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GMT, BBC Bush House, Aldwych, London
Food: Canteen staples, with internationalist tendencies
Value for money: Very good
Corporate mission: Nation shall speak peace unto nation
These are turbulent times for the BBC World Service, which has just lost its annual £272 million Foreign Office grant and may have to shed several hundred jobs. It’s about to lose its HQ, too: the lease on Bush House, the grand porticoed building on Aldwych it has inhabited since 1941, expires in two years’ time.
Despite occupying an airless basement recently described by a colleague as resembling a prison visiting room, GMT, the Bush House canteen, is phenomenally popular. The World Service never sleeps, and the staff broadcasting to its 40 million listeners can buy cheap food here round the clock, with breakfast available from 2am. It’s not well patronised at that hour (or so I’m told), but by lunchtime the place is heaving.
GMT caters for what may be the most diverse and polyglot workforce in town. Customers can be heard chatting in Somali, Tamil or Kyrgyz as they tuck into freshly grilled meat wraps or the perennially popular pie and chips. The cooking is definitely anglophone by inclination, although the daily specials do occasionally depart from canteen staples such as chilli con carne in favour of more adventurous fare from the Caribbean and Far East.
On a recent visit I chose the oyster salmon – a surprisingly succulent piece of fish with a garlicky parmesan crust. Extras were basic (think school salad bar) but a decent rice pudding left me feeling I’d had excellent value for my fiver.
Melvyn Bragg recently described this as “far and away the best canteen food on the planet”. I wouldn’t go that far myself, but it’s an undeniably jolly experience.
The writer is a BBC employee
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