Saturday, January 11

Food: Novikov Click for more info

The perceived market value of subjective material goods[1] is a funny thing. In effect it effectively describes the valuing of emotion - how we feel about things, or how they make us feel. Not that there's anything wrong with that - the ability to make someone happy for instance does have value and there's no reason why that can't be exchanged for money or whatever. This is why industries like art, entertainment or travel work. And as it's based on emotion it's also very subjective - so I might pay more for a decent travel experience but less for nice clothes than others would.

I guess the (or rather, my) problem comes from the irrationality of the emotional side of the trade itself, or specifically the exploitation and manipulation of that irrationality to inflate the market value of what's being offered. We are effectively conditioned to want things more than they're actually worth, even when you consider the real emotive factor involved until the disparity between the intrinsic and market value of something becomes pretty huge - eventually ending up in the situation where the disparity itself, or more accurately overcoming the challenge this disparity presents by shelling out (both privately or publicly) becomes the source of emotion, and not the item itself.

And so we end up with industries like those for designer clothes, shoes and handbags - and don't get me started on diamonds (I wholly recommend that article by the way). And before you guys pick up on the obvious correlation with the examples mentioned, I would also categorise fancy cars, food, the sex industry and even some parts of the movie world in the above - although the disparity between the market and intrinsic cost of an item might be evidence to demonstrate which demographic is most manipulated in this way.

Food is an especially interesting example. In theory the enjoyment of food is variable and so can go quite high - as can its cost. Ingredients can be genuinely costly to acquire and preparation is a manual task which warrants recompense too. And in a restaurant context there's value in atmosphere, decor and ambience; put it all together and eating out is more of an experience than a function. However as with the examples above, there are times when parts of the food industry will exploit how we perceive value of that experience too - especially in the current climate of food obsession.

So (after such a lengthy preamble), I essentially saw Novikov as a designer label restaurant. The disparity between the intrinsic and market value of the place most definitely placed it exploitative territory. The decor was okay, the layout crowded (although I would say the Italian room did appear better than the Asian room, where we ate). Service was not the best, with a two hour time limit (see: enforced scarcity) and pushy waitress hanging over our heads while we ate. I will say that the food was actually really very good, with some vivid tastes and textures presented throughout (with a lot of the menu being halal to boot). It certainly was not however enough to justify the bill - although I will say that those who order with prudence might just about fare better than we did. There weren't even any pretty people there which I could have, at a push, used to justify the visit (and yes, the irony in that last sentence was deliberate).

It was so bad that I'm not even going to say here how much it came to per head. I don't mind paying for "food experiences" and I do know of places where I would spend just as much (or even more) and feel it was worth it, but when I do eventually become a millionaire I won't be coming to Novikov. This is a place where you go to be seen, to tell everyone else you've been or even explicitly how much you paid; but if you would allow me a closing pun I left with the taste of shame rather than pride in my mouth.

[1] I'm no economist so if you think I'm talking rubbish it's probably because I am.

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