If you are what you eat, since discovering Tibits in London last year I am slowly becoming Swiss and will eventually be able to claim asylum in their neutral country. I’d like a placement in Lausanne, please.

“Back in 1998, three brothers took part in Venture, a business plan competition organized jointly by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) and professional services company McKinsey. Their names were Reto, Christian and Daniel Frei, and their vision was a high-class, fast food vegetarian restaurant…”

Frei brothers: voted better than Kray brothers

I could continue to quote from the history on their website, perhaps including an overview of past successes of projects inspired by the ETH and adding a Venn diagram examining the correlations between the appetites of an industrious and capable people and a logical diet for a planet in which resources are better not diverted to an ultimately unsustainable model emphasising the production of meat protein, but I wouldn’t want to over-romanticise.

Tibits is expensive for “fast food” – though if this is fast food in Switzerland, no wonder they never go to war: they’re so busy salivating they don’t have time. By fast I assume they mean you serve yourself, which is indeed almost always quicker than waiting on waiters. £2.10 for lunch for every 100 grams [takeaway is cheaper, dinner is dearer]  targets either an affluent demographic or those who are willing to forgo a healthy chunk of their retirement fund to enjoy decent food while still in their peak earning years. [Note to self: alfalfa sprouts are only so filling.] Fortunately this buys gastronomic contentment in a pleasant atmosphere in a convenient part of London, if a quick detour off Regent Street isn’t too far off your beaten path. Afterwards you can nip into the nearby Wholefoods and tip yourself further into means-tested territory on that far-off day.

Next we come, as all reviews of Tibits must, to the food boat, so-called because it is approximately boat shaped even as it lacks nautical accoutrements to extend a metaphor. I won’t describe the fare because I’m not a food writer, just a food eater. It’s all properly labelled, which is a relief for those of us avoiding this or that. I happen to be vegan, and have little difficulty filling my plate. Favourites include the dried bean salad (as it happens not dry at all), avocado cream which I could eat by the vatful, and whatever tofu can be scored from other dishes. Sticky toffee pudding for dessert, when they have it.* That’s the thing about Tibits: they don’t always have what they had last time. But they might have it again next time. There are some staples but the menu slowly changes. While this can be a little disconcerting, it’s nice to try new things.

Commit to a plan of repast then queue up to get weighed. The food, not you.

Warning to those paying by credit card: the machines often say ‘Remove card’ before they’ve had their way with it. Don’t do it! You’ll just have to go through the trauma of inserting it again.

There’s an area for children downstairs. If you forget them when you leave at least they’ll be well fed, and if they’re lucky given a child-proofed Swiss army knife so they’re not completely without resources.

The train into London. Technically not part of the Tibits experience.

Flower power. Getting closer.

And here we are. Sorry sir, the dishwashing job has been taken.

Tasteful furnishings soon to be rent asunder by ravenous hoards. Every morning Tibits must buy new chairs, as wickertarians gnaw on these.

If you tip staff they will allow you to be captain of the food boat. No extra benefits, but at least I got a crooked smile out of the deal.

Authorised personnel

Unless professionally shot, food photos are almost always, well, unappetising. So I’ll mostly try to shoot around it…

except for the kale, which has a clause in its contract demanding exposure and extra sharpening in Photoshop. Kale is not actually food; it’s said to be healthy nonetheless. You may also recall that Damian Lewis (also spotted In The News) used some on Homeland to escape from a hostage situation. 

Vlogns are also catered for

Free breadrolls. At least I think they’re free. Let’s fill our pockets and run! Grab the overexposed ones first!

There have been complaints that the sticky toffee pudding isn’t in all the serving dishes. Nor is it available at a reduced rate to those who can prove need.

Queue jumpers are sent to Swiss labour camps to make fine precision timepieces.

“The hemlock is good today.”

Abacus for abandoned children to mark the days. The more traditionally minded can use the chalk stored on the left.

David Hockney’s parents in limbo at the Tate until their next visit to the food boat.

Credits: The first two photos aren’t mine. I also didn’t draw those circles. ‘Keep calm and join the queue’ I came up with on my own, then of course found that other people had come up with it on their own, too.

*A special note on sticky toffee pudding: A few years down the line, I can confidently state that they always have this, or at least, have had it the hundred times I’ve been to Tibits since I wrote this. Though the recipe keeps changing slightly.

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