Must have been something I ate…and other first world non-issues

I’m really stuck for something to say.  Why say anything at all, you may ask?  I have no idea.  I just feel pressure of speech…but since I have no soap box, or an audience, and a very definite fear of public speaking, this blog it is.  I’ve not done much this past weekend.  I went for a run, pissed off some golfers, fell spectacularly on my face, went for a swim, and ate some really bad food.  And I thought about people who do nothing else apart from frequent nail bars.

Apart from being chastised like a child by the golfers, it was the bad food that bothered me the most.  There is a lot riding on a night out at a restaurant.

A few of us went out for supper.  You have to book.  It’s that kind of place.  So with the expectation of making a booking, there comes a certain expectation about the food, the service, and the dining experience in general.  It’s a package deal: the sum of the parts should be greater than the whole.  We brought our end of the bargain: we booked (4 days previously), we were on time, we opened a bar tab, and we arrived with enthusiasm and keenness.  We were the perfect guests.  Good wine, good table, and good company.  Tick and tick for the first two; the good company doesn’t count because we brought that.  Granted it was busy, but aren’t all Saturday nights?  Especially at a fine establishment that encourages booking?  Surely they anticipate this, have a system that caters (literally) for this, i.e. hand out menus quickly, and an enquiry about orders within at least 15 minutes, which usually gives enough time for for the precursor introductions between acquaintances?  The starters arrived quickly.  I ordered gazpacho, because it is summer and I have a soft spot for it.  I had had it previously at this very restaurant (and recently too) but tonight there was a taste/sensation.  Tastes that become sensations are ominous to me.  The taste was slightly sour – but beyond the tartness you would expect of a tomato based dish.  And the sensation that followed this was almost a battery-like burning of your tongue.  I did wonder idly if it was off, as my fermented foodstuffs radar was on – I had been served some off wine the previous night.  There is very little I send back – because I am a pushover – but even I drew the line at that glass of wine.  But I digress.  Anyway, I wasn’t 100% certain about the gazpacho but I let it go.

Dishes were cleared quickly – tick.  Everyone seemed to enjoy their starters (although husband admitted afterwards his carpaccio was supposed to have cubes of wasabi jelly dotted around the plate…they were there, just half melted and squashed and sad-looking).  And so we chatted.  And then we chatted some more.  And then some more.  I get really grumpy when I’m hungry and I couldn’t focus on the conversation as I became fixated every time a waiter, sorry, waitron, came out of the kitchen.  Eventually I called the manager over – and seriously, I never do this, NEVER – and pointed out we had been waiting a while.  He gave a very unsatisfactory answer about the kitchen bringing out all the food at once (I wasn’t really sure what he was saying; there were words but completely pointless and nonsensical) which made us all frown in confusion and gave him an escape as we fell silent in deep thought about what he had said.  And then, as if by magic, the plates arrived.

So this is where I have to come clean and say I’m a vegetarian.  I don’t eat meat.

Aunt Voula: What do you mean you eat no meat? You eat no meat!? [background gasp]  It’s ok…I serve lamb.  (adapted from ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’).

I’m not entirely sure why I have to clarify by way of an apology – as no one apologises for eating meat – but the general population seemed to want it confirmed.  So I had ordered their Caesar salad (the vegetarian one, as advertised on their menu) and was confronted buy a vast pile of lettuce and a token crouton.  No effort to pimp it up whatsoever.  Oh, and a side of seasonal vegetables, which were equally sad and boiled (had they been lobsters, the screams would have been ear-splitting).  I have heard the argument that if you are going to be vegetarian then ‘what did you expect??’  I don’t really think that is a reason for a restaurant that projects an image of having standards to serve up crap food.  If you can elaborately prepare salmon en croute, beef fillet medium rare, grilled and stuffed baby chicken (children look away now) then surely you can use some imagination and deliver on the token vegetarian dish?

Dessert was passable.  Our friends had pistachio pannacottas which tasted okay, even if they did look a little like someone had had a REALLY hard time demoulding them and beaten the hell out of the moulds to try and knock them out.  I had rhubarb jelly with creme anglaise (ok, it’s just a runny custard) with honeycomb crunch for the all important textural element (who watches Masterchef?  Texture is key), and our other friend had the chocolate genache.  Ah, chocolate…So the law of desserts is that chocolate trumps all.  It just does.  Whoever orders something with fruit will always be the loser.  The only thing that can equal – but not surpass – chocolate, is sticky toffee pudding.  And I also personally feel that cream and custard beat ice-cream.

So, all in all, I don’t think I’ll be back for the food.  I’m not a great cook, but I do cook, and I can actually make better soul food at home for less.  The ambience and the wine list is pretty good, but I have to confess ambivalence even to that as the finer points of the evening were grossly neglected.  As Marco Pierre White says: Perfection is lots of little things done well.  Unfortunately this restaurant that requires a booking did not deliver.

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