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"I recently got invited to a weekend brunch in London by an old work friend. There was going to be just a small group of us, all being civil and meeting early Saturday morning to enjoy our food and company together. Having been told the venue I quickly googled the restaurant to scour the menu; mouth-watering when I read about ‘smashed’ avocado, buttermilk pancakes, banana bread sandwich, and an endless selection of fancy coffees.
The Whatsapp messages in the group were flowing with people confirming their attendance and excitement. Then someone recommended participating in the restaurants ‘Bottomless Brunch’ offer… “For an extra £25 per person we can have unlimited prosecco for 2 hours!” From that moment our ‘civilised’ brunch quickly changed its course. The idea of a few women coming together to enjoy some delicious food and catch up – changed into inviting some of the ‘lads from work’ who turned out had old university friends to stay that weekend who also wanted to come along. I remember one message in the group reading ‘Guys, the girls have challenged us to a drink off this weekend, who’s keen?”
I was tempted to make my excuses and leave them to it – I felt that I was well within my right as the plan had changed so much since I originally agreed. However, I REALLY wanted to try the banana bread sandwich and thought ‘why should I miss out?’ Instead I discreetly told my friend who had originally invited me that I wouldn’t be partaking in the ‘bottomless’ part of the brunch and would therefore just pay for my meal.
When the day finally arrive, I turned up to a lovely restaurant in Central London. We were shown to a big table which seated all 20 of us and the waiter announced ‘bottomless prosecco starts now and finishes in exactly 2 hours time’. At that moment, the relaxed atmosphere and casual conversations turned into a panic. There was a sense of urgency to ‘get your money’s worth’. To my right was a woman I’d never met before who was completing her masters in psychology – I was quite interested in her line of work, but as I was politely asking her questions about her chosen profession, her eyes were constantly darting around looking past me for the waiter to fill up her glass. My dear friend on my left ended up having to excuse herself before the end of our meal due to the fact she wasn’t feeling good. With a whisper she said to me ‘I don’t think bottomless brunch is really for me.’
No one actually noticed my lack of participating, they were all too concerned in having their glasses constantly topped up. I enjoyed my banana bread sandwich very much and was the only one who seemed to eat the food! Whilst most of the party stumbled out the door and in the direction to the tube for home, I wandered into the city to meet another friend for a coffee and then took a gym class. There were a lot of ‘worse for wear’ messages the following day.
That evening I found myself thinking about the ‘Bottomless Brunch’ craze and started to look deeper into its popularity and impact on people’s health and the drinking culture. Dr Omair Ahmed, consultant psychiatrist at Priory's Wellbeing Centre in Birmingham said the trend is encouraging binge drinking and fuelling drink-driving. He explains that the alcohol industry is constantly finding new ways of marketing itself to consumers - and brunches are its latest ploy. The trend for bottomless brunches started in Manhattan, but more and more places in the UK have got involved, alarming experts who fear they could become a city staple.
“We are being bombarded with messages about wine or are being invited to take part in events like a ‘Bottomless Brunch’, but there is no mention of the other, very real side of alcohol consumption for drinkers, especially younger ones,” says Dr Ahmed.
“Brunch is one of those meals that people think justifies alcohol before midday. It is inextricably tied to the drinking culture.
“Customers ‘upgrade’ their brunch to ‘bottomless’, which unlocks a world of unlimited drinks to accompany your meal.”
A typical bottle of Prosecco contains more than eight alcohol units, so just half a bottle is double the recommended daily limit for women.
I also stumbled across an article in Cosmopolitan magazine which title read “Experts have ruined our fun by declaring a health warning over bottomless boozy brunches”. With titles like this it’s no wonder people aren’t taking the dangers of this craze seriously. And my fun certainly wasn’t ruined that day, I was able to spend the rest of the day having fun, unlike the others who went home feeling poorly."
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