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Wednesday, 11 June 2014
This evening Buddy-Jo announces that she has made a booking for us at 'Paolo and Ortho', a very fashionable, very expensive restaurant in an oblong-shaped basement in Covent Garden. Gets lot of fancy customers.
“Do we have to do that?” I ask.
“Come on, Jason,” she says. “I'm a cordon bleu, remember? I want to check out the London eating scene a little. But I do have a special request.”
“Well. That you leave everything to me, ordering the food, choosing the wine, and so on. Is that OK?”
“I suppose so,” I say, grudgingly.
“Great! Then let's go. You'll enjoy it!”
As usual, heads swivel when we walk in, Buddy-Jo looking a knock-out in a little black number. The Maitre d. shows us to a table.
“No good,” says Buddy-Jo giving him a sweet smile. “ Too near the kitchen.'
“But, Madame,” says the Maitre d. “This is your table.”
“That table over there will do nicely,” she says, and gives him another smile. He hesitates and then capitulates, leads us to it, gives us the menus and tells us a waiter will be with us shortly. Buddy-Jo studies the menu for a couple of minutes and then sits back and looks around.
“They sure go in for weird décor.” I explain that Paolo and Ortho's décor is supposed to represent old Milan and I point at the small black and white photographs on the wall.
“Terrific,” she says. “Must have cost them a fortune.” She's acting a little forceful this evening, it seems to me. Well, so be it. The waiters – there aren't many – pass back and forth. Buddy-Jo is watching them quietly. There must be something wrong with these guys. If I was one, I'd be here real fast to get an eyeful of Buddy-Jo. She looks at me in a sort of speculative way and then as one of the waiters walks by our table, she says loudly, “Hey!” The waiter stops in his tracks, heads turn.
“We've been here twenty minutes. Would you like to take our order?” He takes our order.
“I'll have,” says Buddy-Jo, with a perfect French accent. “Le Neufchatel Tiede aux Pommes Fondantes, followed by La Brouillade de la Mer au Jus de Betteraves Rouges. My friend will have La Terrine de Foie Gras Maison en Remoulade followed be Le Filet de Boeuf aux Echalottes Confites, Creme de Ciboulette.”
“Certainly, Madame,” says the waiter, tight-lipped.
“OK, Jason?” she asks.
“OK,” I say. “Please continue.” The wine waiter appears.
“Monsieur has chosen the wine?” he asks me.
“We have,” says Buddy-Jo. “A bottle of the Graves '96, and would you bring it right-away, please.?” He comes back surprisingly soon and says they don't have any in stock at the moment.
“Really? Then, the Crozes-Hermitage '98. What do you say, Jason?” I am glad to have only a bit part in this production so readily agree. After that, she continues to look around the place and at the other diners Then she stops the waiter as he passes by.
“I forgot to order mineral water. What brands do you have?” He rattles out a few names looking off to the other side of the room.
“Excuse me,” says Buddy-Jo. “Are you talking to me?” He jerks his head round.
“Why yes, Madame.”
“Oh good. Then I'll have the Mattoni.” After which we sit quietly for a short while.
“Do you like this music they're playing,” she asks.
“Definitely not,” I reply. “You'd think we were in a night club, not trying to enjoy a quiet dinner.”
The food finally comes and she concentrates on it, asking me to switch dishes with her so she can taste everything, to the amusement of the people at the next table. So, what do I care? I'm enjoying Buddy-Jo's performance and the food and the wine are good.
“Coffee?” she asks me and I say yes. Our waiter is summoned.
“Two expresso please and would you ask the Maitre d' to step over ?” The Maitre d' takes a long time to come but finally appears, smiling.
“Would you care to sit down for a moment,” she says sweetly to him. He stops smiling.
“Alas, Madame, we are rather busy. Did Monsieur and Madame enjoy the meal?”
“I had a couple of problems with it,” says Buddy-Jo. “The cheese in the Neufchatel Tiede is definitely not from Neufchatel, the Creme Ciboulette was burnt and the Jus des Betteraves Rouges was stale.” The Maitre d' sneers.
“I regret that Madame did not find our cuisine to her satisfaction. We never have any complaints. We have two Michelin stars, Madame. And Monsieur and Madame have over-run your time here.”
“Shall we go, Jason,” she says. She hands the Maitre d' a small piece of card.
“You have just been visited by complain.com. Whose website will feature a review of your restaurant. You could lose a lot of potential customers. Good night.” And out we go, the Maitre d' shepherding us along in case we embarrass any of his clientele.
“Well,” I say, when we get out into the square. “I hope we don't have to eat out too often! And what's complain.com?”
“Jason,” she says, taking my arm. “Thanks for staying cool. I have a doctorate in Cordon Bleu, summa cum laude, and I spent a year with Maximilien d'Eu and Marcel Bizy in Lyons working eighteen hours a day. So I know about cooking and OK I do get a little concerned about it, once in a while. Complain.com was set up to help the paying customer get the good food and the good service which they should get, especially in view of the prices they have to pay. Members put up on the site a list of good and bad experiences. Neat, huh?”
What can I do but agree?