I'd remembered its prawns, you see. Delightful, light, juicily marinaded gambas in a sweet white wine and chilli sauce. I remembered them with fondness, which is why, when we were looking for a decent restaurant to eat at last night, Strada seemed like a good choice.
I don't really know what went wrong last night, other than the restaurant having no professional serving staff and hiring a shipping container of rabid chimps in uniform.
Don't get me wrong, the food was good. But it was just the wrong food at the wrong time, the wrong cutlery and the wrong kind of service. Ie, none. It was like being trapped in a Norman Wisdom spoof.
I'd already lunched well (at The Ivy, no less) so only wanted a light meal and no starter.
But it was a chore to get one of the waiting staff to take our order in the first place. My companion decided to pretend to cry like a baby, which disturbed the Yankee next to us.
Just at the point when I considered standing on the chair and doing a full-on belly dance, waiter One came up. The chap with whom I was dining ordered a plate of cured meats to start and spaghetti for main.
I said: 'Please may I have the prawns and a salad, but can I have these as my main course please?'
Waiter One said: 'You want this as your main?'
Me: 'Yes please, I don't want a starter, so please can I have the prawns and the salad as my main course?'
*DONG* (sound of Pavlovian warning that trained chimps cannot compute when the parameters of their training changes).
Waiter TWO brought my companion's cured meats for starter, along with my prawns, without the salad.
I called him back. "Excuse me please, but I ordered these prawns as a main course to eat with my salad. Can they be put to one side please?"
Waiter Two started to take them away, whereupon I had visions of the prawns being left out in the meantime, or microwaved to keep hot.
Now, I don't mind diahorrea, after all, it's a good way to get thin quick without having to diet or throw up. But I don't like the feeling associated with bum curry, to wit, a pain akin to having a small, exoskeletal, fire-breathing animal driving a spiked chariot through your colon before developing into an intense burning sensation in the anus.
So I thought it expedient to eat the prawns there and then.
But I was not happy. And then, on the first prawn, I realised that they'd not brought me a bowl with lemon to clean my fingers. How was I supposed to shell the prawns? Eat them whole like an anaconda and hope that I can crap out the shell? That wouldn't be like the feeling of diahorrea - that would really be the pain of passing a small exoskeletal creature through my duodenum. I'm not ready for that kinda thrill.
I confess that I lost my temper and ranted for a good five mins while my patient dining companion just waited for me and offered me his napkin instead.
When we eventually attracted the waiter's attention - it was back to Waiter One - I explained that I had ordered a salad to eat with the prawns, and that I needed a bowl of water.
He brought me my salad and a bowl for finger-cleansing, and a menu so that I could order a main course as well - I wasn't going to sit there while my date ate by himself. I ordered a pizza from Waiter one.
Waiter Three came up and took away my companion's plate before he had finished eating.
Waiter One came up and put a long, thin jar of chilli oil on our table. I assumed this was for the pizza, because he didn't say anything when he put it there.
Waiter Two came with our main course, and tried to give it to the Yankees next to us, who had just paid their bill and were ready to leave.
Waiter Two left the food on our table, but neglected to clear away my dirty napkins or the bowl of water, and didn't give us any cutlery with which to eat our food!
Then we had fun trying to catch the attention of a waiter - it was not that crowded by that time - there were many empty tables - so that we could eat our food without resorting to picking it up with our fists and ramming it into our faces like some retarded ape on amoxycillin.
Waiter Three walked past so we asked him for some cutlery so that my date could eat his spaghetti and I could have clean cutlery for my pizza.
Waiter Three went away.
Waiter Two came to our table. With ANOTHER salad.
I still had the original, untouched, beside me. When I explained that I'd only ordered one salad, he tried to take both away. I had to hold down the original salad. It was very hard to explain in one-syllable words that I only wanted one salad and to take his sticky fingers off my food before I sawed them off with a (dirty) knife.
Waiter Three came back with clean cutlery, which he then proceeded to lay carefully upon a very dirty prawn-sauce encrusted napkin.
He gave my date a knife and fork with which to eat his spaghetti.
Half-way through the meal, when the spaghetti was almost finished, Waiter Four asked him 'Do you want any grated parmesan on that'!!!!
Waiter One returned to ask if everything was fine - given the whole debacle that preceeded this, we just burst out laughing. I don't think he understood why.
Quite frankly, I am pleased that 'service' was optional as there were WAY too many cooks and they would have spoiled our broth, or would have brought us two bowls of it and then forgotten that we needed cutlery.
I mean, four waiters, one simple order and basic knowledge of things like: 'humans need cutlery to eat' and 'give the customer pepper and grated cheese before they start eating'.
Seriously, Strada is supposed to hire staff with basic skills and understanding of how restaurants work. This isn't a Butlin's-style self-serve canteen. Nor is it a tiny one-man band trying to operate on a skeleton staff.
To be honest, the only reason why I didn't complain was because my dining companion is such an affable, laid-back and good-natured person who finds humour in everything.
Otherwise, I would have stabbed waiter four to almost death with the dirty cutlery that waiter two had left behind, poured chilli oil into his still-bleeding, prawn-infused wounds, thrown dirty finger-water over Waiter one while screaming for "Shaved Parmesan, now, or the Yankees get it", and force-fed Waiter Three with all the salads I could find this side of the Southbank.
"Think I like Rocket that much, do you? DO YOU? Choke on that, you imbecile."
And that is why I will NEVER eat at Strada again. Prawns or no Prawns.
I just might not see the funny side next time.
Thursday, March 17, 2011