The Emperor’s new restaurant

Do you know the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? The Emperor is very vain and could not resist when a dishonest salesman offers him some unique clothing. It is unique because it is made from fabric that can only be seen by very wise people; to others, it is invisible. The Emperor cannot see it, but does not want admit to any lack of wisdom. Of course, all his staff take the same view and soon the news of the Emperor’s new clothes spreads across the land. The Emperor is wearing his new clothes at every opportunity – i.e. he is wandering around naked. Nobody says anything until, one day, a young boy, exhibiting the clear honesty that comes with youth, in a crowd calls out “Why is the Emperor naked?” The moral of the story is clear enough: be true to yourself and do not just accept other people’s ideas and opinions.

Not so long ago, I came across this kind of situation in real life …

I am sorry to disappoint you, but I was not witness to members of the nobility wandering around in the buff. My experience involved a visit to a restaurant. I am not going to name the establishment or even the city – if you really want to know, email me or contact me via a social networking channel.

It was a special meal, so we had chosen an upscale restaurant, but, even so, the prices were eye-watering. They also did the annoyingly fashionable thing of pretending that cost is never an issue – leaving the “$” off of the prices. My wife thought they were the calorie counts for the dishes. I could not complain about the prices, as I was at liberty to check that first. However, I had plenty moire to complain about :

  1. The table was not conducive to sociable eating. It was crescent shaped, which meant the diners at each end had no chance to converse. There were only 4 in our party.
  2. The whole place had subdued lighting. Actually, it was dark and that darkness was annoying. Having to be given flashlights (which are fiddly to use) just to read the menu is a joke. I used my phone’s torch app.
  3. The menu was incredibly complex, made worse by (2), to the extent that a server felt the need to explain it to us. The wine list was even worse.
  4. The person serving wine did not know what they were doing. I ordered a glass of white, which arrived in a small carafe. I was invited to taste it and he asked whether I liked it. Tasting is to check whether the wine is “corked”. This is pointless when serving a glass. If I had said that I did not like it, would he have provided a different one at no charge? I think not.
  5. When the bottle of red arrived, tasting was again suggested and made more sense this time. However, I feel that, in an upscale establishment, the wine waiter should spot a corked wine before the customer is aware. The wine was also unnecessarily, incompetently and flamboyantly decanted into a carafe. The wine was not old enough to throw a sediment, so why decant? In any case, he simply sloshed the whole bottle into the carafe without any care.
  6. The serving of food was OK, but rather careless. My starter included ice-cream, but I had no spoon. Yes, I could ask for one, but should not need to.
  7. The procedure of making the salad (in the dark) at the table just seemed foolish. It made me wonder if they had a fully equipped kitchen.
  8. Empty plates were generally removed before other diners had finished, which I feel is impolite to the point of being crass and added to (11) below.
  9. My dessert was not freshly prepared. Creme Brulee should have a cold custard layer with melted and set sugar on top, which should be still warm. Mine was all at the same temperature – it had been sitting in the fridge.
  10. My wife ordered a coffee, which was forgotten until late on, when it was apologetically supplied FOC.
  11. Overall the meal felt like a visit to a fast food joint rather than a quality restaurant, as we were hurried through it from course to course with barely time to draw breath. I assume that they hoped to turn the table that evening.

I later wrote to the manager to give him feedback. His response was to agree that a few things were not up to scratch. But he was at pains to explain that most of the things that I disliked [table, darkness, salad preparation …] were really enjoyed by their regular customers.

I come back to thinking about the naked Emperor …

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