How can I describe the delights of going out to dinner to all you lovely folk? I expect you do it quite a lot. Or maybe, you have that even greater pleasure of ordering take away pizza. Oh, what a gastronomic delight that must be. For me it is similar to telling a child they can now open their Christmas presents. I am overcome with excitement. This may have something to do with the fact that I seem to be permanently on a diet. That is not strictly true, I don’t seem to be permanently on a diet, I am permanently on a diet. The day Andrew could actually see I had a waistline, he decided it was there to stay and so was Diet Chef. So, you can imagine my controlled excitement when Andrew’s son, James, came to visit recently from Australia.
‘We must go for an Indian,’ were his first words. Ok, not his first words but you know what I mean. Later he mentioned we ought to go out and have a Chinese meal.
Oh, music to my ears. However, after Sunday’s debacle I doubt it will have such an appeal again. I really feel I am doing Michael Winner an injustice by writing about it myself. I really should let him have that honour as he does it so well for The Sunday Times.
I should tell you also, should you not know him, that my husband is a very decent chap. In fact my other name for him is Mr diplomacy. But, even I know, Mr diplomacy if only pushed a short way can become Mr firm in one move.
So, here we are, picture us if you can, entering the restaurant. There are six of us, Andrew and me, his eldest son and wife Anna and also his youngest son Tim and of course little baby Matthew. It is important to count numbers here as numbers become of paramount importance much later on. It is empty. We have chosen to have lunch and then wander around town later. We do a lot of that stuff that must drive waiters mad; you know the kind of thing.
‘Do you want to sit with him?’
‘No, let Anna go at the end, it is easier for her to get to the baby.’
‘Do you think this table is too near the door?’
‘Did anyone notice where the loos were?’
Then follows the ‘What does everyone want to drink?’
Finally, drinks ordered, baby settled and menus in front of us we begin the wonderful business of choosing our food. A whole discussion on whether we want Pappadam’s follows. James asks how many do we get per portion, and the waiter tells us nine. We all look a bit stunned. £1.95 per portion and we get nine. Well, this has to be right doesn’t it? Maths is my worst subject but even I know five into nine would give us 1.8 of a Pappadam and if it were 2 per person then we were being diddled out of a bit of Pappadam somewhere. Come on, you have to agree? Anyway, best to veer away from the Pappadam’s for the moment.
We begin to have an enjoyable time, as you do. I started taking loads of photos and we all discussed what we would eat. Having been to this restaurant previously, Andrew chose to have Goan curry and his youngest son, Tim, followed suit. The rest of us chose Chicken or Lamb. I am sure you are finding this as riveting as watching paint dry. Well, why are you still reading? You want to know what happens don’t you? We all chose starters too but I am sensing your yawns so I wont even go there, except to say they were very nice.
Then came our main meal. Oh, the pleasure of so much food. I truly feel I have been starving but my constant mantra of ‘Nothing tastes as good as being slim feels’ was not reaching its high tones on this day. Then, I saw Tim grimace and poke at his fish.
‘What’s wrong?’ I asked. Oh, if I could eat those words! Eat those words, god I am good, you must admit.
‘It’s raw and it’s not even hot.’
‘Send it back,’ advises Andrew and we all nod in agreement and my diplomatic husband calls over the waiter.
What follows is the truth so help me god.
Tim: This is not quite cooked; I wonder could you just cook it a bit more?
Waiter: That is how the Sea Bass is. It supposed to be like that.
Andrew then looks at his, which is the same but better cooked.
Tim: I had this before when we came here and it was different, this is like…raw and cold.
Anna: Can you just cook it some more please?
Waiter: I ask the chef.
We all stare at each other.
‘Why is he asking the chef?’ I ask. ‘We are the customer, we can have it char grilled if we want.”
Andrew starts to look cross.
‘This is the first time I have argued with a waiter about food in a restaurant.’
Waiter returns: That is how it cooked the chef can’t change it.
Tim: I just would like it cooked a little more.
Anna: Can you not just cook it a bit more?
I am wondering which word he does not understand. Cook, more, raw, or maybe he doesn’t understand any of them.
Tim continues to negotiate while Andrew silently gets up and makes his way to the kitchen.
This is not good. The waiter seemingly unaware that Andrew is heading towards the Chef continues to debate with my stepson. Andrew comes back and informs us that the Chef has said the fish is bad and Andrew again looks at his own fish, which was the same Sea Bass. Anna then says hers does not taste quite right but thinks it is okay. Mine is fine. Choices are provided and Tim decides on another fish dish. I feel the irritation as it whiffs across from my normally, very laid back husband.
‘I cannot believe we had to argue like that,’ he snaps, ‘If the fish was bad why did they dish it up in the first place?’
Tim has chosen a cod dish and we all breathe a sigh of relief. Meanwhile I offer him some of mine while it is being cooked. Finally his dish arrives and we all begin to laugh about it.
About forty-five minutes later and with no apology from the chef or the waiter, we decide to go somewhere else for ice cream and ask for the bill.
It is placed in front of Andrew and I feel him tense.
‘Oh, come on!’
‘What is it?’ asks James.
‘I’m not paying this, they have charged us almost £10 for the ‘Pappadam’s.’
I did warn you the Pappadam’s would rear their ugly head again didn’t I?
‘But we asked how many were given for one portion.’ argues James.
‘I didn’t really want any,’ says Tim.
‘I didn’t have much either, it was only because they were there,’ I chime in.
‘I didn’t really want any either,’ adds Anna
‘That isn’t the point, we didn’t order them, and so I am not paying for them.’
I am becoming so grateful the place is empty. He calls the waiter over queries the bill and is told that is what we ordered. Andrew disagrees and demands to see the menu.
After two seconds of studying it he states bluntly.
‘I am paying the bill but not for the ‘Pappadam’s, do you understand? We clearly queried the number for one portion and you said nine.’
The waiter starts to argue but Andrew interrupts him.
‘I am not paying for them, understand.’
He stands up and follows the waiter to the till. We all watch as the waiter begins to make a phone call.
Anna starts to buckle the baby into his buggy.
‘Ooh, I think I had better get chubbs buckled in quick,’ she says.
‘I want to know where he got nine from anyway,’ says James.
Andrew suddenly storms towards us.
‘Right, if the manager is not here in a few seconds we are leaving.’
Anna is frantically buckling in the baby now while trying to grab an after eight mint or two.
The few seconds pass and Andrew heads for the door followed by James. I know this is a tactic to get something done but Tim looks dumbstruck.
‘We can’t not pay.’ he says.
Anna finally has baby buckled in and I grab another after eight for her, after all she is breast-feeding and eating for two.
The manager arrives and I call Andrew to come back in. The following takes place.
Manager: Can you count one to nine?
Andrew puts his hand up in irritation and heads for the door.
Manager: How many did you eat?
Andrew: It is irrelevant how many we ate. I did not order them. I will pay for one portion.
Manager: Can you count one to nine
Andrew: Fine, let’s go
We all walk to the door.
Manager: Ok, you not pay for them. Our mistake okay, I take them off.
Andrew: I will pay for one. Do you understand, I am not happy about any of this’
Manager: No you not pay for them.
We pay as everyone is looking on from outside. We leave and I grab another after eight for Anna.
Anyone for a Vindaloo?