Last weekend I hoofed it down to Somerset for a dance music festival called the Bloc Weekender, which was hosted at the Butlins holiday camp in Minehead. So although I wasn’t strictly going for the official Butlins red-coats ‘n singalongs experience, I got a pretty good intro as to what holidaying there would be like. And, me hearties, in terms of food offerings, I barely made it out of there alive!
First, let me set the scene. Butlins is a vast conglomeration of concrete council-estate style residential flats, bungalows and static caravans, united by various communal areas such as mini golf and fairground areas, and large concrete buildings housing swimming pools, bowling alleys, arcade games and low-rent chain restaurants. It’s not unlike being trapped inside a ginormous Welcome Break (for the non-UK readers, that’s our UK chain of motorway service stations – ie NOT glamorous!). I was rather hoping Butlins would all be a bit retro with faded 1960s colourschemes and vast ballrooms with swirly carpets. Those days are sadly long gone – see below:
Wierdly, everything inside this building smelled of gravy, at all times:
And what is the raver meant to survive on during a long weekend of jumping up and down to nosebleed techno and dubstep? Well, woe betide the person who hasn’t booked the self catering Butlins appartment with kitchen, because then, there is truly no hope for you. Once inside the Butlins portals, you are treated to fast food in its every guise – you can eat deep fried anything, candy floss or frankfurters – which makes the resident branches of Pizza Hut and Costa Coffee look exotic and otherworldly. On my travels inside the main Butlins complex, I found no evidence of anywhere selling food that was fresh, or, heaven forbid, fruit or vegetables in any format apart from sweets or crips. This is what the poor raver had to survive upon, from its in-house branch of Spar and various outlets:
Butlins, you don’t rock – note the charming printed names…
Possibly the least nutritious item I could unearth – a candy bead pirate flag, which, if consumed in its entirety, would probably kill you:
Oh good – the full range of Rustlers microwaveable burgers is fully represented:
Perhaps a nutritious yoghurt? But wait, does a yoghurt made of Rolos or Milkybar count?
Butlins make their own delightful sweets:
And look at these appetising logs of chocolate, the size of mammoth Yorkies, with eye-wateringly cloying flavours such as creamy white choc and strawberry…argh…
Quick, I need more sugar:
Phew, I have found some delicious meat products:
Thankfully, the hungry raver could walk out of Butlins up the road to the pretty town of Minehead for sustenance – it had a fair sprinkling of decent food shops. But…the curse of crap food seemed to reassert itself in a resident cake shop, which boasted these theme cakes in its window:
It’s a fry-up: note the hash browns and their appetising metallic sheen:
Er…what’s the message here? Eat this and fall through a roof?
Allotment cake circa 1953:
Back to Butlins, though, I am not so stupid to have expected any kind of gourmet food experience – although a nice plate of decent fish and chips (Minehead is on the seafront) not swimming in a cesspool grease would have been nice. But I was a bit horrified that the only foods on offer were basically vacu-packed sandwiches, deep-fried mystery meat products, wall-to-wall Ginsters pasties and horrifying amounts of sugar. Unless you fancied the salad buffet at Pizza Hut, that is…but I thought I’d give it a miss! I can just picture families and their kids on holiday here, the kids going absolutely tonto from an excess of candy pebbles…
This lovely slogan really summed it up for me – the ruddy shamelessness of it!