Brittany food trip II

Brittany is indisputably gorgeous, at least when the sun shines, which it doesn't always, or, if you talk to a lot of people who have holidayed there, ever. But the sun shone kindly while I was there researching a food story for Condé Nast Traveller, and I rather fell in love with a place I had previously avoided thinking it was all a bit dour and 'Celtic-without-the-craic'.


The food helped, of course. It was mostly terrific, especially the oysters – of which much more in a mo – but there was one baddie. Not to dwell on the negative, but the worst meal I had was at the Agapa hotel in Perros Guirrec, where the waiters rolled their eyes and tutted if you asked for anything, and everyone was afraid to speak for fear of appearing uncool. What was that rolled turd on top of the crab timable, I wonder? Tasted fishy. Ugh. 


I always order sweetbread when I see it on a menu, but perhaps this wasn't so smart a choice this close to the sea.

It all set me thinking about the things that can spoil a restaurant experience 'cos, actually, this wasn't terrible – the decor and the service were – and, given the right circumstance (and a substantially lower bill, perhaps), this food would have been okay-ish, and wouldn't have had me grumbling the night away and sending Paddington-stares at the maitre'd.

As I waited a good half hour for the bill, I jotted down my thoughts on stuff we can do without in 'upscale' restaurants. On their lovely, pristine white linen table cloth. In purple ink:

i) table scraping, only carried out, as far as I can see, so that the waiter can point out just what a gibbon-faced, gluttonous old Shrek you are when you eat.

ii) Repeated topping up of water and wine, done – quite brazenly – in order to sell you more water and wine. Thanks, just leave the bottle/carafe on the table. I'll use these eye and arm things of mine to judge when I need more fluids and administer them instead.

iii) Smearing sauces across plates. It's old hat, it looks awful, and reminds one only of someone wearing stilletos who has slipped on some goose shit.

iv) Folding napkins while you are in the toilet. Waiter (one raised eyebrow) to diner: 'I know what you've been doing!'

v) Massively over crowded cheese trolleys, with wizened old triangles of cheese archaeology. We only need a blue, a fresh goat, a comté and a camembert, thanks.

vi) Being asked if everything is okay. My Paddington stare will let you know if it's not.

vii) Worse: being told to 'enjoy'. I'll enjoy if I want to, buster! I'm paying, I can be miserable if I want.

viii) Bible-sized wine lists. The sommellier knows you don't know half these wines, he probably doesn't really know them either, you're not here to read, you're hear to eat and drink and dazzle the table with your wit. You got three pages, max. 

ix) And while we're at it, we don't need more than three starters, mains and desserts to choose from.

x) On second thoughts, keep the cheese trolley (as long as it's well stocked). And dessert trolleys are compulsory.

xii) And foams, gels, spherifications, dry ice, all that stuff. Only joking. Keep it all. I love it.


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