This book tells the story of what happens when an essentially Parisian institution travels and establishes itself in its neighbour’s capital city, bringing with it French food culture and culinary practices. The arrival and evolution of the French restaurant in the British capital is a tale of culinary and cultural exchange and of continuity and change in the development of London’s dining-out culture. Although the main character of this story is the French restaurant, this cultural history also necessarily engages with the people who produce, purvey, purchase and consume that food culture, in many different ways and in many different settings, in London over a period of some one hundred and fifty years. British references to France and to the French are littered with associations with food, whether it is desired, rejected, admired, loathed, envied, disdained, from the status of haute cuisine and the restaurants and chefs associated with it to contemporary concerns about food poverty and food waste, to dietary habits and the politicisation of food, and at every level in between. However, thinking about the place of the French restaurant in London restaurant and food culture over a long time span, in many and varied places and spaces in the capital, creates a more nuanced picture than that which may at first seem obvious.
“Fishes With Funny French Names is thoroughly researched, convincingly argued, and engagingly written. While there have been shorter and more focused studies that get at parts of the London French restaurant’s history from the nineteenth through the twenty-first centuries, this is the first extensive, wide-ranging synthesis thereof, and it promises to become a necessary reference on the subject for years to come.”
Michael Garval, NC State University