Sunday, January 12, 2020

A bite out of the pizza

We had a rather poor meal the other day quite close to home. I don't like to give bad reviews online, naming names, so I won't do it here, only to say that two of the worst experiences of dining out we've had in the last couple of years have occurred in El Panorama, and there really aren't that many places to choose from.

I can't remember if I wrote up the previous one. I'll usually only use the written word where the negativity of an experience has some rather personal aspect to it that goes beyond the more general quality of the food and service. (If I did express some vitriol on social media, it will have been to mention the fact that some reprobate in the kitchen apparently took a substantial bite out of the 1/2 pizza that we'd asked to have packed up para llevar.)

Back at my (still) primary residence in the UK, there's an historic tithe barn — above  which is regularly used for events, weddings in particular, and it has astounded me how attendees at these gatherings have occasionally taken to Tripadvisor afterwards in order to diss the caterers. 

Note, these people were not the paying customers, they were honoured guests at someone else's special day. The Internet has become a place where basic manners have been exorcised and these evil ectoplasms are seeping back into the non-digital world. 

By far the greatest restaurant-based infámia that has ever happened to me took place over a decade ago in the centre of Antigua, and I did then feel the need to not so much pile-in as bile-out right here on this blog. 

We'd invited out an old friend, a restauranteur who happens also to be a close relative of the incoming alcalde. The meal was fine, the service was what it had always been at an establishment we'd regularly frequented since it opened in '96, though by then it had changed ownership, and not to especially good effect. 

Then came the bill. The bottom item was an unspecified and substantial surcharge. The waitress had made no mention of this when she passed me the piece of paper. 

I called her over. She explained that she had recognised my wife as a member of a large party that had gathered there the previous year and when payment was collected at the end, management had found themselves quite a bit short and had decided that it was now up to me to make up the difference...without mentioning this at any stage before presenting the bill, and even then not really mentioning it.

I duly explained that I had not been present at this earlier event and that my wife had attended only briefly and had left sufficient funds to cover the cost of her own meal, even though she had in effect been invited to join the long table by an old friend, already seated. 

The group had included some panza verde stalwarts and was fluid. It's quite possible that when the bill eventually came, someone dodged their own contribution by pointing the figure at those that had departed sooner. Worse things happen in this country. 

Yet no matter the original circumstances, this attempt to balance the books using guilt by association in a manner which defies all the rules of good sense and hospitality beggared belief. 

And when I called over the manager his rudeness further embarrassed me in front of my guest and guaranteed that we would never return. (The restaurant, for a long time the most popular in all of Antigua, went out of business shortly afterwards.) 

This week, rather than taking to the interwebs, we called over the manageress and, constructively I hope, explained how fried plantains are supposed to be prepared in a frying pan and not go anywhere near a microwave oven, and are thus supposed to retain a modicum of moisture. 

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