Last Saturday night we had a concert to go to with a bunch of friends we went to school with. Six of us decided it would be a good idea to meet up for dinner before the concert. Suggestions were called upon for where we should dine. And here’s the unfortunate part. I enthusiastically said I knew of a Chinese restaurant not far from the venue that I had once been to and it was excellent. It was a decade ago. A lot can go wrong in a decade.
I think that is the last time I will ever make a recommendation because to be sure, I am going to be reminded of ‘remember that time’ for a long time to come.
Timbo made the reservation but as we ascended the crowded staircase he said he wasn’t sure if they’d taken his name down correctly so we should say ‘Mark’ as well as ‘Larke’. I told the waiter Mark Larke was here for his booking and that triggered some recognition so we were shown to our table.
It was a table so large it would have fitted a dozen or more so we scrunched ourselves onto one side so we could feel like we were dining together; me stepping over a puddle of something on the floor in the process.
The restaurant was noisy and crowded, in fact packed to the rafters with more and more people ascending the stairs and with or without a booking, all were being shown to tables which surprised me, given there didn’t seem to be a large number of waiters.
Menus arrived and because we were on a tight schedule we decided it would be quickest and easiest to just order from the banquet section. We selected one of the banquet menus that included a glass of house wine so when we hailed down the waiter we ordered the banquet menu for six with five house merlots and one house chardonnay plus water all round.
Off he disappeared. Ten minutes later he returned saying we were not allowed to order the banquet menu. ‘Why is that?’ Matt asked. ‘Because we don’t start that menu until next week’.
‘Even though it’s on the menu and even though everything in the banquet is on the menu?’ I asked. And he nodded before quickly darting away. Continuing to aim to keep it simple we revisiting the menu and chose one dish each and tried in ernest to attract the attention of a waiter so he could take down our order. Mission accomplished (with some challenges) we then reminded him that we were still waiting on our drinks and could he bring the water.
The minutes ticked by. Then I saw the people at the next table who looked very hungry demand to see the manager. There were angry words spoken then off he scuttled. I said to Timbo, ‘This isn’t looking good’. He said, ‘It’s Chinese; they’re always very quick. Our food will be here in no time’. I said, ‘You’re very optimistic’.
I was started to feel uneasy because of the chandeliers. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would cover them in orange plastic.
Then the wine glasses arrived. Mel, who ordered the chardonnay, had hers brought to her in a red wine glass. The glass given to me was the size of a thimble. Three glasses were so drenched we had to shake the water off them. Six wine glasses and no two the same. I was starting to feel really uneasy.
After another 15 minutes had lapsed with plenty of food arriving at the table where there’d been the altercation but no food landing on our table, I grabbed a speeding waiter and said, ‘Excuse me, we ordered quite some time ago; do you mind checking in the kitchen as to what’s happened to our order?’ But there was no reply because he barely paused long enough to listen to what I was saying.
So then Matt went off to find the manager. He came back full of confidence saying all was well and the food was about to arrive. ‘What about the water?’ I asked.
Then a waiter rushed over with the only entree we ordered, sung choi bao. We sat back expecting the waiter to serve it for us but it was slapped down on the table and at lightening speed he took off leaving us stunned. Recovering, we served ourselves. It was bland, colourless and lacking in texture.
Next the crispy skin chicken with ginger and shallots arrived. I tried to ask the waiter for the rice we ordered but these waiters were like slippery eels and as soon the food was on the table, they vanished. I found another waiter and asked for some rice, ‘And it doesn’t have to be the fried rice we ordered, a bowl of boiled rice will be fine and if we could have some water…’, I yelled after him as he flew past.
Then a satay chicken dish arrived. It was lovely to see some food, it’s just we didn’t order any satay chicken. We grabbed a waiter and told him and said we ordered satay beef and could he find out what had happened to it.
Then the bill arrived. We all looked stunned as we had only seen two of six dishes, were still waiting for the water and hadn’t yet sighted a grain of rice. Timbo said, ‘They’re very prompt with the bill’, and then he looked at it and saw there were only our drinks on the bill. Hailing down a waiter we asked why we had been given the bill and no food. He said, ‘That’s all you order’.
‘No’, we said, ‘we didn’t just order a glass of wine, we ordered food to go with it. Can you please bring the food’. And without a word off he went.
Then the waiter who took down our order approached and said they could no longer bring any of the food we ordered. They were too busy, they would be bringing no food and we needed to pay for our drinks’. We’d been there 50 minutes. Recalling how well things went for the other table, I said, ‘Could you get the manager?’ and away he scuttled like Manuel in Fawlty Towers. (Actually all the waiters reminded me of Manuel).
The manager arrived and I started to say something but he cut me off and said all the dishes we ordered had come out of the kitchen it’s just they had gone to other tables and that the kitchen was too busy but if we wanted we could re-order or we could just pay for our drinks and leave. I’d exhausted all patience. I said, ‘I was speaking. We have been here nearly 60 minutes and in that time we haven’t seen a drop of water or a grain of rice. We’re leaving’.
And with that it was off to the concert where we’d already missed the opening act. Minor dramas ensued with people sitting in our seats and once we got that sorted all was good. Until later in the evening when two burly security guards started dragging a neanderthal up the aisle, wiping out a chap getting carried away with his dancing who crashed into my husband and we all went down like a stack of dominos.