My ears are much better than Zagat.


Do I bother with restaurant reviews when really I can hear how good the food will be long before a morsel drops into my mouth? The introduction seduction. “Hi, my name is Randy, and I will be your food co-ordinator tonight. Our special is a free range rodent nestling on a bed of cumquat jello and coffee pesto...” Randy does not write orders on a pad. To show you his deep intellect he assures you he will remember it all, like it's some extra treat to allow you to witness such a prodigious memory.....which always means someone gets the wrong meal. The aircon will be up way too high, the lowbrow art hanging on the walls is on display because it's for sale. The bathrooms are made from black slate, so when you take a leak it’s like peeing in a mausoleum. As for the food, you know damn well that the portions will be microscopic but the price positively gargantuan. And despite giving you liver instead of lamb chops Randy will expect a round of applause as well as a big tip.

...and another thing

The techno beat

These are restaurants that pound out music made by electric only instruments. The stone floors squeak with the rubber soles of the black hi-top sneakers worn by dark suited waiters. He or she (or sometimes a mix) have a badge with their name on it and sport an earpiece and an I-pad upon which they punch your order. CIA bodyguard chic. This digital dining den requires each dish be an exact clone of the other with no variation in the recipe allowed.

“Hold the mushrooms?”

“No sorry you have to pick them out yourself,” replies Jack Bauer head down looking at the menu schematics a finger poised over the I-pad.

“No garlic please.”

“It’s essential to the dish. Why not choose something less adventurous?” Hint of a sigh of impatience or …is it just exasperation at the lack of sophistication from the hicks from 1970’s Pigsknuckle Arkansas who have wandered into tomorrow’s dining experience?

The main course is delivered on a wooden board or a stone slate, always coming with vegetation sprouting from beneath like unruly green pubic hair. In any event juice and sauce run over the table and then you. Water comes in a jug with too much ice and not enough liquid, the bread is a day old and the food itself under seasoned and bland. Pasta is always pronounced paaahsta and contains concoctions no true Italian would dream of inflicting on a human. Desserts arrive crowned with whipped cream squirted out of a can whose content is only on faint nodding terms with what comes out of a cow. As for the cheese board selection, it is three sweaty squares of orange, chalk white and something that looks like it’s got German measles…. each with the consistency of a squash ball. Seems good value till you get home realising the sun dried tomatoes cost ten times more than your deli and your head is pounding with a force ten headache.

...and another thing

The hushhouse

The room is lined with silk wallpaper and the floor covered with deep pile carpet. Diners are so old the place looks like God’s waiting room and everyone communicates in whispers so hushed you could hear a mouse get a hard on. Po- faced waiters waive about overgrown menus adorned with a red tassel. You know you are in trouble when you get a water list as well as a wine list. Whatever you select, the waiter will raise an eyebrow and the overweight sommelier can barely conceal his scorn as you chose a wine that’s not three figures.

To top it all, these places are the last bastion of male chauvinism.

‘What would Madame like’ is always addressed to the man as if the woman is not to be trusted and you need to order for her. A Dover sole will nearly always be taken off the bone for a woman and left on for a man and steaks just look smaller for my wife, no matter what weight they say on the menu.

The only loud noise comes from your intake of breath after being presented with a bill that charges like the Light Brigade. As you leave you see the hat check girl has a better watch than you and the doorman has kids in private school.

...and another thing


China crashing, swing doors banging, glasses smashing, this is a place of barely controlled chaos. Plates are white, tablecloths gingham and something is always written on a blackboard that when you ask what it is you are told is sold out. The waitress has a pen either in a bun in her hair or behind her ear. The menu is on wipe-proof plastic cards and despite a huge choice, everyone orders burgers. Good value except for the odd case of food poisoning or the clap that you take home along with the waiter or waitress.

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  1. Jack Frost says:

    You’d reach a far broader audience if you used terms like ‘dentures’….
    Gummy Bear

  2. Bob says:

    I’ve been going out to dine with the wrong crowd… my guess is that we could have a ball, a brawl and a hellova night to remember just calling it as we see it!

    I like your attention to detail in describing what only the wheels in your head could see.

  3. Tony Ritz says:

    Another interesting Grenside perspective on an every day occurrence. Loved it!

  4. Mark says:

    certainly if you give them my name you won’t get a table unless it’s by the loo door.

  5. bette anne says:

    Classic Grenside! Set your fashion watch to Mark’s cutting edge trend detector….”CIA Bodyguard Chic” will be The It Fashion Must featured on every catwalk next season! I’ll be chuckling all day thinking about “the bill that charges like the Light Brigade”. Thank you!

  6. Neil says:

    Thanks Mark, cheered me up at Male airport 🙂

    • Mark says:

      I’ve been there. If waiting once checked and and it’s a long flight, don’t eat the fish……..

  7. Paola says:

    Suppose This restaurant won’t be on my favorites list on my next visit

  8. emma clempson says:

    I actually read this while eating crisps…I just choked laughing. This is so so true. Can I just add that I was once recommended in a restaurant that should be nameless (or should I say it was ‘Sketch’) that I ate in a clockwise direction on the plate to blend the flavours well….

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