Monday, May 25, 2009

Pret A Manger - uniquely British

After my relocation to London, I realise that I tend to bring lunch to work on a regular basis and for good reasons too. The food in London is generally more expensive, though you might just get better quality (not quantity) food if you spend a fiver in the City of London as compared to S$11 back in Singapore's Central Business District. It's just that London does not have the equivalent of hawker centres that dish out meals for a mere S$3.50 (£1.50). Furthermore, my colleagues are all doing it and you know what they say about being in Rome (or London in this case).

Occasionally, when things get a little caught up at work, the last thing I want is to wake up earlier to pack my lunch and I had to rely on this sandwich bar that is just next to my office building.

Actually, it's not just any sandwich bar. Pret A Manger, which was found in 1986 by Sinclair Beecham and Julien Metcalfe motivated by their love of freshly prepared food, has more than 100 stores in London alone. In fact, the sandwiches are said to be freshly prepared in every store although there were recent allegations that it cannot be the case for some of the smaller outlets that do not come fitted with a kitchen.


Anyway, Pret did open up a branch in Singapore Raffles City offering freshly prepared sandwiches. There was quite a bit of an interest initially as the curious locals cleared its shelves of sandwiches that cost just over S$6 back then. Naturally, the small community of Britons working in the area were delighted. Not only they have two British pubs nearby where they can stand out in the open and enjoy their beer under the hot humid weather, they could munch on sandwiches from home at the same time as well!

Unfortunately, the business died down after the initial euphoria. Pret forgot that they are competing with the likes of hawker centres with their MSG laden fare. Besides, the Britons themselves could only eat that many sandwiches. Much lesser than they can consume beer, that is.

I could never have imagined that I would one day be having just sandwiches for lunch. I mean, they are essentially two slices of bread with, well, stuff in between them. I can never be sure whether it's their freshness, their handy packaging, the neat rows of sandwiches lined up on the shelves or their ever smiling friendly staff that make me go back again and again.

My favorite? Definitely the avocado chicken. Are you a 'Pret' as well?

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waitingkitty said...

Pret A Manger is not doing well in HK as well...

sen and qi said...

I never tried it when I was living in London. It's funny now that I am way I find out about so many things I never tried!

FĂ«anor said...

have you tried one of those rustic baguettes from Paul? good fun, those. the crust on the bread is hard enough to push your teeth into your nose. wonderful!

Dutchie said...

I hv noticed that alot of my single male colleagues lived off on sandwiches. They come to work with half a brown loaf (filled with cheese), goes to the canteen to hv a eggs-n-bacons toast for lunch n if I were to ask what's for dinner when we r heading home, they would say, "well, sandwiches of course !" Even when they entertain their gf's in the weekend, it's still a simple fair of cheese n wine.

Personally I prefer a warm tasteful meal after hours of hard work n especially with the cold weather here. The most practicable way however is to pack a sandwich to work or during a day out. It took me years to adept to this way of life. Even at home, bread is a quick alternative when I'm too tired to bother with cooking. A bowl of instant creamy mushroom soup n some buttered toast do seem to do the trick. Still, at the back of my mind, I'm thinking abt all the yummy foods I missed in this "food-desert" *sigh*

Anonymous said...

I have been reading and enjoying your post for some time. I gathered from your post that you work in/near The City. You might be pleased to know that you could get Nasi Lemak and Mee Goreng at Leadenhall Market for £4.

Fat Fingers said...

i don't really like sandwiches but i will have them once in a while for lunch esp on busy days!! My husband makes me cheese and pickle sandwiches sometimes. It's my fav! I love the cheese and pickle sandwich at Pret too.

Normally, i'd have my stir frys/curries/soup for lunch with RICE! I cook more the night before.

If you happen to be near Old Street, you should check out the whitecross street market. The Thai food there is great!! and affordable!

C K said...

Honestly, I don't think Pret can compete in places where cheap street/hawker fare is available. Have you tried it over there?

@sen and qi,
The funny thing is that I found out many things about Singapore through Singapore Expat blogs as well. I guess we do look out for different things, don't we?

I've always wonder how do you get those two dots about your 'e'? Well, that character is definitely not on my keyboard for sure... :)

There's a Paul's just in front of Tower of London. Queue is always long, haven't got a chance to get the baguettes that you mentioned. But the pastries were quite well done, I must say.

Haha, I get this feeling that most Asians find comfort in having warm food. Always a panini and not a cold baguette if given a choice. Always hot steaming rice and not cold couscous. I know what you mean.

Although I don't mind the occassional sandwich, I would give anything to have some roti prata with piping hot curry... thrown in some chai tou guay too!

Really? I literally work next to Leadenhall Market! Fine, a couple of minutes' walk. Any idea which stall exactly?

@Fat Fingers,
Cheese and pickles... hmmm..., no meat? :)

We tried cooking more the night before but ended up finishing up all the food. LOL. That did my diet no good at all.

Will stop by the Thai food place that you were saying. Anyway particular dish that's good? I normally go straight for phad thai for Thai cuisine.