It’s the easiest place to find in Rutherford by far. You walk in and keep walking until you hit the stairs and take a seat in the Hogwarts-esque space; rows of tables and chairs scattered around the great hall. Fight for the seat with the view of the cathedral. It’s worth it and doesn’t cost extra. It’s not the kind of place you’d take a social, so grab your housemates and stare out of the window. Go by yourself and stare out of the window. Alternatively, if you’re feeling productive, bring work and study. Jugs of water are supplied meaning you never have to interact with anyone if you need a drink, and it’ll almost definitely be less busy than the library. Get there early enough and there’s cereal – what more could you want as a student?
I grabbed a friend from work and went for dinner there for the first time. I’d studied there before, but never gotten anything to eat. The place with the food was daunting to me – you have to grab a tray, wait in line, and someone serves you? What is this. I hadn’t been exposed to this since I was 12, waiting for the lunch lady to scrape the beans from the bottom of the catering dish and onto my plate. The nostalgia was too overbearing to deal with alone.
We got in, grabbed a tray and loaded it with every condiment surrounding it. We didn’t know what we were having yet; the menu changes every day and we’d only glanced at it outside. Cutlery was grabbed and two napkins each from the “Just One” dispenser. You don’t tell me what to do.
The queue moved quickly, with everyone asking for the meatballs. They sound good. We become sheep. The server places the meatballs and rice on a plate for us, quipping a joke about everyone ignoring the other options: the catch of the day, and vegetarian enchiladas. The food I’m paying for is on my plate. Why, you ask, am I not going for the tills? Simple enough answer. The room has other food in it. And it’s all included. I was too busy piling my plate with food to take a photograph, but check out this photo from the Kent website of the kind of beautiful extras on offer:
I head towards a section with roast potatoes and chips, peas and gravy. No, I don’t care what goes with my main. I want chips and potatoes, and I will get chips and potatoes. I head towards a section with salad – including pasta – and pile it onto my plate. Beans, bulgur wheat, fresh vegetables, coleslaw were all on offer. I went for the latter. Yes, coleslaw with meatballs. Have a problem? Leave. Rutherford isn’t for the judgmental. Sorry, Essentials – this is what a salad bar should be. You can see the result of my pigging out below. I don’t care if you judge the combinations; that’s what makes Rutherford so beautiful.
The meatballs were satisfying, if not too acidic. They weren’t the star of the show, but neither was any other component of my dish. They all come together to form the perfect meal: yours. Not one devised by someone who thinks they know you, but devised by you. You don’t need to go to Australia to find yourself. Go to Rutherford. Figure out who you are by what you choose.
Why do I like Rutherford Dining Hall, then? It didn’t have the best quality or tasting main (though, I’ll be back. I haven’t lost hope. I will never let go, Rutherford. I will never let go). And I got lost on the post-meal walk around the building. The place has heart. It reminds you of a time gone by, where nobody judged you because you weren’t old enough to even care about judgement. You can have fish with gravy, if you fancied it, with a side of couscous and a packet of crisps and you’d be confident in your decision. It’s the ultimate, rebellious, craving filler.
I’m going to give their stir fry a go, next time. I’m told it’s pretty great. You’ll hear about it.