Sunday 3 June 2012

A short cafe rant

I had a day off this week. It wasn't my idea - I was laid low by a pretty awful headache. I get these things occasionally - they're the lingering after effect of being knocked off my bike by a car years ago. They range from "I'm dying in agony - give me morphine now and knock me out" down to "This hurts so much I can't think clearly, but I can perform basic functions". Thankfully, this one was at the lower end of the scale, so I crawled out of bed around lunchtime and decided to take some air - a gentle stroll around the neighbourhood generally does wonders.

I decided that I would stroll up to a new cafe nearby. I was that whacked out that I can't even remember what it was called, but it came highly recommended by some friends. The cafe has a reputation for doing excellent sweet things, so I thought it would be worth the walk.

The place was quite small - you could seat maybe a dozen people inside and the same again outside. The menu was pretty simple too - although I had a hard time making any sense of it (my head hurt too much). I can normally scan a menu and make my selections in 5-10 seconds - it took me a good two minutes to figure out what I was going to have. My brain was simply not operating at all.

I ordered the quiche and salad and then set about explaining to the waitress what I wanted to drink. Or more exactly what I did not want to drink. I told her I wanted a drink that contained only ingredients A, B and C. I did not want it to include any of D, E of F. I was quite clear on that, and repeated myself three times to be sure. The barista even came over and asked me if I wanted two doses of A or one. At that point, I was fairly sure I was going to get what I wanted - a combination of A + B + C. I know from experience that some cafes don't stock C - although it would be present in every kitchen in the country. Small cafes with limited storage can't stock everything, and I'm used to that. But if they don't stock C, they usually come right out and tell you at the point of order that you can't have it as we don't stock it. In that case, it's time to order something else to drink.

So what did I get?


No C. It turned out they had C, but they still managed to stuff it up. I took one sip to see if it was as bad as expected. Yep - it was awful. Everything I didn't want was in that glass. I pushed it aside and went back to contemplating how sore my head was.

What I couldn't understand is that it should have been quite clear to the waitress that what I ordered looked nothing like what she was delivering. The place was not busy - there were maybe 10 customers there during my stay, and only 4 new ones appeared after me. Yet she still delivered it. I should have pulled her up at that point and pointed out that it looked nothing like what I wanted, but my brain was a puddle of slowly cooling porridge, and it took me an eternity to put two and two together and work out that I was looking at my worst nightmare.

Then the quiche arrived.

Quiche for me is a very safe thing to order. My travels have taken me to a wide range of eateries across Australia, and one thing I have discovered is that no one stuffs up a quiche. I've had rare steaks burnt to a crisp. I've had "fresh" salads served straight from a tin. I've had "home made gourmet" meat pies stuffed full of gristle, gravy and chunky lengths of artery. I've had fish and chips that have consisted wholly of deeply fried batter and completely soggy chips. I've eaten some appalling cafe and pub food across this country, but I've never been dudded with a quiche. 

Then the quiche arrived.

For starters, it was not a quiche as one would normally expect. I'm used to get a big slab of quiche - a fat triangle of eggs and ham and things in pastry. This was more like a vol au vont. It would have been a meal fit for a supermodel on a diet. For me, it was little more than a snack. 

Then I bit into it.

It was almost wholly lacking in salt - and I'm not a salt person. My parents went of salt when I was a kid, so I'm used to minimal salting of dishes. I've convinced the cook at a cafe where I regularly breakfast to cut back on the salt on my eggs (I'm sure he now spits in them instead). But even my taste buds recognised that salt was needed here, and there was none to be found.

And then there was the "side salad".

It consisted of a few small leaves of mixed lettuces, perhaps half a tomato in slice, half a dozen slices of cucumber and the smallest wedge of cheese I have ever seen. If we had a mouse problem, and I was baiting traps, I'd ensure that the mice got a last supper that contained more cheese than that "salad". And to top it off, it was undressed. And there was no salad dressing to be seen anywhere. No a drop of oil or vinegar had ever touched those parched leaves - and they desperately needed a bit of sexing up.

The quiche was small, but the price was small as well, so I can't complain about the value for money. But I'm used to getting something 3-4 times the size for twice the price. If you were looking to actually get fed, it was a waste of time.

So I went to pay the bill.

The barista asked how my drink was. I explained how it was nothing like I had asked for - in fact it was everything I wanted it not to be. At that point, he could have done one of two things:

  • offer to make a fresh one, which I would be happy to pay for
  • apologise, and remove the offending item from the bill
He offered to make me a fresh one, but I was too far gone by that point, and declined. 

So he rang up both items on the bill. $5 for the totally screwed up drink, and $6.50 for the smallest quiche in Christendom.

Frankly, I didn't mind paying for the drink disaster as it gave me free reign to vent my spleen over this experience. 

On the way out, I had a look at the sweet stuff on display - it did indeed look excellent. As bad as my first visit was, I'll be back to sample the stuff behind the glass at a later date. And next time, I'll front the barista and tell him how I want things - A+B+C, and nothing else.

My head still hurts just thinking about how hard the simplest things can be sometimes.


Anonymous said...

You eat QUICHE? Oh dear.

Boy on a bike said...

I like to think of it as "ham and egg pie". If you look at it that way, it's nowhere near as bad.

Simon said...

Lately I've gone off quiche, people are starting to overthink it, it's becoming more like eggs suprise. Earlier this year I was in a strange part of town (East Perth) around breakfast time. Small place, smelled like coffee, looked alright so I ordered a flat white and a basic B&E breakfast, the lady behind the counter looked me in the eye and said "We only reheat soup until nine.". Needless to say I took my $6.95 coffee and left never to return.


If I didn't have a headache before, that ordeal would have induced one.
You have my sympathy.

cav said...

Real men don't each quiche, they tried to tell you with A+B+D+E.

Suck it up!