I don’t often find myself compelled to write about a meal I ate. Life’s a bit short to waste time letting people know what an awful evening I had (or not). On this occasion though, the experience was so overwhelmingly terrible, I really do feel the need to get it out of my system. I’m not even going to name the restaurant because it wasn’t all their fault but just be careful about which Chinese eatery you choose on the A41 heading into Birkenhead.
It’s John’s birthday. I really should be changing names to protect the innocent but ‘John’ is suitably anonymous in its own right, pretend it’s not his real name. Now I quite like John, smart guy ,interesting and good sense of humour. Seems to have got lost in life a little. He’s a traffic warden but could have taken a much more challenging profession, something he recognises and often worries about occasionally, especially now he’s 60. John is *about* 6’8” I’d say, it’s hard to tell. He also weighs *about* 25 stone. Big guy. Imagine a huge, big, great Graeme Souness in a parking violation Smart car and you’ve got him. OK?
It’s John’s 60th and since he’s due to be married to my sister in law (remember I mentioned he’s got a lost a little?), we’ve been invited. My turn to drive so I’m not drinking. My gorgeous wife will be imbibing though and given it takes her half a pint to turn into a lary drunk (this may be an exaggeration but I’m playing for laughs), the evening will be a fun one. Off we go. Six adults, two teenagers, four whining brats (also exaggerated but stick with me).
It’s an all you can eat place, £14 each. Eh? EH? Can’t be bad. YES IT CAN.
One of the adults, whom I’ve not previously had the pleasure, is quite loud and opinionated. And this is relative to my sister in law who we will discuss later. She is already informing us how we can eat as much as we want and can order everything twice or three times if we want, something it is clear she intends to do. Judging by her girth, it is apparent to me this is not an unusual situation to her.
To the eating then. We don’t actually order stuff as such, the menus are waved in front of us which indicate we will be in receipt of 7 courses, and then they are removed. I’m not sure if this is to stop us challenging the course order or content but it was a very deliberate process. I tried to get my wife to hide a menu but being a third of a way into a half of lager, she was already incapable of processing coherent requests. I suspiciously eyed the staff, something was going on. Whatever it was, it wasn’t bringing drinks orders. I had to order mine three times, which I am now confident was translated into three separate charges for one drink.
Soup arrives. I say ‘soup’ because I remember the first course on the menu was soup, not because the contents of the bowl in any way resembled soup. My spoon stands up in it. Others around the table likened it to wallpaper paste but I’d not use this to hang wallpaper, burn it off maybe, but not hang it. I taste it carefully. It has no taste. Nothing. No seasoning, no sweetcorn taste, no chicken taste, el zlicho. I look around the table, others are coming to the same conclusion. Loud lady has finished her bowl and declared it horrible before ordering another one. The general theme however, is one of disgust. Those whose drinks have been delivered, wash their mouths out. It will be twenty minutes before I can do the same. Time marches on though, after loud lady has inhaled her second bowl of pelican spunk, we’re onto course two. Aperitifs!
Now I’m not a great fish lover. If you asked me for a short description of what I think fish tastes like, it’d be ‘shit’ or ‘shit covered in marmite’. Fish is fucking disgusting and every who likes it is a po-faced jellyfish. So you’ll not be surprised to learn that all of our aperitifs, contain fish. Even the ones that traditionally, only contain vegetables. I sit this one out. A drink would be nice. Of course, loud lady orders a second tray.
Note that some of the adults, are drinking beer. My wife has now drunk half of a glass of lager and is laughing a lot. Loud lady has cleaned off ‘some’ lager as has my sister in law and the discussion inevitably turns to politics. Now I’ve bucked the trend of becoming more right wing as I get older by becoming a raging loony leftie. My sister in law, has not. A staunch UKIP supporter, immigrants have their place and it’s not here. The Euro is out, Greek people have only themselves to blame and quite frankly, those programs that demonise people on benefits, that’s what’s wrong with this country. (the people on benefits, not the programs). I hold my tongue, stare at the ceiling and wait for the next course. And a drink.
Next course. Duck. I don’t like duck. My drink has arrived though. Watery coke. Mmmm. Are we having duck twice? Yet bet!
Course number…five? This one actually is advertised as fish and fish it is. I take a sip of coke and stare at the ceiling. Everyone else munches away at the rancid, parasite filled, devil meat. At this stage loud lady notices that I’m not eating. Clearly there’s something wrong with me and this issue needs resolving. “YOU DON’T LIKE FISH??”. Which everyone in the entire restaurant now knows, “WHY NOT?” she splutters past a mouthful of bat vomit in a bag of scaley skin. The conversation continues in this vein. Furthermore, not only am I weird for not wanting to put Satan’s smega in my mouth but I’m not participating in the spirit of the event presumably because I’m not stuffing my face with anything that arrives on the table and then ordering more. I take a sip of brown water and join my old friend the ceiling in revere.
It’s at this stage that the ADHD children at the table recognise the lack of focus and control that is imposed upon them and begin challenging the bounds of parental responsibility. A balloon begins moving around the environment, a small fight ensues and one of the smaller ones somehow ends up with a nasty bruise to his arm. Food, and assuming it is fish of some description, this is the best use for it, is now flying. It’s alright though, shouty people are here and they will shout to stop the nonsense, a lot. Did I mentioned I’ve not got access to alcohol?
Finally, it is time for the main course. The menus reappear and we are permitted to actually select something we want. I choose chicken in blackbean sauce. It is now over 2 hours since we arrived and I’m about to eat something. Menus are removed, food arrives. All I hear is ‘black bean sauce’ so I wave my hand. What I’ve done is intercepted loud lady’s BEEF in black bean sauce. She quickly points out my error and I hand it over. The issue is not yet resolved though. She spends AT LEAST ten minutes telling me how I ordered chicken and she ordered beef. Obviously she’s not going to let making a point interfere with eating the food so she does both at the same time. Joy.
My food arrives, eventually. I’m confident the staff are singling me out because I’m the only person who understands something is not quite right here. There was probably a drug in the second course that I didn’t eat that has subdued everyone else but not me. They are therefore treating me with distain and reciprocating my suspicion. I take a mouthful. Nice, Jon? No. I’ve found out why there was no salt in the soup, it’s all in my black bean sauce. I try a few more mouthfuls but despite my hunger I just can’t stomach it. Loud lady watches me closely. I’m eating so it’s hard to criticise me but she’s clearly worried I might suddenly leap across the table and snatch her delectable dish from between her podgy, sweaty fingers. Of course, such an attempt would have been scuppered by the fact SHE’S ALREADY EATEN IT ALL!
Main course out of the way, it’s time to leave as far as I’m concerned but the evening is not yet over. Because unlike anybody else ever in the history of Chinese restaurants, we are going to have desert. But before we do, my sister in law is going to have to make room. First off she tries by dropping the most awful smelling guff ever, ever, ever and then blaming John. But John’s not having it. He’s clearly experienced in these matters and is not taking this one for the team. A second, and perhaps even more terrible smelling trump has us all coughing. Her daughter tries to deflect the blame by suggesting Ellesmere sewage treatment works output is wafting in through the window (given I work for the responsible water company, we all know this is a veiled attempt to blame me), but ultimately, the responsible party eventually informs us she must go for a poo. Stay classy.
Desert is devoured on her return and we make plans to leave. There is of course the bill to settle but I’ve already worked our portion out. This is not sufficient since an argument ensues about the remainder. Twenty minutes later and the staff have changed from being non-responsive to being downright obnoxious as we are clearly stopping them taking an early dart. I eventually lose patience, grab what money has been placed on the table and storm over to the bar with loud lady in tow. The lady operating the bar is having a conversation with someone in Chinese on the phone and she’s not going to let some annoying customers stop her so we wait for five minutes. Eventually she finishes and I and (to her credit), loud lady share the outstanding balance. I am asked if I enjoyed the meal by the bar lady, I sneer at her and tell her no, it was not a pleasant meal. She is unfazed by this information and immediately makes a phone call.
We can leave, in a fashion. My wife is unable to leave anywhere without talking to everyone about everything for ever. We arrive home (it’s an hour’s drive for me) about 11:30 and I get to partake of the only pleasant aspect of the evening, a large whisky.