Alex Deane is Managing Director and Head of Public Affairs UK at FTI Consulting and a former aide to David Cameron. He writes here in a personal capacity.
I’ve written for this website many times. But this is the first time I’ll make a plug for a commercial enterprise. More of a plea, if you will. It is this. There is a small, first class French restaurant which cooks in the best traditions of that fine country’s cuisine, located on London’s unprepossessing Gray’s Inn Road. It is called Otto’s. My plea is that you dine there. Soon. If you read this blog, and share the freedom-minded views it generally espouses, then you should go there – before it’s too late.
You might think that with reviews like this from Jay Rayner in The Guardian, or this from Tim Hayward in the Financial Times, he wouldn’t need any help: but beyond the quality of the cuisine, on principle this SME is definitely worthy of your time and your free-thinking shillings. This is so because, like many London restaurants, Otto’s has been targeted by the ugly face of aggressive veganism – the blinkered intolerance of the tolerant left who can’t tolerate any view but their own. This isn’t uncommon; but, unlike most, Otto has stood up for himself and said “no”. The anger of the self-righteous has redoubled as a consequence, and they now picket his little restaurant on many evenings. “What’s the beef?” You ask. It’s not beef – it’s foie gras. Otto serves it. That’s it. That’s the whole issue.
The shouting is being done by London Vegan Actions – the clue is in the name; surrender to them on one point, they’ll be back to bully you on another you’re-less-than-wholly-pure point soon enough. And when I say shouting, I really mean shouting. And spitting. Twenty-odd tattooed and much-pierced souls occupy (oh tortured word) the pavement directly outside this restaurant, the front of which is directly on the street, holding their loudhailers up to the letterbox and bellowing abuse directly into the restaurant. No silent protest this, no graceful demonstration of profound belief – this is more of the snarly-shouty school of intolerance. And I might add that when I last saw them, all of them seemed to be sporting leather of one kind or another.
This unhappy welcome awaited me recently when dining there with like-minded souls, not put off by the apologetic explanation on booking that our meal would be the subject of abuse. I was not deterred. Actually, I don’t particularly care for foie gras, but I figured that if they’d gone to all that time and trouble then a Tournedos Rossini was the least I could do. We soldiered on through our first class meal, ignoring these people and bellowing our conversation at one another.
They don’t just shout for a little while: they shout well into the evening, uncaring of the concerns caused to those around them (indeed, the most upset people both times that I’ve seen this of late have been neither Otto and his team nor the protesters, but nearby residents and parents pleading with the demonstrators to make their point more quietly – to no avail). Typically, given the nature of modern professional agitators, those doing the shouting are burly blokes. Typically, given the nature of the hospitality industry, those at whom they’re shouting are diminutive women. This website is presumably one place that one can express a conservative opinion: I think that that’s not on.
I’ve never hunted. Indeed, apart from a couple of trots on a knackered nag around a muddy paddock one time, I’ve never ridden on a horse. And yet I defend the right of hunters to hunt. It’s the same here, isn’t it? Because, well, live and let live. For people, not animals which we kill and eat all the time. The same with foie gras. It seems weird for these leather-clad hypocrites to get excited about an animal dying one way for us to eat when millions of others die another way – in a religious form of butchery, say, or in unhappy slaughtering environments to make their shoes and belts and jackets. But it’s not just the hypocrisy – saying one thing whilst doing another – that so troubles me. It’s the inhumanity. These self-righteous snarlers ostentatiously think that the animals they’re shouting about in abstract matter more than the actual individual people they’re shouting at.
That’s why they’re such bad advocates for their cause. That’s why you should dine at Otto’s and speak politely to them about how wrong they’re getting it even if you are vegan yourself.
And if I hadn’t mentioned – Otto’s does really good foie gras.
The views expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting LLP, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals, members of employees.