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Should we have told the truth?

January 14, 2012

By my very nature, I’m not the sort of person that lies.  In fact, I’m not even ususally very subtle, which gets me in to all sorts of trouble.  If I see a new hair cut but I don’t like it, I’ll say something along the lines of “Ooh look, your hair shrunk over the weekend”, which is indeed, ridiculous.  And me, and the person with the new, awful haircut, both know it.  When it comes to food, many of my friends are a little scared of asking for my opinion, because they end up with comments like “It would have been wonderful with some salt” or “that’s an interesting way to cook that”, which is clearly code for, “I wouldn’t have done it that way”. But when I think it’s good, I do wax lyrical about it, so i’m not all evil.

Last night however, I found myself in an uncomfortable predicament. My lovely friend Kerry and I visited a restaurant in a nearby village that is owned and run by a young chef that I met earlier in the year.  Nice chap, lots of ambitious and knowledgeable chat, so we were expecting to be pleasantly surprised.

Surprised we were; pleasantly, not.

Starters were around the £6-£7 mark, so you’re expecting something a little bit special; different to what you could knock up in your own kitchen.  After all, this place pitches itself as a upmarket bistro, with inter-course palate cleansers and gels, foams and jellies.

I ordered slow-cooked garlic mushrooms on toast and Kerry, a trio of deep-fried cheeses with a cucumber salad, or something to that effect. Our choices, although a little bit of a 70s throwback, offered potential.  And my mushrooms were delicious…there just wasn’t £6.50’s worth!  Kerry’s cheeses, however, were cold…not a molton bit of gooey fromage in sight.  Not quite what you expect when you pre-fix the words deep-fried to cheese, is it?

For mains, I ordered a game bird pie, topped with shortcrust pastry and served with a veal jus.  Kerry order a medium sirloin steak with a blue cheese sauce, triple-cooked chips and onion rings.  Again, my pie was delicious – a lovely homemade pastry that was both short, and well, nicely crusty.  The jus however was completely ill thought out – where was I going to pour it? Into my already saucey pie dish? Over the crunchy parmentier potatoes I’d been given as a side? Or over the very uninspiring roast carrots and parsnips that had also come out on the side.  Nope, this was a completely pointless addition.  Kerry got the short straw again.  Her steak, although totally delicious in flavour, was rare to medium-rare.  And what’s worse was the fact that the blue cheese sauce that had been poured all over it, had split; basically recreating the effect of her baby daughter having sicked up milk over her steak.  Mmm, nice.  The onion rings however, were fantastic.  But by this point, we were beyond caring.

You’re probably thinking that we should have sent Kerry’s dishes back. In fact, we were also thinking that too.  But having identified with the waiter the fact that we knew the chef at the beginning of our meal, we were too polite to say anything.  So we soldiered on in hushed whispers of how bad everything was.

We were both full up by this point, so thought we’d skip dessert and get the hell out of here.  Then the waiter told us that desserts were free to anyone ordering a starter and a main, so we thought we might as well give it a go – they sounded quite appetising.  In hindsight, my thoughts now are “will we never learn?”

So Kerry ordered a coffee cheesecake with fancy sounding embellishments and I went for an upside-down banana cake with salted caramel and pistachio icecream.

My icecream was tasty, though it suggested something more like ameretto than pistachio. The salted caramel was much more salt than caramel and the cake, well that was just weird, but not horribly unpleasant.  I was too full up to bother eating it though.  Just to ensure Kerry’s lasting memory of this restaurant is truly heinous, her cheesecake was curdled.  Can you imagine it? Grainy-textured and more like dog excrement than something you would want to eat.  All we could think was, thank goodness the desserts had been free!

Being too embarrassed to stay in this place to witness any more disasters (I mean, what would they have done to Kerry’s coffee?!) we asked for the bill.  The waiter must have then told the chef that we were about to leave because he popped out of his kitchen to say hello.  Whilst we did the usual small talk and polite banter, I was secretly praying for him to avoid the dreaded question.  And then it came.

“So, was everything ok with your meals”.  At which point (oh, I’m cringing so much now at the memory of it) I heard myself enthusiastically respond with “Ooh yes, thank you, everything was delicious”.

What would you have done? Would you have told the truth, or like me, would you have lied for an easy life, knowing that you never need go back to that restaurant, or face that chef, again?

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From → Eating Out

2 Comments
  1. Alison_Banes permalink

    Hi Dawn. Interesting blog and food for thought (no pun intended). Me? I’d definitely have told him, very politely. After all how is he going to learn if he doesn’t get honest feedback? It’s a business – you’re a paying customer; if you bought faulty goods in a shop would you have the same qualms about taking them back and explaining why? Aside from that, someone as passionate about food as youl I think owes it to the culinary world to do what you can to raise standards. That said, I totally appreciate it’s not easy to be a grown up!!!!

    • Your points are definitely true, but I guess the reality of it is that it doesn’t matter to me whether he learns or not; I won’t be returning anyway. If it was a personal friend, then yes, I would see it as my duty.

      And with respect to taking things back as a paying customer – I’m a walkover. I have a set of kitchen scales still under warranty that don’t work. Have I taken them back? No. I went to a supermarket and bought two packs of pasta they other day, that were labelled as being on offer if you bought two. After I’d paid, I noticed that I didn’t get the money off. Did I take it back? No. Am I foolish? Yes…

      As for being grown up – I think we both know where I stand on that one! :o)

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