Dear All,

I trust this edition of our newsletter finds you healthy and high in spirits, and NOT high on them. Speaking of alcohol related stories; I have a question for you: How do you know when you should walk straight out of a restaurant as soon as you either approach it and not quite get to the door or you do actually walk through the door? All the tell-take signs are there that are screaming out at you to protect your pocket and hightail it away and or out of there; a waitress that is waiting for you at the door, watching your every move as you approach the restaurant, and when you set foot through the door you see the friend that you’ve arranged to meet in there sitting quietly with absolutely nobody else sitting at the tables surrounding him. It’s a Friday night, it’s 7:30, a restaurant full of emptiness, net curtains that are drawn and in great need of a good wash, smudge marks on poorly cleaned windows. You just have to suck it up, accept your lot, you are going to dine in the very same restaurant Beelzebub frequents, only tonight it looks like even he has decided to go elsewhere for his pasta. It’s too late, you can’t turn around and walk away, you’ve made a prior reservation, you don’t want to be rude, you’ve not been brought up in such a way, so you stay, you know that you’re going to get served fare that’s nothing more than confused rubbish and pay a lot money for it, but still you stay. You may try to rationalize the situation you’re in by thinking that you’ll give the restaurant a good lambasting on your blog when you get home, imagining the relief you’ll feel by telling others that they should avoid where you’ve dined tonight at all costs.

This is exactly what happened to me the other night, and if I hadn’t made a prior booking for myself and one of my customers, whom I have had a very long relationship with and genuinely call a friend, then I would have simply just excused myself and gone elsewhere. I have done a lot of eating out over the years, mostly in Italian restaurants, which is what the restaurant in question was or is pretending to be, and know what the warning signs of a bad restaurant are, I just know. We ordered food and then 2/3 minutes later we were visited by the waitress and told that they didn’t have what we’d just ordered. When we did finally get some food to the table the portions were miniscule and for the most part quite tasteless. All the dishes that my friend and I were served were fused and confused French and Italian, the restaurant claims to serve authentic Tuscan fare, but in actuality it’s not serving anything of the sort. We had a bottle of wine, which was Tuscan, a bottle of passable red or Rosso di Montalcino, but it was over-priced, and to top it all off the person pouring the wine into our glasses kept having to take the glasses away to wipe them clean because she couldn’t quite get the wine into wher it was supposed to go – it was truly an awful experience. You might be wondering why I didn’t complain, I do usually, but it didn’t seem like the right thing to do on this occasion, besides it would have spoilt the good conversation I was having at the time. I subscribe to the rule of “If you don’t go, you won’t know, and if you do go and it’s no good, you should never ever go back.”

After the meal I asked for the bill, which came with items crossed out on it, never a good sign, I checked it and it was okay, but nonetheless ….. it turns out that the chef had spent some time in Italy and when I asked where he’d worked he spoke to me in Italian, he’s Japanese by the way, and immediately went to a cupboard and brought out a pair of restaurant whites and proudly pointed the name of the restaurant at the top of the pocket, which said Arnolfo Ristorante. I then enquired how long he’d worked there to which I think he replied “2.5 years”, “Why did you come back to Japan?”, I then asked, to which he replied “To start a restaurant”. “I see”, said I, hoping that he would add onto the end of that “ because I got fed up of peeling all the potatoes and carrots and washing dishes”, which if he had of added that bit on it would have put the whole evening into much better perspective. The quality of conversation I had with my guest and friend made up for the disappointing food, so it was not all bad, but I have to say there are so many similar restaurants out there that are doing the same thing and it’s very annoying. The next time you walk into a restaurant, have a good look around before you decide whether or not to sit down, think about the things I’ve mentioned, even if you have made a prior booking, if all appears not to be well, get the hell out of there.