour of Anya Hindmarsh's famous bags, of hemp rope for hanging, of barren earth, of David Cameron's soul.

It is the smell of Whole Foods, pumped through the basement food-hall, the ground floor "market" and the first floor "canteen", getting in your hair, your clothes, your credit card bills. It doesn't so much mask other smells as affix itself to them, flavouring them. It is the smell of our future as green consumers. And it's so revolting that the pornographic array of cheese, patisserie and pre-prepared salads for sale in Whole Foods will never be as appetising as they would be in any natural environment. It just doesn't feel organic in the way I understand it.

And frankly neither do any of the 26 varieties of killer tomatoes on sale, particularly the insipid orb that is part of my tepid, refectory-style "English Breakfast" on the first floor. The rest of this dry, fatty, Americanised assembly - grey-green scrambled eggs, semi-raw sausage, bacon jerky, white toast ("no brown available"! In the temple of choice!) - requires five separate squirts of ketchup to render it edible. It is pathetic.

In fact the whole enterprise - the insolently amiable staff, the idiotic queuing system, the instore art department you pass on the stairs - is so fake, cloying, hectoring and misguided, it makes your soul want to vomit. And I still can't get that fucking smell out of my nostrils.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is the smell of failure and despair. If you had to turn over £500,000 a week before you made a profit, you would feel like manure as well

4:09 PM, August 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Someone got HP real incensed.

9:32 AM, August 06, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Whole Foods union-busting in Kensington the way they have done in the US? (Only one of their stores, in Madison, Wisconsin, withstood the mandatory, unpaid employees' meetings, propaganda videos, and illegal firings of organizing workers, and is unionized.)
Just asking.

9:29 PM, August 06, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


2:17 PM, August 15, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Whole Foods :( I don't get what people dislike about it, other than it's expensive. I think what people really dislike is that it's American.

1:19 AM, June 05, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to 'F', I think the reason why some people don't like
'Whole Foods' may be linked to the fact that they are anti-union and that there are more and more US based companies moving into the UK with the same attitude. I also won't buy 'Kettle' crisps or shop at ASDA for the same reasons.

2:36 PM, September 08, 2008  
Blogger filbert said...

I'm not sure what unions are like in the UK, but many Americans see them only as a necessary evil, given the history of corruption in the US. The concept of a union to protect workers is a worthwhile goal, but some American unions reward mediocrity and protect incompetence while demanding higher wages. That's why some Americans don't like them.

5:14 PM, September 19, 2008  
Anonymous Kat said...

I hadn't appreciated the irony of the manufactured smell before, it fits perfectly with the overly commercial ethos of the place. Something doesn't sit right about a place that's supposed to be a food lovers paradise that has an atmosphere and culture so completely at odds with natural, organic production. I wrote a bit about it recently...

12:54 PM, September 25, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ugh. Another lazy anti-American rant. What exactly is Americanized about a breakfast with no American ingredients? Why must "crappy" and "American" be synonyms? Can't people be a little more creative than that? I thought we were meant to be the lazy ones!

Also, why is it Brits think that chains are some particular American malevolence? There's barely any city in the States as chained-out as chi-chi London high streets. Ah, a charming street of shops. Let me see, what are my options? LK Bennet, Oliver Bonas, Costa, Paul, Starbucks, Neros, Sainsbury's, an oneils, Boots, Superdrug, what's that? Another Oliver Bonas? Why yes it is. I suppose the other was too far away.

Yes, of those, one is American. But Starbucks didn't ruin the high street. Britain did that to itself.

12:30 PM, February 20, 2013  

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