úterý 15. prosince 2009

Mussel night in Vozovna Stromovka

I don't like writing negative stuff and I avoid it at all cost when it's avoidable. This time it’s not and the bad thing is that I actually liked this place before. The place has major organization problems it must adress as soon as possible. There were only 2 waiters, but the place is not that big! There was also a gentleman in a white shirt wandering around and looking very important, something like a manager probably. I’ll come back to him later.

It all started the very moment we came in. I have reserved a table about 3 weeks ago, but they had no note of our reservation. I’ve made the reservation via email and got a confirmation. They looked in the computer and in the diary, our name wasn’t there. They were apologetic and reacted promptly by bringing in a table and 2 chairs from outside. BTW the place was fully booked; if they hadn’t come up with bringing in the table, we would have been turned away. The furniture is hard plastic and it’s obvious that the chairs were ice cold for another 30 minutes, I had to sit on my jacket. The waiter seated us, smiled and walked away not to return for 15 minutes. He hasn’t given us menus, hasn’t taken our orders, nothing. Husband walked to the bar and got us the menus. About 10 minutes after that the smiley and actually quite pleasant waiter came along and took our orders. We ordered 2 different Belgian beers, 2 kinds of mussels, French fries and 3 oysters.

Do you see the menu above? It quoted the prices for 1, 3 and 6 oysters, just as the official menu I was sent did. We’re absolutely not into oysters and just wanted to sample 2 pieces for the sake of it. But our waiter promptly told us that we could only order 3 or 6. He couldn’t answer why they quoted the price for singular oysters. We were “forced” to order 3. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not about money, it’s about the principle.

We waited and waited for our beers. A woman with a teenage boy and a baby that came in after us and who was obviously friends with the “manager” was served food earlier than we were served our drinks!!! We arrived at 7 p.m. and were served our first beers at 7.45 p.m, I’m not joking. Husband wanted to get up and leave, but knowing how much I wanted the mussels he stepped on his pride.

The beer was alright and although pricy (at 49-55kc for ¼ litre) we kinda enjoyed it. I think they only had those 3 Belgian beers on tap this night, I haven’t seen anyone drinking any other kind of beer.

The oysters were served on a spectacular plate with pebbles. As I said, we’re not really into oysters, but I quite liked those. They were meaty and smelled good, I ate the two of them. Husband still hates oyster BTW. The menu said that these were Belon oysters. Belon oysters are a delicacy and expensive, because the French AOC standard says that they should only be harvested in a certain region along the Belon river. Was this the case here? I don’t know, but hey were round like Belon oysters should be, and not oval like the usual oysters.

The mussels, steamed in wine and steamed in Leffe beer.
There was lots of them, probably more than the ½ kg quoted in the menu. So there are plus points for the portion size. They were very fresh, plus points for that too. But, the majority of them was half raw!!! We felt like idiots. I mean, I have eaten mussels for dozens, maybe hundreds of times but I’ve never been to Belgium and so I thought that maybe this is the way they are eaten there. For me, a mussel should be fully open, the majority of those was only half open and their shells were so brittle that it was a real problem opening them up without cutting yourself. They were slimy inside and you could not peel them away from the shell in one piece, they tore apart, revealing their slimy and unattractive guts. I thought that they were tasty, but something was terribly wrong with the texture.
As I looked around, I saw several other people showing each other the opened mussels and shaking their heads while wondering whether this is right. Husband ate about 10 or 12 of them, proclaimed them disgusting and stuck to the fries. I kept eating the mussels, picking out those that were more or less cooked. Yeah, I’m desperate. I still regret not having made a photo of one of the partially raw mussels. What a horrible waste of good quality raw material. It is necessary to mention that the place is obviously owned by the same owner as the Les Moules restaurant. The name means mussels and it’s a fairly upscale Belgian beer restaurant specializing in mussels. Funny, huh?

Oh, the fries were great! Crispy on the outside and soft inside. The mustardy mayo was good too.

There was a number of other very annoying things, like the fact that we weren’t served bowls for empty shells, napkins, bowls of lemon water, we got the first two after we asked but never got the latter. Most other tables had to ask for those things too. The staff constantly forgot to bring us our drinks and had very stupid excuses for it. We weren’t asking for any excuses but the waiter felt that he had to comment on the missing beer with “Oh, I draught it but I forgot for whom it was! Hahaha” WTF? Just say “Sorry, I forgot about your order.”

But, what about the guy in the white shirt? He constantly kept returning to the table with the woman, the teenager and the baby. He asked them if everything was alright for at least 5 times, but totally and absolutely ignored the other 10 tables. He kept walking in and out from somewhere in the back and even though he clearly saw that the waiters had a hard time doing their job, he never helped them.

Now, I know this is all our fault. We should have complained about the service, sent back the food etc etc, but when it comes to it I’m always too shy to do it, as are most people around me. This is utterly and absolutely wrong and it’s about time we start doing something about this attitude of ours. I hereby promise to send back the next overcooked steak or non aldente pasta I get at a restaurant!

At least it wasn’t an expensive dinner. The mussels were 145kc each and if they had been good it would have been a major bargain.
But will I ever return for a thematic dinner at this place? Never!

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