I spoke too soon. Our meal last night to celerbrate our 10th anniversary together at The Almeida was a nightmare.
The evening started out OK - we were a little early for dinner so we had a drink in The Mitre round the corner from the restaurant. But once we had taken our seats at the Almeida things started to go awry. The French (and very French at that) waiter seemed to take an instant dislike to us. He had just three tables to look after. All couples. He stuck his nose in the air and seemed intent on ignoring us - refusing to let us catch his eye when we wanted a pre-dinner drink while we studied the menu. When eventually we did catch his eye he just looked at us in contempt and walked away. Goodness only know what we had done to deserve this treatment - I've eaten in posher places than that before but never been made to feel so uncomfortable and unwelcome as we were on our arrival last night.
When the waiter finally did come over he just said, "Ready to order" (note, this was not a question - just a statement). "I don't speak French", Marky reply politely, "could be explain what some of these dishes are, please?" Blank stare from waiter. Then a snort. "I don't need to explain the starters, I suppose", he stated. We looked at each other and but let him continue. He raced through the main courses translating the titles. This wasn't really much help when many of the dishes had rather obscure titles even when translated ('Chef's Fanfare' anyone?) and were costing up to 34 quid each! However we soon decided on what we were going to have (duck salad and a selection of meats to start and beef on the bone for two), finally got to order our pre-dinner drinks and some wine (a Chablis 1st Cru - 1995) and settled back to enjoy our evening together. Or so we thought.
Then things got even worse.
The food all turned up are the wrong time. We waited a little over 15 minutes between when Mark got his starter and I got mine. We tried to attract our waiter's attention throughout this wait but without luck. He just stuck his nose even higher in the air and pretended not to see us. He was avoiding us like the plague for some reason. Did he think we were just going to disappear and he wouldn't have to serve us? Utter madness. Eventually we had to call over another waiter from a different part of the restaurant (who couldn't have been nicer). He checked in the kitchen and to ensure the food had been ordered correctly (it hadn't been) and made sure it was on it's way (it was now). When it did arrive our origianl waiter made no apology. He just dropped it down in front of me and left.
At that point I said to Marky, "I'm just not enjoying this meal at all. He's so rude. Let's just leave." Marky laughed and said, "you're turning into me! That's my line! It's Topsy-turvy land!" I then said, "we are NOT leaving a tip, that's for sure!" And Marky said, "that proves it. You ARE turning into me!"
We struggled on through the rest of dinner (the food was good but made indigestible by the rotten service) and instead of ordering a desert or more wine we simply asked for the bill. When it arrived Marky said to the waiter, "can we have it without the 12.5% service added, please". Our waiter almost spat at us in fury. The manager was called. We explained what had happened and she completely sympathised with us and apologised profusely. "I'm from Finland and can't read French either", she admitted, "let alone understand from the name of the dish what the meal actually contains". We bonded straight away.
So we paid for our food and drink only and left heads held high. If only I'd taken a picture of the look the waiter gave us when we left though. It could have soured a whole ocean of milk.
We retired to the Eddie and laughed about it. You've got to, haven't you? We're not going back there again.