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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

No need to grouse

It was an odd start to the evening. My friend Sarah and I arrived at the restaurant for a much-needed night out, and gave our coats to the cloakroom attendant, who looked at us a bit oddly.

"Are you living together?" he asked.

"Sorry, what?" I was a tad surprised that he was interested in our romantic relationship (or in this case, definite lack of).

"Are you leaving together?" he repeated. This was slightly better, but still seemed an odd question, and firmly in the category of Not Really His Business. Still, once we'd realised he was just seeing if he could put our coats on the same hanger, this was a tiny bit more normal. Though really, to avoid offence, he could have splurged on a second hanger.

It was a rare night out for me at a restaurant I would put into the "fairly nice" category. Not "ridiculously expensive", but the sort of place where, paying around £15 for your main course, you could expect decent food and good service, with staff on hand to answer any questions you might have.

We were seated at a lovely table overlooking the Thames.

The waitress came over to our table to take our order.

Sarah, perusing the menu, asked, "What's 'ray wing', exactly?"

"Eh?" asked the waitress, for whom English was not a first language.

Sarah repeated, "Raywing - is it similar to plaice?"

"Yes," said the waitress. "Is fish." Sarah - satisfied by this admittedly not in-depth explanation, which told her precisely nothing she didn't already know, risked it and went for the raywing.

I went for the grouse.

"Sorry," said the waitress. "You can point please?"

I should emphasise at this stage that we were not at a McDonalds, nor an institution that has pictures of the food on laminated menus (indeed, if we had been, Sarah may not have needed to ask about the raywing).

Still, always amenable, I did as I was asked, and pointed. The waitress wrote something down. I wasn't sure she'd got it right (maybe I have fat fingers). I said (a bit patronisingly, if I'm honest), "The grouse, yes?"

"Yes," said the waitress. And off she went to get our wine. It was a screw-top, but she still insisted we taste it before pouring. We should have actually made the most of this opportunity as the wine was then put in an ice-bucket some distance from our table, and we had to ask several times before we were allowed a second glass.

My starter arrived. It wasn't great. I didn't finish it. The waitress asked if it was OK. I said that I'd found it a bit dry. She said, "Oh." I wondered why she had bothered asking.

My main course arrived. Sarah's raywing looked lovely (and a bit like plaice). My lamb looked... less like grouse than I had hoped.

I sent it back. I was given a look as though I was one of those customers that had changed my mind several times. They edged the wine further away from me.

Luckily my main course, when it did arrive, was actually delicious. Our odd waitress disappeared at some point during the night (sacked? Pushed into the Thames?) and things then improved.

Though I still think we got an odd chuckle as we left together.

We have vowed to do it again soon.

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