Could an entire town have dodgy service?

Shoal Bay is a beautiful place. But if our experiences and online reviews are to be believed, don’t ever eat there.

Shoal Bay – It’s on Fiji Time

During the week my family has  spent holidaying in the area, we have had three experiences of what I’d call a very laid-back approach to customer service.  Cafes that take that extra ten minutes to offer you a menu, a coffee that took fifteen minutes, fish and chips that took thirty minutes, and the one time we were told that the waitress was setting up for a birthday banquet so we’d have to wait. Huh?

We know some locals here and they suggested a bit of ‘Fiji Time’ was in evidence. It seemed reasonable enough; People who live here – in a cluster of coastal towns two hours from Sydney – don’t watch the clock too closely.

Keep in mind, the Shoal Bay/Fingal Bay community is very small. There are about five food options in Shoal Bay and just one in Fingal Bay. Something here must be worthwhile, I thought. So, I turned to Google and checked out the online reviews. And, oh my gnocchi.

Here’s just a sample…

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There were only 4 tables though and it took almost 15 minutes for coffee and juice to come out. Juices are Home Brand and poured straight from the bottle. At $4.50 per glass I was not happy.

via LongBoat Cafe (Fingal Bay).

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Myself and my wife attended this restaurant on a Sunday evening in November 2009. I ordered the grilled snapper and as well as the one hour wait for the mains to arrive, the real problem did not hit me until I awoke at 3 am with massive food poisoning. The doctor thought it must have been “cheap takeaway”….unfortunately it was not takeaway and it certainly wasnt cheap.

via Catch at Shoal Bay

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Thank goodness our breakfast finally arrived

There are only 2 Italian options on the street and this is the bad one. Absolutely poor management. Service is rude. Pizzas are below average. Wine selection is poor. And they keep coming to ask if you are done even when you are having food, just to make you leave so the ones waiting can fit in.

Once or twice during my night I even got pointed at when I was only less than 3 metres away. I think they were planning what to do with our table …

I could over hear the staff constantly talking about ‘getting rid of this table and getting rid of that table’, to hurry families out of there within the hour, even taking away food while still being eaten and placing bills on tables as people were still receiving their coffees!

Charged an extra $2 because the waitress felt our 2 year old had made a mess in his high chair. It’s only $2 but was a rude thing to do in a ‘family friendly’ place

via Gianni’s Bar-Pizzeria & Ristorante.

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From the start the service was terrible. It was 10 mins after we sat down before we were given a menu. The garlic bread we ordered actually went to the table next to us who had ordered after us. So it was a long wait before we got our garlic bread. Next came the disastrous meals which my partner and I categorically describe as THE WORST meals we’ve ever had in a restaurant. After 3 small mouthfuls of my fettucine I pushed my plate away and felt sick and couldn’t eat anymore. It tasted as though they had melted about 250gms of pure butter. I know lobster is quite rich so I don’t know what they were doing in that kitchen! Basically it was inedible! My partner’s pork belly was pathetic. We have done a better job at home ourselves and neither of us are qualified chefs. So this incredibly disappointing and sickening meal cost us $87!!!

The food and service were terrible. When we complained and asked to see the manager about our absolutely inedible meal, rancid in the case of the risotto, we were told to pay up or they would call the police!

We tried to order the hot chocolate that was on the specials board, but was told we couldn’t have it because “it would take too long to construct”. Huh? So we ordered coffee instead, which arrived lukewarm and burnt. Our food arrived relatively quickly, but the reason for this soon became apparent – my Eggs Benedict had eggshell in it, and there were lemon seeds in the hollandaise sauce. … At one point the waitress did come over and asked how our food was, but as we both had our mouths full at the time she managed to disappear because I could swallow and tell her it was mediocre.

via Marco’s Restaurant.

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Apps beat tasks, but not taste

Smartphone apps – mainly free ones, bless them – continue to change my everyday routines, enhancing once mundane duties into short, fun tasks.

For instance, I can find and launch apps to change channel on my TV and adjust my stereo quicker than I can locate the remotes needed to do both.

I use an app to record wine labels and tag how enjoyable they were much more easily than I can recall them.

And with nifty little Instagram I can enhance photos and share them much quicker than I could ever launch Photoshop and email pictures of my coffee to a bunch of strangers.

But I am running out of worthwhile things to share. And I am asking myself more and more, why are we all sharing photos of our coffees? Sure you might be excited by the smell and the unique design doodle in the latte froth, but all we see is a coffee. Like a meal, it’s a multi-sensory experience, not a visible moment. You’ve dumbed it down and crowded my feed – pardon the pun.

An occasional, extraordinary meal, sure… Tell me all about it so I might cook it or visit that restaurant. But snack food? A good espresso?

Then comes new app EVERNOTE FOOD. (link: http://blog.evernote.com/2012/06/07/everyone-to-the-table-evernote-food-for-android-has-arrived/)

“With Evernote Food we’ve created an absolutely beautiful way to preserve every dish, every table, and every bite you’ve ever had.”

Now you can capture the time, location, menu and photos of your favourite culinary experiences.

This app will even link your meal with other items you have saved in generally awesome notebook app, Evernote.

(It’s free and seriously good. Get it.)

“For example, if you used Evernote Hello at a lunch meeting, the faces of the attendees may be associated with the Meal.”

What a hideous thought.

And as you will find if you put all this effort in with Evernote Food, your meals are now shareable. So not only can you record every meal in detail, the menu, service, location and attendees, you can also tell everyone who wasn’t there!

Here’s an idea. Don’t.

Tupperware or unaware?

Every marriage faces many challenges and one of the first and worst ones is whether you will buy Tupperware.

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I think Tupperware is a great choice … if you are UNAWARE of any alternatives.

Somehow, women everywhere are convinced it is a cut above anything else, like a Danish designed chair or German engineered car.

The latter may be an accurate analogy, it’s just that Tupperware has become the Kombi of kitchen hardware.

UNMICROWAVEABLE –
Some of their containers are not microwave friendly. What!? Why are Tupperware still making the kind of plastic that warps or leaches poison?
Just make the ones which I can zap in thirty seconds and eat it straight out off your opaque polymer plates.

UNRETURNABLE –
Lifetime Warranty? Pffft.
This is a very clever con because returning Tupperware is near impossible. Despite the 50s aura behind the brand’s success, Tupperware Ladies are not your best friends. They are peripheral friends at best and sometimes they’re complete strangers. Most likely, you’ve attended their parties out of guilt and the fear that no one else might turn up… but then you always end up buying three ‘little things’ and you leave $200 lighter.

Then, when all your marvelous Tupperware starts to crack you must now find and catch up with this “friend” who is now an acquaintance you haven’t seen in twelve months – and it’s only to return their junk. Awkward.

STACKABLE –
Geometry isn’t that hard, is it? We all made a tessellation in art class, didn’t we? Tupperware designers, space is at a premium. Some people only get one shelf in their share-house fridge!
Our cupboard is full of crooked Tupperware towers of blue sandwich containers and flattened bowls that no longer expand like they used to. Why can Decor and those blue clip-it containers – which are made by Kiwis you know, KIWIS! – manage to make everything stackable yet hifalutin Tupperware is often oddly shaped and is often unstackable regardless of whether it is empty or full .

LOSABLE –
We once bought those nifty little containers for about $10 each.They were supposed to store the unused portions of onion or lemon you lose in the fridge. Instead, we lost the containers.

EXPENSIVE –
Not just pricey, this stuff is exorbitant. If Tupperware was in a shop you’d just laugh and walk by. It’s moulded plastic, people. The only comparable product I can think of is those Kitchenmaid mixmasters that charge $800 when everyone else’s model is about $400. But at least they include heavy metal and mechanics.
The most complicated that Tupperware gets is a twin air-vent system to give my needy veges enough oxygen (don’t give them too much – they’ll explode! WTF?)

BREAKABLE –
So they say. Bollocks. I have proof.

Let’s leave Tupperware where it still is… in the fifties.

Why Jamie Oliver’s Italian will deliver for Sydney

It’s just a restaurant, yes, but if you are a foodie on a budget, the appearance of Jamie’s Italian in Sydney’s Pitt Street should already have you salivating.

My young family and I recently had two meals at the Jamie’s Italian restaurant in Bath, England, a restaurant that combined so many good things that it was one of the most memorable meals in a five-week trip across four countries.

From the outside, it wasn’t much, and in the ancient, historical theme park of Bath, it was disappointingly modern. But once inside, any disappointment waned in response to the clever layout and countless cool touches.

From the entrance, you can already see more meat than your local butcher, framing what appears to be the first of three kitchens. It’s an Italian restaurant – vegetarians are welcome but ignored…

Next delightful touch we saw was a display of fresh bread – like all the pasta used, it was baked daily and on the premises. Not half bad.

The vibe is fast-paced and noisy but the good was quick and the crowd young, so it any kitchen noise seemed intentional – the customers were supposed to notice the food being created, everything designed to give you an immersive food experience.

Next thing we noticed was how well the place took care of kids. The waiters were professional without being uptight, so our spills and demands were all fine. They had a high-chair waiting for us at our table. The waiter fell in love with our son. And then he brought….

KIDS’ CRAYONS!

Seriously, some joints hate you from the moment you walk in with kids so this was blowing our collective minds. Cafe owners of Sydney take note, if you appreciate and cater to the children, then like adults, they will like you more and be more compliant! It’s not brain surgery.

So our food hadn’t even arrived and we all had huge Dolmio grins.

And then the food did arrive. I can’t recall exactly what it was but each choice delivered and was less than $AU20.

Kids were happy – and drowning in good spicy sauces. We enjoyed the delicate tastes of fresh herbs with Jamie’s flourishes hidden somewhere on every plate.

I should point out that Jamie wasn’t there and staff said he had only ever dropped in once when they chalked his outline on a ready-made wall.

This IS a franchise. Oliver is good at it (he made $30,000/hour last year and he’s about to make a move into Facebook games) and this food chain certainly cashes in on his popularity, but unlike the Tefal saucepans that bear his name yet you can still ruin a meal with them, the restaurants can claim to deliver on a menu that he has created and tasted.

Plus, I believe they deliver on his mantra – good food for everyone, all the time.

He recently established a Ministry of Food – Australia including a centre in Ipswich, Queensland, that will help to ’empower, educate and engage as many people as possible to love and enjoy good food.’

But let’s not forget dessert.

These were also on display as you walked in. So the decision was taken care of earlier on.
Wifey went with a chocolate tart but I loved the sound of baked nectarines sprinkled with brown sugar and nutmeg. I chose it because I thought, “I have all those ingredients, why aren’t I making this?”

And so, Jamie’s Italian had delivered on a third Oliver mantra; ‘Keep Cooking Skills Alive’.

I was inspired, not to eat out more, but to be more creative when cooking at home.

Bish bash bosh, sorted.

Jamie’s Italian is set to open later this year at the location of 107 Pitt Street, Sydney (where Industrie wine bar used to be).

twitter.com/jamieoliver http://www.jamieoliver.com/

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